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Young Animal//GC: A Path Forward

Nic Osborn examines the mental health themes in Young Animal’s Collapser.

For the first time in some time, the gate to the IP Graveyard hang agape. Despite being the dead of night, there is no sign of a cool breeze in the dead of summer. It’s as if a black hole has swallowed any form of relief. As you wipe the sweat from your brow, that’s when you notice the shadowy figure sitting in the rather large hole in the ground.

Welcome back! It’s been quite some time hasn’t it? Oh I am so sorry…some of you may have forgotten me. I am the Grave Robber. I’ve been the one who let the GateCrashers into the IP Graveyard to spend some time amongst the spirits brought to life by Young Animal! I hear we have been focusing on the wars amongst the stars recently… that graveyard is across town. The mouse won’t let me back in after the Goofy incident. Anyway.

Now, I have to be honest and say it’s been so long because I lost the password to my AOL account so I was not able to make contact with anyone to get things out of the dead center of town.

A long smile can be seen under his ragged hood as if had to laugh at his humor or else see what else lay underneath.

I have spoken with Nic Osborn from Comic Watch about the story of Liam… the Collapser. A man with a sucking black hole in his chest. Nic shared with me what all of this means to him about mental health representation that can be shown in the comics medium. Quite a beautiful piece. Nic will make sure to remind you but never forget, you are not alone. Be seeing you very very soon.

DC’s Young Animal COLLAPSER – A Path Forward.

By: Nic Osborn

Helpless. Defeated. Failure. Worthless. Sucker. Unwanted.

In 2019, DC’s Young Animal imprint released a six-issue miniseries titled ‘Collapser’ from Mikey Way, Shaun Simon, Ilias Kyriazis, Cris Peter and Simon Bowland centered around a lead character named Liam James who suffers from anxiety and depression. He questions everything he does and despite having goals in life that he strives for and people who love him, he is someone who can easily get lost inside his own head. Someone who falls into the pitfalls of his own negative perceptions and struggles to overcome them. Then, his life changes as he is thrust into the role of a superhero who harbors a literal black hole in his chest along with all the devastating powers it offers.

But Liam’s tale isn’t your typical superhero story.

Orphan. Jilted. Moron. Cheated. Loser.

Liam’s story is a signifier of the range superhero comics offer but also the potential they have to take on mental health issues and find a path forward. His cosmic fight is epic, but also relatable in its sincerity and sense of inescapable pressures that we all find ourselves under. It’s a comic that finds its heart quickly and pulls you into a spiraling doom that captures the weight of mental health issues which impact many of us in our own daily lives.

But what I’d like to talk about isn’t the success of the Collapser series and the in-depth character exploration that the creative team pulls off in just six issues. I’d like to talk about the capabilities of the comics medium and superhero stories that can shed a light on mental health issues that can so often go unnoticed, and what we can do to continue on when faced with them.

Angry. Kill. Garbage. Awkward.

Superhero stories are well known for their classic depictions of good versus evil, of the heroic figurehead punching out the baddie and saving the day, of finding a way forward. And that way forward is where we find the most important and timeless elements that have driven the genre for decades. Collapser taps into that potential, as a struggle of good versus evil, but also as an internal battle against forces that aren’t as easily understood. Those of us, like myself, who understand the struggle of anxiety and depression all too well know that internal battle and what it takes to make it through day by day. 

With a foundation rooted in that internal struggle, Collapser takes the strengths of the superhero genre combined with the unique storytelling methods afforded by the comics medium to give insight into anxiety and depression that feels genuine and heartwarming in the face of overwhelming helplessness. Reading through the story feels like a descent into a depressive episode before coming out of the other side with an ending that serves as an uplifting look at what we can do to continue to push onwards. It’s a story about how to find the path forward.

Jerk. Idiot. Unlovable.

Sometimes the obstacles we face in life are not supervillains twirling their mustaches and wishing harm on anyone who may cross their paths, and sometimes they are more difficult to pinpoint. Anxiety and depression can feel suffocating. It can put you on your ass and make you not feel like anything is worthwhile, whether you deeply love it or not.

The presence of a black hole in Liam’s chest is a rather straightforward analogy for the effects of anxiety and depression, giving a visualization to the feelings such mental health issues invoke. For me personally, the result was a moment of representation that I didn’t even know I wanted, or needed, so desperately. It was a way to illustrate and convey the feelings that I had been trying to express myself for so long but just couldn’t quite articulate so precisely.

And that’s why we love not just comics, but art in general. As a method of expression and a guide to our own emotions both superficial and so much deeper.

Life. Dead.

Comics are particularly insightful for an undertaking such as this, however. By utilizing the superhero genre to find a path forward when confronted against forces that feel intent on holding you down, the Collapser comics serve as a shining example for how the medium can accurately tackle even the most nuanced of mental health issues that we can all face. Remove the grandiose nature of the heroics surrounding the good versus evil and strip the premise down to its analogical core and we find a path forward defined by the recognition, understanding and empowerment of our own selves not in spite of our own tendencies, but because of them.

You can’t just pretend you are not impacted by anxiety and depression or push it aside to deal with later and that’s not what Liam does in the Collapser miniseries. It’s important to take the time to work on yourself and if required, get the help needed to become more fulfilled in life. The lesson in superhero comics beloved by so many and echoed by the Collapser comics isn’t to just punch out the bad guys, it’s to find the best parts of yourself to overcome the negative forces that would stop you from being yourself and pursuing your goals, or in this case, from experiencing happiness.

Help. 

The words that you’ve been reading throughout this article, the ones that linger in the back of your head though you aren’t even sure why they exist, are a constant sometimes present and other times fleeting representation to the voice of anxiety and depression found in the pages of Collapser that can permeate our own thoughts every day. Words that stop many of us from seeing the best parts of ourselves. But like the representation felt from the story found in the pages of DC’s Young Animal miniseries Collapser, it’s important to understand you are not alone.  

You can love yourself and be loved as well. 

And when you feel more isolated than ever and the escape into stories that represent your own sincerest emotions are not enough, you can ask for help. Loved ones, friends, family, both online and in your immediate circle are there and you aren’t any lesser for bringing them into your lives. Resources are there when you feel lost, like the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 800-273-8255 and they are within your grasp. When you feel like a black hole has taken residence in your own heart, remember it is not an incessant reminder of your own inadequacies but instead the first step towards understanding a path forward in positivity and self-love that every single one of us are worthy of, including you.

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