Psychiatric Survivor Superhero

A review of Jeff Lemire’s Moon Knight Vol 1: Lunatic (Marvel, 2016)

By Derek Newman-Stille



Writing about mental illness tends to be challenging and most authors tend to reify disempowering tropes of mental illness, projecting people with psychiatric disabilities as villainous, problematic, dangerous, and incompetent. Jeff Lemire’s 2016 rewrite of Moon Knight challenges some of the assumptions about mental illness. Although still unclear about which psychiatric disability Moon Knight has, Lemire explores the idea of Moon Knight as a character with mental illnesses (which was first established by Alan Zelenetz and Chris Warner’s mini-series about the character). Whereas Zelenetz and Warner described him as schizophrenic because of his multiple identities (which is actually more characteristic of dissociative identity disorder), Lemire avoids specifically mentioning what the superhero’s mental illness is and complicates the idea that he is mentally ill.


First set in a psychiatric institution, Lemire’s Moon Knight encounters a fractured reality where the psychiatric institution may actually be a prison construct by Egyptian gods. Moon Knight experiences a multiplicity of possible realities and Lemire resists telling the audience whether his realities are actual visions of real worlds or whether they are manifestations of his own delusions.


This trope of “is it a manifestation of mental illness or is this person seeing the reality that is hidden” has been played with in numerous science fiction media (including the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Normal Again” and the Star Trek the Next Generation episode “Frame of Mind”), asking the reader to question the nature of reality. This trope in Sci Fi normally portrays the asylum as a space for the mental breakdown of the character, encompassing the idea that asylums are places of escape from reality.


Lemire questions and criticizes the construction of the asylum as an institution, illustrating the horrors of life in an asylum and portraying the asylum as a form of prison. Lemire’s characters want to escape from the asylum, to find new possibilities in the world outside, but Moon Knight is constantly questioning and critiquing his reality and the world around him, inviting critical questions about the nature of the mind and the nature of psychiatric institutions. Lemire doesn’t provide answers about which of Moon Knight’s realities is authentic, but instead invites the reader to look at the world through multiple lenses, with multiple different possible realities. Moon Knight even shapes his own mask from a straight jacket that is draped over his face with a moon drawn onto it, and when he wears this mask, he experiences a second vision of the world, which he believes to be true.


Lemire’s exploration of multiplicity in the world is augmented by Greg Smallwood’s art, which frequently plays with multiple different visions of the world overlapping. Smallwood brings attention to the character’s vision by constantly focusing on the expression in his eyes, devoting several panels to the expressions that Moon Knight projects through his eyes. This is a comic that is focused on vision and multiple ways of seeing the world, transforming the world into a shifting, changeable plane.


To discover more about Jeff Lemire, visit




Detective Drama with Bite

A review of Melissa Yi’s Wolf Ice (Olo Books, 2015).

By Derek Newman-Stille

Every crime scene is unique and every investigation of a crime scene has its challenges, but those challenges are magnified when the victim is a werewolf and she disappears under suspicious circumstances around other werewolves. When Elena dies, everyone is uncertain how to proceed. Human police can’t be involved, and all of the werewolves present have to rely on their various skills – medical, tracking, and hunting instincts to explore the multiple levels of secrets and suspicions surrounding this death. The werewolves are motivated by their caring for the victim and by their need to find safe territory to create an environment where they can be themselves. Yet the murder complicates their sense of belonging, their ideas about themselves, and their relat8onship to the human world. 

Yi complicates the relationship between the werewolves by exploring the power of physical urges and unwanted attractions that both complicate the lives of those investigating the murder because of their awkward sexual tensions toward each other and add multiplicities to the motivations for the murder as well, because all too often, murders are related to sexual tensions.

Melissa Yi’s Wolf Ice puts a new spin on the current fascination with CSI shows by inviting us into a hair-raising adventure.

You can discover more about Melissa Yi (Melissa Yuan-Innes) on her website at 

Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 71: An Interview of Regina Hansen

On this episode of Speculating Canada, I interview the brilliant Regina Hansen to talk about the interrelationship between academia and speculative writing, on the ideas of haunting, and on notions of place and identity. 

You can listen to this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio at the link below

This audio file was originally broadcast on Trent Radio, and I would like to thank Trent Radio for their continued support. I would also like to thank Dwayne Collins for his consistent tech support and help with the intricacies of creating audio files. 

Make sure to allow a few minutes for the file to buffer since it may take a moment before it begins to play.

Growing Some Backbone

Growing Some BackboneA review of Marie Bilodeau’s “Hellmaw: Eye of Glass.” (The Ed Greenwood Group Inc., 2016)

By Derek Newman-Stille

There’s nothing quite so monstrous as finding a detached human head and spine in a back alley. Only something truly monstrous could do that kind of harm to a human being… but what if the detached head and spine ARE the monster and the victim at the same time? What if it has wriggled out of another world into a complicated interaction between humans and daemons?

Marie Bilodeau’s “Hellmaw: Eye of Glass” is a mixture of mystery, urban fantasy, and a taste of horror. Evoking dismemberment, Bilodeau complicates ideas of body horror by creating a sympathetic dismembered body in a complicated relationship with the world of “whole” bodies around her and the relationships they represent to each other and to her understanding of the world. However, Jaeda doesn’t think of herself as an incomplete body. She recognizes that there is a wholeness in bodies even when they don’t conform to a society’s expectations of “normalcy” and “wholeness”. 

Jaeda is the centre of a series of mysteries – those of the conspiracy theorists who have created an online chat forum about unusual circumstances, the police detective who is trying to discover what happened to the head and spine that went missing from the morgue… but most of all, she is a mystery to herself. Awakened without existing memories of her home world or her life before becoming a head and spine, Jaeda is uncertain about herself and how she relates to the people and cultures around her, but she is driven by a fundamental curiosity and this curiosity, that sense of wonder about everything around her, allows her to develop friendships across species because every experience is new to her.

“Hellmaw: Eye of Glass” is a clash of species and diverse bodies that leaves everyone uncertain and fundamentally changed. This is not a body horror story, this is a story of bodily wonder and mystery.

To discover more about the work of Marie Bilodeau, visit her website at

To find out more about the Hellmaw series, visit or

Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 70: An Interview of Derek Kunsken

On this episode of Speculating Canada, I interview Science Fiction and Space Opera author Derek Kunsken. Today we discuss fandom, fan conventions, the power of short fiction, science, and the power of space opera. We discuss the use of biological sciences in particular in science fiction writing to explore the figure of the alien and the power to imagine other ecosystems. Derek mentions that he grew up in a small town, constantly imagining what could be out there in the universe to imagine, speculating how life would exist on other planets. His science fiction stories start with questions that he views as challenges that he can imagine solutions to by creating new worlds and new life forms. He observes that he is motivated by a sense of wonder. 

Tune in to hear about the strange new lifeforms he imagines by thinking about the questions of cellular development. 

You can listen to this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio at the link below.

This audio file was originally broadcast on Trent Radio, and I would like to thank Trent Radio for their continued support. I would also like to thank Dwayne Collins for his consistent tech support and help with the intricacies of creating audio files.
Make sure to allow a few minutes for the file to buffer since it may take a moment before it begins to play. 

Outside the Panels

Outside the PanelsA review of A.C. Wise’s “In The Name of Free Will” in Tesseracts Nineteen: Superhero Universe Edited by Claude Lalumiere and Mark Shainblum (Edge, 2016).

By Derek Newman-Stille

Superhero narratives are often focused on one individual transcending all others and becoming the centre of a story, everything in her/his world gravitating around them and serving to propell them further into their experience. 

When Jenny returns from the deaf after being tortured by Captain Freedom’s greatest villain, Proto Star, she resists the narrative flow of her world, a living text that propells her into tropic hero narratives where everyone around the hero ends up being part of her/his narrative. She realises that she is not only trapped in a superhero narrative, but a stereotypically sexist one, where the girlfriend must tragically die for the hero to be shaped by tragic circumstances into a more self-assured character. She realises that she is a narrative appendage of him, tacked onto his storyline to fulfill his plot and that awareness allows her to resist the flow of the narrative that keeps trying to push her into certain roles. 

She doesn’t want to be defined by others anymore and realises that she lives in a world where everyone Is defined by superheroes. Everyone is playing a bit part in another person’s star performance. She realises that she needs to disrupt the story and literally puts herself back together to push the boundaries of her world, to shove at, push, and alter the frames around the panels of her comic book existence. 

A.C. Wise’s “In The Name of Free Will” is a call to readers and fans to change the superhero narrative, to disrupt it and find new stories within it that don’t disempower people or construct people as shallow one-dimensional bit players in a narrative that has been repeated and repeated. Like her character, Jenny, Wise invites readers to push the boundaries of the possible, to reflect on the narratives that have become tradition and push beyond the panel, opening up the narrative possibilities that exist betwixt and between.

To discover more about Tesseracts Nineteen: Superhero Universe, visit Edge’s website at 

To find out more about A.C. Wise and her work, visit her website at

Bisclavret Reimagined

Check out this review I conducted of Canadian author Joanne Findon’s story “That Time of the Month” up on Through The Twisted Woods.

Through The Twisted Woods

A review of Joanne Findon’s “That Time of the Month” from The Horrors: Terrifying Tales book 2, edited by Peter Carver (Red Deer Press, 2006).

By Derek Newman-Stille


As a researcher who has given papers on Bisclavret, I was excited to read Joanne Findon’s werewolf tale “That Time of the Month. Findon remapped the Medieval tale Le Lai de Bisclavret by Marie de France into her modern werewolf tale. She modifies the werewolf from male (as Bisclavret was in the original tale) to a female character named Lupa. Lupa is a teen in high school who is going through bodily changes, as many teen girls do. Using a teenage female main character, Findon is able to bring attention to the connection between moons and menses, body shame and the pressure for girls to hide their bodies, interactions between ideas of family and independence that are central for teen life…

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