DC to Explore Superhero Trauma in 'Sanctuary'

'Batman' writer Tom King says all that fighting must have a "psychological effect" on the publisher's heroes.
Courtesy of Mitch Gerads/DC Entertainment

How do superheroes survive a life of constant fighting? For DC Entertainment’s characters, the answer will soon be, “with professional help,” following the announcement of Sanctuary, a new crisis center being introduced to the company’s mythology soon.

Revealed during the “Aftermath: Battle and Trauma in Comics” panel at this weekend’s DC in D.C. event in Washington, it’s unclear what format Sanctuary will actually take, but writer Tom King talked about the origins of the idea, and why it’s a necessary step inside the world of the Justice League.

Describing it as “the most obvious idea I think I’ve ever had,” King explained the basic concept to the assembled crowd. “The DCU has a bunch of superheroes and all they do is fight, every time, and that must have a psychological effect on them, right? You can’t live a life of violence and not feel that violence deep in your heart — and we also have a group of superheroes, the trinity [Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman], who care about these other heroes. They sort of feel like parental figures, the foundation that stands beneath them. And they care about them for two reasons: one, because they’re good people, but two, if superheroes feel trauma and it drives them a little mad, that’s a danger.”

Sanctuary, King explained, was an attempt to deal with this idea head-on. Inside the DCU, he said, Sanctuary “is a place that you can go, modeled on veterans’ crisis centers — which is an interesting name for them — and talk about this trauma and admit that this had an effect on you; where you can admit that being a superhero and seeing a life of violence and seeing people get hurt around you, that that has some sort of impact on you, and Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman can help you.”

The comment about crisis centers being “an interesting name for them” is, almost certainly, a nod to the tradition in DC comics mythology for the word “crisis” to turn up in the title of big superhero crossover storylines, a la Crisis on Infinite Earths and Final Crisis. King also mentioned on the panel that Sanctuary was connected to “a big thing coming that I’m not allowed to talk about,” adding, “if you follow my Twitter [account], I’ve been dropping some hints.” One of King’s recent tweets explicitly referenced the Crisis concept:

It’s purposefully unclear where and when Sanctuary might appear. King is currently writing both Batman and Mister Miracle for DC, both of which have repeatedly explored the notion of emotional trauma as it relates to violence and superheroics. 

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