CB: Nice to meet you. I’m Rob with comicsbulletin.com. Also nice to met you. I am Staff Sergeant #@$%@, U.S. Army.
Andreyko’s eyebrows rise in surprise.
CB: I’m not really going to ask much about your stuff coming up that you plan on doing. People tend to get that kind of information from elsewhere anyway. I just talk about Batwoman honestly. That’s all. 1
CB: So I noticed from what you have been writing, obviously you’ve done quite a bit of research on PTSD.
CB: What have you found interesting in your research?
Andreyko: Well the thing that fascinates me with PTSD, especially with so many soldiers coming back from the Middle East, a lot of these soldiers are suffering from injuries that aren’t visible. They look physically fine, but there is a lot of closed head traumatic injuries where these guys are just so damaged. Because they aren’t missing a limb or aren’t missing an eye, we think they are physically okay.
I have been doing a lot of research into service dogs and how those can helps soldiers and stuff. Those dogs that can know when you are having a panic attack and calm you down and stuff. Just got to think that, based on Kate’s military career, based on her family life, based on all the criminals she faces, that stuff accumulates. Like Maggie says to her when I first bring it up, she has to see the police psychiatrist every time she shoots her gun. And that’s nothing compared to what Kate has gone through her entire life.
So dealing with that in a way that is real and authentic I think is a challenge because mental illness in comics is always portrayed as the Joker or multiple personalities. Doing it in a way that explores it in a real accessible way is interesting to me. Because you know exploring, putting a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Exploring PTSD with a superhero makes it more… Buffy was a metaphor for growing up as a teenager. You know, when Buffy slept with Angel, he lost his soul. That’s the same way with teenager girl sleeps with her boyfriend and he doesn’t call her the next day. Adding that layer of genre makes the real part oddly more specific and more accessible.
CB: I really want to thank you for doing that because one of my huge, huge issues with comics, especially here lately, I have been looking at PTSD’s portrayal. And really, it’s like you said, it’s like the Joker. You look at the Punisher, especially Punisher Maxx. These people are sociopaths. And it is something that has been going on for a long while…
Andreyko: I have a number of friends who are soldiers who suffer from PTSD. And it is more often than not, it’s more a thing of fear and being overwhelmed, just crushed by an emotion than it is violence outbursts and stuff like that. We’re experiencing it so much more today because we are deploying these soldiers three, four, five, six times.2 That is hardcore.
It is hard to come back from that, especially when we offer no support system when they come back from the service. We drop them over there. They are in their twenties. They are in a place where they don’t know who they are fighting or why they are fighting them. And they come back and there is no sort of transition. There is no sort of debriefing them. We should have when you come back from a tour of duty, you spend three months getting therapy, group therapy, and re-acclimating.
Because in my neighborhood, my neighbor is a vet. And recently for July 4th, he had a sign in his window that said, “Veteran of Afghanistan. Please be respectful with the fireworks.” You wouldn’t have even thought. When I saw that, I was like I never would’ve thought of that. It’s kind of offensive how disposable the soldiers have been. I think if we had a draft and rich people’s kids would go, we would never be anywhere.
CB: I understand you. I want to thank you very much for your portrayal. I’ve been reading you ever since you started. And when you started going into PTSD, she acts, you have her acting exactly the way I’ve seen many soldiers act…
Andreyko: Oh, that means a lot, thank you.
CB: … with the whole, “There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m fine. I can fight through it.”
Andreyko: Well being a soldier is about strength, so admitting any sort of weakness, especially when you’re so proactive physically.
Another thing that I lifted from my real life is my doctor said to me about mental illness, “If you have strep throat, I’ll give you penicillin. If you are suffering from anxiety or depression or PTSD, you have less control over that than you do getting the flu. You could wash your hands and avoid it.” That sort of thing is internal, and there is no shame in that. We still treat mental illness like it’s the Salem witch trials. You know we still treat it like it’s a choice, or that person is crazy. But everybody has different degrees of it. It is something that I wanted to deal with in a way that would open up the conversation.
CB: I know from my own experiences, you were talking about your neighbor saying please be careful with the fireworks. Myself, I was going through a haunted house attraction many years ago, and I had asked them, “Are there any big or sudden explosions?” They were like, “No, no, it’s fine.” I’m doing a trail, and the next thing I know, they are firing a .50 Cal3 over my head. And that set me off.
Andreyko: Oh, of course that would instantly take you back to that. Of course, yeah, absolutely.
CB: So thank you again.
Andreyko: Please, you have no idea how much that means to me. The last thing I want to do is try to address an issue and do it incorrectly because I have never fought in a war. I’ve never fired a gun. I might disagree with the reasons why we are in these places, but what you guys do is…
The fact that fifty percent of the homeless population is veterans4 is shameful. It is absolutely disgusting. There are certain phrases that shouldn’t exist- homeless veteran and repeat child sex offender for example. Those two shouldn’t exist. You guys are doing stuff that we wouldn’t want to do. And because when Bush was in office, they weren’t allowed to show the coffins coming back or the injured soldiers. It became just a video game. And that what was great about all the protesting of the Vietnam War, seeing these bodies coming back.5
And even today, if you go to the Vietnam Memorial, just seeing that wall with all those names. For me as a gay man, it’s the equivalent of the AIDS quilt. When I saw the AIDS quilt it was just overwhelming, because the AIDS quilt panels was the size of a grave. And when you see 50,000 of these, and they were people of all ages, it really resonates with you. And we’ve become a society, it’s becomes really just removed itself from any sort of culpability or connection to these events.
CB: Do you read Time Magazine?
CB: They did an article about that about a year ago, talking about that disconnect between the whole society and the military society now. It said basically we’ve created a warrior caste. No one really interacts now.
Andreyko: Oh, yeah. A warrior/servant caste that like you when you are overseas, but we don’t want to acknowledge the damage here. And it is really horrifying.
CB: That is all I am going to ask about because I’m running out of time.
Andreyko: Okay, cool.
CB: It was great speaking with you Mr. Andreyko. Thank you again for your time.
Andreyko: You too. Thank you.6, 7
1. I want to apologize now for the disjointed nature of this interview, it was quite loud at the DC booth on the main floor and we had difficulties at times making sure we understood each other. Often, the pauses you see were when I or Marc would gesture in order to help make our point.
2. I cannot seem to find a good, reliable quote on the average number of deployments per soldier for the Iraq and Afghan wars. If I had to give my two cents I would expect somewhere between 2 and 3 with the Soldiers with 4 or more deployments balancing out the ones that had one or none.
3. .50 cal is a shortened name for the Browning M2 .50 caliber machine gun.
4. Depending on where you get the figure from, the number of homeless veterans can be anywhere from just shy of 60,000 to over 300,000. Obviously 100% accurate numbers are nearly impossible to determine due to the nature of homelessness. A safe bet would be that the true number lies in between the two extremes.
5. Before anyone gets offended, I am 100% certain that what Marc meant by this was that because the average person could see the effects and repercussions of the war in Vietnam it made them more sensitive to what was going on. That seeing the bodies come back helped to make it more real.
6. I am an idiot that turned off my recorder after Marc said the words “Okay, cool.” The last two lines are a summary of our goodbyes and well-wishes as opposed to our actual ones.
7. Marc shared with me an upcoming plot point for Batwoman off the record before I left. I will not reveal it here as it was told to me in confidence but I encourage everyone to keep reading the book so that they can see just how much research and effort he put into his work.