Bruce Banner and Autism

I spent a while after I got into FrostIron examining the ways I’m similar to Tony Stark. I posted the results on my Tumblr (which is down right now, or I’d link it). But recently I’ve been more into understanding the mind of Bruce Banner and comparing it to my own.

I was never interested in the Hulk. I didn’t experience the character of Bruce Banner much at all until I saw Avengers. If there’s one thing I disagree with Joss Whedon about, it’s his idea that Avengers would have been even better with more Hulk. No, what I liked about the Hulk arc was watching Banner.

I’m probably the least angry person I know. It looks like a complete mismatch on the surface. But I want to explain my theories about how the Banner in Avengers works, and how it’s similar to my own, very oddly-constructed psyche.

When I watch Banner in Avengers, I see a man who functions by keeping his thoughts in the forefront of his consciousness, rather than his emotions. He’s always looking for something to focus his mental energy on, and he’s trying to balance that with avoiding confrontation if at all possible. The way he moves when he’s on the Helicarrier, it looks like he’s itching to move, to go find something to look at, to fiddle with, but at the same time he’s very hesitant to move fast or without proper consideration, lest he cross anyone’s invisible boundaries.

He says things like, “I just wanna finish my work here….” It’s not just to push away the tension and conflict, although that’s part of it. I see a guy who loves to use his mind, who would often like everybody to shut up and go away so he can play with pretty numbers and waves.

He doesn’t mind Tony, though, even though many people find Tony abrasive. That’s because Tony is always ready with something shiny and distracting, a question or an interesting point that engages Bruce’s mind. Tony might make him angry, but he’s always angry, and his secret to keeping that secondary? Cling to thought. Keep emotion from affecting his responses.

That is me, all the way through, when I’m suffering from negative emotions.

The fact that they’re so rarely anger is beside the point.

The point, I think, for me is that it’s a place I don’t know how to inhabit. It’s a state I don’t know how to deal with because it just refuses to be examined. I’ll mention the Aspie aspect here because the more I talk to my friend who deals with Autistic kids every day, the more I think that this is not just me; this is a thing that everyone on the Autism spectrum shares.

We identify the idea of ourselves with our thoughts. We occupy the land we build for ourselves out of facts, numbers and patterns. That is us. These emotions that neurotypical people keep telling us to identify as also ourselves, more often feel to us like a ring of bullies, standing around us and pushing us in different directions. It’s bewildering and we don’t understand why they do that or what they have to do with ourselves.

I don’t understand, relate to, or see through the eyes of my emotions any more than Bruce Banner has these things with the Hulk.

And like Banner, I can go along with a positive emotion with perfect equanimity and maintain my composure, my sense of self, my train of thought – unless it’s a particularly intimate example. Forming emotional connections with people can make me flip my shit and lose my voluntary responses. I get kinda lightheaded and lost-feeling.

There was one time I managed to hang onto my consciousness and identity and an abstract idea while simultaneously identifying as having an interpersonal emotion. That moment will forever be one of my strongest memories. It’s the first time I managed to string together words without a conscious awareness of choosing words. It was like an out-of-body experience, watching my brain put words together without actually inhabiting it. Words are what I do. My words are who I am.

Since then I’ve gradually developed the ability to tune into my emotions and let my thoughts govern themselves, even talking to people while leaving off my consciousness of the words I’m using for a moment.

I don’t know how to deal with negative emotions and people at the same time. Interacting with people requires words. Experiencing negative emotion takes away my ability to use words. I’ve gotten to the point where I can identify with my emotions, but I still can’t function as myself if I let them become primary and experience them fully. It’s still one at a time, on or off.

So when I’m experiencing negative emotions, I act a lot like Bruce – sort of shifty, twitching to get my hands on something that will occupy my brain, responding to questions whose answers require complex dispassionate thought, but avoiding conflict or subjects I’m emotional about. I’ll grab a book or my computer, I’ll leave to make myself tea, or in desperate situations start picking apart my own clothing or put my fingers in my ears, hum, and think of whatever story I’m currently writing.

Once I lost my temper. I was with a group and one of them pushed to know more about my emotions on a given subject. It was another out-of-body experience, and I don’t remember if I used words but I remember throwing things. I don’t remember deciding to throw things. I remember feeling like a little brain struggling to pilot a huge, out of control mecha-body that badly wanted to do its own thing. I remember the only direction I was able to make effectively was throw sharp thing thataway, not at friend.

So that was the one time I was the Hulk. Most of the time my negative emotions only cause me to skulk away and cry, and although I don’t relate to being angry all the time, I do relate to the feelings involved.

Those are my realizations on the subject of my own Aspie brain being similar to Bruce Banner’s. I have some idea of why I’m like that, and although I don’t think Bruce is Autistic, I have some ideas as to why he might be like that as well.

He wasn’t born without the ability to connect with his own emotions, like someone on the Autism spectrum, but there are conditions that cause that later, like PTSD. That’s always the second place I go when studying a character I relate to because I heard once that in children, it can be difficult to tell the two conditions apart. There’s also a couple dissociative disorders that could make sense. The point is that he has trouble dealing and identifying with emotions that have traumatized him in the past.

Bruce Banner (in the Marvel comics) has had a pretty messed up childhood. His father was an alcoholic, angry, abusive, and murdered Bruce’s mother. That is certainly enough trauma to be getting on with. It’s no wonder that he can’t manage to deal with his own anger in a healthy way. Many people theorize that Bruce already had Dissociative Identity Disorder – that the Hulk already existed, and the gamma experiment merely gave it form.

But I relate to Bruce and not the Hulk, because Bruce and I both struggle to understand, control and manage that part of ourselves that we don’t necessarily see or want as part of ourselves, but that other people insist is, or should be.

I’ve written a bunch of stuff about me and my brain; you can get to it via the link at the side there that says Asperger’s.

Also if anyone’s interested, a lot of these thoughts occurred to me while I was writing the first few chapters of a Bruce/Clint slashfic for a friend. So that’s here:

If you’re curious but don’t like slash, the first chapter can be read independently as a character piece.


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Ridiculously Flattering Self Portrait

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One More FrostIron Art

So I made a new pic for Crystalline Alignment. I liked my study of RDJ’s face so much I just stuck that in there. I redid my Hiddles because his right ear was all wonky and stuff. Then I put in some crystals. It’s a touch on the ponies-and-rainbows side but it’s so nicely rendered I don’t even care.

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More FrostIron art

I might be switching to an art cycle but my obsession with the Avengers isn’t cycling out with my writing. So I’ve got a few pieces to share. One is slashy.

Tom Hiddleston Study

The first two are studies of the faces of Tom Hiddleston and Robert Downey Jr. from photos.  I’m hoping to learn how to draw real people better because honestly, the first illustration I made for Crystalline Alignment was pretty bad.

Robert Downey Jr. study

The third is an illustration of my version of the character Hel, from my story Princesses of Asgard. It’s in a very different style. At some point I might take a photo of a girl and draw her up from that.

Hel of Niflheim

One last one, and this is actually the first I drew. It’s the illustration I did for Better Mischief Through Science. I think I’m doing better in all digital right now for some reason. I haven’t done any in a while because KTPT was all in pencil, so I think I’m just ready to get into digital again.

Better Mischief Through Science

One last note: I made a page linking to all of my Avengers fan fictions with descriptions, reading order and warnings. I’ll likely be adding an extended list of recommended fics to the page at some point.

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FrostIron stories

Hey there! So this entry in my blog is actually an extended Author’s Notes for my recently completed Avengers fan fiction, Crystalline Alignment. At the end there are some links to some other FrostIron stories that inspired me.

I read a lot of FrostIron before I started writing this, and I got some ideas but I also figured out some things I wanted to do differently than I’d seen them done. I think I may have overcompensated a little and ended up on the cerebral side of where I wanted to be. But I’m pretty satisfied with what I have.

There are a lot of versions of this pairing, everything from Tony the out-of-control addictive personality and Loki the semi-evil god of mischief who is in it for the sex and lulz, to Tony the just-wants-to-be-needed knight in shining armor and Loki the insane, desperately broken child.

I like to go for healthy relationships when I can, and of course it helps keep realism when you choose characteristics of the characters you can relate to. So my Tony is a blend of absentminded professor and overgrown child, hitting very close to home for me, and my Loki does the best he can with the brains he has, which are significant, but he fails at life for a lack of empathy or sanity or some indefinable quality that seems required for making the right choices. So he gave up trying to make the right choices. I’m kinda there: “I do what I want. BRB, writing slashfics.”

One of the things I wanted to avoid most was making either of the two men any more whiny or weak than their canon personalities. They both have weaknesses and they can be whiny, but exaggerating those never makes them seem attractive to me.

I also didn’t want to add more trauma to either of their lives. A lot of fics use a further trauma to throw the characters together, but it just seems to me that it’s unnecessary. Who they both are at the end of Avengers is what I wanted to be working with. They both already have enough trauma in their pasts to bring them together.

I feel like I accomplished what I wanted to – I rounded the sharpest corners off the characters, without changing their general shapes. Loki is always more of an interpretation, because of his nature as a liar and plotter and the theories about the effects the void and his blue glowy staff had on him. But I feel that my interpretation is strong, if not as strong as my Tony.

If I went back and rewrote this I feel like I would mostly go more in-depth at some of the points I described only vaguely, especially the conversations between Tony and Loki. At some point I might write some more scenes, but I will probably post them separately – especially if they get into M rating territory.

I kinda wandered all over Wikipedia articles on Marvel characters and Norse myths and stuff to come up with just the right references. Hope I didn’t get anything terribly wrong, but the movies are my primary canon and everything else I consider merely suggestions.

What follows list of some of my favorite FrostIron fics, ordered from most cracky to most angsty. For reference I would list Crystalline Alignment in the “mid-level snarktasticness” category. Most of them are explicit to one degree or another.

A Bit Cracked:

The Loki Problem, followed by Deeds – completed. Surprisingly touching and true to character for such silliness.

Wooer Wooed – A very fun stand-alone. The only G-rated thing on this list.

Halo – Don’t usually go for alternate movie events but OMG the WORDS in this thing it is like HEROIN. A bit sharp edged for how cracky it is.

Mid-Level Snarktasticness:

Nine Lives is classic & then there’s The Devil You Know which is incomplete but not in a terrible way since the sequel’s chapters are more self contained.

The Book of Longing – the first alternate ending fic that pulled me in before revealing itself. Quite romantic.

Two Sides of the Coin is a fun one, especially if you can’t get enough of Sherlock saying “Bored, John” over on BBC.

Serious Serious:

Tricks of the Trade incomplete. This is radiant with sheer intelligence. Very difficult to stop reading before the fifth story, now in progress. Doesn’t tend to cliffhangers, though, aside from clarifying, heightening and maintaining tension based on the first post-credits Avengers scene. Loki of the long game done right.

Shattered Hearts, Twisted Mirrors incomplete but there’s plenty there to read. End of the second story is a good stopping place. Beautiful and my favorite interpretation of what all crap has been going on inside Loki’s head. Only a little torturey.

An Unfortunate Event in Time and 20,160 Minutes – This is all good but chapter 4 of that second one is super amazing. Almost suggest reading it standalone. Incomplete.

Off The Record Has some snarktasticness but then gets really angsty and then goes cliffhanger at the moment. Incomplete.

The Stories Untold – Oh no darkness torture and incompleteness. At least there’s puppies.

Ultra Angst

I Fall to Fear and And I Rise in Agony – Great plot. Very dark & torturey, also unfinished.

Guys, these last two are nothing but sharp edges. It’s like they made a connect the dots where I made a Sculpey toy. They’re both pictures of the same thing but they never meet.

All the Way Down – This is intense and strange, and has Pepper in it too. In a polyamorous way.

Built Like a Moth – Beautifully horrible, kinda snarktastic, really messed up and unfinished. Actually extremely cliffhangery right now.

Ok that’s all for now! Enjoy the evil cookies.

I am in a strange mood.

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Crystalline Alignment

So, hey, I haven’t posted here or drawn any comic pages in what feels like forever, even though I used to update here like every 3 months and it hasn’t even been 2 weeks this time. But I got to liking the idea of this being a blog where I post art that people look at, and I haven’t posted art anywhere since I started this Avengers fanfiction thing.

I like staying on a schedule with one project if it works for me, but ultimately I have an artistic temperament and I follow what I am inspired to do at any given moment.

I’ve been meaning to post what all is going on in my head but hadn’t gotten around to it. Now I have an art to share, because it is an illustration of my fan fiction:

And since there isn’t anywhere to post a decent sized version on, it brought me back here so I thought I’d also share what’s been on my mind.

Generally my belief about fiction is if people enjoy it, then it has value. I’m a fan of anything from Shakespeare to Twilight. I’ve also never looked down on a work for being derivative – only for doing it badly. After all, most things are derivative – in fact my favorite things are. The best way to write something great is to learn from something else great.

But one thing I had not been able to see the merit of was slash fanfiction. The idea of putting two male characters together in a romantic relationship, when they had shown no sign of being homosexual and perhaps have canon relationships with females, always struck me as off. The idea has its points, if only because it’s an interesting exercise for a writer to ask, “Under what circumstances would this happen, and how would it proceed?” But that could be said of any kind of strange event placed in an existing universe, and the particular exercise that is slash never appealed to me personally.

Then something happened to me. I found my first slash OTP.

Don’t ask me how this happened. Somewhere between seeing Avengers for the third time and writing a short fic where the two characters interacted platonically, I fell for them.

Anyway if you are interested in such things, you can read the fic here:

A couple of cool things about it I’ve been wanting to share:

All of Loki’s “one-downs” in Chapter 6 are based on things said in the Wikipedia article on the mythical Loki. For example: “The god Heimdallr says that Loki is drunk and witless, and asks Loki why he won’t stop speaking.”

Joe Palooka and Humphrey are real comic characters from Cap’s era. I live for the day when somebody who’s actually read the comics sees my fic, but it probably won’t happen.

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This is my newest picture of Tabitha and Benedict. It really turned out interesting.

I was working on a couple of other pictures of Tazz, but I think I’m going to scrap them. They just don’t look right, and they don’t have the emotional impact that kept me coming back to these pictures I have posted.

I just don’t have enough of a grasp of this style to draw her from any angle but flat profile. I’ll have to keep trying. But anyway I like how she looks here. I am especially proud of the hands. Her hands in this picture are pretty much how I want them to be. Ben’s hands, I’m still fighting every step of the way, but they came out decently.

I experimented with a little bit of texture here. Not sure if it’s quite right, but it’s the first time I’ve tried it, and I think it does add something to the mood.

The mood is definitely my favorite thing about this piece. I’m really starting to feel like a “real artist.” I’ve pretty much always had the capacity to be technically proficient at whatever artistic task was set before me, but I lacked vision. I was a storyteller with no stories. I’m getting a feel for how to grab an emotion and put it on paper so other people can feel it.

Still just at the beginning of this, though. I mean this happened today, and the other day when I was drawing that Avengers art. That was the first time I can remember feeling that my emotions needed expressing in art. Then today, looking at that drawing, I wanted to have the same experience again. I wanted to pour emotion into a drawing.

I think this turned out pretty expressive, and it has the added bonus of featuring characters that I own.

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