Let me start off by saying that I am a recovered alcoholic and drug addict, so this isn’t coming from a place of judgment. I get it. Oh, trust me. I get it. With that said:
They have been sensationalized/demonized by film and television.
Some like one or the other. Some don’t like either. Some like both.
To each their own.
But, in the comic world, there is as much to booze and drugs as there is in real life.
First, let’s discuss drugs in comics.
What is a drug? A drug is a chemical substance having an effect on the body.
It’s not always bad.
The super soldier serum was a drug, by definition.
If you look at it that way, drugs have empowered many characters. Captain America, Nick Fury, Man-Thing, Whizzer, Sentry, Elongated Man, Ultimate Colossus, Patriot, Inertia, Beast, just to mention a few.
Then there is the villains.
Green Goblin (Norman and Harry), Nuke, Freak, Kraven, Clayface, Major America, Speed Demon, Omega Kid, Mr. Hyde and Bane come to mind.
These are just individuals who got powers from chemicals that can be classified as drugs.
Then their are illicit drugs, used to get high.
Harry Osborn and Roy Harper are the first that come to mind.
Harry died from drug overdose before the retconning of One More Day/Brand New Day. He was dumped by MJ, his best friend was never around, and his dad had been framed and killed (in his mind) by a vigilante. First he became the new Green Goblin, to have his revenge on those he sees as traitors. Sadly, this causes his abuse of pills to landslide him into misery. He eventually overdoses and dies, never redeeming himself (until the retcon).
Roy Harper, aka Speedy, Red Arrow, and Arsenal, became a heroine addict. While addicted and using, he was kicked out of home and punched in the face by his mentor, Green Arrow, then looked over to detox by Black Canary. He had a kid with a villain after getting clean. He became a bit of a drunk and reckless fool. Then he matured and joined the Justice League after Final Crisis. During this time, his daughter is killed and his arm is chopped off. He relapsed hard. Right back to shooting up. Now he has permanent psychosis from his drug abuse. He loses himself for awhile to this sickness and eventually begins to redeem himself, reforming the Titans.
For those who care, New 52 changed his history. His daughter still alive and his arm restored.
Other notable addicts include:
Mirror Master was a cocaine addict (someone who gets the irony, play Master of Puppets by Metallica for me).
Orson Randall (Iron Fist before Danny Rand) did opium to soothe himself and protect himself from evil spirits. It also made him disconnected emotionally and unreliable as a hero.
Marc Spectre, a.k.a. Moon Knight. Now there is a dick with a cape. Son of an American rabbi, he was a boxer (heavy-weight), a Marine, and a mercenary. He drinks, smokes, and will do whatever to take the edge of his self/inflicted psychosis (Multiple/dissociative Personality Disorder). It also exacerbates his mental problems. But, far be it from me to judge.
Now, for my favorite subject. Alcoholism.
I say this as I am one of those guys who joined the circle and triangle club and says the Serenity Prayer.
The poster child of alcoholism and sobriety in comics is Tony Stark, Iron Man.
The famous story, Demon in the Bottle, is about his struggles, and he conquest. In the comics, it drops him in an Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step recovery meetings from time to time, to remind us, that even though he quit drinking, the problem is still there.
He is not the only alcoholic in comics. Carol Danvers (the human Captain Marvel of Marvel comics), Emma Frost, Flash Thompson (Current Venom symbiote host) Thomas Wayne (Batman of Flashpoint and father of Bruce Wayne), Wolverine (even though he can’t get drunk for long because of the healer factor), Hank Pym (well, more control freak, but that’s a symptom), and most of the Gotham police force.
That’s the deceptive part of addiction that feeds the illness. There is a good and bad, black and white, right and wrong of it. No matter their reasoning (think Mr. Hyde in the TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., or Walter White in Breaking Bad), it may be motivated to do good (think Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader of Star Wars), but the results of their actions hurt everyone, and often themselves.
It reminds me of Red Hood (Jason Todd), and how he thinks he is a hero, even though he kills everything that gets in his way. That’s a metaphor for drug dealers, I suppose. They may make money and have good intentions, but they are killers by proxy.
There are villains that deal drugs in comics. The Power Broker in Marvel being the obvious one. He sells mutant growth drugs to give powers, and they are highly addictive and harmful. It has claim many lives and destroyed many more. He is just as evil as Ultron or Darkseid.