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Heroes Who Don't Kill Supervillains are Criminals too...


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Initial post: Jun 7, 2008 1:06:18 AM PDT
Mike Hunt says:
One of the things that annoys me about super heroes is the old adage: heroes never kill villains no matter how evil they are. This would be unseemingly because it would make the hero no better than the villain.

But come on...where do you draw the line here? Take Batman for example...I think every time the Joker or Two Face kill someone Batman is partly to blame. Why? Because he constantly catches these guys and instead of finishing them he locks them up someplace like Arkham Asylum knowing FULL WELL that within weeks those psychopaths will escape and kill again!!

How many times has he stopped the Joker? How many more times before he realizes that no prison will hold him and no one will reform him?

And about heroes not killing because that would put them in the same moral level as villains...I call BS on that. If a child kills a child molester no one argues that they are morally the same. We clearly accept that one acted in a moral way and the other did not.

If Batman grabbed the Joker and dropped him off a tall building to his demise below I would applaud him. He just saved hundreds of future victims.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2008 3:11:47 AM PDT
Angelus says:
You ARE correct in the sense that superheroes don't have what it takes to do their job sufficiently, but you really can't hold them responsible for spending their free time catching these criminals (as a hobby) and doing the job that the police is paid to do, but not wanting to dirty up their own gloves and getting in trouble with the police, themselves for doing the job that the judges and prosecutors and paid to do (again as a hobby). It takes someone with an 'I don't give a crap' attitude (like The Punisher) to make sure the job is done right. Afterall vigilantes ARE illegal and if they try taking justice into their own hands, then they might as well start HELPING the criminals rob the bank... at least they would be getting paid for their troubles. Their mission is to protect the innocent, not punish the guilty. Like the villian in Joss Whedon's movie 'Serenity'. All he wanted to do was make 'better worlds', by damning himself and becoming a monster for the greater good. That is why he was a villian and not a hero.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2008 3:29:05 AM PDT
You might want to read Kingdom come, which covers that very topic.

I personally feel that it is wrong to put the blame on the heroes, because by giving the villian back to the justice system, they are giving that system the resposibility of dealing with the villian. Because the system will not execute the villians (in accordance with the laws), it is the populus of the fictional city (that establish those laws) that is allowing murderers to roam free. It is essentially one of the arguements that some people have for the death penalty in the real world.

As satisfying as it would be for Batman to toss Joker off a tall building, he wouldn't do it in canon DC comics, because the DC heroes are all effectively paragons of virtue. They may have a different priority in their ideals, but DC characters always "do the right thing." Contrast with Marvel heroes who are often deeply flawed, and on occasion, have not only killed villains, but their own fellow heroes.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 9, 2008 6:23:40 AM PDT
Craig Fowler says:
Batman snaps Jokers neck in one of the Elseworlds stories, I forget which one it was tho.

But it's not that big of a deal, I like the fact that some hero's will stand by a code and then other's will kill with ease, if they all killed it'd get boring.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 9, 2008 9:13:45 AM PDT
I very strongly agree with the theory that it's the city's justice system that is to blame for not executing the villains, not the heroes.

Because superheroes are vigilantes, because they only answer to their own conscious, they can't cross lines. They have abilities that the police lack and so they feel a responsibility to step in and fill a gap that they police can't when it comes to apprehending supervillians. But they are covering for a short-coming normal people's ability to apprehend these criminals. Normal people are equally capable of sentencing the Joker to death.

Mike Hunt: You said "And about heroes not killing because that would put them in the same moral level as villains...I call BS on that. If a child kills a child molester no one argues that they are morally the same. We clearly accept that one acted in a moral way and the other did not."

But Batman dropping the Joker off the side of a building wouldn't be the equivalent of a child killing a child molester in self-defense. It would be a cop, after apprehending the child molester, deciding that it just isn't worth the tax-payers time or money to put this guy on trial, so instead of taking him to jail, the cop puts him on his knees and puts a bullet through his head.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 9, 2008 3:15:09 PM PDT
D. Rankin says:
You want to know why Batman doesn't drop the Joker off a building? Because DC comics couldn't afford to lose such an A-List character from their series. Honestly, in the real world, someone, maybe Batman or the state government or someone else, but somebody would have killed the Joker by now after his 76th escape from Arkham or whatever it is. This is a storytelling flaw that comes from superhero comics that go on and on for decades and never end.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 9, 2008 7:57:32 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jun 9, 2008 8:31:58 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 9, 2008 8:31:47 PM PDT
Mister Myst says:
Wow, D.Rankin.

You've nailed it.
That is the chief reason I stopped reading superhero comics and got rid of a good portion of my collection.

What makes it even worse is that the writers always try to cover up this writing flaw by giving the heroes these weird, inconsistent codes of conduct. Either kill the creeps or admit that's all a big money machine. Don't pretend that you have some deep, artistic reasons for keeping the villains alive.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 9, 2008 9:40:42 PM PDT
PrivateEye says:
Actually, heroes who don't kill supervillains are NOT criminals; they're just LIBERAL.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2008 4:56:41 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Jul 28, 2008 12:44:45 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2008 6:50:20 AM PDT
Joe Kurr says:
Well as for the batman/joker scenario you put, neither batman or the joker
would be able to drop their foe to his death. Its been clearly stated in the past
that batman and the joker would loose their purpose to do what they do if one of them would die or just drop out of sight. You see batman represents order and Joker is chaos. You cant define one without the other existing and this seems to be consistant with most superheroes and villains in other comics i.e Superman is
humble and selfless = Lex Luthor is petty and Greedy, Captain America Was Liberty and Justice = Redskull is oppression and hatred etc.. Thats what makes
these comics interesting. Heroes that don't kill villains are not accountable for the
the villain's actions later on since heroes do their work voluntarily and are not obligated to fight crime. If you want to read a comic that explores the idea of
leathal justice I highly recommend the MAX imprint of the Punisher but while reading these you'll realize through the real world situations and Frank Castle's
cynical attitude that killing criminals really doesn't change the way things are,
sure you kill a bad guy and prevent all the bad things from hapenning but eventually another drug dealer or rapist takes his place and the cycle repeats itself. unfortunately thats how the world works...good topic though, makes you think about the flaws in the REAL LIFE justice system.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 15, 2008 4:05:47 PM PDT
Don't blame the heroes. They know that killing someone is a line that once crossed you can't go back. Really the problem is the courts. You think the joker would have gotten the chair by now.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 15, 2008 5:57:03 PM PDT
Uh. I read comics. I enjoy comics. One distinction that I made a long time ago that SOME of you seem to have not realized yet... They're fiction.

Getting mad at Batman for something, anything, is ridiculous. He's not real and therefore is not responsible for his actions. If you want to be mad at the writers, editors or publishers, that's something different.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2008 3:10:33 PM PDT
Mister Myst says:
This is why I don't enjoy superhero comics, but tend to enjoy their movie spinoffs (Spider-man films, Batman Begins, etc.)

In those, the bad guy usually gets what's coming to him instead of making these endless returns.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2008 4:41:25 PM PDT
John Cappa says:
Go read "The Dark Knight Returns." This isn't something that comic authors have ignored; at least not all the time.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2008 8:51:49 AM PDT
Ricc Noble says:
I'd also suggest reading the Knightfall series where Bane breaks Bruce Wayne (literally and physically breaks his back, but more than that he breaks his spirit, his will, and his ability to be the Batman.) You see very clearly how Bruce Wayne will not cross the line of killing a criminal, but his temporary replacement, Jean-Paul Vally aka Azrael, does. You see the impact this has on Robin and Nightwing and you see why Batman not killing his foes makes him different from them.

PS: Kudos to Angelus for the Serenity reference. Joss Whedon has always had a fantastic story to tell. I think Firefly/Serenity also applies to this topic very well, specifically Captain Malcolm Reynolds. He killed a man at the end of the pilot, but did it in defense of himelf and his crew, some would say he's immoral for killing the man. However, this same captain, (who's number one priority is to earn money, sometimes legally, most times illegally, for his ship and crew) returns medicine he stole once he realizes that he's hurting an enitre town by doing so. When the towns Sherif says to him "A man sees our situation and has choice to be made" Malcolm replies, "I don't believe he does." Great stuff.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 12, 2008 9:20:03 AM PDT
Art Franklin says:
Marvel has addressed this issue outright in recent years and forced moral decisions on all their characters. And Marvel gets villified for doing so quite often nowadays. Personally, I like it. That is why the Authority is cool.

In Civil War, the SHIELD head accused Spider-Man of exactly this (because there are so MANY villians he never killed) and the result was that Captain America (ironically a soldier who will not kill) left her side and began a resistance.

In contrast, the Ultimate version of Cap has a more consistent soldier morality and kills bad guys all the time. I prefer this, but the four-color fans hate it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 12, 2008 11:40:16 AM PDT
********** says:
killing the supervillain makes you the supervillain.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 19, 2008 12:13:58 AM PDT
Angelus says:
'THE DARK KNIGHT'

Harvey Dent: "You can die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villian."

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 19, 2008 9:36:25 AM PDT
Art Franklin says:
Yeah, I agree with Dent. Only the young die good. In real life, I have seen so many musicians and artists start out with wonderful idealism and then after a couple of decades of struggling against the system their ethical equilibrium and drive to do good in the world is shattered.

So, in comics, I love the archetype of the hero who loses it and decides to become a tyrant to achieve his initial objectives: Hyperion in Supreme Power, Saruman, etc.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 19, 2008 1:01:13 PM PDT
kmr says:
If your going to argue comics books to this extent then you really shouldn't get past the fact that most heros (and villians) would be dead long ago from that one lucky bullet, misstep which sent them over a ledge, etc etc...

Comics require certains suspensions of disbelief... One of them being the jails are so inefeectual and the other being that enough people don't get fed up with that to the point where killing escapees becomes legal.

Either sit back and enjoy or compare and contrast to reality and suck all the fun out...

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2008 2:08:25 PM PDT
braindeath says:
That was in The Nail.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2008 2:19:17 PM PDT
braindeath says:
I feel that way a lot as well, but I believe Batman doesn't kill for a slightly different reason than most of the other heroes. I think he doesn't because he is already close to the edge, and could easily slip over it. He has almost killed The Joker in Hush, Catwoman stopped him. Nightwing did kill the Joker when he thought Killer Croc had killed Tim [Robin iii.] Batman brought the Joker back to life so Nightwing wouldn't have to deal with that.

By much the same extension, Jim Gordon should also kill the Joker the next time he has him in custody. I do agree with you though, the Joker has killed over 2,000 people, killing him would be a mercy to the world.

Some heroes do kill. Speedy II has killed, when there was no other choice. Manhunter kills super-villains - that's part of her actual plan. Huntress has killed before. Jason Todd killed when he was Robin [and now does all the time - but I guess he is no longer considered a hero?] I'm running through the list in my head here, but it mainly seems to be the women. Katana kills sometimes.

Batman does kill the Joker in the Elseworlds The Nail, as someone else noted. The Joker gets Kryptonian technology and uses it to rip Robin and Batgirl to shreds, slowly, while making Batman watch. I would not recommend reading it.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 2, 2008 1:01:21 PM PDT
I would have to agree with D. Rankin that the real reason heroes don't kill the bad guys is solely for the perpetuation of the commercial property.

Batman is both totally foolish AND criminal for not killing the Joker, who has racked up a bodycount in the hundreds, at least. I can see Batman turning the Joker over to the police the first time, but the second time, Batman should have arranged an accident for the clown.

The best comics creators are aware of this foolish limitation, and rail against it; that's why we have Elseworlds. You can make a very convincing argument that the "Elseworlds" concept started in "The Dark Knight Returns", where Batman tiptoed up to the edge of his spurious moral code, but didn't actually break it.

Aside from the obvious problem of Batman killing all his foes and therefore not making it to 100 issues, keeping Batman from killing also keeps his comics rated PG, rather than R.

Batman, whom everyone would nominate for "Most likely to kill his opponent", is a grim vigilante, but he's got a heart of gold. This makes the character acceptable for distribution in various media to children.

There are Batman pajamas, Batman toothbrushes, Batman Underoos. Why aren't there Punisher Underoos?

Nice, safe, cuddly Batman. He's as threatening as a Halloween mask on a infant.

In the couple of years after he was created, Batman did indeed drop a few criminals off roofs, and kill bad guys in various ways, as did Superman.

But as the character became more popular, the writers were a lot more careful about his actions, and when the character eventually became a corporate property, he was subject to stringent rules to ensure the greatest marketability.

Like a movie getting stripped of all adult content so it can get a PG or G rating instead of an R.

This policy reached its zenith in the sixties and seventies, when Batman comics were aimed at the lowest common denominator, as was the wretched campy Batman TV show.

DKR was a standalone story, featuring a future for Bruce Wayne, and the reader realized very early on that just about anything could happen, and well-known characters could indeed meet their ends.

You're not going to see that in the regular comics.

Comics are built on a very simple premise, with very simple logical rules that are used over and over with very few variations: Bad guy is chased and captured by Good Guy. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

If the Good Guy kills, then it's hard to call him a Good Guy.

Since DKR in 1986, comics is indeed moving into a new world, where Wertham's comics code has been tossed out, and Captain America beats the tar out of Giant Man for smacking around the Wasp.

I myself like the shades of gray in the more adult-oriented comics, but I certainly don't expect to see that shading in the flagship properties of Marvel and DC, which are still sold in supermarkets and drug stores.

Posted on Dec 2, 2012 4:08:30 PM PST
Personally I've always thought what Bats should do with Joker is ask his friend Clark to dump him in the Phantom Zone. The Zone is hardly escape-proof, but it's harder to break out of than Arkham. A cardboard box would be harder to break out of than Arkham.
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Discussion in:  Comics forum
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Initial post:  Jun 7, 2008
Latest post:  Dec 14, 2012

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