Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Daily Panel | Batman kills

For the second time in two issues, Batman tosses a bad guy to his death. In Detective Comics #27, he socks the main villain into a vat of acid (and comments, "A fitting ending for his kind"). This time, it's a nameless jewel thief. And in case the diminishing "Yaaaaaa" doesn't make clear what's going on, the story spells it out later when two police rush into the scene who were attracted by "the body of the man who went over the roof."

I don't completely understand why it's important to a lot of readers that Batman doesn't kill. In fact, one of the things that ultimately killed my interest in Batman and made me question corporate superhero comics in general was the amount of attention the comics give to this concept. The Joker's always escaping death to return later was a fun aspect of superhero comics until the genre "matured" and storytellers started wanting to comment on it. Batman developed an explicit No Kill clause in his moral code, which created more commentary, occasionally between Batman and another character.

The thing is: the No Kill clause really is dumb, especially as stories get darker and villains get more violent. At some point, Batman becomes complicit in the suffering and deaths of the Joker's victims because he refuses to do the one thing that he's equipped to do, but the police can't. And it's also dumb to have that pointed out in the comics themselves, because there's no good, satisfying answer for it.

[From Detective Comics #28 by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.]


Paxton said...

I completely agree.

Anonymous said...

My impression is that DC toned down the violence and adopted the "good guys never kill" rule when they realized that most comic book fans were kids. What annoys me is the assumption that the good guy always has a choice. Comic book writers and fans take it for granted that you can always shoot to wound, use non-lethal weapons (tear gas, tranquilizer darts), or disarm a gunman with a karate chop or a batarang. Of course, if that were the case, police officers would never have to kill criminals in gunfights. You can make a case that the costumed superhero genre is inherently unrealistic, so the "no kill" rule acceptable in context. But a lot of fans who say "heroes never kill" are the same ones who want all comics to be grim and dark, because they want "realism."


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