Comics Creators

Should heroes kill?


Well I just made up a scenario on the fly… Point is she’s the kind of character who would take on a loved one’s moral burden to spare them from doing something that will forever haunt them, despite the fact that she could simply choose not to compromise herself.


I’m with Lorcan in that a hero doesn’t kill unless there’s no other option (which basically means either the villain tries to kill the hero and it’s an instinctual move, or when someone else is about to be killed by the villain and there’s no other option). Otherwise they’re an anti-hero.

The question would be better defined to ask should superheroes kill - they’re super heroes, they’re held to a higher standard. Indiana Jones, Jack Sparrow and John McCain kill, and we might think of them as cinematic heroes but they’re not super so they don’t have that higher bar of expectations.

Of course it’s all brand management and it’s this balancing act between offering versions of the characters for kids and for adults too. I think the zeitgeist of culture with the ascendance of the anti-hero (starting with Tony Soprano) has made murdering heroes more mainstream and possibly even preferential, but I think there’s a bit of a longing for heroes who don’t kill (one of the reasons why I think Huck is striking a chord in the comics world).


But in that case she’d try everything else first. It won’t be “oh well, my best friend’s turned evil again. Better murder her to salve my ex-boyfriend’s conscience”

Well, I think some heroes shouldn’t kill. And I think that heroes who kill and those who won’t can coexist. For me, a superhero is more about the trappings of the story than any ingrained morality. Superheroes starting to kill is just another example of the genre catching up with other aspects of pop culture. Dirty Harry isn’t any less of a hero because the A-Team exists.


You’ve just made me think of the line of dialogue that struck me the most in Batman v Superman “No one stays good in this world.” Just such a horribly dispiriting notion. So, yes, some heroes do need to remain entirely pure and untainted.


As always, Millar is ahead of the curve.


He’s good at paying attention, for sure. But there has always been that element of hope in most of his comics.

Edit: Just to add this maybe the dopiest thing I’ve said here because obviously you all know this already :wink:


You look at 80s action “heroes” and they had huge body counts. Back then, a “good” hero killed the “bad” guys.




I remember reading an interview with Timothy Dalton many years ago where he refers to the early James Bonds. He mentioned how shocking the moment was in Dr. No when Bond shoots Professor Dent in cold blood. That wasn’t what heroes did. They arrested people and treated them with decency.

This subject seems to have come about from the eternal debate, should Batman/Superman/Spider-Man etc. kill. It is the idea of taking a set of characters developed in a different place and time and trying to apply a modern set of values and morality to them. Sometimes it just doesn’t work and you bend and twist the character to be almost unrecognisable from the original. The most recent Lone Ranger movie is a good comparison. It just doesn’t work. It was a bit of a spoof. @JimOHara talks about how old heroes like Tarzan and Doc Savage just don’t work for modern audiences. We live in a much more cynical age and I don’t think that people have that level of trust in heroes that they might have in the 30’s, in the same way that we don’t have the same level of trust in religion or government or other institutions.


Still, that comes straight out of THE DARK KNIGHT which is WB’s model for superhero movies.

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

In the end, Batman doesn’t even consider himself to be a hero. He’s more a scapegoat - someone who can do what’s needed and take the blame for it. In Lev Grossman’s THE MAGICIANS, a central theme is that “a hero is the one who pays the price.” It’s the same principle - society (or the audience) wants someone to step up and do what they are all afraid to do, and then accept the punishment for doing it. That’s the basic literary hero - and Nolan basically made Batman that kind of hero. This is why A TALE OF TWO CITIES is brought up in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. It is probably one of the greatest works in regard to literary heroism (along with LES MISERABLES, to which TDKR also seemed to obliquely refer).

A “super-hero” is someone who does what everyone wants to be able to do, but has the power to decline or forego the consequences for it. It’s an “escapist” hero. It’s not really the superpowers that define whether a hero is or is not “super”, but the dramatic or melodramatic consequences of the story.


Some should. Perseus kills, The Shadow kills, even Captain America must in the line of duty.

Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman all do what they do because they were traumatised by death and put life above everything. The Authority can kill, the Justice League can’t. People misunderstand the characters if they create stories where that happens. They always find a solution. You’re just doing it wrong if certain characters go in that direction and should write something else. Even in DKR Batman doesn’t kill.



Did Wonder Woman not kill in World War 2 then? Genuine question, I haven’t read the stories.


[quote=“Mark_Millar, post:52, topic:5521, full:true”]
Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman all do what they do because they were traumatised by death and put life above everything.[/quote]

With all due respect:


And you don’t think that was a misstep or a mistake?


That’s a good question. WW comics were around during WW2. Were the DC heroes not killing while millions of US GIs were?

Maybe not, but back then even Batman and Superman killed occasionally.

Nevertheless, there is no real reason why Wonder Woman would have to kill anyone during war. It’s not like realism is necessary with any Superhero.


Wonder Woman killed long before that. She is DC’s go to monster slayer: Cottus, Medusa, all died in the pages of modern Wonder Woman comics. She’s used bladed weapons since her Post Crisis re-introduction 29 years ago, and she’s been incredibly deadly in nearly all of her animated movie appearances.

The Dini animated universe stuck closely with the no killing rule. However, in the modern comics, Wonder Woman kills when necessary, and definitely kills when at war.


You said it better than I could. I guess that is why you are the successful writer around these here parts. :wink:


I loved that about the Civil War tie-in where Cap said to Tony that he’d show him the difference between fighting and war. The implication being that he would kill.

There was that JMS Flash issue of the Brave and the Bold where he got trapped in World War 2 and decided to join a GI unit in battle.


Collosus kills people quite a bit though. I’ve been listening to X-Plain the X-Men, and they mentioned how common it is for him to snap people’s necks during fight scenes.


Um… I think you just proved my point.

She’s a peace ambassador here to teach the man’s world :slight_smile: