Comics Creators

Should heroes kill?


In real life or the movies?


No one should.


Clarice Starling absolutely should have killed Buffalo Bill!


There you go.


Yes you are right, it’s not really been a descent into less innocent times. It’s been more up and down than that.


Can Batman torture?

I 'd love Warren Ellis to write Batman and use this idea:

It occurs to me that an awful lot of trouble in Gotham City could have been averted a long time ago if Batman had just ripped the Joker’s nipples off.

I mean, treatment doesn’t work, does it? They stick the Joker in the nuthatch, he comes out again and does the same things.

A man with the nipples ripped off him does not make the same mistakes twice.

Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot, and need the nipples ripped off them.

I mean, who’s going to argue?

“Batman, I’ve heard disturbing reports that you ripped the Joker’s nipples off.”

“Choke on my fuck, Commissioner Gordon.”


I mean, crime in Gotham City doesn’t exactly seem to be affected by a man dressed as a bat flapping around the place. But no-one disobeys a man wearing a necklace of human nipples.

“I’m Batman” isn’t cutting it in the striking-fear-into-their-hearts stakes. But “I’m Batman — and I’m here for your nipples” is an entirely different proposition.

Criminals would see the error of their ways after a man in a black leather pervert suit had their nipples off with the edge of a Batarang, you mark my words. Or a Bat-Denipplizer.

I’m off to ring DC Comics.


Yeah, I think we discussed something of a similar topic years ago and the question came up if Batman can’t kill, then can he paralyze, maim or lobotomize? Grant Morrison had Batman do some pretty questionable things in his Batman Inc. run.

However, at heart, what is the intent behind the question? What is the framework or context against which it makes any sense? With fictional heroes, of course, they can kill and have killed, but the answer to the question “should” they kill can really only be determined by the specific story itself. With Batman and Superman, there is an added point or question. Is it necessary to their characters that they vow not to kill? Even if they vow not to kill, and avoid it throughout the story, the authors could still choose to have them kill at some point for dramatic effect.

Of course, the final answer depends on the reader. Some may believe that it is imperative that Batman vows not to kill AND actually manages to never kill on any adventure. Some may accept the vow to never kill but also still accept it if he kills in a story due to the circumstances of the adventure. Others can obviously accept a Batman who kills whenever necessary or even one who goes around with the intent to kill people who deserve it in his eyes. But that’s more about the tastes of the reader than the fictional character of Batman (or, more accurately, the corporate property of Batman).

However, the question should fictional heroes kill has nothing to do with the question should real people kill in real life. A little earlier Arjan posted “there is a kind of person that really doesn’t deserve life.” And I agree… in fiction. In fiction, there are villains who can be portrayed as so malevolent that they must be killed. In real life, it is unlikely to find anyone who’s done something so heinous that any one of us could not conceivably not have done the same or worse in their circumstances. Reality is messy, confusing and hurtful, which is the primary appeal of fiction as it is actually the result of a design, has a structure and delivers misery, death and misfortune to people who are not real so we can enjoy their suffering and, in many cases, an eventual triumph that most of us will never experience in real life.

Fiction is not a simulation of reality. Questions of what characters should do or intend to do in fiction are not directly applicable to real life. Even when they are meant to be such as discussed in this NPR story yesterday: - it would be a mistake to say they provide a guidebook to dealing with the same or similar problems in the real world. No one would say “well, this character in this book is in a similar situation to yours, so why don’t you do what they did because it worked out really well in the book.”

And with super-heroes (pulp heroes, action heroes, adventure heroes – all the various subgenres under the “Weird Fantasy Fiction” genre), the intent is 180 degrees opposed to the intent of any kind of moralistic narrative. Superheroes are a complete escape from the world - power fantasies. Even if they intend to be more realistic (like The Ultimates or Dawn of Justice) they aren’t really realistic at all. They may have a more serious take and include things that seem to be more applicable to “the real world” (like cable news reports and heroes with Twitter accounts), but they are still filled with conventions we accept even though we know they are completely unbelievable.

Take a look (click) at this great page from the upcoming continuation of Millar/Quitely’s JUPITER’S LEGACY.

Now, of course, Millar and Quitely have no problem at all with heroes that not only kill, but just plain murder the s**t out of people, but their stories are still primarily great superhero escapism with an edge…

If you look at the dialogue on the page, the swordsperson Raikou is a telepath who can control and confuse her opponent’s senses. How do we know, because she tells them that during the fight. Also, she tells them that they are there to free Repro who is a superperson that can steal the powers of other superpeople.

Now, obviously, from a serious perspective, this is stupid. Why would she say any of these things during a fight? First, if her opponents don’t already know how her powers work, then she’s giving up an advantage by letting them know. Second, they should know why they are there, she doesn’t need to tell them and, again, it’s better for her if they don’t know that she knows.

However, this is great writing because, as we know, the dialogue is actually for us, the reader, and on top of it, it has a bit of poetry in it. Repro is not just a superperson, she calls him a “human parasite.” That gives us an idea of how she sees him and doesn’t it just make you hate her a little bit more? She says “American Super Heroes” implying a very jingoistic view of the world. Also, she describes her powers confusing people’s senses like “shuffling a deck of cards.” Not a great metaphor, but a strong visual image to go with what we see her doing in the fight.

Finally, though, it is great comics writing primarily because it is something Millar excels at. It’s a set-up for the punchline on the next panel:

So, you had this invisible robot character standing around while she beat up his allies waiting for the exact right moment to say his line when he could’ve zapped her quietly at any point? Yeah, it is stupid when you think about it “realistically,” but it is great in the context of superhero comics.

Not that superhero stories are devoid of any sort of relationship to the real world, and there are stories that attempt to apply questions of superheroes using superpowers to political superpowers using their military might, but these stories are contained within the context of their world. They don’t have such a direct moral connection to ours that the same questions can be applied in the same way. That what a real person should or should not do in the real world is just as applicable to what a fictional character should or should not do in a story. If it was, then our movies, comics, television shows and novels would all be as boring and confusing as real life.


Batman as Colonel Kurtz.


The Authority killed, but did not have any recurring villains because of it, so it was short lived.


He’s not that fat.


I think if a hero feels the need to kill, Gambit is only obvious target.

And he should stay dead.


I was thinking about this the other day and while it’s true when those stories were introduced the ramifications were very much covered. Collossus is forced to kill Proteus and as the most naive member of the team is tortured by it and after that Riptide one it is meant to be shocking and show the anger he had at his team-mates seemingly being killed.

Greg Rucka was talking this week about Wonder Woman and the Max Lord story and he was very unhappy because he had planned for that to be a major issue and go into the ramifications long term and they pulled him off the book almost straight away and never covered that.


While this is true, Collossus’s other name is Man of Steel.


Never if there is any way to avoid it.


I honestly believe Zak Snyder got the charatcers mixed up when he was invited to film Man of Steel and thought “Oh yeah, it’s that metal X-Man dude, I’ll have to get a scene where he snaps some guy’s neck.”

It’s a tragic mistake that makes MoS almost excusable.

No wait. What am I saying? Nothing makes MoS excusable.


There’s the crux of it.


Well, it’s always possible to avoid killing, no matter what the circumstances. Even if your own life were at stake, you’d have the option not to defend yourself.

The question is surely whether killing is the better (read: more morally justifiable) option than any of the alternatives. Which obviously depends on the individual circumstances of each story.

I think many of the most satisfying stories (of the kind we’re talking about here) manage to set up a situation where it appears that killing is the only viable way to resolve a situation, but then show how the hero manages to find an alternative that achieves the same goals but without resorting to killing and crossing that line. But that’s not necessarily easy to do.


I think it boils down to the principles and overall character of the “hero”


I’ve always loved these:


They should stop killing unarmed ppl