Heroes That Kill– Now Including The Justice League?

A recent post brought up something that has long been an important: whether or not superheroes should kill their enemies. Since DC’s company-spanning reboot, their superheroes have gotten more sexual, and their fights have become a lot more violent. But I’d pose this question to the Justice League: Is killing someone Justice?

Almost since his creation, Batman has absolutely refused to kill. (Let’s ignore the fact that he used to carry a gun.) The only time Superman killed someone was Doomsday, and that was a fight to the death for them both. [Doomsday got better, too.]  Wonder Woman, on the other hand, is a warrior first– she makes no compunction at all about killing when it’s called for.

There are such things as extenuating circumstances, though. In WW’s case, the man with his head in her hands just told her that the only way to stop him mind-controlling Superman was to kill him. She didn’t hesitate.

I’m not going to lie– I don’t find all violence distasteful. It can be engrossing, and even satisfying to see the bad guy get what he deserves– when he deserves it.

Sherlock Holmes fought James Moriarty to the death– but that was because Arthur Conan Doyle felt it would make Holmes look ineffective if the villain got off scot-free or paid a lesser price.

And now, charter Justice League members are practically killing enemies left and right.

DC wants this rebooted 52 to seem different. I understand why. But this decision to make their heroes more cavalier about killing sends a distinct message to readers. That that’s not a big deal. That that’s okay.

Go read Kingdom Come, by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. At its heart, it’s a story about heroes who have quit because the public prefers heroes that take that final measure over heroes who won’t, and the disastrous fallout of that choice. It’s one hell of a story.

Is this just a phase for the newly assembled Justice League? I have no idea. I’ll have to read the comics to find out. (Clever, that.)  But it does not bode well for their gallery of rogues. The Legion of Doom may have a few empty chairs before long.

Still. All this leads to a question that I’d love to hear from you on:

Has DC forgotten that heroes are supposed to be role models?

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5 Responses to Heroes That Kill– Now Including The Justice League?

  1. Ben Herman says:

    Superman did also execute the Phantom Zone criminals in the post-Crisis DC continuity. That said, the books showed the repercussions of that act on him, with Clark experiencing a great deal of remorse and mental problems as the fallout of his killing General Zod.

    I think that the best thing for Marvel and DC to do would to not have their villains be these bloodthirsty monsters who murder countless innocent people (the Joker is a prime example of this) so that the heroes don’t end up looking ineffectual for not using lethal force against them.

  2. Casey says:

    Huh. I thought the Phantom Zone was more of a purgatory-like place of living death where the bad guys technically lived on.

    But yes, you get my point. In ‘All Fall Down’, though it is never explicitly said right out, Siphon is the kind of superhero who would not use lethal force.

  3. Sarah says:

    I think DC has forgotten the original point of superheroes. We like them because they believe the same things we believe in while at the same time, being better than us (something to aspire to).

    When they kill, the point of justice and righteousness is almost eradicated because they take on more values of the villains, which we dislike because they stand against our beliefs. It defeats the point of superheroes being super. They are reduced to fighting on the basis that they say that someone is “bad.”

    And even the point of bad vs. good has even be brought into question by the alternative stories from the point of view of the villains that we see today.

    What divides the heroes from the villains here?

  4. Mortium says:

    Um, go re-read the very early Action Comics and Detective Comics. Superman and Batman killed their enemies all the time. You kidnapped Lois? You gonna die! And Superman will make puns while killing you. If anything they’ve gone back to their roots.

    • Casey says:

      Mortium, I’m sorry I wasn’t more clear. Yes, the old, OLD school Superman and Batman did kill, and casually so. I’m talking about the post-crisis era of comics– starting in the 90’s with ‘Man of Steel’.

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