Ethics And Morality In Superhero Stories

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The idea of a "No Kill Rule" is absurd from both a moral and practical perspective and it exists for no good reason, merely to give the hero a false sense of nobility and to keep villains around so the writers don't have to keep making up more in anything it's ever been used in. This isn't to say that killing a criminal should be a Superhero's first, second, third, or even further resort for dealing with whatever criminal or supervillain they come across, but it should ALWAYS be on the table.

First, the practical reasons: It doesn't matter if you've got super martial arts training or sci-fi gadgetry or whatever killing someone especially a group is much easier and faster than bringing them in alive and killing their captors is much more likely to successfully save a hostage or whatever than not, sometimes it's all but impossible to pull it off any other way. Even some non-lethal means of subduing carry a not insignificant risk of possibly killing the target. This means that killing the bad guys is realistically much more likely to succeed than attempting to capture them. Sure, we may know the Superhero is always going to succeed at stopping the bad guys and saving everyone but the Superhero does not know this and thus should be expected to act to improve his chances. Batman may be more than skilled enough to take out a couple dozen of The Joker's thugs and the man himself non-lethally, but he's putting himself and anyone he might be there to save at much more risk by attempting to bring the foes in alive instead of just walking in there and shooting them all dead with an Uzi or something. This is especially true when the odds are against the Superhero, they should be doing whatever they can to tip the odds in their favor including killing.

Second, the moral reasons: Even the lowest joke D-list supervillain has dozens of murders and countless amounts of property damage among other crimes under their belt, and the number who are either successfully reformed or genuinely kept incarcerated permanently are so microscopically small it's not worth mentioning. It's one thing to abstain from killing some random mugger who it's simple to subdue and will very likely stay in prison for their term, it's quite another to keep capturing mass murderers like all supervillains are and keep throwing them in jail or the nuthouse over and over just to have them break out the next week and going back to committing crimes and murdering people. Killing the former simply shows that the "superhero" is not actually a superhero at all and is in fact a psychopath killing for their own pleasure rather than a real reason, killing the latter is just the only way to actually STOP these people. To just keep throwing supervillains in jail accomplishes nothing in any universe that they exist in, killing them is the only way to prevent further harm from occurring and is the only thing that will actually improve that universe. These Superheroes have the power (With Great Power Comes...) and the desire to be Superheroes, to protect, and by refusing to kill under any circumstances they are shirking their responsibilities. Refraining from killing is simply just selfish, it means the "Superhero" values their likely entirely self imposed moral code over the lives of the victims of these people. Putting an end to those who harm and kill others and can't be genuinely stopped any other way is far far more noble than refusing to kill them no matter what could ever be.

Lastly, "where does it end?" is often something people say when this is brought up. It ends when any sane person would say it ends, on a case by case basis for as long as the Superhero decides to be a Superhero. It's cliche to use him because The Joker is a perfect example, someone who will never ever stop killing people simply because he can and will never be contained for any real length of time. Killing The Joker is the sole way of stopping him from hurting anyone else and always will be for as long as he exists, but any storyline that has ever had anyone actually do this either has the Superhero doing this not be an actual Superhero at all and is actually just killing villains for kicks and because they think they can get away with killing people by targeting people like him, or the Superhero quickly switches gears from someone who values life and fights to protect it into a mass murdering nutjob themselves who very likely will go to killing anyone who tries to stop them and/or defy them in any way before even if every one of them is completely innocent, not to mention endless "if you kill him you will be just like him" storylines.

These storylines are designed to show the validity of the "No Kill Rule" by demonstrating what would happen if they broke it, but really it's entirely false because all it does is go for the most blatant extremes that only a "Superhero" who was completely out of their mind to begin with would do as a response to breaking such a rule, and that's if anyone would. Even if they were nuts enough to run around in a spandex costume beating up criminals and whatever a even slightly sane person would kill supervillains and other mass murdering lunatics like The Joker, have a good cry if they had to, then pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and continue running around in a spandex costume beating up criminals like nothing had happened at the end of the day, then do the same thing if they later encountered another. It also wouldn't "get easier" nor would it make that person anything like the supervillains they killed no matter how many they killed, and they'd be no more inclined to kill anyone much less the innocent in the future than they were before they ever killed a supervillain, at the most they'd be less likely to be distressed over the aftermath.

Sorry for the rant, I just wish Superheroes would actually be Superheroes and thus be willing to kill on a reasonable basis, just like anyone in real life who is charged with protecting the innocent would.

It also wouldn't "get easier" nor would it make that person anything like the supervillains they killed no matter how many they killed, and they'd be no more inclined to kill anyone much less the innocent in the future than they were before they ever killed a supervillain, at the most they'd be less likely to be distressed over the aftermath.

Why would you assume that? This flies in the face of plenty of historical examples. Just one, in my country, surveillance laws that were enacted to catch terrorists are being used to track down people who have noisy dogs.

wizzy555:

Why would you assume that? This flies in the face of plenty of historical examples. Just one, in my country, surveillance laws that were enacted to catch terrorists are being used to track down people who have noisy dogs.

It's because to do otherwise shows a lack on morals and sanity on that person's part to begin with. The whole idea of "it gets easier" or it's similar concept "if you kill him you will be just like him" is just as absurd as the "No Kill Rule" if not more so, people don't work that way and it's very lazy writing to have it work like that in fiction. A person's morals don't suddenly change or even bend just because they are forced to make an exception to them in very obviously justified circumstances, their morals remain the same. Just like say a conscripted soldier or cop or whoever who genuinely never wanted to kill people ends up killing people for one reason or another in situations where it is well justified wouldn't because of that suddenly decide to go home and kill random innocent people in their neighborhood, whether for reasons that are only justified in their own heads at best or for the sheer sake of it at worst, and anything in between. Anyone who does either went insane (which is always cheap cop out lazy writing when it's used in any stories much less Superhero ones to explain anyone's actions) or they've always had homicidal tendencies and just didn't have the opportunity to indulge in it and now can't get enough. It's a frequently quoted thing but power doesn't corrupt, it just gives the dicks who always wanted to crush others under their heel whether they were consciously willing to admit it to others and even themselves or not but weren't able to before the ability to finally do so and throwing out one's morals in any context much less regarding murder is the same.

If in your country or any other any laws are being abused and taken advantage of to do other things the laws weren't supposedly created and amended them for the people who proposed, worked to pass those laws, and genuinely intended to enact those laws as stated stepped down willingly, forcefully, or a combination of both and someone corrupt took their place and started abusing it. Either that or the so called purpose of those laws was a secondary benefit at best and total lie at worst designed to get it through so the laws could be used as such, or lastly the ones who ended up being responsible for enacting those laws were corrupt thus abusing it and those who created those laws are oblivious to it or can't do anything about it.

Superheroes, much like detective and cop stories, are inherently conservative in that they are about protecting an established order and stopping transgressors harm it. Superheroes often take it into fascistic territory by operating without oversight, accountability, and with tremendous power beyond that available to anyone else. Batman in particular is bad for this, as his power is essentially a product of his tremendous inherited wealth, and he beats down poor people and mentally ill people whilst still claiming the moral high ground.

It's weird seeing how a lot of the contradictions in Batman's philosophy is a product of the newer direction its taken. Batman used to cooperate fully with the police in broad daylight, essentially as a deputy. And he also had no problem killing the shit out of people, so the whole "everything is fine short of killing" hypocrisy didn't exist.

There are plenty of comics that have gotten wise to this inherent weakness: Ms. Marvel's enemies, for instance, often represent corrupt authority figures and people punching down at minorities. Meanwhile Judge Dread revels in the fact that its protagonist is a blatant fascist.

maninahat:
Superheroes, much like detective and cop stories, are inherently conservative in that they are about protecting an established order and stopping transgressors harm it. Superheroes often take it into fascistic territory by operating without oversight, accountability, and with tremendous power beyond that available to anyone else. Batman in particular is bad for this, as his power is essentially a product of his tremendous inherited wealth, and he beats down poor people and mentally ill people whilst still claiming the moral high ground.

Stopping murderous super-criminals makes superheroes about as "conservative" as the concept of a functional police force, which is essential for any civilised society.

And even then, this overlooks the many times superheroes have radically challenged the established order-- Green Arrow, Batman in Superman: Red Son, Ozymandias, quite a few of the X-Men.

Silvanus:

maninahat:
Superheroes, much like detective and cop stories, are inherently conservative in that they are about protecting an established order and stopping transgressors harm it. Superheroes often take it into fascistic territory by operating without oversight, accountability, and with tremendous power beyond that available to anyone else. Batman in particular is bad for this, as his power is essentially a product of his tremendous inherited wealth, and he beats down poor people and mentally ill people whilst still claiming the moral high ground.

Stopping murderous super-criminals makes superheroes about as "conservative" as the concept of a functional police force, which is essential for any civilised society.

And even then, this overlooks the many times superheroes have radically challenged the established order-- Green Arrow, Batman in Superman: Red Son, Ozymandias, quite a few of the X-Men.

Having a functional police force or at least having superheroes be part of it isn't conservative. However, depicting elected authorities as always incompetent and/or corrupt and having it so that society can only be saved by unelected individuals, many of whom are of questionable stability, is a more toxic viewpoint.

Green Arrow challenging the established order amounts to him calling everything fascist and everybody a Nazi without actually doing anything of value. Ozymandias was a terrorist whose plan was never needed for peace. Batman in Red Son is an elseworld. And the X-Men

Agent_Z:

Having a functional police force or at least having superheroes be part of it isn't conservative. However, depicting elected authorities as always incompetent and/or corrupt and having it so that society can only be saved by unelected individuals, many of whom are of questionable stability, is a more toxic viewpoint.

Do comics generally depict this state of affairs? Superman works with the US government frequently. Batman works with the GCPD all the time.

Agent_Z:
Green Arrow challenging the established order amounts to him calling everything fascist and everybody a Nazi without actually doing anything of value. Ozymandias was a terrorist whose plan was never needed for peace. Batman in Red Son is an elseworld. And the X-Men

They're not conservative, though, are they?

Silvanus:

Do comics generally depict this state of affairs?

It's pretty much the entire premise of superheroes.

Silvanus:

Superman works with the US government frequently. Batman works with the GCPD all the time.

The heroes don't so much as work with the government as they simply do as they please and the government is either too incompetent to get in their way or when the governments decide they have the right to use force in their own states, they're depicted as being evil.

Silvanus:

They're not conservative, though, are they?

A case could be made for Ozy. Many superheroes certainly have conservative beliefs or end up enforcing conservative views. It's something the genre has struggled with even o this day.

Agent_Z:

It?s pretty much the entire premise of superheroes.

As a frequent reader of superhero comics, I'd disagree quite strongly with this. The authorities are often depicted as incapable of dealing with unique and enormous threats; they are, however, often depicted as otherwise competent or vital.

It's certainly nothing to do with the premise. One can have a superhero and an elected authority validly co-existing very, very easily.

Agent_Z:

The heroes don?t so much as work with the government as they simply do as they please and the government is either too incompetent to get in their way or when the governments decide they have the right to use force in their own states, they?re depicted as being evil.

This isn't true at all. The "pro-registration" side of the Civil War in Marvel was just about as flawed as the anti-registration side; both were depicted as ultimately well-intentioned and sympathetic. And the pro-registration side was rather unambiguously victorious, with the anti-registration champion Cap America concluding that he was "losing the argument".

Superman is also frequently depicted as ceding his own authority to the US government.

Agent_Z:

A case could be made for Ozy. Many superheroes certainly have conservative beliefs or end up enforcing conservative views. It?s something the genre has struggled with even o this day.

Some have, some have not. My issue was with the absolutism of the original statement, which claimed they were automatically conservative by nature.

Silvanus:

As a frequent reader of superhero comics, I'd disagree quite strongly with this. The authorities are often depicted as incapable of dealing with unique and enormous threats; they are, however, often depicted as otherwise competent or vital. [/QUOTE]
It isn't just the unique and unusual threats though. Superheroes are regularly seen combatting any crime, from some guys holding up a liquor store to Mongul wanting to make Earth his new playground. And the authorities are frequently shown as being incapable shown as incapable of dealing with any threat no matter how simple it is. Most Batman continuities depict Gotham as a crime-ridden cesspool even before the guys with freeze rays and acid-squirting flowers show up and the very first Superman story had him solving a murder case not fighting an alien invasion or science experiment gone wrong on the loose.
And when the authorities are shown as trying to adapt to these unusual threats, they're depicted as overstepping their reach and using extremist methods like with Cadmus in Justice League Unlimited. Because the government having a monopoly on force in superhero universes is against the status quo.

[quote="Silvanus" post="18.1043392.24212113"]
This isn't true at all. The "pro-registration" side of the Civil War in Marvel was just about as flawed as the anti-registration side; both were depicted as ultimately well-intentioned and sympathetic. And the pro-registration side was rather unambiguously victorious, with the anti-registration champion Cap America concluding that he was "losing the argument".

Here's the funny thing, according to Mark Millar in an interview, the pro-reg side was supposed to be unambiguously right and the main point of the story was that Steve Rogers really was out of touch with the rest of the world. But the writers knew they couldn't write a story like that without inciting fan rage (well more than what they got anyway) as the SHRA was too much of a break with the status quo. So they gave the pro-reg side a bunch of unnecessarily evil actions to commit like locking people up in the Negative Zone without trial and creating clones from dead people. Marvel also refused to actually state what the SHRA actually entailed so what was legal and illegal under the act varied from story to story and eventually it was repealed due to it being deemed unconstitutional.

Agent_Z:

Silvanus:

This isn't true at all. The "pro-registration" side of the Civil War in Marvel was just about as flawed as the anti-registration side; both were depicted as ultimately well-intentioned and sympathetic. And the pro-registration side was rather unambiguously victorious, with the anti-registration champion Cap America concluding that he was "losing the argument".

Here?s the funny thing, according to Mark Millar in an interview, the pro-reg side was supposed to be unambiguously right and the main point of the story was that Steve Rogers really was out of touch with the rest of the world. But the writers knew they couldn?t write a story like that without inciting fan rage (well more than what they got anyway) as the SHRA was too much of a break with the status quo. So they gave the pro-reg side a bunch of unnecessarily evil actions to commit like locking people up in the Negative Zone without trial and creating clones from dead people. Marvel also refused to actually state what the SHRA actually entailed so what was legal and illegal under the act varied from story to story and eventually it was repealed due to it being deemed unconstitutional.

While the idea of superhero registration sounds good on paper, the way it was handled in Civil War was pretty moronic. My biggest issue with the story is that everyone was so focused on making aly the heroes register, they completely forgot about dealing with the villains, including the guy who started the whole mess to begin with!

...Sorry, but this whole comic is an example of wasted potential. And if the Pro-Registration side was meant to be in the right, then that just makes it even worse in my opinion...

But don't take my word for it, this guy says why Civil War sucks better than I ever could:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?t=321s&v=q_iCAivfGsg

(Also, screw the idea that the Pro-Reg was supposed to be in the right. That's just dumb.)

CrazyGirl17:

Agent_Z:

Silvanus:

This isn't true at all. The "pro-registration" side of the Civil War in Marvel was just about as flawed as the anti-registration side; both were depicted as ultimately well-intentioned and sympathetic. And the pro-registration side was rather unambiguously victorious, with the anti-registration champion Cap America concluding that he was "losing the argument".

Here?s the funny thing, according to Mark Millar in an interview, the pro-reg side was supposed to be unambiguously right and the main point of the story was that Steve Rogers really was out of touch with the rest of the world. But the writers knew they couldn?t write a story like that without inciting fan rage (well more than what they got anyway) as the SHRA was too much of a break with the status quo. So they gave the pro-reg side a bunch of unnecessarily evil actions to commit like locking people up in the Negative Zone without trial and creating clones from dead people. Marvel also refused to actually state what the SHRA actually entailed so what was legal and illegal under the act varied from story to story and eventually it was repealed due to it being deemed unconstitutional.

While the idea of superhero registration sounds good on paper, the way it was handled in Civil War was pretty moronic. My biggest issue with the story is that everyone was so focused on making aly the heroes register, they completely forgot about dealing with the villains, including the guy who started the whole mess to begin with!

...Sorry, but this whole comic is an example of wasted potential. And if the Pro-Registration side was meant to be in the right, then that just makes it even worse in my opinion...

But don't take my word for it, this guy says why Civil War sucks better than I ever could:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?t=321s&v=q_iCAivfGsg

(Also, screw the idea that the Pro-Reg was supposed to be in the right. That's just dumb.)

Like I said, Marvel wanted to make the conflict seem "fair" but what they ended up doing was making it impossible to root for either side by making the pro-Reg side act unnecessarily thuggish and refusing to actually explain what was or wasn't legal under the Act. And if you remove the pro-Reg side's pointless dig kicking, they do come across as having the more reasonable position.

Damn, I should NOT have clicked this thread. Agent_Z, you really need to preview your post if you don't know how spoilers work here.

Agent_Z:

CrazyGirl17:

Agent_Z:

Here?s the funny thing, according to Mark Millar in an interview, the pro-reg side was supposed to be unambiguously right and the main point of the story was that Steve Rogers really was out of touch with the rest of the world. But the writers knew they couldn?t write a story like that without inciting fan rage (well more than what they got anyway) as the SHRA was too much of a break with the status quo. So they gave the pro-reg side a bunch of unnecessarily evil actions to commit like locking people up in the Negative Zone without trial and creating clones from dead people. Marvel also refused to actually state what the SHRA actually entailed so what was legal and illegal under the act varied from story to story and eventually it was repealed due to it being deemed unconstitutional.

While the idea of superhero registration sounds good on paper, the way it was handled in Civil War was pretty moronic. My biggest issue with the story is that everyone was so focused on making aly the heroes register, they completely forgot about dealing with the villains, including the guy who started the whole mess to begin with!

...Sorry, but this whole comic is an example of wasted potential. And if the Pro-Registration side was meant to be in the right, then that just makes it even worse in my opinion...

But don't take my word for it, this guy says why Civil War sucks better than I ever could:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?t=321s&v=q_iCAivfGsg

(Also, screw the idea that the Pro-Reg was supposed to be in the right. That's just dumb.)

Like I said, Marvel wanted to make the conflict seem "fair" but what they ended up doing was making it impossible to root for either side by making the pro-Reg side act unnecessarily thuggish and refusing to actually explain what was or wasn't legal under the Act. And if you remove the pro-Reg side's pointless dig kicking, they do come across as having the more reasonable position.

Fair enough. Thinking about it, I don't mind the idea of voluntary registration (though I'm otherwise anti-registration). So maybe some of my previous comments were just griping.

Problem is that Marvel took an interesting idea and bungled it up so badly they had to undo it... eventually.

CrazyGirl17:

Agent_Z:

CrazyGirl17:

While the idea of superhero registration sounds good on paper, the way it was handled in Civil War was pretty moronic. My biggest issue with the story is that everyone was so focused on making aly the heroes register, they completely forgot about dealing with the villains, including the guy who started the whole mess to begin with!

...Sorry, but this whole comic is an example of wasted potential. And if the Pro-Registration side was meant to be in the right, then that just makes it even worse in my opinion...

But don't take my word for it, this guy says why Civil War sucks better than I ever could:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?t=321s&v=q_iCAivfGsg

(Also, screw the idea that the Pro-Reg was supposed to be in the right. That's just dumb.)

Like I said, Marvel wanted to make the conflict seem "fair" but what they ended up doing was making it impossible to root for either side by making the pro-Reg side act unnecessarily thuggish and refusing to actually explain what was or wasn't legal under the Act. And if you remove the pro-Reg side's pointless dig kicking, they do come across as having the more reasonable position.

Fair enough. Thinking about it, I don't mind the idea of voluntary registration (though I'm otherwise anti-registration). So maybe some of my previous comments were just griping.

Problem is that Marvel took an interesting idea and bungled it up so badly they had to undo it... eventually.

This I agree with.

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