Stolen Pixels #172: Gotham’s Latest Superhero

By Shamus
on Feb 26, 2010
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Column

It’s the gosh-darn Batman!

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  1. Tamayn says:

    You know, that is actually a good point. But it’s not as if Batman didn’t ever kill anyone, just indirectly. I mean, remember in the first Batman movie with Michael Keaton? He threw that guy down a bell tower, right?

  2. DaveMc says:

    (Sorry for the double-post, but I thought it would be interesting to chat about this over here rather than just at The Escapist.)

    Y’know who else should be dead, besides the Joker? Professor X. (Yeah, wrong universe, but come with me, here.) Anyone with the ability to kill the entire human race (ref: the second X-Men movie) should not be walking around breathing. Even if he says he’s a nice guy. Even if he says he only started to do it that one time, and it was an accident. I think such a person, in reality, would quickly meet with an unfortunate accident.

    (The other thing that always strikes me about that scene in X-Men 2 where he starts to zap the minds of all of humanity: What sort of body count must that have had? Everyone in the world, doubled over in agony? Car crashes, planes dropping out of the sky, surgeons collapsing on their patients — must have been *vast* numbers of fatalities.)

    But I digress …

  3. Mari says:

    Blame The Comics Code. Back in the early days Batman killed and maimed criminals without remorse.

    • Eric J says:

      The very early days. By the time the Comics Code came around, Batman was battling dinosaurs and aliens and Gotham City was filled with giant working versions of all kinds of everyday items.

  4. Henebry says:

    This is the problem with “realism” as a artistic movement: people start raising issues with what would happen in “real life.”

    Batman’s a story, and so is the XMen. We want fictive heroes whose righteous ideology keeps them from killing—just as we also like stories where the hero and heroine are in love, but can’t bring themselves to kiss. In fact, one of Frank Miller’s brilliant insights in Dark Knight Returns was the erotic tension in Batman’s refusal to “consummate” his relationship with the Joker by killing him. As I recall, the Joker finally has to finish himself (bring himself off) in the Tunnel of Love.

    As for Charles X, his power is that of the all-wise father. His X-Men are troubled kids who get to live out the Family Romance, rejecting their real parents in favor of the fantasy family of mutantkind. I’m not usually a Freudian critic, but the XMen were invented at the height of Freudian analysis. So it’s rather silly to apply a real-world criticism to a story which is palpably (wonderfully) a juvenile fantasy: young bodies suddenly (frighteningly) capable of new powers, troubled by new desires, but governed by an all-wise substitute father.

    • DaveMc says:

      I actually agree that it makes no sense to apply reality to clearly fictional situations … it’s just fun to do so, sometimes. But you’re right, it doesn’t really make much sense. One immediate problem is that we tend to think about what would happen if the world was exactly the same as it is now, except that person X exists with power Y — but presumably many things about the world would be different from what we now know, if these powers existed as portrayed.

      My problem with the Professor X thing is more the way it’s portrayed in X-Men 2 than in the comics: he drops by to talk the U.S. President shortly after having almost destroyed the world, and I always think that it’s internally inconsistent for the President not to feel a tad hostile about the whole thing, rather than trusting this powerful, dangerous stranger (from his perspective).

  5. Batman later goes on to kill dozens of henchmen by pulling them into a pit with the batarang rope thingy, one at a time. Well he did in my game anyway.

    • NeilD says:

      Actually, I’m pretty sure if you listen there’s a splashing sound, implying that the thugs didn’t die. At least, not from the fall — they probably drowned when they couldn’t tread water anymore.

      They were pretty careful in the game about stuff like that. If you do a ledge takedown in an inside room the guard falls to the floor below, but if you do it on one of the sniper towers, he’s left dangling by a length of Bat-rope.

      Of course, the Bat-explosive strained believability. Any explosion strong enough to knock a man unconscious should stand a pretty good chance of killing him… but nope, Bat-vision confirms they’re all just taking a nap.

  6. krellen says:

    Keep your silly “real life” out of my comics, you damn kids!

    And stay off my lawn, too!

  7. Deoxy says:

    Yeah, that’s a great point, and one applicable to many, many thing other than comics – yes, that includes politics, where it has been particularly relevant for about the last 6-8 years. No, I’m not getting anymore specific, as it would start flamewars.

    Totally off-topic – man, I am LOVING those little graphics you put up in the top right corner. That particular one would probably be better done as a “pick up to 2” sort of thing, though, like say:

    Choosing the Game Master:
    Willing to run game, has an idea for a campaign, has the time, is good at DMing, understands the rules.
    Choose up to 3.

    Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. I’ve actually played with a DM who had a solid 4 of those, and man, it was AWESOME.

    Oh, and I’ve only got 2 of them, myself, sadly (idea and rules, though I’d be willing if I didn’t suck at it).

  8. Greeblee says:

    I just watched the new Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths last night. And if you think about it. The good JL members try and kill a whole bunch of characters in that movie. Specifically,( SPOILER WARNING!!!) Wonder Woman throws a villian from a plane. Martian Manhunter sinks a cargo ship with (I assume) it’s entire crew onboard. Green Lantern burns down a chemical factory with all its workers inside. And Batman lashes Owlman to a bomb and leaves him to die.

    Nice and violent IMO…

    • ima420r says:

      Don’t forget that Batman essentially tricked Jonny Quick in to vibrating so fast that he aged like 80 years so that the flash wouldn’t have to. Though he didn’t die right there, taking away someones life and leaving them on the verge of death is close enough.

    • NeilD says:

      Owlman had the ability to stop the bomb… he chose not to. Maybe Batman didn’t need to strap him to the bomb, but Owlman committed suicide.

      As ima420r points out, the Jonny Quick thing was much more of a dick move on his part. If he had an idea of what would happen and tricked Jonny into doing it without letting him know the risks ahead of time — that’s pretty direct blame there.

    • Drexer says:

      That was Earth-3. Only Earth-1 counts. :P

      Although this is the DCAU though, with that all Earth-Prime being a mudpool of life instead of the place where the whiniest boy in the Multiverse came from…

      Well, Owlman is kind of an even mightier crazyman than Joker. I mean, Joker just wants to have fun, where is the fun in the utter destruction of everything? Oh wait.

      And you do see the workers and man in the boat running away from the factory and ship and have several shots of the empty places afterwards, so I would say they didn’t break their laws there.

  9. Irridium says:

    You’ve got to give the people of Gotham credit. At least their persistant. After all, how many times have they captured Joker?

    You’d think after the 100th breakout someone would just go “screw this” and shoot him in the head.

    • Hugo Sanchez says:

      I feel like if someone WERE to shoot him in the head. He would be praised as a hero in Gotham. Everybody would just forget about Batman. It’d be Security Guard Ricky Humes, Gotham’s defender.

  10. Thom says:

    Shamus, a comment totally unrelated to this article.
    Do you have an archive for the brilliant mini-graph-comics that appear at the top right of your homepage every day? If I click it, I just get redirected to the homepage. Where can I find the previous ones? I think they’re brilliant! Well, at least some of them are… Some are just very good, and others make me giggle…

    Thom

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    But is batman really to blame?He does catch those criminals every time.Its the idiots that are supposed to keep them locked in that screw up regularly.Yet people still keep them in charge.

    Also,your argument can be used for death penalty.Are you a supporter?

    • Shamus says:

      I’m a strong supporter of not talking about divisive political issues in a discussion about a comic strip. :)

      Anyway, the point wasn’t that Batman should or shouldn’t kill people, but that people would naturally start to hate the guy for acting like this year after year. And maybe some guard would just kill the guy themselves and claim self-defense.

      Doing so would be a travesty to the Batman universe (his arch-rival killed by some security guard) but it might make an interesting what-if scenario. What if the Batman discovered the crime? I imagine he’d work to bring the guard to justice, but the characters could have some interesting conversations in the meantime.

      • MichaelG says:

        But our divisive political issues resemble your web comics (not the original comics) more and more each day!

      • Drexer says:

        “What if?” !? We call them “Elseworlds” on this here DC block. If you want the Marvel gang you’re better off on the other company buddy.

        Not that I mean to intrude on your wonderous blog. Shamus. Sir…

        :P

        But yeah, the whole ‘not kill’ law of superheroes does get a bit strained at times, specially with Batman, but that ends up being sort of the point. Because they have such an higher power, they have to submit themselves to higher morals, and let the villains be judged by normal laws.

        The fortunate piece of law that keeps most Bat-villains alive though, is the fact that they’re not so much criminals as mentally deranged, and as such they permanently escape the death row. Actually this reminds me of a JLA comic where Martian Manhunter brings some of the JLA and some aliens(I think) inside the Joker’s mind with him, and besides all the destruction and horror, you find in its center a charming couple of two sipping their tea and watching their TV under a lamp in cozy little couches.

        I’ve always thought it would be funny a comic where a lawyer would try to convict the Joker of faking his craziness, with the purpose of putting him on death row, while many heroes who faced him testified and Batman conflicted himself on how to act. Specially because he wouldn’t be able to conclusively prove that Joker isn’t just faking his craziness, and the accusation lawyers would probably prey on that indecision of his as well. Not that Batman would just show up in a courtroom(what is this? The JLI or Amazon’s Attack?), but he would probably have to interact somehow.

        • Toclacl says:

          I remember that issue, it was the (Hal Jordan) Spector and Manhunter took him inside to make a point about how everybody, no matter how far gone, still has something that’s good inside them.

          Reading it I couldn’t help but remember an earlier comic in which the Manhunter did the exact same thing; took Specter inside the Jokers mind to show him that all of his despicable acts of violence and mayhem are derived from a pure moral source. Sure that moral source is loving the mass murder and carnage but it’s absolutely pure and hence there is no conflict between good and evil in Joker.
          Pointing out this purity (of eeeeevil) is what prevents Specter from turning the Joker into cheese fondu… literally.

          Comics are constantly contradicting themselves for the sake of the current issue and to keep their beloved villians alive and kicking.
          One thing I have noticed (slight tangent) is that while villians don’t get dead very often, heroes do and come back with alarming frequency. If the bad guys had access to the same Kismet that brings everybody else back from the dead (sorry Uncle Ben, not you) would heroes be more willing to bust a cap in them?

          • Drexer says:

            Actually I think I was thinking of your second example, but the point still stands.

            Actually the ‘official’ reason for the quantity of resurrections in the realm of heroes is mainly due to Superman leaving ‘the door open’ after his first encounter with Doomsday. Stupid reason though. Of course if you consider Blackest Night, you can’t exactly say that there aren’t any resurrected villains. You just get more resurrected heroes because those are the ones with the biggest emotional responses from the heroes characters(Black Lantern says: “yummy emotions”).

            Although you do have a huge amount of villains which end up being impossible to kill. Paralax, Cyborg Superman, Lobo and others like such do tend to even the immortality odds.

      • Jirin says:

        There is a comic that kind-of deals with the idea: Kingdom Come. Joker shows up in Metropolis, goes on a killing spree, gets caught by the police, and then gets fried by a new vigilante while he’s being taken in. Things don’t end well.

    • Danel says:

      If, in the Real World, supporters of the death penalty were able to use as an argument “If we don’t kill this man, he will escape from prison again and again to kill and torture hundreds” there wouldn’t really be much of a debate.

  12. Drexer says:

    Oh and regarding the lack of killing in the DC universe, I do not know if you follow comics, but relatively recently(in Universe time), due to the war that erupted between the Green Lantern Corps and the Sinestro Corps, deadly force ended up being authorized by part of the Green lanterns. First against the Sinestro corps then against any enemy of the lanterns. This led to some indecision moments in most characters, but in the end pretty much all of them would kill a Sinestro corp member if necessary.

    Of course these new ruels were all a dark prelude to the ‘Blackest Night’ event currently going around, but it still gave off quite a huge interesting grey area in the story. Of course most kills still need to be justified, so they just can’t all go around and say “Yo, I’m a Spectre, fall down dead now” as evidenced with some members.

    Couldn’t resist the Mass Effect critic in me.

  13. Bobknight says:

    Batman isn’t a superhero. he’s just some bloke with a pair of underwear on his head.

  14. JKjoker says:

    who would batman be if he let his arch nemesis get shot ?

    they define each other, the Bat needs them as much as they need him, there is no need for super heroes/villains in a city without super villains/heroes

    and anyway, i think we can agree his stubbornness to kill Joker lets us play a fine damn game, despite some flaws (like lack of variety in the enemy and gadget department) it was my favorite of 2009

    • Otters34 says:

      Nah, that whole “You’re nothing without us, Batman!” jazz is just the Joker’s lunacy talking. Batman was going after criminals, not supervillains, when he started out after all.

  15. Soopaman says:

    From a moral perspective, Batman’s reluctance to kill criminals is what keeps him from being like them. If he kills, he is stooping to the level of the criminal that killed his parents.

  16. luagha says:

    The day that a random security guard shoots the Joker is the day that said security guard discovers that it was an innocent person brainwashed and chemically/genetically modified to look just like the Joker and he is now guilty of murder as the drugs and brainwashing were JUST starting to wear off.

    (Besides, it turns out that the Joker has been instrumental in saving the Earth a few times. He’s one of those villains that is perfectly capable of saying, “Well, if the Earth was reduced to a cinder, that wouldn’t be any fun for me.”)

  17. Helm says:

    I actually laughed out loud at this one……. A classic Shamus

  18. Nathan says:

    Generally, I never considered the whole “Batman doesn’t kill people” thing to be a problem. The problem is that the Arkham Asylum videogame seems to almost go out of its way to try to make it seem like a problem by portraying Batman as being incapable of protecting people. The problem in Arkham Asylum isn’t that Batman doesn’t kill the Joker, its that the game doesn’t let Batman do his job and actually save lives. If the game were actually operating under reasonable “superhero” logic, or even under reasonable real world logic (given at how well organized and secure Arkham was when portrayed in the opening), then there should simply not have been such a high death toll. Superhero stories just don’t work when the superhero is incapable of saving innocent lives on a regular basis.

    Well, that’s the opinion of a guy who doesn’t read comic books, anyways.

    • Shamus says:

      That’s a really good point.

      If you meet someone and they don’t have a bio page, they will not live to the end of the game. No matter how many times you see them safe and sound, eventually you’ll come along and find them dead.

  19. Daf says:

    I’m wondering if the second paragraph is a letter from a guy named Richard, or ends with an off-the-cuff insult…

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