Why Should Batman Be Cool With Killing?
by Travis Hedge Coke
I am rereading No Man’s Land, a lengthy Batman-centered crossover between several titles published by DC Comics twenty years ago. The scenario in No Man’s Land, is that Gotham City has been struck by a city-paralyzing earthquake, which eventually turns to the United States of America turning a blind eye and declaring the city simply a no-go zone, nobody in, no one out. Primarily to preserve the economy.
In one of the early stories, Gauntlet (written by the incomparable Alan Grant, art by Mark Buckingham with Baucher and Rambo), reprinted in the first volume of Road to No Man’s Land, Batman rescues a police officer who panel later is prepared to shoot unarmed prostrate man he refers to has a looter.
The police rescued had been lured and then tied up and disarmed by the men, even threatened with death by them, however note that the police to not refer to them as murderers or attempted murderers, but say they “tricked” them into “thinking they were genuine survivors” (they are; being a thief or tying up police does not make one’s survival of a natural disaster any less genuine), and, “They’re looters! They deserve to die!”
Many times when the conflict comes to a head, in-story or in conversation in real life, it centers around what police would or should do.
Aside from the politics looting in a natural disaster as deprived a major city from food power water and even news, the man lying unarmed on his back when the officer is gleefully ready to murder. And, what the police care about, in the scene, are revenge, establishing their power over life and death, and that thieves deserve to die.
There is a word people Bridal at Batman being against killing. There is a word for people who are against Batman wanting to make effort to ensure that people not die needlessly. There is a word for people who believe and insist that Batman is unrealistic and that he is the real detriment, if he does not willingly murder allow others to murder his presence.
Batman is an imaginary inspirational figure. Batman is a superhero. You can say deprived of his normative context, Batman is not a superhero, but if you are talking about serialized, monthly, regular DC published comics, that is the context for which Batman was created.
If you cannot fathom an imaginary person not wanting unnecessary death or murder, you are not being realistic, you are chickenshit scared.
Batman was developed by Bill Finger and Bob Kane to fulfill the publishing and marketing needs of a magazine, reflecting but not solely imitating the successful new character and new style of Superman. Drawing from diverse sources for inspiration and edging on concepts and approaches for proven popularity, Batman was still designed written drawn colored storied and published with Superman foremost and strongly in mind.
While it is true Batman sometimes killed in his first few appearances, that he sometimes celebrated the incidental death of individuals, and it is true that Bob Kane consistently supported a Batman who sometimes killed, it is Bill Finger who wrote and developed so much early Batman that we love that paved the way for modern Batman comics, and in ways modern comics and superheroes. Bill Finger was against Batman killing, against Batman accidentally or incidentally killing. Bill Finger opposed Batman not being able to find a way to save as many lives as possible, including criminals. And, so this has been the general characterization and handling of Batman in comics – and for the most part in other media – since at least 1941 .
Batman is an imaginary character. An imaginary character like Santa Claus, like Bullwinkle J Moose, Cliff Clavin, SpongeBob, the George Washington who cut down that cherry tree. There are no limits and no restraints to what Batman can accomplish. Everything in a Batman comic is unrealistic. In a Batman comic, money is a facilitator; there is no real accounting . Batman’s physical body handle anything a story has it can handle.
Nothing in a story has to happen . Fictional stories are made up, they are built, rewritten, erased and redrawn, they are edited. The end of no fictional story is necessitated by “story logic” or “reality.”
There is no situation in which Batman cannot save someone from being killed so long as the people making that story want him to save that person. Batman has no agency as we have agency, because he is not real. When Batman kills, it is not because it is more realistic, more true, or even because he chose to, it is because the people making that story and bringing it to an audience want him to.
When you say – when someone says – Batman has to murder, this is not revealing a lapse in Batman’s ethics or judgment, there is no causal guilt being established or some real person’s maturity being leveled against a comic book superhero primarily marketed to children or as escapist entertainment. At best, it is confirming a dearth of imagination on the part of the person who believes there is no way a superhero can save or spare a life. It is not a truth of the world , either ours or Batman’s, but something you want. There is a reason you want it.
A fictional story, such as a Batman comic, can indulge its audience and its makers in allowances, in pre-arranged scenarios, stacked decks that excuse in context and often without further elaborations or time for consequence. Fictional stories are generally not particularly instructive in any literal or one-to-one sense. A Batman comic does not present us with diagram and treatise on being Batman. A Batman comic is not a careful, articulated demonstration of our world.
A Batman comic is a fictional story.
And if you see fictional character, Batman, preventing police from assaulting innocent people, or attempting to murder someone who has committed a crime or may have committed a crime but is presenting no direct and current threat, it is, again, not a lapse in Batman’s judgment, or a lapse in the judgment of the people producing the comic, tv show, illustrated children’s book, toy ad, or novel.
You see that situation and your concern is for the feelings of the police, your first thought is how hard it is for the police, your concern is less with who they are brutalizing or threatening and more with annoyance at Batman interfering, it is not Batman who is being unrealistic, selfish, or unheroic.
Why Should Batman Be Cool With Killing?
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