I am making this argument from the view of a novice in all things western comics.
So I have seen this question argument floating around the internet for a while now, most recently on comic vine. It got me thinking that I have never really considered this question; I mean I have watched anime, read manga, as well as several TV series that have attempted to tackle this issue, but it is all usually a little too cliché and predictable that even before they answer the question, I can already guess the final conclusion of this conundrum.
It is truly a rare case that i find myself mouth gaping at the final conclusion of these rare episodes.
But this isn’t about what several entertainment media have done, argued over and chosen to do over the decades as far as the future directions of their beloved heroes are concerned.This is about us the readers and viewers and what we think.
In fact, even that doesn’t really matter, if you consider the level of seriousness that this topic will receive in some sections of the internet. This is about what is right.
Yes, I said this is about what is right; because what is right matters a lot to the masses out their that entertainment programs are tailored to, and the powerful corporations that finance these programs.
If we care that some RNB star somewhere that we couldn’t care less about carried out certain violent acts to his girlfriend, we care what our heroes do. Because it is a matter of the vision and message being propagated by these media. We care what the young ones and those simply less capable of distinguishing between reality and fiction are absorbing into their less than intelligent heads. It is the reason we have schemes like ratings, to determine what can be and can’t be watched by certain individuals of a certain type.
So, here is the big question, does it matter if our heroes soil there hands with blood? And I am not talking about Zero in Code geass accidentally commanding a princess to murder hundreds of Japanese, or punisher in Marvel accidentally killing spider man
I am talking about heroes taking it into their hands to take the life of another after careful contemplation. That is what matters. I see this argument playing out in two different ways.
First, we consideration to make is the person involved. When you speak of heroes killing, you must first consider who the hero in question is. No one cares if wolverine kills, but they will most definitely care if storm does it. Same goes for punisher killing and readers cheer, yet if peter parker where to kill, that would be a whole other situation.
So basically we are looking at the shining pillars of society in the fictional world, those heroes that stand for truth and justice and all that other crap. They could be human, they could be something else, but at the end of the day they represent the greater part of society because they are the best of humanity, the part that we (should) all aspire to be.
We fail, but they can’t. They are the idealism that humanity has chosen to hold in high regard. They are meant to be infallible, even if they aren’t.
From the point of view of man, to kill is to commit the most heinous of sins, to take away that which can’t be returned, a human life. It is unforgivable and unacceptable. Just look at the amount death and destruction that the joker has unleashed on Gotham, yet even at his (joker’s) worst, Batman has considered, but never really gotten down to ending the joker.Same thing goes for Lex Luthor and Superman and every other hero and villain pairing you might name.
And it is simple logic really. That guy across the street from me might have killed a dozen people yesterday, but if I walked up to him and shot him, I would spend dozens of years in jail. Heroes are no different; even when faced against city and nation wide threats, the idea still applies; a criminal, super or not, committed a crime and they must be judged by a jury of their peers in a court of law and sentenced as per the rules and regulations of the people they threatened. No hero has a right to decide who lives or dies. it is that simple.
I understand that argument and so do you who read comics, but I will not deny how stupid it all sounds. This argument is a summary of every single proponent of the ‘heroes can’t kill’ argument that I have done, along with my own two cents on the matter (the few times that I could see their point of view). This argument is as idealistic and naïve as the people that make it. And while this sounds like bias (it isn’t) I think this is an inherently comic thing.
I am not going to deny the existence of hard core heroes that dish out justice as they see fit and when necessary, but that is the exception rather than the rule. The way western comics work is simple, the argument of who should or shouldn’t kill is a matter of the hero in question as I pointed out earlier.
No one cares how many heroes out there are murdering criminals so long as it isn’t out favorite rose colored idols. They will not, or rather, they cannot be allowed to stray away from the vision that we as the readers have for who a hero should be.
AS far as western comics are concerned, it is a matter of change. Readers don’t like to see there heroes stray from the ideal they have built around them. Look at the madness surrounding superman recently (Injustice); the idea that superman would kill the joker hasn’t simply attracted scathing comments on the matter, it has downright alienated ardent superman fans from the series, with many vowing to blacklist the writers of the story from their reading lists. It is silly, and also un anime and manga like.
Heroes in manga, just like in comics, will spout the exact same truth and justice mantras that their western counterparts do. But they have a line that they draw, in that when it comes time to do the necessary, to eliminate evil from existence, they are more than ready to dirty their hands.
I can remember a time, two or so years back during the Sasuke vs Itachi business in Naruto shippuden, when I would spend sleepless nights flipping through naruto episodes just to get to that one moment in episode 160 something, when Naruto would learn the truth, that while he was off chasing his (so called) friend, Sasuke, his mentor and sensei, Jiriaya had fallen in the battle against pain.
I knew what would happen at that moment, that the news, other than breaking Naruto (very sad moment) would create within our orange colored hero a new flame, and one that he had yet to experience in his 16 years; a fire of vengeance.
Naruto swore to kill pain, and when the powerful shinobi had the audacity to attack and decimate Konoha, you knew it was most likely going to happen. But even as he unleashed a beating upon pain’s bodies and let loose his pent up rage, we all knew what would happen at the end; that Naruto, the hero of the village, the child of prophecy would never go through with it.
He would never spill Nagato’s blood, especially not after pain spilt his guts on the purpose behind his actions. And that’s because that is the Naruto we know and love, the bright cheery shinobi that will change the world.
If those paragraphs seem to contradict what I was saying, here is my point. Despite what he has said in the past, specifically during the business with danzo, we all know that the day Sasuke attacks Konoha, Naruto, if he can, will kill him. It doesn’t matter what their history is or what he believes, if he can’t find another way, he will end Ssauke. Same thing goes for orochimaru, Madara and so on. He will do what he needs to do, only after ensuring that their no other way of course, as he himself has said; but at the end of it all, their id no doubting Naruto’s resolve to protect Konoha.
Jump over to bleach and you don’t have to look far to find shiningami killing arrancar, esparda and anything that gets in there way. When Ichigo went after Aizen at the end, it was to kill. And there is no point mentioning Luffy and the other straw hats. Certainly during one rampage or another they will have killed a pirate or two by accident (or without their knowledge). But there is no denying it that if any of his nakama were ever in danger, Luffy wouldn’t hesitate to kill. Heck we all know that the day he gains the power he requires, Admiral Akainu will die.
Along with Goku and his ilk, these guys are the pillars (so called) of anime, the most popular characters in the anime and manga world. Compared to the heroes that litter most pages in comics, it is hard to deny who the more efficient hero is. And note, I am not saying that anime and manga heroes are better, but more efficient. And I will explain what I mean in a while.
First, consider that argument. It doesn’t matter if Bruce Wayne returned to find Alfred’s brains scattered across his lawn or of peter parker went to work to find his Aunt’s head hanging in the door, the most these heroes will do is slap there respective villains around, threaten to end them, maybe even almost do it, but at the end, joker and Norman Osborn will be in a cell serving there sentences by the end of the series.
Now, I have explained the bit about the people factor, that manga heroes, specifically of the shonen genre will kill when no other option is on the table, while Marvel and DC will not allow its titular best selling characters to take human life.
Now we look at the morals. This looks to the efficient bit i explained earlier and it doesn’t really require paragraphs to explain. if the Joker had died in his first appearance, several hundred lives (millions if you consider the Injustice business with metropolis and all) would be saved.
if superman had burned Lex Luther to a crisp decades ago, lives would have been saved. It is as simple as that. I say all this as a comic book novice, but where is the logic in stopping Joker, throwing him in jail, he escapes and kills a little more, then you stop him and do it all over again. At least the Avengers went so far as to create a prison on the other side of the galaxy.
But what is the point of putting a super villain in prison when all they will do is escape. That just doesn’t make sense. That is not justice. What most people that are against heroes killing are saying, unconsciously anyway, is that the truth and justice they espouse so dearly to has no place for saving lives, but only adheres to punishing the guilty, to hell with future victims.
Many have made the claim of rehabilitation, that Arkham city is meant to turn the Joker into a new person, one that will benefit society. First of all, despite what everyone, even joker himself says, I don’t believe that he is crazy. Secondly, there is such a thing as a lost cause. That’s the point of the death penalty.Villains like darkseid will not suddenly see the light after a few hundred years of prison. They will just get madder.
To weigh the lives of the thousands that joker will kill in future, against the one life of this mad clown…is that even really a question? That isn’t a matter we as the local man can decide on, or even consider; but it is the kind of decision these heroes that place themselves between us and danger should be able to make; after all we have made the decision to permit them to protect us.
Some have and will make the argument of the whole' ‘fighting fire with fire’ philosophy being inefficient, that to sink down to the level of the very ones we aim to stop is to create a greater evil. Logically, that doesn’t even begin to make sense.
Lelouch a.k.a zero in code geass killed. For all intent and purpose he single handedly saved the world, and brought about a peace that, if humanity abandons its belligerent nature, will last for quite some time. Lelouch killed, with little to no remorse. He looked into the heart of the world, determined those whose intentions would harm the it, and he ended them, and in the process made himself the world’s number one enemy.
A better example is Emiya Kiritsugu, my current favorite anime character. The man had no qualms about killing to bring about a positive end. If taking a life would save lives, he would take the necessary actions. Now that might make him sound like a psychopath, and he probably is, but you get the idea.
And please understand this, this topic is asking whether heroes should kill or not. This isn’t asking whether heroes should murder or not. If batman ran into joker as he attempted to rob a bank for the tenth time, he would be within logic to arrest him (in an actual prison that can hold him, and don’t tell me that crap that no prison can hold Joker. Put him in a coma if you have to, or turn to magic; surely batman can show a little more creativity).
If batman was engaged in battle with the joker for his life, or for the lives of innocents, then it would be within his right to annihilate him. It is a simple distinction; murder is murder and killing and killing.
Soldiers kill on the battle field. When super heroes are fighting against beings like darkseid, they are in a war, with mankind in the middle. If the safety of man is secured by the death of a maniacal demi god like darkseid, then it is more than a logical end; and any one that argues against it is simply being sentimental and idealistic.
By idealistic I am talking about those that speak of not killing a villain being harder than killing them. So basically they are weighing the lives of innocents against what is easy and what is hard. Such heroes are held prisoner by that one weakness. Chances are it is harder for batman to kill joker than not killing him. Think about it, if superman ever killed Lex Luther, it would destroy him. He can’t handle it, and if he could, what’s pictured here wouldn’t happen.
At the very least frank castle leaves the streets a little cleaner than he found them. This reminds me of one of few major (I think) heroes that impress me. He is a ghost of vengeance sorts, can’t remember his name though; and he dishes out vengeance and balances the scales or some craziness along those lines…but he has nothing to do with anything.
That is the idea behind treating heroes with the same gloves as the common man. Basically no one is above the law, not even superman. But think about it, these people might look like us, they might act like us, but they are not us.
They are greater; they are endowed with a power that we can never understand, and stand in the path of the storms that would wash away all vestiges of man; and you would choose to scrutinize them on the same level as you, the common man?
The name super man is quite telling, as in a super man; a man that is super, more than mortal, more than you the reader. By what standards will you choose to judge him, and with the help of which peers, the local post man, the butcher? Really? Think about it carefully, or better yet say it in you head. Super man, super man…then say your name besides it. You presume to judge who exactly? And I am looking at this from their point of view. Try it.
You can fly, ran fast, shoot beams from you eyes, and you have just returned from an exhausting battle in outer space against galactus. And you barely survived, if not for accidentally slipping into a warm hole, ending up in an alien dimension and fighting your way through an army of giant insects just to get home, all to protect a population that would have killed you when you were born just because you are a mutant. And remember, you are doing this on your own time, and out of the goodness of you heart.
Then you get home and some annoyance of a lawyer has the audacity to serve you with summons from the courts. Best case scenario, you tell the judge and his so called peers that if they have a case against you, they can bring the court to you (or you do it for them). Worst case…you can guess the worse case. And this wouldn’t be selfishness of any kind; you will simply fail to understand if any of those people have any idea about the concept of gratefulness. Chances are you will tell the state that the next time they try to bill you for the damage of your fight with magneto (while they were busy getting the good night sleep you haven’t had in months) they better be the first ones ahead the next time aliens attack.
This kind of topic is why I appreciate the existence of organizations like the Justice league and the avengers. Because green arrow knows that if he ever went out of line, heroes like batman and superman would descend down on him faster than he could notch an arrow.
And that’s because they are heroes, and qualify the term ‘peer’. They know what it takes to do the hero thing and they understand the pressures, especially for heroes that were born with powers and didn’t ask for it. Consider it; if you were batman, a real batman, not the idealistic one in comics, who would you be more likely to listen to? That pesky human that knows nothing about what it takes to fight a maniac that is obsessed with you day in and day out (suddenly I can see the naruto sasuke thing in a whole new light), or a man of steel that has to contend with a loaded super genius of a villain that is obsessed with him.
So I guess this comes down to rules and who has the right to dish them out. Anime doesn’t have that. Heroes will most likely fight in secret against secret villains. And even with a public enemy, they have no time to attend court just to appease some humanistic need, when there are enemies to stop.
Because western heroes need this, it is necessary for the public to realize that their heroes are for all intent and purpose above their laws. Technically most of them didn’t have to play super hero. If was gifted with super speed, I could have chosen to deliver mail, to hell with the world. A hero like superman is more than capable of flying to other planets if earth was in danger. It is necessary for the public to realize that they can’t hold them to the same standards.
If they must be held to account, It better be someone that understands them.
Oh, and to the question; To kill or not to Kill?
And if you must disagree with my point, look at it, not from an idealistic fictional view, but in terms of the real world. We all know that if joker was a real world villain, he would be dead by now. Bin laden on the other hand would be destroying his tenth tower in Gotham, while batman made some argument about justice and truth