Man of Steel

Zack Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ was one of the few films this summer that actually managed to live up to the hype, but it wasn’t without controversy. Whether it was on social media websites or just in the comments sections of many reviews, there seemed to be many fans who were upset with the ending because “Superman doesn’t kill.”

David Goyer has now weighed in on the subject, and he’s spot on in his analysis: The “Superman doesn’t kill” rule hurts the character.

Ditital Spy reports:

“We were pretty sure that was going to be controversial,” Goyer said. “It’s not like we were deluding ourselves, and we weren’t just doing it to be cool. We felt, in the case of Zod, we wanted to put the character in an impossible situation and make an impossible choice.

“This is one area, and I’ve written comic books as well and this is where I disagree with some of my fellow comic book writers – ‘Superman doesn’t kill’. It’s a rule that exists outside of the narrative and I just don’t believe in rules like that. I believe when you’re writing film or television, you can’t rely on a crutch or rule that exists outside of the narrative of the film.

“So the situation was, Zod says ‘I’m not going to stop until you kill me or I kill you.’ The reality is no prison on the planet could hold him and in our film Superman can’t fly to the moon, and we didn’t want to come up with that crutch.

“Also our movie was in a way Superman Begins, he’s not really Superman until the end of the film. We wanted him to have had that experience of having taken a life and carry that through onto the next films. Because he’s Superman and because people idolize him he will have to hold himself to a higher standard.” …

Boom. This is the exact argument I had with Dan Slott’s version of Peter Parker (before he killed the character and replaced Spider-Man with a guy who tried to exterminate six billion people).  In Amazing Spider-Man, Dan Slott’s Peter Parker had a “no one dies” rule, which came across as absurd and silly because sometimes heroes are placed in impossible situations. Sometimes they must make a decision that ends a life in order to save a life. Those are the sorts of stories that add new layers and depth to a character, and the response from advocates of “no one dies” or “Superman doesn’t kill” rules tends to be weak.

Dan Slott’s response to my critique of the “no one dies” mentality was to call me an idiot over and over again while abusing the caps-lock button, and then to distort what I said. The “Superman doesn’t kill” crowd often goes into a realm of thought occupied by anti-war protesters. “War is bad. Always. Nothing good ever comes from war. Nothing. … Superman doesn’t kill. Ever. Because taking a life is always bad. Always.”

Well, okay. On some level, yes. Sane people don’t thirst for war and don’t enjoy the thought of having to kill. But war did help end slavery in the United States and it also brought down Nazi Germany, for example. That’s why we honor the fallen. We know that in many ways the price for liberty is often paid for in blood.

Thomas Paine puts it more beautifully than I ever could:

“These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated,” (Thomas Paine)

Years ago I worked with a Quaker, and she said there was nothing — nothing — that could convince her to take up arms against her fellow man. I said that I respected her decision, but that it would be nice if she acknowledged that her safety and security was then dependent on better men and women than she, who would stand up to those who would deny her of life and liberty. She was livid — and I was unapologetic.

If armed men burst into my Quaker-coworker’s house in the middle of the night and tried to harm her children, would she just stand there and watch? Or, would she find her inner Superman and attempt to extinguish the threat to her children? Would she, placed in that situation, be willing to possibly end lives to save lives? I would hope so.

If Superman fans want the best stories possible, in print or projected on the big screen, they should stop trying to get writers to adhere to random rules that limit the possibilities for character growth. It would be bizarre if creators tried to turn Superman into Batman, but at the same time he should not be spared the pain, sorrow, anguish and regret that can often come by making a life-or-death decision. If he truly is a hero, then he will exit the gauntlet a better person and teach us all something about ourselves in the process.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

95 comments

    1. I’m not a Batman historian, but I believe he has killed in the comics. Didn’t Batman kill the Joker at the end of ‘A Killing Joke’? I think early Batman even used a gun on occasion, but that one I’m not 100% sure on. Superman has killed, too.

    2. Batman sometimes carried a gun and/or killed villains in the earliest Golden Age appearances. In Detective Comics #27 (1939), for example, he casually throws a bad guy off of a roof, and the criminal is shown in the next panel lying in the street, apparently dead. There was also a story (it may have been Detective #31-32) where he used silver bullets to kill two vampires. My impression is that DC lightened up on the violence when they realized that most of the readers were kids. Marvel (then called Timely) heroes probably killed Nazi villains in combat during WWII. By the Silver Age, both companies seemed to have adopted the “good guys don’t kill” rule in their super-hero comics. Superboy #132 and World’s Finest #164 mentioned the heroes’ code against killing. Avengers #37 implied that the team had a rule against killing, and I seem to remember a Bronze Age X-Men story where Cyclops lectures Wolverine, saying, “X-Men don’t kill!” And there was a 1960’s issue of Adventure Comics in which Star Boy was expelled from the Legion of Super-Heroes for killing an attacker. That homicide was legally justified (self-defense), and Star Boy was exonerated by a police investigation, but the Legion’s code apparently prohibited deadly force under any circumstances.

    3. Wow. Thanks for the history lesson there, Tom. I really appreciate it. Thanks for the contribution. Interesting stuff…

      Speaking of odd returns, I’m still rather annoyed at the return of Harry Osborn with the start of BND. I just consider him Zombie Harry. The same serum that killed him brought him back to life? Did I get that right? Groan.

      I’m not into Manga or Anime, but don’t they often have heroes that age and die off — even popular ones? There’s a part of me that almost thinks it would strengthen the Marvel universe if more characters who died remained dead (at least for a lengthy period of time).

    4. You could probably argue all day about the ambiguous ending of “Killing Joke.” There is also some controversy over whether it was intended to be canonical, or some kind of “imaginary” (i.e., “what if”) story. I always assumed it was part of canon (Barbara Gordon was later depicted as handicapped because of her injuries received in this story) and that Batman did not kill the Joker (since he returned, with no explanation, in later issues). (Yes, I know comic book villains often returned after appearing to get killed, but they usually appeared to die in fires or explosions, or they fell into the sea, so, either way, no body was recovered. And their return appearance would often have some explanation, e.g., “I escaped through a secret tunnel just before the explosion.”)

    5. I don’t care enough about any fictional characters to “want” them to do anything. Douglas raised the question whether the “early Batman” ever carried a gun or killed anyone, and I tried to point out a few examples. And I also pointed out that, by the 1960’s, both DC and Marvel seemed to adopt an anti-gun/anti-killing code. Also, that I wasn’t convinced that Batman killed in “The Killing Joke.” That’s all.

    1. I’m not sure if I’m getting your question. I had a problem with Dan Slott’s “no one dies” obsession he gave Peter Parker. It was silly and logically it breaks down in the kinds of situations Superheroes find themselves in.

    2. Well, I don’t really read Marvel anymore. I guess my biggest problem is creators who shove politically correct pap down my throat. I used to collect Spider-Man, but I can’t do that anymore because a.) Dan Slott killed Peter Parker. Twice. and b.) The guys in charge act like immature man-boys. They insult long-time fans who have spent a lot of cash on Marvel products. I don’t respect the guys in charge, and so I don’t cough up disposable income to support the Marvel product.

    1. See, that’s where we part ways. I want Superheroes to have more of a human element to them. If Superman doesn’t kill a man — but he can’t change the villain’s worldview — what you get is a villain who comes back over and over and over again throughout the years. How much blood does Batman have on his hands because the same bad guys bust out of prison and kill again? For what? Because the writer’s are afraid to put him in a situation where he might have to take a life in order to save a life.

      I guess it all depends on the balance you’re looking for in terms of escapism and realism. It’s pretty obvious where I come down.

    2. Well, IRL, you are justified in killing in self-defense or in defense of others, but only if the danger is imminent and unavoidable. I would shoot an intruder who broke into my home and pointed a gun at me, or who lunged at me with a knife. I would not shoot a criminal who was running away. I am not against capital punishment, but I would not execute someone without a trial. And I am not responsible for what crimes the fleeing criminal might commit in the future. (And if Batman captures the Joker and hands him over to the legal authorities, it is their responsibility to keep him confined; it isn’t Batman’s fault if the villain escapes or gets out on parole.) Yes, if I let the fleeing robber escape instead of shooting him, he may go on to hurt more innocent victims. Or he may not. And I can’t prove it, either way. And those same potential “innocent victims” would sit on a jury and convict me of murder or manslaughter if I took the law into my own hands and killed a criminal who posed no immediate threat. And any speculation about what that bad guy hypothetically might have done later would not be admissible as evidence.

    3. That’s where once again the balance between escapism and realism comes in. I’ve written about this before when ‘Under the Red Hood’ came out.

      The Joker is, essentially, evil incarnate. His loyalty is only to whatever madness his mind cooks up in the moment. Even worse, when The Joker is locked behind bars he’s still often able to plot and plan and execute (figuratively and literally) his twisted machinations. He exists completely outside the Rule of Law. And yet Batman still can not bring himself to pull the trigger, which, in this case, is a moral failing.

      As Jason points out, The Joker has filled graveyards. He will continue to do so. And, just like the “death-worshipping garbage” operating around the world in lawless regions of Pakistan, Somalia and Afghanistan…and just like the “death-worshipping garbage” that plots and plans from inside the borders of civilized nations—using free societies to raise money and recruit foot soldiers for their cause—they are different. And should be treated as such. Not every illiterate, gun toting member of the Taliban is akin the The Joker. I’m not saying that. But when we’re having a debate about how to confront our nation’s enemies, we should accurately define them—and that’s a process that the moral relativism of today’s liberalism has muddied. We need clarity as we move forward, and we need politicians who aren’t afraid to articulate hard truths.

      I would argue that in a world where super villains existed, it would be morally just — at some point — to take the life of the criminal. In a society so insane that it could not bring itself to give The Green Goblin the death penalty — despite the clear-cut evidence that his powers allow him to repeatedly thwart the rule of law — I would shake the hand of the man who finally put an end to the madness.

    4. Batman isn’t actually opposed to killing people in and of itself It’s not an I’m not an executioner thing and its not out of misguided self righteousness why he doesn’t generally kill people even death worshiping garbage like the Joker who deserves it more than anyone is because he knows himself he knows he has so much anger that if he takes the easy way out he’ll do it again and again and again. Yes it would be better if the Joker croaked but Batman exercises incredible self control because he knows he is not a boy scout.

  1. As usual, another interesting read. I try to remember we must all recognize our limitations. We never know really what we will do until the situation is upon us. I hope that most if us ( all of us would be hard to grasp) would make our faith and knowledge so strong that we would do exactly what is acceptable to God almighty and his Son. Darker times are coming. And what we learn from God john 17:3 will be more important than any human written screen okay, or marvel comic. Although until then. People will revel in all kinds of notions and ideas. Doug I apologize if I get always pointing to the Gods word , works or plan. But he really is the best light in this current world. At least for me. Again Always a pleasure reading your blogs 😉

    Yours Truly, Joyce Stanley 954-594-7627

    >

  2. The thing is though, to be a TRUE Superhero in every sense of the word, the ideal if you will, that Supes is supposed to represent, you have to be able to find different ways of dealing with things and NOT resort to committing the same kind of terrible things villains would do, even if you do it in a more “merciful way.” IE, he is supposed to be an ultimate champion of life who would save and try to help you even if you are unrepentant scum and wish him and other decent folk ill. Note: do not take this to mean that I am absolute pacifist. I’m as much a technical pacifist as I suppose you are, I intend to take a CCW class and my own pistol for self-defense,and, to great degrees, Superheroes are technically pacifists as well, even Superman, and when the ideal, like Superman is supposed to be, the highest bar you can attain, someone whose supposed to skirt that border between Absolute and Technical pacifism, has to resort to outright mercing folks…you can’t tell me there’s not something iffy about that.

    I think the difference between our use of the word Superhero, is that I value the greatest meaning and connotation behind that word a bit more than you do and believe that a Superhero in the truest form of the word is different from a traditional hero in that a Superhero in the truest sense is supposed to show an epitome in both morality and ethics (IE, be able to solve their problems without having to take a life or even resort to violence in some cases but still be willing to use force to stop the evil in ways that won’t kill them) as WELL as having the powers and abilities to do so WITHOUT compromising their own morality and ethics.

    Now, this is no way intended to be derogatory towards heroes who fall short of the bar, as I know very well of man’s imperfections and know that only the Almighty is the true epitome of decency, even more so than Supes, but I think a lot of people forget that Superman is supposed to keep that bar up and, when that bar is lowered, that people and heroes forget that they can be better and should strive towards perfection even if it is beyond them to attain it and get lost in this system of things and it gets harder to maintain the distinction between what is good and what is evil.

    Does that mean that I am against stories where Superman fails and shit goes down because of it? No, though I would like more plausibility in that happening and Supes having a more consistent power level that doesn’t change so drastically from pen to pen. No one is perfect, even Supes. What I don’t like though, are stories where he has to compromise his own sense of morality and ethics to accomplish something because Supes is SUPPOSED to be the ONE GUY that does not compromise on his own code of morals and ethics. Does that mean I’m against him having to struggle to maintain that code in fights and non-combatal situations? Again, no.

    To put it simply, Supes is a farmer from the Midwest with great power. His PMAI Archetype would be the Caregiver. We should NEVER forget that and quit trying to make stories where he has to kill in order to save the day, because, if you’re a reader of fiction like I am, you know that, if the chips are down, he probably would go with the dirty Red Communist line of “The Needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” and save as many innocent lives as he could and we all know that he’d be perpetually guilty over that even though he’d try his darnest to still be hopeful and smiling.

    Dudes like Thor or gals like Wonder Woman though (I like these characters as well), are people that have been raised from the womb to fight and often times kill. Their PMAI Archetpes would be Warriors.

    Also, for that Bats thing, blame the writers and the fucking retarded judicial system Gotham and most of DC earth has that won’t execute them or send them to the Phantom Zone for what they’ve done.

    Pfff…realism…in what way, in what levels, and applied how? I admit, realism is great, but if taken to an extreme, I’ll probably just watch C-Span instead hoping for Senator Cruz to lay down some real smack in another filibuster like this past night.

  3. I understand why people are angry about Superman’s change from comics to latest film franchise – of all comics characters, he’s the least likely to resort to killing, justified or not. Characters like Batman, for example, have flip-flopped over time on the issue as they’ve evolved, but they’re also more “human” than Supes and don’t have to hold themselves to the same symbolism, history and ideals.

    On that note, I’m surprised to find myself liking the end of “Man of Steel.” I’m intrigued by where Superman will head morally in future films having killed to protect innocents. Will he do it again, or will he take a higher road? An added implication is that killing Zod effectively leaves him alone and isolated from his people. That will weigh on the character immensely and may come back to haunt him.

    Two more quick hits – the relationship between Marvel’s Punisher and Captain America on the role of capital punishment and vigilante justice is particularly well-examined via Marvel’s comics, with “Civil War” sticking out in my mind in particular. Also, it’s ironic people complain about this issue so much – no one ever truly dies in mainstream comics continuity, and I’d like to see those decisions have actual, lasting consequences as it’d really make the stories matter more and the characters grow in ways they really don’t have to. There’s always a reset button in sight for guys like Slott, Bendis, etc.

    1. Mark:
      I also understand this. Granted, I’m a little bit more quick to forgive movie adaptations somewhat since I know that different things translate better than others from one media to another. I still think that it could have been handled if they really wanted to go where they did, though.

      Possibly. At this point, I’m hoping more for a decent film rendition of the New Gods and Darkseid and Orion in particular.

      Ha!

      Does anyone else here think that Stan Lee is SEVERELY overrated and Jack Kirby is SEVERELY underrated?

    2. Stan Lee probably got too much credit, and Kirby and Ditko got too little, for the 1960’s Marvel renaissance. But then, Joe Simon really never got his fair share of the credit for his collaborations with Kirby. And Marvel gets too much credit for the Silver Age. It was DC that revived the superhero genre, and Marvel jumped on the band wagon.

    3. Stan was a hard worker from Captain America #3 to the seventies he was great at creating characters but he let the artist do a lot of his job and abandoned the medium the second he could move to LA and work on cartoons. Jack and Ditko do deserve a lot more credit.

  4. I never agreed with the public’s (fake) outrage over Superman taking Zod’s life.

    To me… his motivations were quite clear.
    He wanted to protect, specifically, that one innocent family that was about to be thoughtlessly & senselessly killed by Zod.

    And…. he wanted to rid the earth of a man that was capable of thoughtlessly & senselessly killing innocent families.

    It wasn’t just THAT family that needed protection. It was ALL families.

    There was no upside to letting Zod live.
    It’s open & shut.
    I don’t even really see it as a “darker… grittier… reinvented!” Superman. It was simply Superman doing what must be done.

  5. Would your Quaker co-worker call the police in the event of a violent crime (e.g., rape, armed robbery)? What if the robber or rapist resisted arrest? Would she condone the police using force to subdue him? The idea that “violence is never justified, no matter what” is unrealistic and simplistic. It does not even have a basis in Judeo-Christian tradition (Exodus 22:2 condones killing an intruder in one’s home, to cite just one example). George Orwell said that citizens sleep peacefully only because the police and army are ready to use force on their behalf. And John Stuart Mill said that a pacifist is a miserable creature who has no hope of being free “unless made so and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

    1. Well, I guess during my conversations with her I was subconsciously channeling Mill! I think I still have ‘On Liberty’ in my parent’s house in my old bedroom.

      Tom, you’re on fire today. Thanks again for the comments.

    2. I haven’t seen Man of Steel yet, and likely won’t ’til it’s out on DVD, but I actually do not have a problem with superheroes killing their enemies if the situation calls for it. From the sounds of it, Superman had no choice BUT to kill Zod. I like escapism as much as the next guy (hell, I always say that’s a key ingredient that modern comics lack), but I can understand your concerns, Doug, about villains the Joker constantly escaping from Arkham and slaughtering innocents. I think the only reason that happens is because of the villains’ popularity, and because writers are too lazy to invent new threats for the characters.

      Although, DC did explain their universe’s revolving door justice system in the 1980s Suicide Squad series, which had the government recruiting supervillains for suicide missions in exchange for Presidential pardons. It was kind of like “The Dirty Dozen” with supervillains.

    3. And I’ve never seen Under the Red hood (I didn’t like the comics story on which it was based) but frankly Jason Todd has a point regarding the Joker and Batman’s failure to permanently neutralize him.

    4. I thought the dialogue between the two characters was well done. I could understand both points of view. The moral conundrum is placed before the reader and there’s no easy answer. To me, that makes for a far more interesting tale than the writer saying, “Oh he doesn’t kill, he will never kill, and I’ll write around it any time the story seems to be leading in a direction I’m not comfortable with.”

    5. Also, the 90s anti-heroes’ main problem wasn’t that they killed… it was that they were poorly written and drawn. Cable comes to mind…. I’ve never liked that character at all. Another “genius” creation from Rob Liefeld.

      Plus, anything from Image at the time was God-awful, too and they were the ones that started the anti-hero trend.

    6. Yeah, I loved comics growing up, but I checked out for all of high school in large part because of the Clone Saga, but also because the quality in general just went down hill. The rebooting ASM when I was living in Germany and I started collecting again. Even that was pretty bad … but at least it was something I could look forward to in the mail.

    7. The Clone Saga was awful, I agree. I may have mentioned this before, but apparently One more Day was a disused plot idea left over from the Clone Saga. I kid you not.

    8. I’d forgotten about Teen Tony Stark… yeesh. They actually took that lame idea and turned into a cartoon series, Armored Adventures, which I watched a couple of times and thought was awful.

    9. Doug: They actually did explain it. Or should I say “explain.” Kurt Busiek did in an issue of volume 3 Avengers. Essentially, the omnipotent Franklin Richards, when he brought back all the heroes from the “Reborn” universe to the Marvel Universe proper, put back the original Tony Stark into his original body, too.

    10. And I don’t think it’s been referenced again, although it wouldn’t surprise me if that “genius” writer who is revising Iron Man’s origin so that he was genetically engineered by aliens (ugh) decided to bring it back in some fashion.

      Marvel Babies… LOL. Ironically, Disney owns both Marvel and the Muppets now. And Jeph Loeb runs the Marvel Animation division now, so he’s probably thinking about it.

    11. LOL, so did I. By the time I watched it, though, it had long been over and was in reruns on Nickelodeon. I was about four or five when I first saw it.

    12. Richard Nixon was a practicing Quaker who had no compunctions about shipping thousands of the cream of American youth off to their deaths in Vietnam.

      You can label yourself with a certain religion, but if you don’t practice what you preach, you’re a hypocrite and very possibly a war criminal.

    13. THAT’S what I’m getting at! If Superman is SUPPOSED TO BE the pinnacle of Superheroism, then him saying that he doesn’t kill and doing the exact opposite would be iffy.

      DON’T lower the bar man! KEEP IT UP!

    14. No…what you’re describing is an ABSOLUTE pacifist, Tom. IE, a person who will never use any violence EVER.

      A TECHNICAL pacifist is a person who uses primarily DEFENSIVE aggression rather than OFFENSIVE aggression more often than not. That would include pretty much every Superhero ever and this idea can be summed up in the phrase, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

    15. Douglas Ernst’s Quaker co-worker and the “miserable creature” described in the John Stuart Mill quote were “absolute pacifists.” The Quaker woman flatly stated that she would “never take up arms,” and Mill spoke of a “person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight.” I am a technical pacifist in that, as I said, I would shoot an armed attacker (if necessary) in self-defense or to protect others, but I would not shoot an unarmed burglar who was running away. And I did agree that the bar should be higher for Superman, Green Lantern, and other cosmic-powered heroes. Superman can presumably wrest a switchblade (or even a gun) away from a mugger or gangster, without having to kill the criminal, and without any risk to himself (since he’s invulnerable). A human cop would not have that luxury. And even Superman or GL might come up against villains with powers as great as their own (Zod, Sinestro), and might not be able to stop them without using deadly force.

  6. Actually, I never have liked that comic book convention that “heroes never kill.” For one thing, it simply isn’t true. Police officers and soldiers may have to kill in the line of duty, and even civilians may have to kill criminals in self-defense. Also, comic book writers and fans assume that the good guy always has a choice. That is, they assume that there is always some alternative solution: shooting to wound, non-lethal weapons (tear gas, tranquilizer darts), or disarming the attacker with a karate chop (or a batarang). Of course, comics fanboys have no training or experience in combat, and have no idea of the limitations of “non-lethal” weapons, or how, in the stress of combat, it’s hard enough to shoot a man in the torso, let alone a limb. So I don’t object to fictional heroes killing in situations where it is justifiable (e.g., self defense). For that matter, I don’t object to vigilantism in fiction (Punisher, Death Wish, Executioner), but I would not allow kids to see it. And the bar probably should be higher for heroes like Superman or Green Lantern, whose powers do (in the context of the story) allow them more options than an ordinary person would have. Superman is invulnerable, and has super strength and super-speed; he can subdue a knife-wielding mugger without endangering himself or others. Sgt. Friday and Lt. Kojak were only human, and might not be able to stop the mugger without shooting him. And I can see how even Superman might have to resort to deadly force if faced with an adversary (like Zod) as powerful as himself.

    1. And I can see how even Superman might have to resort to deadly force if faced with an adversary (like Zod) as powerful as himself.

      Exactly. It would be completely uncalled for if Superman killed the common criminal or turned the guy’s face into a red vapor mist with a single punch, but it makes sense that if he’s battling intergalactic beings that he might find himself in a situation where villain x gets must get thrown into the sun or millions (possibly billions?) of humans perish. Which is it, Supes?

    2. You’re right. I hate the character. I’m sure David Goyer and Zack Snyder hate him, too. Or, given your replies, perhaps you’re oddly obsessed with him. Just a thought…

    3. My definition of an Absolute/True Superhero: someone who has a strict moral and ethical code in which killing is not permitted, even against people tougher than themselves, and bring down the bad guys with a minimum of violent force. They are not against or adverse to violence, but have attained both a mental and physical state where containing the bad guys without the ultimate act of recidivism is a legit possibility and is the ultimate course of action pursued. They then give the bad guys over to the proper authorities. They are largely without guilt because of this, though this does not mean they are not challenged since, often times, it may prove harder to subdue the bad guys than to straight up murder them. If the courts of the proper authorities have no way to contain said bad guys, the Absolute Hero may concoct his or her own prison for said threat. If the court system of the proper authorities fails and fails to enact any lasting recidivism against bad guys who were put away, The Absolute Hero may loose his way and fall back down the sliding bar of Decency and Indecency.

    4. Wow…and here I thought you were a calm and cool and collected person who I could look up to and confide in, Douglass. I admit, what I said was much too combative and abrasive, but I honestly expected a better response from you, especially considering YOUR supposed ‘odd’ obsession with Spidey, a character with a similar ethos.

      Tell me Douglass, you said that you didn’t like him when you were younger because of the bar he set and the knowledge that you’ll never be able to reach that bar, yet, you later said in that same post that that is why you now like him a bit now. So, tell me Douglass, why are you so interested in being a Revisionist and lowering the bar for Superman of all heroes?

    5. I hate Superman. And so does Carl. And Tom. And David Goyer. And Zack Snyder. Why? Because we disagree with your definition of a “true” hero.

      You get nasty and personal then I’m a mean guy for putting you in your place? Got it.

      I write well over 700 blog posts with less than one percent on Spidey and I’m obsessed? Got it. Where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah … Dan Slott. Do you really want to keep intellectual company with him at this point?

      I didn’t revise history as it pertains to how I think about Superman – you just are seemingly incapable of accepting that myself and others disagree with your central premise as it pertains to what constitutes a “true” hero.

    6. I’ve always had a problem with the no kill rule. It wouldn’t diminish who Superman is, it would make him a bit more interesting. In real life, heroes have to make hard choices. If having to kill your opponent in battle is the only option, then that’s what you have to do, especially if said opponent has no plans of surrending and wants to slaughter the human race (in the case of Zod from Man of Steel.)

    7. A reader emailed me and noted that the song that was playing at that part of the film was titled “You Die or I or Do.” I think that sums up the scene perfectly. There was no choice. That’s why people are still talking about it today. That’s what makes good storytelling. I don’t always agree with David Goyer, but I think he’s a smart guy and a sharp writer.

    8. I agree. All these Superman “fans” who are getting “outraged” by what Goyer said have misplaced priorities. They’re kind of like the idiots who protested Ben Affleck being cast as Batman last month… Avi recently put it best when he said that the Batman controversy was stupid and I think the current Superman kills “controversy” is just that. If they’re so concerned about the characters, why aren’t they taking the writers of the comics to task for what they’ve warped the characters into?

      http://fourcolormedmon.blogspot.com/2013/09/why-wouldnt-actors-be-responsible-for.html

    9. And plus the people that are upset by Superman killing Zod forget a couple of things… he killed Zod in Superman II AND in Superman Vol. 2 #22. Oddly enough there weren’t any fans who protested those changes.

  7. I might be wrong about this, but didn’t a villain kill Superman in the comics? As in, straight-up murdered him?

    Obviously, Superman came back to fight another day by retcon or reboot or something, but wouldn’t he thus be justified in killing the character that got him first? I think he would.

    Characters with an extraterrestrial or supernatural element like Superman, Green Lantern, Ghost Rider, Dr. Strange, etc. are especially interesting as they have some added ethical factors to deal with. Is Green Lantern morally wrong for killing a dangerous alien, sentient or not? Or what about someone offing Ultron, a robot that still thinks and feels? Philosophers in ethics have debated the role of humanity, sentience and good versus evil for ages. To me, the Joker is the ultimate villain because he truly doesn’t believe he’s evil – he simply lacks morality and acts accordingly. To me, that’s much more chilling than say Ghost Rider fighting your evil is as evil does demon or something similar.

    1. I believe you’re thinking of ‘Doomsday,’ Mark. Don’t even get me started on Superman Red/Blue…

      That’s the funny thing about Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man: Peter Parker’s rule was “no one dies,” and the only one who ended up dying was … him. Real good strategy there, buddy. Now Doctor Octopus is swinging around the neighborhood in Peter Parker’s body.

      Doctor Octopus’ plan was to exterminate 6 billion people. So Doc Ock gets to try and build a mountain of dead bodies the size of Mount Everest, but Peter Parker is supposed to go by a code where he’s never allowed to put Ock out of commission? I can’t get on board with that one.

  8. Well, that’s part of it. The reason the 90’s anti-heroes were so terrible was because they were wanton murderers barely any better than the assholes they were fighting against who had little to no sense of self-restraint, accountability, or responsibility and were generally the kind of rebellious shit-heads who gave the impression that they liked to buck the system just because.

  9. Heh. Cool. Nice to finally meet a frickin’ CONSERVATIVE brony.

    With all of the crap I’ve seen on fimfiction, I thought that the odds of finding someone like me who just likes the show and some of the mo’ betta’ (I.E., typically not the romance) fics out there is just…well…it makes me glad that I’m a recidivist and some days wish I had to power to wipe the scum from the face of the earth.

    Speaking of good fics, have you ever heard of “Fluttershy’s Bad Hare Day?” That one is my favorite for a lot of reasons, but to give you a hint as to why, let’s just say Fluttershy becomes a rabbit for a while and discovers that Angle is the don of the rabbit mafia, which runs quite the extortion racket out of all of the other woodland critters and has encounters and conversations with all of the other mane cast’s pets.

    1. There are plenty of ways to describe people who take a hard line on criminal prosecutions, but I’ve never heard anyone use the word in the way you’re using it. I may be wrong … but like I said, I’ve never run across that.

  10. There is a spectrum to costumed types Superhero, Hero, Vigilante, Anti-Hero and Villain. The very word Superhero means he’s above heroes they are superhuman individuals who don’t kill if they do that puts them on one of the other four spots on the spectrum Spider-Man’s a good example. Heroes are firefighters, cops soldiers etcetera as to costumed types they are almost all powerless and they may or may not kill people Batman’s a good example. A vigilante is someone who takes the law into there own hands any costumed type is a vigilante but the term is best used in reference to its origin a gun totting Western type. And Anti-Hero is someone who lives in the “grey areas” of life they are a loose cannon that can be both good and evil Venom’s a fine example and of course a Villain is a villain is a villain.

    My attitude is that self defense and intervention to save lives or prevent rape is just fine so long as there isn’t needless force or you take the perps life there is a legal system after all. That being said I understand Goyer’s point with Zod since there was no other way he could handle the situation and this is the origin of his reservations against killing plus it’s clearly meant to drive the plot of Batman Vs. Superman. The founding father’s had nothing against vigilantism even uprising when they wrote the second amendment they feared that the country could become the very thing it was fighting against.

  11. I recently watched the animated film Superman VS. The Elite while I really don’t like Superman I did notice that this version does uphold some version of “the American way” for all its flaws Id like to know what people think of its approach to heroes and antiheroes.

  12. Ok, I just skimmed the comments, so my apologies if I repeat something here.

    This is one area, and I’ve written comic books as well and this is where I disagree with some of my fellow comic book writers – ‘Superman doesn’t kill’. It’s a rule that exists outside of the narrative and I just don’t believe in rules like that. I believe when you’re writing film or television, you can’t rely on a crutch or rule that exists outside of the narrative of the film.

    *deep breath* Obvious link first:
    http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/why-dont-superheroes-kill/

    Of course I agree with Goyer here in that such things should be explained within the narrative, not solely via meta explanation.

    Now… HISTORY LESSON!

    So originally in the gold + silver ages, Superman just didn’t kill in comics with no real explanation. When John Byrne relaunched the series (into the bronze age I believe) he thought that the “no reason” wasn’t good enough so he wrote a story where Supes executes Zod & his two cronies to explain why Superman felt so bad about killing.
    See: http://sayitbackwards.blogspot.com/2007/08/10-worst-moments-in-superman-history_07.html

    In the latest Superman relaunch (last I checked) the creators have now given this thing where Superman “sees” peoples “auras” (or their life signatures or whatever) and he just doesn’t like seeing those things go dim. (yes, makes him even more Christ-like, nearly to an idolesque degree if you ask me, particularly if you’ve kept up with interpretations on the raising of Lazarus)

    I will say this, I preferred MoS execution (desperate, no time for a 3rd option, have to act now) far more than the original Byrne story. (look at it at the link. LOOK AT IT!)

    However… in this excellent post by the always astute John C Wright he says:

    On the obvious level, if you put Superman in a situation where he either has to kill the bad guy or let innocent people be killed, this makes him look weak. It means he is no longer an angel of rescue with powers greater than Hercules, but is instead like a policeman or a soldier trapped in a world of grim necessity where he must soil his hands with an act of necessary evil. His idealism is shown to be bogus. He is just a man with powers, not the Superman.

    Again, the modern audience might like seeing their Superman face a paradox even his great strength cannot solve, so that he must kill or let the innocent be killed. There is a certain gravity, even a dignity, to the portrayal of a mighty man impaled on the horns of a dilemma even his might is insufficient to allow him to escape. Certainly there is dramatic tension there which is lacking in any story where the superhuman character can always escape human suffering.

    But this merely moves the puzzle deeper one step. The superhero story shows the ideas and ideals of the writer who presents it and the audience who accepts it more clearly than any other type of story, because it is pure fantasy, and pure heroism. If the audience applauds and rewards the tale, then the tale shows what the audience thinks a hero should be. So what is the ideal here?

    Now in principle I agree with him. However…

    Ok, as Mrs Hoyt likes to point out, while we all know the difference between fiction and reality, very often it is our fiction that influences how we see reality. (assuming I’m reading her right)

    So now I’m torn. See, the “take a third option” has become deeply DEEPLY ingrained in our culture by now (seriously, check examples). So much so that I believe it’s intrinsic belief explains everything about modern American politics. Proof? What is the most common and repeated point by rightist/Republicans/conservatives/etc? “We must make hard choices.” Or “Everything has a cost/price.” (and so on) What is the repeated point by leftists/Democrats/liberals/etc? “We can have it all.”

    Now, fold those into modern stories. Who is the person who is always “inflicting” hard choices on the protagonist? The villain. The obstacle (in the case of “by the book” authority figures and such). Who is the person who always “takes a third option”? The hero. The protagonist. They don’t have to make a choice, they can save everybody, they can have it all.

    And so what do we see in politics? The conservatives are seen as villains and evil, the liberals are seen as heroes and good.

    So I’m torn when it comes to Superman. In principle, I agree with John, he should be the hero that always wins. But in practice, I think our modern society has become warped to the point they don’t believe there are ANY hard choices in reality. I think fantasy was usually geared towards giving people what they currently didn’t have. In the past, when every single day was nothing but unending hard choices, we liked to listen about heroes who could always find that option denied us. Unfortunately (or fortunately from a different perspective) our society has changed faster than our stories. Now we are generally bereft of hard choices, we rarely have hard choices before us. Which means we don’t know how to deal with them when they stand before us or deny they exist at all. Maybe now we need stories of heroes who must face the hard choice instead of always escaping? Maybe we need to see Superman and his kind facing those things to remind us of things our ancestors always learned?

    I don’t know and as a casual storyteller, I’m still figuring it out.

    It’s at least one of the things I liked best about the show Supernatural. In that, even when they could find a third choice, it often sucked as much or worse than the other two. And sometimes, it didn’t work.

    1. I’ll try and fix your comment later tonight. It’s strange that I have to moderate your comments. Usually after the first time I approve someone’s comment it’s good to go from then on out… Hopefully your will stick in the near future.

  13. Very thought provoking. It seems like Batman is usually portrayed as wanting to kill superman more than the Joker. The fact that he refuses to kill Joker & Co. makes no sense (not in my small brain at least). Seriously, he’s Batman. I don’t think heroes like Dare Devil and Wolverine would exist in their present form without inspiration from him. Marvel owes Batman.

    Got side tracked but I wanted to say that I had a college professor who once professed something like this: “Police officers and soldiers are nothing special.”

    Leftists seem ready to overlook the fact that true superheroes are willing to die, not just to kill. If someone is willing to kill but not die, they are probably an evil person. It is the willingness to die, not being unwilling to kill, that separates heroes from most of us.

    Any thoughts on Superman vs. Magog in the book Kingdom Come, Doug?
    I’m going to watch Muppet Babies.

    1. Got side tracked but I wanted to say that I had a college professor who once professed something like this: “Police officers and soldiers are nothing special.”

      First, I suggest watching both these 60 Minutes videos on Marcus Luttrell. The book is amazing…but watch the videos if you get the chance. I’ll be doing a post on Luttrell sometime this week.

      http://hotair.com/archives/2013/12/09/lone-survivor-marcus-luttrell-on-operation-redwing-eight-years-later/

      I also had professors like yours. In fact, they helped make me into the person I am today: Liberal Professors’ Weapon X Attempt Goes Horribly Wrong: @douglasernst Created.

      As far as Superman vs. Magog…the truth is, I read Kingdom Come, but don’t remember it! I have it at my parent’s house in Chicago, so I suppose I could look it up next time I’m home. 🙂 Or I could visit Wiki to refresh the ‘ol memory.

    2. Kingdom Come is excellent. It was written by our old “pal” Mark “Go F**** Yourself” Waid back when he was a good writer and didn’t harass fans online and claim that white supremacists were the biggest threat in the U.S. like he did in his recent Daredevil storyline.

      Kingdom Come was excellent as a stand-alone alternate future storyline, but eventually DC started to incorporate it as a part of their restored Multiverse and milked it to death.

  14. Superman has killed before and will do it again. Has anyone actually read the superman comics?? Or are most of you talking out your ***? Who made this rule any way? It seems more like an assumption. Did DC or Marvel make a memo stating superheroes dont kill?? I must have missed it! Even IronMan has killed in the comics, wtf are you people smoking? Superheroes have killed before and they will do it again, deal with it!

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