Heroes Kill

Even if we’re looking at Batman’s earliest adventures, when his rules were at their loosest, he still had his limits. He carried a pistol, but the only person he ever killed with it was a vampire. He perhaps crossed the line a bit further when shooting from his plane at a truck transporting Hugo Strange’s monster men, but even then, that was pretty much the last time he used a firearm to kill anyone, and his main target in the assault was a pair of giant monsters. Otherwise, the “kills” he chalked up in 1939 and 1940 were acts of self-defense in the midst of a fight. He wasn’t bursting through the skylight and opening fire with an automatic rifle on some unsuspecting gangsters. More often than not, he was just punching someone who was standing far too close to a ledge or a faulty railing, and the criminal would fall to his death (or, in the case of the Joker, fall to his apparent death just to pop back up an issue later).

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Sorry somewhat off topic here. This just reminds me of Snyder (or Goyer? Are . . are both of their names spelled with y and er?!) famous quotes on morality. Which I find hilarious. Carry on

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After reading all these replies, I still think the no kill rule is completely stupid.

There is no reason for it other than not killing off great villains.

  1. Killing is 100% justified in defense of serious bodily harm.

  2. Killing Joker would mean no more Joker which would suck because he’s a good villain, and keeping around good villains is the real reason superheroes don’t kill.

  3. It’s kind of interesting to see characters that won’t kill. I think it kind of makes sense for Bruce for a multitude of reasons though I’ll agree the, “It would make me no better than the criminals,” is a bad one. I think it makes a lot of sense that he just hates the idea of taking anybody’s loved ones and he doesn’t trust himself to cross that line and not go completely homicidal.

  4. The uniqueness of having a character who doesn’t kill even when it’s justifiable and would greatly help things doesn’t stand out unique when virtually every hero keeps the same code, and yet we like having good villains, so the no kill code is just kind of a built-in trope of the medium.


Why I think it stands out with Batman is that it’s treated as an important point and the ethical ramifications of it are regularly explored. With other superheroes, it’s mostly just kind of there. The one possible exception is Superman, where it’s instead an exploration of the fact that he’s so powerful that he doesn’t trust himself to decide who lives and who dies, but does occasionally resort to lethal force against opponents like Doomsday or Zod who actually are a match for him. But even then, it doesn’t come up nearly as often as it does in Batman stories, and is an exploration of a slightly different philosophical principle (the ethics of power vs. the ethics of justice).

For other heroes, it really boils down to the simple fact that they’re masked vigilantes. They’re not accountable to anyone, and they wouldn’t be as publicly acceptable in-universe if they regularly resorted to lethal force. Honestly, I’m fine with most superheroes having some willingness to kill in extreme situations (with the definition of “extreme” varying by power level; Superman should be a lot more hesitant than Green Arrow) if they don’t have an alternative, but not Batman or any Bat-Family member in good standing (since by working for/with Batman, they’re implicitly accepting his mission and methods).

As @msgtv points out the key word is “trials”. Not everybody tried at Nuremberg was executed. If superheroes don’t uphold the premise of justice, who will. I can see the argument for anti-heroes not having a no-kill rule, but heroes have one for a reason.

Superman NEVER kills. Batman NEVER kills. Wonder Woman most definitely DOES kill; she is a fearsome warrior.

I’m fine with heroes who have the ethical strength to vow never to take a life.

Heroes who don’t kill do NOT suck.

IMHO, the heroes who do not kill are, well, more heroic, or, for that matter, the true heroes.


I think that if the villain had already killed, than it is up to the law to punish said villain. But if a hero has no other option to stop a villain who is about to kill someone, than it is justifiable. Just like when Supes had to kill Zod in MoS to prevent him from killing that family.


Personally, I find the “absolutely no killing” rule a bit dumb, but I am very much in the favor of the “only as the very last resort” rule. That’s how I always interpreted Batman’s rule in the comics (because he has killed a few times in the past and has even admitted as much). However, Batman killing should always come with at least some explanation. The DCEU had the (albeit poorly explained) explanation that with Jason dead and metahumans changing Bruce’s perception of the world, he’d simply lost hope and forgotten his morals (kinda like a less extreme version of Earth-51’s Bruce). The Burtonverse had Bruce acting like the godd**n Punisher, throwing people off buildings, running them over, setting them on fire, doing a bombing run in the Batwing, strapping bombs to people and I’m pretty sure I saw him slice a guy’s neck in Batman Returns. In fact, Batman Forever (in one of its few good scenes) had Bruce tell Dick just how empty inside he felt after having killed Joker and Penguin and many others (while he didn’t say any names, the movie’s a sequel to the Burtonverse and he was describing what revenge does to people).

Honestly, while I do think characters like The Flash (Barry and Wally) or Spider-Man should never kill (except when Barry snapped Thawne’s neck because he actually had to answer for it afterwards), I definitely don’t mind when other characters do it. But I do think that when it happens, it should be addressed further (like when Wonder Woman killed Maxwell Lord).

But speaking of Spider-Man being one of those characters who should never kill, Peter was slaughtering people (well, Chitauri, Outriders and alien mercenaries) in Endgame and for some reason when an actual Marvel comic writer called it out of character, he was attacked by MCU fans. It’s hilarious how everyone will complain if Batman or Superman kills, but if the Avengers (who have strict rules against killing in the comics) go on a killing spree, even murdering an unarmed man without provocation (like a certain character in the beginning of Endgame), people will cheer.


@kristjanfrosti.80020: Where has Batman admitted to killing other than a live action movie (which can’t seem to help themselves for some reason) or the original Earth-Two continuity (which began before the rule was introduced)? I’m fairly certain that Earth-One, New Earth, Prime Earth, and a majority of adaptations (Nolanverse, and every show, video game, or animated movie I’ve ever seen) have handled it as no killing ever. And I mean, there’s the “I don’t have to save you” moment in Batman Begins, but even that’s something he specifically points out as not the same thing, and is still a little out-of-character as far as I’m concerned.

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Read some of the original Batman comics. He strafes and kills mutated humans in the batplane. He hangs one from the batplane and proclaims " he’ll be better off". I read that right here on this amazing app.

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Batman whacks Raj in a way that should have been permanently in Son of the Demon and kills Darkside in Final Crisis.

@askanison: Those “mutated humans” are monsters. Batman is a little more open to killing monsters unless he can reverse their condition. He’s especially cavalier when it comes to vampires: he was cool with staking them even in the Bronze Age (see Detective Comics #455).

You can’t kill vampires as the are the unliving, same for zombies . So not sure either of those count.

As for the very early Batman killing, yes that happened. At the same time Superman wasn’t able to fly, so if we let Batman kill, Supes has gotta be only able to leap. Oh and no X-ray or heat vision, no super hearing and a busting shell can pierce his skin.

Characters evolve and the evolution of the no-kill tile came about pretty early on in Batman’s career. Certainly earlier than Supes abilities to just being strong, able to leap, and have tough but not impenetrable skin, even under a yellow sun.

So we’re all ok with Superman devolving back to the same state as when Batman’s no-kill rule was established.

An the no-kill rule us really the active killing rule. No trying and succeeding in taking explicit action to kill. And for killing in Batman ‘89 with the explosions at the chemical factory and all. Show me one corpse. Some people make the assumption that people were killed, same with overturned cars. But, no corpus delecti, no kill. You can’t try someone for murder or manslaughter with out an actual body.

DeSade, I was actually kinda happy that Grant Morrison brought back the idea that Superman couldn’t sustain flight at first, so that argument won’t fly with me. :stuck_out_tongue:

The “No Kill Rule” for heroes is not modern thought and has been around for decades. I’m not too sure, but it’s possible it may have been something done because of the strict comic codes of the past.

From a creative standpoint, the rule has allowed heroes to develop interesting rogue galleries. Revisiting the same villains allows for character development, while killing them off means starting from scratch each time. If a villain did manage to stand out, unless the story somehow supports a way to revive the character then you won’t see the character again.

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It was introduced in 1940 when editor Whitney Ellsworth cracked down hard on lethal force in the comics. The National Firearms Act (which had introduced some gun control regulations) had recently been unsuccessfully challenged on Second Amendment grounds in U.S. v. Miller, and there were serious concerns about juvenile delinquency at the time. Ellsworth wanted the books to be above reproach.


It’s not stupid to value life.


@BatJamags: Regarding Batman confessing to having killed in the comics.

Batman issue 402:

The line of dialogue goes like this:

Batman: “I’m not a murderer, son. Murder is the line we must not cross.”

Jason: “You’ve killed before.”

Batman: “In self-defense, Jason. You’re well aware that we play a dangerous game. A game I perhaps should not have involved you.”

Jason: “Yes, you should.”

Batman: “Listen, son. If we’re not better than the lice that snuff out human life like it’s worth nothing at all, then it’s time I hung up my cowl.”

Jason: “I guess, but I’m still glad those guys are dead.”

Batman: “Me too, son. But I’m not proud of it.”

So while not exactly a serial killer Batman like Keaton (who straight up said he was going to kill the Joker) or a reckless driver like BvS Affleck, comic Batman does admit to having killed in the past.


I’m not necessarily against superheroes killing, but I think there are a few superheroes where the no-killing rule is pretty integral. Batman, Superman, heck, even Green Arrow fall into this category.