Super-heroes and the use of deadly force - What are your thoughts?

The standard thought-- particularly since the early '60’s-- is that super-heroes don’t kill. And, in the comics, that’s mostly holding up to this day-- but only mostly. Meanwhile, in more recent film and television, only the Flash and Supergirl worry about this question 100% of the time-- (and, well, Daredevil, possibly Spider-Man.)

What are YOUR thoughts and feelings?


My default is superheroes don’t kill as part of their heroics. However, I do think that the ‘no killing rule’ matters more for some heroes than others (e.g. Batman not killing keeps him in the realm of superhero vice just being a super vigilante) and that every rule has exceptions (e.g. Mister Miracle and Big Barda fighting in the war against Darkseid).


I think it’s mostly up to the writer’s discretion. Having an opening scene in which a “hero” kills someone sets a tone for the narrative. Unless it’s a defining trait of the character (ie Batman) I think that the rule is flexible. That being said, killing is not something that should be taken lightly; It is a very specific tool.


It’s fine with me either way. I respect Batman’s moral code but he should have killed Joker long ago.

If I had powers, I’d be an anti hero. Wouldn’t kill but sure would be brutal. I’ d paralyze a joker level of nut case if he kept escaping and continue doing harm

1 Like

I think superheroes should not kill. It’s one of the standards that separates good guys from the criminals they’re trying to stop.

I’m also of a mind that superheroes should be somewhat morally responsible role models, though, so I’m sure I’m increasingly in the minority these days.

1 Like

Yeah you’re too old school and into the goodie too shoes heroes approach. I don’t think they should kill any random criminal but certain supper villains should be the exception depending on a situation

I think superheroes are stories and if the story calls for it, then it’s totally fine. I am okay with a Batman that kills, just as much as I am with one that doesn’t. What matters to me is what it means in the context of the narrative. If you were to press me about who my Batman is, then he doesn’t kill. But I think the writers should use these icons in whatever way they want. And I don’t understand why people get so angry about it one way or the other.

The way that the action in these comics is drawn, people would die if physics worked in their world like it does in ours for most fights. This is one reason I was very confused by the people who thought Titans on DCU was too violent. The comics are brutal if you are actually thinking about what the drawings represent.


Well, if Batman had killed the Joker, we wouldn’t have any Joker stories anymore. It makes sense for a specific story (maybe one outside of the main-continuity), but I don’t think that he should have been killed off. From a writing perspective, killing doesn’t make sense in a regular comic. From a moral perspective, I can kind of see where you are coming from, but would also argue that killing is bad no matter who it is.

I don’t think anybody deserves to play judge, jury, and executioner just because they’re anonymous and have powers/gadgets/skills/whatever. Like, what Batman does is ethically sketchy and completely illegal, but ultimately, what he’s actually doing is committing very selective crimes targeted to leave other criminals vulnerable to arrest and prosecution. I can accept that in a world of costumed, superpowered maniacs, that’s a necessary and productive course of action to keep people safe. Killing criminals, though, has this kind of authoritarian mindset of “I know better than anyone else how to deal with problems.” Even monsters like the Joker have some rights. And in fact, he’d probably have been executed several times over if he were real, thus taking the decision out of Batman’s hands anyway.

I’m actually more OK with heroes killing if the enemies are not “normal” criminals or if there’s no other viable option. Alien invaders, for example, are more like wartime enemies than crooks. Of course, for Batman specifically, the no-kill rule is central to his characterization and has a more personal motivation, so I don’t think Batman or any Bat-Family member in good standing should kill under any circumstances, but if, say, the Flash killed a major-league baddie in a moment of desperation, I wouldn’t necessarily object if it were well-handled. Of course, that’s exactly what happened with Wonder Woman and now DC seems intermittently tempted to characterize her as this ruthless homicidal maniac, so maybe it’s a bad idea from a perspective of bad-writer-proofing.


Hmm, alright good valid points. I have to agree with you 100%


This states my thoughts.

1 Like

I think not-killing is what makes them “super” heroes. Sometimes more ordinary heroes have to resort to deadly force. Superheroes are strong and smart enough to find another way.


I’m a really old Batman fan( watched the ‘66 series when it first aired) and my Batman doesn’t kill

1 Like

I think that killing HAS to be the action of last resort. the thing to do when there is no other recourse, when all other options have been exhausted. Otherwise, how does it make the heroes and better than the villains?

Superman in Man of Steel showed genuine anguish at having to snap Zod’s neck, as he should. Killing should be like tearing off their own arm to the hero. It was made somewhat disingenuous by the thousands of humans they just slaughtered during their fight, however.

Batman makes a great speech to Jason Todd that killing the Joker would be too easy and would make Batman no better than the Joker because once he starts, what’s to stop him?

That’s what Zach Snyder and so many others don’t understand about heroes. They are not just there for the greater good. They are there for all the good. Being good is hard. Being the hero is the tougher path. The Watchmen and Rorschach are supposed to be the cautionary tale, not the template of how a hero should act.

1 Like

The problem with that Batman-Jason Todd speech is, it’s a retcon. After Jason dies, Batman told Superman he was going to kill Joker. He went to NYC to kill Joker. He boarded Jokers helicopter to kill Joker. He failed. Attempt was there. I am not ok with heroes sniping off bad guys but if a bad guy dies in battle, I am ok with it…just as I am ok in calling a majority of cops and army soldiers good guys. When Superman killed Doomsday in Superman 75, I don’t feel he had another choice. His choice saved billions.

1 Like

Totally agree @shanty51.96774 I think it would have to be a crazy situation like Doomsday running rampant or something, I know you can’t really kill him, but something of that magnitude to have to resort to killing…

But!.. I’m not sure how well it would go if I had some kind of super power and some dude KILLED a love one of mine. Doomsday might destroy the world…but killing my girl would destroy my world, bro . Where do you draw the line lol

It’d be a strange world if Batman were to pull out a light machine gun and start going Rambo on his rogues gallery or if Superman were to vaporize his opponents into a syrupy red mist. In my opinion, heroes should be the sort of larger than life figures people look up to, especially if they are already established as the sort of do-gooders who live off of a moral code and wish to make the world a better place without needless violence. After all, they’re supposed to be better than the villains they face on a daily basis or the more morally gray anti-hero vigilantes they sometimes come across.

On the other hand, anti-heroes sort of get a free pass in that regard. They’re the guys that want to do good deeds, yet use more questionable methods to get the job done. That’s not to say having anti-heroes is a bad thing or not. There’s always room for the Punishers, the Wild Dogs, the Jason Todds, etcetera.

All I’m saying is there’s a good reason why Spider-Man hasn’t pulled out a pair of uzis and went to town on Doctor Octopus.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”


Would any of it even be worth it if heroes felt free enough to just kill the criminals they were after?
What would happen to the idea of “justice”?
What does the definition of “hero” become?
What happens when the ideas of “right and wrong”
inevitably become fuzzy?

I dont think this world can handle “superheroes who kill”.


I think it really depends on which hero it is. Wonder Woman is a trained warrior, basically a Spartan soldier in modern times. She would have been trained to kill because that’s what it was like in ancient Greece. The Amazons wouldn’t have a problem with 8r because they’re soldiers, not superheroes. Superman and Batman on the other hand didn’t have this training. Their fight is shaped by their morals, and their morals were shaped by watching people die. Batman went through a tremendous amount of trauma watching his parents die. With such a young, shareable mind his life has always revolved around “killing is bad”. To kill someone would betray who he grew to be. And Superman has always had to grapple with the reality that he’s not human. He can’t be hurt, he may not be able to die. He’s afraid of losing his tether to humanity, and killing would do that. Just look at Injustice.