A common conceit of today's comics writers.

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Re: A common conceit of today's comics writers.

Postby Mr Mole » Tue Feb 11, 2014 2:29 pm

Dragonblade wrote:As far Batman goes, I felt that the explanation put forth in Under the Red Hood was the singularly best explanation for Batman's code. Batman doesn't kill because of some noble ideal. Rather, he doesn't kill because he knows that once he ever accepts killing as a solution, he won't be able to stop. He knows that the Joker deserves death a hundred times over. But its Batman's own fear of himself and his limits that lets Joker live to kill again. This concept perfectly encapsulates the tragedy of Batman's character.

While I absolutely love Under the Red Hood, I've never really agreed with that particular take on why Batman doesn't kill. The idea that Batman couldn't stop after killing the Joker makes Batman seem seriously unhinged. That rationale makes Batman's morality one based on weakness rather than conviction. It might be easier for the average Joe to understand, but I think it diminishes Batman as a character. But that's just my thinking...

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Re: A common conceit of today's comics writers.

Postby Ares » Tue Feb 11, 2014 2:59 pm

I definitely don't think the mindset of "Evil = complex/edgy/interesting vs good = naive/boring/simple" isn't anything new. It just seems to be a lot more prevalent in modern comics, and to me, it’s for basically the same reason why cynicism itself is prevalent.

Basically, cynicism is easy. It takes effort to resist temptation, to be responsible, to be a good person. It’s a daily struggle to try and make the world a better place, to seek about positive change, to try and make a difference. It’s a risk to trust your fellow man, to hope for a better tomorrow, to make yourself vulnerable to other people. Idealism and optimism are not easy paths to walk.

If you believe that people are inherently selfish and ignorant, then you don’t need to open yourself to trust them, you can just stay safe in your little ball of mistrust. If you believe that humanity it inherently corrupt, that the system will always be corrupt, then you don’t need to worry about making positive change.

And if you write heroes who exist in a cynical world, it is easy to make them heroic by having them be barely decent human beings in a crapsack world, and thus look better by comparison.

It’s easy to write someone who is dark and brooding and torn between his baser elements and his desire to do the right thing. That isn’t hard to do at all, nor is it especially deep or nuanced. It has the illusion of that, because the character is conflicted internally, but it’s a lazy conflict that relies on the character never growing or coming to terms with himself. It can be interesting, but it takes at least the same amount of work to make someone like that compelling as it takes to write a good idealist. A character who knows what the right thing is and wishes to do it, but is conflicted about his responsibilities, unsure of how to implement it, and is conflicted by his high ideals and when reality doesn’t measure up to them.

It’s easy to make genuinely noble and altruistic people seem naïve when their good actions and faith in humanity is never justified. But in the real world, we see acts of everyday compassion, big and small, that shape the world for the better. Acts of true evil still appall us because it’s a very small percentage of the population perpetrating them. Even in this day of the media becoming an oversaturated fear machine, we can still be touched by personal tragedy, which often receives relief effort and help, people volunteering to ease someone else’s suffering. This year alone we lost a great man who strove for political reform, was imprisoned, and then on being freed FORGAVE the people who imprisoned him, and worked hard to bring about peace and racial equality within his country. Not a perfect man by any stretch, but a genuinely good one.

It is a damn shame if our fiction, which is suppose to allow for truly idealized heroes, can’t measure up to the real life heroes we create every day.

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Re: A common conceit of today's comics writers.

Postby Ares » Tue Feb 11, 2014 3:19 pm

As for superheroes and killing, I strongly feel that they should only kill when they have no other option. At the same time, I think there are circumstances where the option to kill is understandable.

When a police officer draws his weapon and guns down a criminal, it is only after he's exhausted every other possibility, and must use his weapon to defend either himself or someone else. He has to kill, because it is the only means he has left with which to defend another person. If a police officer can subdue a criminal without killing them, then they're expected to.

Superheroes have powers, abilities, skills and weapons beyond what police have. They can subdue most opponents without resorting to lethal force because of the myriad factors they bring to the table. In the same situation as the cop above, Superman can interpose himself between anyone and the bullets, snatch the gun out of the crooks hand at superspeed, or vaporize the weapon with his heat vision. No one is in any danger with him here. If he just vaporizes the criminal, however, he's committed an immoral act, because he had other options, and he chose the lethal one for no good reason.

But when Superman was facing Doomsday, and had no option but to use lethal force to take out a physically more powerful opponent, no one batted an eye or felt Superman had done anything wrong. Likewise, if there's an alien invasion going on, and if the difference between saving or losing an innocent life is the use of lethal force, then a hero has to do what needs to be done to save people who are in immediate danger. But by the same token, if he can defeat them without using lethal force, then he's obligated to at least try something else first.

The bit with Batman and "Under the Red Hood", I find Batman's reasoning sound in that particular instance. Jason isn't asking why Batman didn't kill the Joker in self defense, he's asking why he didn't kill the Joker in pure revenge. He's asking why Bruce didn't kill the Joker after the Joker took Jason away from him. And in that instance, Batman's reasoning is perfectly valid. If he kills one criminal, however bad, solely for the purpose of revenge, then there's no telling where it will stop.

I think a problem is that there's really no reason why Gotham wouldn't have put a needle in the Joker's arm, insane or not. The body count he's given makes it so that he'd be executed, and the inability to keep him contained makes it appear that heroes are just enabling the villains. The real issue is that DC can't kill the Joker, because there's still good Joker stories to be told. I think this use to be less of a problem because the heroes would usually STOP the bad guy before they'd cause too much damage. I think this could be further mitigated by only using the Joker maybe once every couple of years, so that when he escapes it's a big event, rather than just "it's Tuesday, the Joker has broken out".

I think another issue is that we don't see as many criminals being reformed, which would go a long way to making the heroes seem more successful. The last big villains reforming were the Thunderbolts, and that was originally something where they started out as a villainous scheme. Barry Allen and Wally West actually reformed a truckload of bad guys, but instead of that being a genuine turn for the better, it wound up mostly just being mind control.

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Re: A common conceit of today's comics writers.

Postby saint_matthew » Tue Feb 11, 2014 7:05 pm

Mr Mole wrote:While I absolutely love Under the Red Hood, I've never really agreed with that particular take on why Batman doesn't kill. The idea that Batman couldn't stop after killing the Joker makes Batman seem seriously unhinged. That rationale makes Batman's morality one based on weakness rather than conviction. It might be easier for the average Joe to understand, but I think it diminishes Batman as a character. But that's just my thinking...


Really? Because to me it makes perfect sense. If he can rationalise killing once, he can rationalise doing it again, an again, an again. Once he crosses that line, it just becomes to easy & if you do it for a good reason, you'll do it for a pretty good reason & eventually you'll end up doing it for every reason.... An suddenly Batman becomes Midnighter or the Punisher.

The reason Batman won't kill isn't because its hard, like he said, its because its to damn easy.
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Re: A common conceit of today's comics writers.

Postby Mr Mole » Tue Feb 11, 2014 9:23 pm

saint_matthew wrote:
Mr Mole wrote:While I absolutely love Under the Red Hood, I've never really agreed with that particular take on why Batman doesn't kill. The idea that Batman couldn't stop after killing the Joker makes Batman seem seriously unhinged. That rationale makes Batman's morality one based on weakness rather than conviction. It might be easier for the average Joe to understand, but I think it diminishes Batman as a character. But that's just my thinking...


Really? Because to me it makes perfect sense. If he can rationalise killing once, he can rationalise doing it again, an again, an again. Once he crosses that line, it just becomes to easy & if you do it for a good reason, you'll do it for a pretty good reason & eventually you'll end up doing it for every reason.... An suddenly Batman becomes Midnighter or the Punisher.

The reason Batman won't kill isn't because its hard, like he said, its because its to damn easy.

And that I can agree with, Matthew. The rationalization of killing is what Batman avoids. There's no clear cut line on when taking a life is expedient or right. Batman could, if he was so inclined, rationalize killing just about anyone. The only way to avoid that pitfall is to draw the line at not killing and never compromise... Not even with the Joker. Is it shortsighted or unrealistic? I don't think so, but I could certainly make an argument saying otherwise.

It's the idea that Batman is fighting a constant urge to murder evildoers that bothers me. As Batman has an incredibly analytical mind, I have no doubt killing mooks in a quick and efficient manner pops up on his list of possible scenarios in his mind... But he actively avoids those options.

To say he "couldn't stop" implies he's a borderline psychopath, which I think is the farthest thing from the truth.

Poor analogy: Not everyone who chooses not to drink alcohol is an alcoholic...

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Re: A common conceit of today's comics writers.

Postby saint_matthew » Tue Feb 11, 2014 11:24 pm

Mr Mole wrote:To say he "couldn't stop" implies he's a borderline psychopath, which I think is the farthest thing from the truth.


It not so much that he couldn't stop so much as he wouldn't WANT to stop.

There was a great Powers story about that. A cop gets his hand on the 3rd hand power crystal of a murdered cape & uses it to take revenge on a single criminal.... An then notices that that line that you shouldn't cross does not actually exist. The earth didn't move, time didn't stand still & he didn't feel any remorse for what he had done. So he decides, I've got this power & the legal system doesn't seem to want to act against these people, so I'll do it for them. At which point he goes on a killing spree taking out all these two bit criminals.

The guy wasn't a sociopath, he just didn't see any reason not to kill these criminal scum bags... Because might makes right & I have the might, it would be irresponsible not to use it to make society safer.

Its an interesting philosophical view point, but I still hold that most superheroes should not kill... That was one of the things that pissed me off about season 1 of Arrow. The amount of legally employed security guards, doing a completely legal job that The Hood killed, while leaving there white collar criminal bosses alive to keep pushing there poison onto Starling City.
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Re: A common conceit of today's comics writers.

Postby tomorrow » Fri Feb 14, 2014 12:34 pm

Supers killing has all sorts of bad consequences beyond mental strain/morality:
- Killing can easily become MO and by extension who the super is (the Punisher effect)
- Killing increases the likelihood villains/criminals will kill (as the bar is lowered)
- Killing eliminates any chance of grey-area legality and/or cooperation/respect from non-corrupt authorities
- Killing can lead to a suicide-by-super phenomena
- Killing can result in criminals/villains taking all-in mentality whenever the super is present
- Killing means your copy-cats/posers will be killing too (imagine what those yahoo posers in The Dark Knight if Batman were a killer... that would be on Batman)
- Killing negatively impacts public perceptions (one of the problems with the end of Man of Steel - nobody in that movie universe should be OKAY with Superman... at the end of the film he's just one of several uber-destructive aliens who leveled a city whilst brutally killing each other)

The list can go on and on really...

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Re: A common conceit of today's comics writers.

Postby saint_matthew » Fri Feb 14, 2014 7:32 pm

tomorrow wrote:nobody in that movie universe should be OKAY with Superman... at the end of the film he's just one of several uber-destructive aliens who leveled a city whilst brutally killing each other


shhhhh, keep your voice down. Oh mighty Superman, space jesus of planet earth, oh how can we serve your mighty self. All praise our new overlord, all praise the son of 'El.

Please don't kill me.
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Re: A common conceit of today's comics writers.

Postby hypervirtue » Fri Feb 14, 2014 10:41 pm

tomorrow wrote:Supers killing has all sorts of bad consequences beyond mental strain/morality:


I dealt with this in my comic book actually. In the story bible as only the first issue ever saw the presses. I look at something else too... Which you touched on when you said:

- Killing increases the likelihood villains/criminals will kill (as the bar is lowered)


This is it in spades. The "escalation effect" in a nut shell. If the villain knows that the hero is going to kill him, he's not going to be content with stealing the bank's money and getting away. He's going to want to take the threat out. He's more likely to use brutal tactics because he's fighting for his life at that point.

We had this happen in our game once when I played Soulfire. We were in a bank standoff. A villain had his minions holding the hostages at gun point and the villain ordered us to surrender.

Our GM was kind of new to super-hero tropes and so he had this problem with, "Fearless villains." Namely his villains and minions never made threats. They never hesitated. If they said, "Do this, or I do this." They never bluffed. Ever.

I, and my character, got really tired of it. So Soulfire told him (the minion told to do it), and bear in mind I was a strict "heroes don't kill" type in character as I usually am in real life, "If you do it. If you pull that trigger. I will kill you. No more hesitation, no playing nice, I'll kill you. If I ever see any of you kill someone with my own two eyes then I will respond with the maximum amount of lethal force at my disposal."

The GM, completely content in the knowledge that I don't have my heroes kill, had the NPC call my bluff. He shot the civilian in the head.

To which Soulfire promptly blasted the minion with a lethal bolt to the head and blew his head off.

The GM was stunned, and was shocked that me, of all people, did it. I also kept the promise. Three minions died in that bank heist.

After the game the GM brought me aside and said, "What brought that on? You are usually all about not killing in games."

To which I responded, "Because none of your villains or minions are ever afraid of the consequences of killing. Ever. They are all completely fearless and never hesitate to take a life. You are running this like an iron age comic and I had to eventually respond in kind. In the 16 sessions we have been in not a single villain or minion has used anything that wasn't a lethal attack." (In 2E for those that don't know, there was a difference.)

The GM started rethinking his enemy's actions after that.

I think this is the reason many villains don't seem to want to kill. The insane ones (Joker, etc) do, but a lot of them don't really wrack up massive body counts. Sure, some of them, like Captain Boomerang, will take an assassination mission once in a while but most of the time they are trying to get something and if they kill someone in the process it usually isn't because they went out of their way to do it.

I think this is because villains know that if they go all wanton murder they are more likely to be killed either by the heroes, or by the justice system, and as such the villains generally as a rule don't kill as many people as they realistically would if they were all cold hard killers.

- Killing eliminates any chance of grey-area legality and/or cooperation/respect from non-corrupt authorities


This is a good point. Its hard to fight crime when the authorities want you arrested too.

- Killing can lead to a suicide-by-super phenomena


Another good point that I hadn't considered.

- Killing can result in criminals/villains taking all-in mentality whenever the super is present


Yup.

- Killing means your copy-cats/posers will be killing too (imagine what those yahoo posers in The Dark Knight if Batman were a killer... that would be on Batman)


Gods yes.

- Killing negatively impacts public perceptions (one of the problems with the end of Man of Steel - nobody in that movie universe should be OKAY with Superman... at the end of the film he's just one of several uber-destructive aliens who leveled a city whilst brutally killing each other)

The list can go on and on really...


Uh... I don't necessarily agree with that. While the breaking of the neck of Zod was handled badly, the argument they were trying to pose was sound.

In the case of the Man of Steel, chances are he had the media on his side. Namely Superman's people, a race of vile alien invaders, was trying to destroy the planet. Superman sided with humanity and fought the evil alien menace.

That is how the press would spin it.

Also, yes, Metropolis might have been immensely damaged but for the majority of the world, that was it. The entire world was almost destroyed and Superman managed to contain the world-wide devastation to a single city.

This is all barring if he went around after the damage and started saving people who were trapped under rubble and what not.

I mean, I know its cool to hate on Superman, and I know a lot of people didn't like that the depiction of him was far removed from the cartoon depictions and the previous movie depictions but some of the claims aren't all that legit.
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Re: A common conceit of today's comics writers.

Postby saint_matthew » Sat Feb 15, 2014 2:41 am

hypervirtue wrote:I mean, I know its cool to hate on Superman, and I know a lot of people didn't like that the depiction of him was far removed from the cartoon depictions and the previous movie depictions but some of the claims aren't all that legit.


This one is & frankly I reserve the right to point out exactly how bad Man of Steel was.... I think its only fair since that's the closet thing to entertainment value I'm going to get from having paid to see that silver screen abortion.
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Re: A common conceit of today's comics writers.

Postby The_Watchman » Sat Feb 15, 2014 7:34 am

I really don't think the hatred for Man of Steel is due to people hating on Superman. The usual hatred for Superman is always based on him being too good and/or too powerful to be interesting. Man of Steel seems to have been made for that type of fan. I think its a mediocre action film on its own but an absolutely terrible Superman movie based on the lack of respect or appreciation for its character or source material. Its yet another franchise film for people that don't seem to like the franchise (ala Transformers). Its not just the destruction, its that "Superman" didn't rescue anyone directly in the entire movie besides Lois twice and the oil platform workers way at the beginning of the movie. Its not just the brutal execution of Zod, it's that Clark is grinning in the next scene with no sign of being haunted by it. Like most of DCs recent movies and the nu52, there's little indication that anyone in charge gets why these character have endured for so many decades. Instead, its the 90s all over again but without the writers ensuring the heroes remain heroic.

Maybe its a double standard on my part or maybe its just context, but the killing in the Marvel movies bothers me less. Other than the Hulk (maybe), all of the Avengers were killers before that movie began but always in the heat of battle and the big three went out of their way to save and protect others. Even in the middle of the New York battle, Cap prioritizes saving people over fighting.
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Re: A common conceit of today's comics writers.

Postby saint_matthew » Sat Feb 15, 2014 8:27 am

The_Watchman wrote:The usual hatred for Superman is always based on him being too good and/or too powerful to be interesting.


Which he can be when written poorly, but I agree that's not why people hate Man of Steel.

The_Watchman wrote:Maybe its a double standard on my part or maybe its just context, but the killing in the Marvel movies bothers me less. Other than the Hulk (maybe), all of the Avengers were killers before that movie began but always in the heat of battle and the big three went out of their way to save and protect others. Even in the middle of the New York battle, Cap prioritizes saving people over fighting.


Yeah Man of Steel really has a moron plot, in so much that the main character was given all the necessary plot points needed to succeed & instead ignored them entirely & instead punched his way to a mediocre ending.
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Re: A common conceit of today's comics writers.

Postby Ares » Sat Feb 15, 2014 8:35 am

I don't think most of the folks that dislike Man of Steel do so because they hate the Superman character, but do so because they feel Superman deserved better. Man of Steel is a very uneven film that has it's pros and cons, but ultimately doesn't live up to the legacy of the character.

It raises very interesting notions of the dangers of per-destination and the freedom of choice, but has Superman basically do whatever his human dad, his space dad and a local priest tell him to do throughout the movie with little to no agency of his own.

It takes the simple but still viable midwestern values that Pa Kent traditionally taught his son and replaces them with a message of fear, mistrust and a willingness to let others die for your secrets.

It takes the concept of Superman's reverence for life and bends over backwards to force him into a situation where he has no choice but to kill.

It takes the message that he will do whatever he can to save those around him and focuses more on long, extended, hyper destructive fight scenes.

This last one was especially jarring considering previous Superman films and the Avengers film. The Avengers film had a nearly 20 minute action sequence that flowed nicely, and showed the heroes both fighting the bad guys, but also doing their best to minimize damage to the city and to save as many people as possible. Once Superman puts on his costume, he directly saves a total of three people, and makes no visible effort to contain or restrain his opponents. Metropolis should realistically be completely F***ED, given that what looks like a massive chunk of the center is just gone. What's worse, while the Avengers had much less property damage and loss of life, the film still showed the aftermath of what occurred, memorials to the fallen, people talking about the property damage, the efforts to rebuild. After Superman kills Zod and completely levels half of Metropolis, we immediately shift to a scene where Superman is trading what passes for witty banter with a general, after destroying a million dollar drone. The tonal shift was so abrupt it almost snapped my neck. And it wouldn't be a problem if they had just shown Superman doing things like X-Ray visioning a building to make sure it's empty before punching a bad guy into it, or using his heat vision to destroy some debris falling towards people while he's grappling with Faora and Nam-Ek. It's just jarring that he directly saves more people out of costume than once he puts it on.

It was a passable Dragon Ball Evolution sequel, but I expect more from a Superman movie.

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Re: A common conceit of today's comics writers.

Postby Ares » Sat Feb 15, 2014 8:45 am

As for superheroes killing, one thing I think a lot of writers overlook is the notion that, unless the setting has laws that allow superheroes to exist, then most superheroes are private citizens trying to do the right thing. Very powerful and skilled private citizens at that. If you want people to be behind the notion of these guys being heroes, then you need to behave in a heroic manner, prioritizing saving lives and using the minimum force necessary to defeat your opponents. People already try to get things like the Sentinel Program green lit with heroes who have a solid morality, imagine what would happen if they all used Punisher tactics?

In my own custom settings, I generally go with the old trope of true superpowered superhumans becoming public knowledge during World War II, to set up the tradition of superheroics and to explain why modern superheroes behave the way they do. Golden Age Superheroes fought in the War, often dying so that hundreds or thousands of others might live, and are thus afforded the same respect as WWII veterans. The sacrifices they made, as well as the sheer destruction their fighting caused made the governments of the world sign treaties that abolished the use of superpowered individuals in open war, though it was possible to have government sponsored super teams to act in a superhero/defense capacity.

Because of their sacrifices, their heroic deeds and the fact that superheroes helped America out of the Great Depression by providing hope to everyone, laws were placed so that an individual could be a superhero and perform things like appearing in court via their heroic identity and such, so long as they followed 'classic heroic guidelines'. In my settings, someone like the Punisher would be a criminal, while Spider-Man would not. Breaking those standard heroic guidelines leads to an investigation, similar to Internal Affairs investigations for police to determine if the hero was within his rights to act that way. If not, he faces jail time and the potential suspension of his rights to act in superheroic capacity.

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Re: A common conceit of today's comics writers.

Postby Mr Mole » Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:20 pm

The_Watchman wrote:Maybe its a double standard on my part or maybe its just context, but the killing in the Marvel movies bothers me less. Other than the Hulk (maybe), all of the Avengers were killers before that movie began but always in the heat of battle and the big three went out of their way to save and protect others. Even in the middle of the New York battle, Cap prioritizes saving people over fighting.

I agree with your general sentiment, but the one aspect of that movie that bothered me most was probably the continuing trend to totally abandon Hawkeye's roots as a character. He was trained in a circus, fun-loving, brash... He led a branch of the Avengers for years and helped turn a team of Thunderbolts into real heroes... And had a very strict code against killing. Now he's morphed into a semi-brooding, SHIELD assassin.

Honestly, I don't much care that Superman killed Zod. Zod had declared ware and was a legitimate threat to Superman and every other living being on the planet. That he did it with a trendy neck snap wasn't to my liking, nor did I like that he was all smiles and cheers for the rest of the movie. There should've been somber reflection on his actions and on the destruction and deaths that had just occurred, followed by an optimistic "I'm here to protect you now and I'll do everything in my (considerable) power, laying down my life if that's what it takes, to make sure nothing like this ever happens again."

It just wasn't Superman.


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