CS Soapbox: Why Batman Doesn’t Kill
In DC Comics’ Batman #4 (1940), Batman tells Robin, “we never kill with weapons of any kind.” Thus implemented the hotly debated rule that Batman wouldn’t normally use guns or lethal force. In the presssing conditions that preceded Batman #4, Batman did carry guns and kill. However, in under 24 months after his debut, the caped crusader’s creators, Bob Kane and Bill Finger (mostly Finger) decided that their aristocratic, hyper-intelligent vigilante wouldn’t normally carry a gun or kill (a rule DC had already put on Superman).
This shift in the character’s core philosophy happened rapidly in retrospect. In 1939, Batman had yet to become fully-formed character in a medium yet-to-be understood or properly utilized. The Dark Knight’s origin story, relating to the brutal murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents didn’t even manifest itself until around six months after Batman was capping vampires with silver bullets on the page (yeah). Having said that, Martha and thomas Wayne, who despised violent criminals, catalyze Bruce’s motivations and that of his creators (again, mostly Finger).
The “no-kill rule” continues to frustrate casual fans. Gotham City would arguably be considered a safer/better place if Batman ended the Joker forever just. For this reason, you can find of stories where Batman does kill plenty, but the majority of those whole stories contradict the center of who Batman is. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the type is really a mass murderer essentially, seeking justice however he sees fit (machine gunning criminals with the Batmobile, fatal brandings, etc.). That film’s director, Zack Snyder, has openly criticized fans who think superheroes shouldn’t kill, saying a Batman who isn’t permitted to use lethal force lives in a “dream world.” As you may recall, Snyder’s Clark Kent AKA Superman broke Zod’s neck in Man of Steel, a thing that upset fans (and ), but wasn’t as incendiary as Batfleck’s brutality-which is a lot more dangerous than Superman’s laser eyes.
Inspired by characters like Sherlock Holmes, Batman has earned himself the mantel of the “World’s Greatest Detective.” He’s a thinker: driven, obsessive, and consumed by way of a need to honor the legacy of his parents. Batman’s fortitude ‘s the reason people argue that often, with prep time enough, he could defeat anything or anyone. To kill is always to admit defeat or take a straightforward path, and that’s not who Bruce/Batman is. The results of “admitting defeat” are perhaps best explored in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s The Batman Who Laughs miniseries.
The Batman Who Laughs: The Grim Knight #1 outlines the foundation story of Bruce Wayne in a parallel universe. In this Gotham, when Martha and Thomas Wayne were murdered in Crime Alley, a Bruce picks the gun and shoots their murderer up. Beginning the career of a more sinister Batman thus, yet another equatable to the Punisher, and ultimately, the Joker, compared to the Dark (yet not this dark) Knight we realize and love.
The start of the Grim Knight’s career is successful: he defeats everyone-from crime families to growing supervillains (even killing a maniac within an Ace Chemical plant). For some time, he be supported by the authorities, all except one, Jim Gordon. In this universe, Batman and Gordon are from friends far. The Grim Knight’s mission turns Gotham right into a totalitarian state where many people are under constant surveillance (he even puts chips in people’s necks to force their obedience). The Grim Knight not merely kills those “convicted” of crimes but those accused aswell. Eventually, Alfred and gordon defeat Batman, proving that the “no-kill rule” keeps Bruce from losing his faith in humanity.
Co-creator Kane has openly criticized Batman’s “no kill rule.” In his autobiography, Batman and Me, he said that Batman “wasn’t the Dark Knight anymore with all the current censorship.” However, Kane in addition has acknowledged that the character’s lighter (and sometimes campy) tone in early stages helped him to end up being the iconic he could be today. Besides, a hero with out a moral compass, killing beneath the guise of “the higher good” excuse, can be an anti-hero/villain but a superhero never. The latter argument has been created by Finger vehemently, the person who deserves probably the most credit for the caped crusader’s characteristics.
The brutal origin story Finger wrote for Batman taught Bruce to cherish life and hate criminals. In Batman #47 (1948), Finger has Batman come face-to-face along with his parents’ murderer, Joe Chill. Than kill him rather, Batman reveals to him his identity, hoping to provoke a confession (in order that Chill can face due process). In a panic, Chill reveals the role in played in Batman’s creation to his henchman, who gun him down ultimately. Not merely does Batman take no pleasure in Chill’s death, but he brings his killers to justice.
In his Dark Knight trilogy Christopher Nolan paints Bruce/Batman in an identical light. Batman Begins follows Bruce, years after his parents’ murder, as he requires a pistol to Chill’s (who was simply convicted for murdering the Waynes) parole hearing, and then see him gunned in the courthouse by Carmine Falcone’s triggerman down. After a ending up in Falcone, Bruce throws his gun in to the river, and leaves Gotham, vowing to stoop to the amount of those ruining his home never, and subsequently, his parents’ legacy.
We don’t watch/read superhero stories to feel dejection. Proponents of grounding superheroes in overt realism are missing the real point of the genre people like Finger helped define. To quote Christian Bale from Batman Begins, “people need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can’t do this as Bruce Wayne. As a guy, I’m blood and flesh, I could be ignored, I could be destroyed; but as a symbol… as symbolic I could be incorruptible, I could be everlasting.” Striving towards this paradigm creates resonant drama emotionally. By fighting his morality, Batman’s character/story becomes a dramatized reflection of the sort of conflict many of us experience daily to accomplish the “right” thing, whatever that could mean for them.
There’s nothing gained by forcing overt cynicism/pragmatism right into a world where men wear tights and will fly. No real message there’s. No hope. Great art is intended to entertain, inform, and inspire. Batman’s code, like Captain Superman’s or American, isn’t nearly being truly a role model (maybe it really is?). Batman’s code, in the true face of true darkness, masquerades as unwavering altruism. However, Bruce Wayne doesn’t kill for a more selfish reason. Bruce had his parents and his idyllic life extracted from him. By clearing up the road of Gotham without killing, he’s besting Death, which in his mind’s eye, may be the real enemy. He knows that through death, there can’t ever function as kind of life he wanted for himself or his city. Happy Batman Day!