JayJay here. Earlier today Rob commented on A Review: Captain America & Bucky #624:
Jedi Knights and Harry Potter wizards are clearly superheroic. heck, the HP kids are children-who kill bad wizards. Plenty of kids look up to them.
and the rest of them are “normal people” the same way Batman is lol i.e. not really.
and yet, I still looked up to Luke Skywlaker though he blew up the Death Star and killed thousands of people; sliced off arms, and casually knocked people into the Sarlaac pit.
December 12, 2011 6:12 PM
Here’s Jim’s Answer:
RE: Heroic characters killing or not, here’s what I think: Heroic fiction often tends to place heroes in life or death, kill-or-be-killed situations. If no one ever actually does get killed, if it always turns out that there was a nobody-dies alternative, then the jeopardy was false and can become tedious.
Stan in the 60’s managed to do it well enough — not have heroes kill anyone, that is — so that it never bothered me that the building destroyed was, fortunately, abandoned, that people were “thrown clear” by the blast, that everyone got out alive. Stan seldom had anyone killed.
Other writers didn’t do so well. In Green Lantern, for instance: When Green Lantern’s ring was, without any set-up, revealed to automatically protect him from mortal harm to undo the dramatic death he’d just suffered, when Green Lantern was “proven” dead, but the Guardians, I think, were able to bring him back because there was still an “atomic spark of life,” I realized that rabbits would always be pulled out of the hat. Reading those “yarns,” as Julie called them, was all about guessing or seeing the clever trick at the end — the “twist,” to use Mort’s term — not the human drama.
These days, writers use death for drama with reckless abandon. And it has the same effect as the GL gimmicks — we become inured to it, and it becomes tedious.
My feeling is that each heroic character should be true to his core concept. Some few will not kill. Period. Most, I think, will kill in extremis. Some, of the new bad-boy “hero” ilk will kill when it is “fair” enough, but not really unavoidable. Some kill seemingly callously or carelessly. “It’s okay, they’re bad guys.”
Whether the characters at any particular level on the killing scale are “heroes,” I suppose, is up to the beholder. To me, the latter two categories might be protagonists, but aren’t heroes or heroic in my book. Doesn’t mean they aren’t legit protagonists, or can’t be done, or shouldn’t be done. Do them well, I say. True to their core concepts.
But be conscious of consequences. Think through and reflect the ramifications. For example, Claremont once had a scene in which Wolverine killed several of the bad guy’s henchmen brutally and unnecessarily — “It’s okay, they’re bad guys” syndrome. Wolverine does this in front of Storm. Her reaction? “I can’t look.” She averts her eyes.
No, she wouldn’t. She would stop Wolverine, or, failing that, she would thenceforth consider him a bad guy. Storm falls in the will-not-kill, or possibly the kill-in-extremis category. Seeing Wolverine unnecessarily gut several of the villains flunkies, who weren’t at that moment doing anything heinous and were in no way a match for Wolverine or a threat to him would change Storm’s relationship with Wolverine forever. I told him do it and deal with the logical consequences, or change it.
Which brings us back to Stan, and other good writers. Death is serious. Handle with care.