Posted by: Doc Comics | May 2, 2011

Killing bin Laden: Death of an Anti-American Supervillain


With news that “The Most Wanted Face in Terrorism” has been killed by US special operations, on the anniversary of Hitler’s death and 8 years after George W. Bush declared “Mission Accomplished,” Americans both celebrate and reflect.

Following the horrific attacks of 9/11, President Bush’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” rhetoric immediately cast bin Laden as the mythical supervillain necessitating an American Global War on Terror rather than lawful prosecution for conspiring mass murder. As Jon Krakauer noted in his book Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman:

“The president of the world’s richest, most technologically advanced nation had taken his best shot at killing bin Laden, and the al-Qaeda leader had survived without a scratch. Like a supervillain in a Marvel comic book, he seemed to be endowed with the ability to absorb the mightiest blows his enemy could deliver, draw energy from them, and become more powerful as a consequence.” (96)

Savage Dragon #145, 2009

Obama, cast as superhero like his less-concerned predecessor, completed the mythic task. “Americans like to personalize our foreign policy problems,” notes David Plotz at Slate; “When something goes wrong abroad, it’s not an ‘issue’; it’s someone’s fault. We always put a face to our misery. And every so often, we anoint some foreign malcontent as the arch-fiend responsible for all our global difficulties.” This supervillainizing of bin Laden and his proxies has had a lasting impact upon the American psyche and foreign policy, thus echoing the critique of antidemocratic redemptive violence in Jewett & Lawrence’s Myth of the American Superhero. As we’ve explored here, this mythic rhetoric of the superhero is comfortingly seductive if dangerously reductive in its good-vs-evil binary melodrama which is used to justify protofascistic and lawless vigilante violence. Most corrosive to America’s democratic ethos is the Jack Bauer-inspired Torture Myth that continues to sadly inform opinion despite copious evidence and expert testimony to the contrary. The troublesome debates over torture tactics evokes Nietzsche’s warning: “He who fights with monsters must take care lest he thereby become a monster; And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” In the coming weeks, some may dare to scrutinize the zombie politics of Disaster Capitalism and wonder why bin Laden was not brought to “justice” in a fair trial confirming our collective faith in democratic process but the answer is disturbingly obvious: the seductive power of mythic fantasy informs our yearning for simple solutions to often complex and implicating problems when one groups crusading superhero is another group’s charismatic supervillain. Indeed, the problem is with the very notion of ‘Terrorism’ itself.


  1. We could also note the racial issues and criticisms raised by superhero myths…

  2. UPDATE:
    Matt Fraction & Nathan Fox Depict Bin Laden’s Final Moments in Comic for ‘GQ’
    Read More:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: