Posted by: Doc Comics | March 2, 2012

Killing Monsters?

Image result for batman murder

An interesting thought experiment in moral philosophy over at Comics Alliance ponders: “Should Batman kill The Joker? Perspectives from 5 famous philosophers.”

“When battling monsters,” Nietzsche famously observed, “one should take care to not become a monster yourself.” Batman‘s status as superhero vigilante outlaw (perhaps benevolent terrorist) greatly problematizes his ability to murder the Joker… and make no mistake, that is indeed what is being contemplated. That Batman ultimately leaves Joker to the democratic justice system, however flawed (thankfully for the serial demands of Joker’s inevitable return), I think elevates him as a moral hero rather than a death-dealing terrorist outlaw (who traded in his gun for a kid sidekick). The society wherein Joker does ill should judge him, not the lone individual (or group, like the KKK) who might impose their own tyrannical morality beyond the singularity once the ‘Joker precedent’ is established. Even as an Übermensch, Batman is ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ only to the extent that (like Superman) his moral code is life affirming rather than death-dealing. There are a variety of ethical perspectives amongst superheroes, of course, which Alan Moore‘s WATCHMEN uses to explore the limits of superhero morality. At its most basic and aside from lazy storytelling, tho, it is this no-kill code that separates a democratic superhero (and even SuperAntihero) from an authoritarian supervillian. And killing supervillains, no matter how monstrous, raises interesting contradictions with democratic principles and the rule of law.



  1. Interesting observations. I thought I would share that the next North Texas Comic Book Shows event will be held this coming Sunday April 1st, 2012 at the Arlington Hilton. This might give your students the opportunity to stock up on course material. Could be a great field trip too. Info can be found at

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