Ask Chris #109: The Movie Industry’s Kill-Happy Super-Heroes
By Chris Sims
Q: Why is it when superheroes are translated to movies or TV, “no killing” seems to be the first thing out the window? — @jason1749
A: I’ve reviewed a lot of comic book movies here at ComicsAlliance, and the casual attitude towards super-heroes killing is one of the things that always gets on my nerves about the translation to movies. It’s hard for me to get past even in a movie like Captain America where it’s arguably justified by the war-time setting, and for Batman ’89 or Superman II, it’s the breaking point that completely ruins the movie.
As for why, it really just comes right down to the differences between comics and movies, and how they’ve evolved in pop culture.
I think the problem has its root in the fact that The Hero With a Code Against Killing is really only a common element in super-hero comics. In other media, adventure stories tend to be a lot less strict about their heroes’ morality. Even the pulps, from which super-hero comics were directly descended, were defined by characters who were prone to blowing away their enemies with smoking pistols and the occasional zeppelin.
But even though the pulps were a profound influence, comics evolved differently. I’ve gone into this before with a specific focus on Batman (surprise!), who essentially started out as a Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s fan-fiction for the Shadow. The dark costume, the millionaire secret identity and the pistols that he packed in those early appearances are all there, to the point where Clark Savage (The Man of Bronze!) and his Fortress of Solitude are actually not the most blatantly lifted elements that formed the foundations of the DC Universe. As comics moved into their own direction and the heroes solidified into unique creations, though, one of the elements that came to define the genre was the code against killing.
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- entropyrulez said: I think the whole “no kill” attitude is more about money than morality. Killing of villains like the Joker leaves a whole (both story-wise & financially). Were the comic book villains just throw-away characters, we’d likely see more killing.
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