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Off My Mind: Police Officers in Superhero Universes

What motivates the men and women when their jobs become more dangerous?

You might not give it much thought but we do have true heroes in the real world. One of them are the men and women that decide to fight crime and protect the innocent as police officers. The world can be a dangerous place and we can all rest a little easier knowing that these men and women are out there doing their duty.

In the comics, becoming a police officer isn't quite the same. The process and training may be similar but there's a lot more to the decision of becoming a cop. Their world isn't the same as ours and the dangers can be astronomically more extreme. Fighting thugs with guns is one thing but it's a different story when a police officer could respond to a call and find himself facing a super-powered villain.

What is it that motivates someone to become a police officer in a world full of super-powered individuals? == TEASER ==

Obviously these men and women must have a strong sense of wanting to do the right thing. Being a police officer is dangerous but knowing you could come across an evil villain with a high tech suit or powers that could melt them with a simple thought, it's a whole different game.


Occasionally we see police trying to fight off the villains in comics. What we don't see too often are the actual casualties. You know that when a super-powered villain is on a rampage or even just trying to rob a bank, there has to be some officers that get hurt or even killed. Does this increase the will and determination of the other officers to step up and do their part in ridding the world of evil?

Is there any resentment towards the superheroes? For the longest time, we've seen characters like Harvey Bullock be insulted by the idea of Batman taking the law into his own hands. Police officers go through training and do things by the book. The problem is, the book doesn't exactly prepare them against super-villains. Police will try to keep innocents safe while the hero usually swoops in at the end, grabs the bad guy and gets all the credit for saving the day.

There's also the idea that once a hero claims a city is under their protection, this serves to attract the villains that either want revenge against the hero or a chance to make a name for themselves by taking the hero out. The police do their best to keep the city safe but soon find a bunch of costumed kooks running around threatening their lives and the lives of the citizens they themselves have sworn to protect.


What we need to see more of is a special police task force like Code: Blue from issues of Thor back in the 80s. These were regular police officers that were trained further. They were better equipped to deal with super-powered menaces. Regular police officers may have guns and bullet proof vests but what good is that against an evil mutant that can breath fire or shoot lasers from his eyes? 

Superheroes can't be everywhere. As dedicated as they are to protecting innocent lives, they do have personal lives they try to maintain. Even though there are numerous heroes (especially in New York City), they can't always be on scene when a bad guy decides to try to take over the world. What we need to see is better training and equipment for the men and women in blue. Savage Dragon saw the importance in this. He could've been a spandex wearing hero but decided to fight evil among his fellow officers in the Chicago Police Department. Why don't we see more super-powered police officers? Dick Grayson decided to use his crime-fighting training to keep the streets of Bludhaven clean during the day. If more heroes decided to work in this noble and much needed profession, we wouldn't have to worry about the hardworking men and women having their lives overly endangered when simply trying to do their jobs.
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Posted by maxicere

In lots of superheroe comics, the police don't appear. I can understand why..

Posted by TDK_1997

Police officers aren't so important in lot of comics.Jim Gordon is the most important police officer in the world

Posted by leokearon


There are still the old school robber in comics, also a lot of time a hero isn't actually an arresting officer so the police are needed for that otherwise the crooks might get away.

 

Also why would someone want to be a cop in comics, the same reason as in the real world: to do the right thing

Posted by Soldier zero
Hernest Mandel once wrote a book about the mystery novels and adressed similar issues about why the main detective (Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade etc.) was always a private professional instead of a full member of the police. While his analysis was heavily tainted with his political views he came out with some interesting points:

  • By the beginning of the 20th century the human society had become a primary urban reality, that caused the epople to be forced to deal with issues of law and order more and more frequently
  • The police was perceived as both constricting (because they were the appointed enforcerers of the law) and ineffectual (because they were bound by the same law)
  • A private source of justice (as opposed to law) was the solution being able to combine the best of both world: the skills needed to be effective with the freedom of being a private agent

Superheroes spawned from similar considerations, they're a cheap and quick alternative to official law enforcement, they act right on the edge of the law (when they didn't break it right away). And this was one oof the points of the Registration Act (probably the only one I found correct) having the heroes acting llike a cohesive force backed up by the official powers, instead of free raoming vigilantes.
Posted by Eyz

On a related note: I also like the idea of a superhero (or his alterego) joining the polices force. Dynamic wise it's great for a story.
(see Savage Dragon or Dick Grayson's Bludhaven era)

Posted by matthuliz

Police in superhero universes are just pawns, as simple as that.

One of the major reasons why we like superheroes so much is to escape the reality that police can only do so much, they have a lot of limitations, and in most cases can be corrupted.
Best example is Batman. He's showing all the weaknesses of the police force.

    

Posted by blaakmawf

It seems like police tend to be fodder in comics.

Posted by ltbrd

and yet what good has Batman really done for Gotham? This is a question that comes up constantly in his own books as well as others like Superman/Batman and Justice League. For all the years (in comic book timeline) that Bruce has been "protecting" Gotham has the city gotten any safer? He hasn't completely eradicated crime families, there are tons of "super villains" living in the city or causing trouble constantly, no writer has ever touched on the idea that Gotham's economic stature has gone up as a result of less crime (i.e. the poverty line doesn't seem to have changed), and there is still police and public official corruption.

 

so what good has Batman really done for Gotham? is the fact that his presence has not caused a complete turn around in the city proof that Batman is just as weak in combating the larger threat of crime and corruption as a police force.

 

on the other hand let's look at Superman and Metropolis. In every origin Metropolis is not quite as bad off as Gotham but it is still filled with crime and/or corruption with the populace generally cynical, poor or downtrodden (see Secret Origins for a good example). In the time Superman has been active the city has undergone a tremendous change and is even noted by Batman when he goes there as being clean and bright compared to Gotham. Superman works openly with the police force and the city even has a specialty unit (the science police) to tackle super human or technological threats on their own when Supes isn't there or to assist him when necessary.

 

so does this prove that Superman's style of crime fighting is better than Batman's? or is it because Superman has super human abilities while Batman is just a normal guy?

 

if the latter than wouldn't it behoove Batman to get closer and closer ties with Gotham's police forces. even just as Bruce Wayne he could funnel millions into the cities police force for better equipment, weapons, armor and training. he shouldn't be all that worried about corruption or misuse of funds given Gordon running things. why not give them access to Oracle and her information capabilities? as Batman why not personnally train a special task force, or have Red Robin do so?

 

does this make more sense than a Batman Inc idea?

 

though the idea of police forces hating heroes is something that has died out over the last twenty years or so. The various Flashes have always had a good relationship with the police. As does Superman. Batman's interaction with them has improved with the cops even calling him when a super villain problem is at hand. There is definitely a better level of cooperation in comics these days and the focus of legal friction is not so much with city police as it is with national governments (such as Marvel's Superhuman Registation Act, the Smallville tv shows VRA, the Justice League having ties to and only operating in nations they have treaties with and so on).

Posted by DH69

still need cops for the lesser criminals, the ones that simply arent important to the capes.

Posted by U R Sofa King We Todd Did

totally off topic but Powers is probably the best series I have ever read

Posted by Golden Cod
Comics are unrealistic.    It's as simple as that.   Cops, civilians, the government, religion, and the media are all portrayed as passive and insignificant so as to allow heroes and villains to take the spotlight when in reality they would very much be shaped by the social forces I mentioned above.  

You can ask the same questions of why doesn't death/building insurance skyrocket as a result of the collateral damage, why doesn't the media run commentary on them, or why haven't any of the paparazzi taken a page from Peter Parker and chased superheroes around.

It all stems from the fact that comic readers don't want reality in their comics.   Most read comics to escape reality.
Posted by Chris2KLee

Not everyone can get a magic space ring, or get bit by a radioactive spider. If superhero comics are a reflection of the real world, then it should have men and women in blue, doing what they do in real life: serve and protect.

Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

This is why one of my favorite teams is Metropolis' Science Police, for they seemed more equipped to deal with super-villain level threats than most.  And if I remember right, back in the days of New Krypton and World against S, Jim Harper became a de-facto leader of them for a while, as well as adding Mon-El to the ranks.  Definitely was a good match up there.  Sometimes such team ups are good, other times not so well.  Regardless, police forces and superheroes are after the same thing and one would think they should be on the same team fighting the good fight.

Posted by Caligula

this is why we need the Judges!


Posted by red_rover

Somebody's got to get those crooks down that are webbed up to streetlights.  

Posted by LordTaronji101

I hope the thing that motivates these cops is the heroes who clean up the street in a way they are they ray of hope that cops see and inspires them.

Posted by PhoenixoftheTides
@ltbrd: Great points - some of these reasons are why I don't find Batman an interesting or successful hero. I tend to like teams and heroes such as the Fantastic Four and the Avengers which have a strong tie to the police force and are not overly angsty.
Posted by ChadwickDavis

@Soldier zero:

 

"Hernest Mandel once wrote a book about the mystery novels and adressed similar issues about why the main detective (Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade etc.) was always a private professional instead of a full member of the police"

What was the name of the book I would Like to read it


@ltbrd: 

"and yet what good has Batman really done for Gotham? This is a question that comes up constantly in his own books as well as others like Superman/Batman and Justice League. For all the years (in comic book timeline) that Bruce has been "protecting" Gotham has the city gotten any safer?"

 

On many levels, I have to agree with you, but then again, you also have to consider the other realities

#1: The reason Batman is effective at what he does is because he holds all parties accountable for their actions. Criminals, Politicians, Law enforcement. He is the "Watchdog" of Gotham City everyone typically thinks twice before committing a criminal act. Essentially he puts the law back in the hands of those who are in authority. Whether they can hold what he places in their laps now that is a different story

#2   Have you read any of the Gotham Central, Robin (before he became red robin) or even Batman arcs. There have been at least two instances that I know of where officers in that city have been inspired BY BATMAN to become officers.   

 

 

"Why not give them access to Oracle and her information capabilities? as Batman why not personnally train a special task force, or have Red Robin do so?

does this make more sense than a Batman Inc idea?"    

#1: Actually Barbara Gordon has run for office, and I believe that she also planned to join the police force before Batman"inspired" her. So they already had access to her they just missed the window of opportunity...TWICE

#2: There was an attempt to train/create a "Batman Task Force"...Doctor Thomas Hurt was the project lead....Need I say More 

Posted by Malonius

This is why I was pro-Registration.

Posted by Kairan1979

I think the interesting look on the superpowered police officer was in the Absolutlon Comic book (Avatar).

John Dusk, the main character, is the police officer working in Special Crimes Unit. That department is devoted to fighting supervillains, and all the operatives there are superpowered (John Dusk had powers similar to Green Lantern; Alpha is superstrong; Steel Rain is telekinetic etc). They work under the same rules as the regular cops (they can kill supervillains under the same circumstances a normal cop can shot a criminal).

Posted by Video_Martian
@Caligula said:
" this is why we need the Judges!


"
True to dat.

Also, characters like Heat Wave and Pied Piper have joined the FBI before...
Posted by Wattup

It's a tough economy, man. Jobs are hard to come by...

Posted by Kairan1979

If you want to see Lucas Bishop as FBI agent, check District X series (his partner was a human).

Posted by Make_Me_Mad

An article about cops in comic books that doesn't mention Gotham Central?  What?

Posted by Xyberius13

This used to be an old comic somewhere.  Like Code Blue it followed the lives of police officers in a superhero world.

I personally think that the villains focus on the heroes so much that they overlook the common police officer / detective.  Regardless, police show the villains and the heroes that they are the law.  They might not have powers, but they have the courage to stand up for truth and justice.

Posted by karrob
@TDK_1997 said:
" Police officers aren't so important in lot of comics.Jim Gordon is the most important police officer in the world "
Posted by jloneblackheart

Sara Pezzini (the Witchblade) is also a superpowered police officer. 

Moderator Online
Posted by G-Man
@make_me_mad: Thought the first image spoke for itself since it was the cover of issue #1.
Staff
Posted by Redrage

Police aren't very important in any comic, Gordan  ,Bullock, and Montoya are the most important police in comics

Posted by Amegashita

  C-Bishop made a blog like this a few months ago.  You and him seem to go over the same things ;P, "Great Minds Think Alike."

Posted by Iridium

I think of police in a comic like refs in a hockey fight.
When two behemoths are beating each other up, do you get in the middle?  Heck no, but once things slow down a bit, then get in there!

Posted by Kid_A

I dont know why there arent as many teams like code blue around these days. The Cape Killer taskforces from Civil War seemed to hold their own ok but after the 50 state initiative they kinda disappeared....

Posted by Maki_P

I would think that in a world where crazed super villains run rampant the police would be better equip to deal with them.

Honestly I don't see why the regular police can't be equipped with superweapons and training to fight supercriminals. I mean if Batman cans why not the cops? (yes I know it's Batman, but he's not the only "normal" around).
That's actually why I came up with Vince Bradley a guy with electric who becomes a cop and hates vigilantes. He and I believe that the police should have the tools and the training to take down supercrime instead of depending on lawless vigilantes. And seriously, isn't it reasonable to better prepare the police to deal with this sort of things?
Posted by Soldier zero
@ChadwickDavis: I think that the english title was "Delightful Murder: A Social History of Crime Story", it's a great book, but be warned Mandel was a Marxist theorist and many parts of the book reflect hsi political ideas a little too much.
Posted by JonesDeini
@Soldier zero said:
" Hernest Mandel once wrote a book about the mystery novels and adressed similar issues about why the main detective (Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade etc.) was always a private professional instead of a full member of the police. While his analysis was heavily tainted with his political views he came out with some interesting points:

  • By the beginning of the 20th century the human society had become a primary urban reality, that caused the epople to be forced to deal with issues of law and order more and more frequently
  • The police was perceived as both constricting (because they were the appointed enforcerers of the law) and ineffectual (because they were bound by the same law)
  • A private source of justice (as opposed to law) was the solution being able to combine the best of both world: the skills needed to be effective with the freedom of being a private agent
Superheroes spawned from similar considerations, they're a cheap and quick alternative to official law enforcement, they act right on the edge of the law (when they didn't break it right away). And this was one oof the points of the Registration Act (probably the only one I found correct) having the heroes acting llike a cohesive force backed up by the official powers, instead of free raoming vigilantes. "
Dope
Posted by Croi

Takes like... an hour for them to respond. Regardless of the situation...

My dad's car was robbed? We called them, then an hour later they ring us to ask us for directions to our house.

Posted by G-Man

I can't believe I forgot to mention Marvel's Code of Honor. I just came across the issues in my garage. :(



Staff
Posted by NightFang
@Caligula said:
" this is why we need the Judges!


"
Not every supervillain can be taken down with deadly force, that Dr. Doom or Eclipso for example.
Posted by JonesDeini
@Golden Cod: 
Bingo, folk. Super hero comics are escapism, while I do appreciate writers taking a more "realistic" approach to them, they will always be this at their core.  The moment we start to look at them with a critical eye is the moment they fall apart and become as stupid as they actually are. I mean none of this stuff we read would be plausible let alone possible in our world. The hero and villain live in a world which facilitates their existence. Batman would've been stuck in an asylum years ago if the NYPD had it's way. 
Posted by ltbrd


@JonesDeini.......make sure you type something on this thread tomorrow so we know the "Batman can beat anyone" fanboys haven't gotten you.

 

But come on people, stop wasting posts on "comic books aren't reality" comments.

 

We all know comic books aren't reality. If you don't than you have other issues to works out.

 

But the fun of them not being realistic is the fact that we get to make comments like this. We can go as crazy as we want screaming our heads off about what should and should not happen and its FUN!

 

What's wrong with critical eyes and realistic comparisons? If it was bad we'd never have myths, sagas, poems, fantasy tales, or any of the other fables and stories that permeate our various cultures.

Posted by ltbrd

@ChadwickDavis:

#1 It's great that Batman holds everyone accountable but has that actually accomplished anything of significance? Even Nolan's Dark Knight film asks that question. While it looked like things were going to get better all of a sudden they were worse than ever.

 

#2 I don't understand how that has anything to do with Batman's effectiveness. Its cool that he's inspired people but unless he inspires a whole city it doesn't do much good. Again, look at Nolan's films. Only inspired a handful of people to take action which isn't enough against the major problems of a city.

 

#3 So what does Barbara Gordon not joining the police force have anything to do with her providing information and coordination as Oracle? Actually her origin story states she tried out for both the police and FBI before being inspired by Batman because she initially wanted to be like Jim. But the past is the past and Barbara is fully capable of providing immense levels of intelligence to the Gotham police yet doesn't do so.

 

#4 The idea of a Batman Task Force was a good idea but like much of the stories from that time they were generally one book arcs. Hardly anyone would even know about them if not for the R.I.P. and more current storylines. Other than that Batman and his team have never expressed interest in greater police alliances than a few detectives and of course Jim Gordon.

Posted by Radread


 

  Story fodder.

Posted by G-Man
@ltbrd said:
"But come on people, stop wasting posts on "comic books aren't reality" comments.

 

We all know comic books aren't reality. If you don't than you have other issues to works out.

 

But the fun of them not being realistic is the fact that we get to make comments like this. We can go as crazy as we want screaming our heads off about what should and should not happen and its FUN!

 

What's wrong with critical eyes and realistic comparisons? If it was bad we'd never have myths, sagas, poems, fantasy tales, or any of the other fables and stories that permeate our various cultures.

"
That pretty much sums up the point of many of these Off My Minds. I'm pretty certain that most things in comics can't really happen in real life. The point is to give thought to the little details that we're supposed to overlook just because they happen in a comic book. We're here to talk about comic books, not point out that (most) superpowers don't really exist...
Staff
Posted by CATPANEXE

good point G. it is a small wonder most superhero's dawn the spandex and don't just join the force or even the reserves for that matter.

Posted by greenenvy

Its good to have a little reality sometimes which is having cops around, besides they team up with the hero most of the time. Cops become super themselves even or they just don't work allot because they live in a  super hero environment  but if called for duty then will respond especially if the hero himself calls the help out demanding on the threat. 

Posted by Make_Me_Mad
@G-Man:
The cover is there, sure, but it seems like you asked a lot of questions in the article that were addressed pretty well in series like Gotham Central.  It seems weird to ask questions about casualties in the force, resentment of the heroes, and how outmatched the police are against super powered villains, but not mention that all of those things were central parts of the very first Gotham Central story arc.
Posted by Technoman

"You might not give it much thought but we do have true heroes in the real world. One of them are the men and women that decide to fight crime and protect the innocent as police officers. The world can be a dangerous place and we can all rest a little easier knowing that these men and women are out there doing their duty."    

It should be " One of the kinds of them are the men and women that decide to fight crime and protect the innocent as police officers."
I'm sorry, but this REALLY bothers me.
Posted by perry_411

Cops are heroes? Most of them are jackbooted thugs, who abuse their power. They're armed revenue agents, nothing more. And the intelligence of police is very low, the criminals usually being lower intelligence. How many plungers do cops have to stick up butts before we judge them as the bad  people they are? 

Posted by crusader8463

Some one needs to read the criminals their rights and haul them off to jail so they can break out the next day.

Posted by goldenkey

in Chicago most cops I know became cops cuz their fathers were cops.............or they're Irish.  These off your minds have been better lately. 
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