Since an early age, I've asked myself, "Are superheroes logical?" Do they condone fascism? How feasible is it to conceal a secret identity? Does the never-ending cycle of capture-and-escape make battling supervillains futile? Should superheroes be allowed to kill? And you know the rest of the questions. But I don't think these questions would need to be asked if all this superhero stuff took place in, say, the STAR WARS universe...
Besides Star Wars, you could just easily say Middle Earth. Or your typical "future."
Superhero is a broad term. James Bond is a superhero. So are Obi-Wan Kenobi and Neo. They all have larger-than-life abilities, a signature costume and a color gallery of foes and allies. But these heroes don’t suffer the same scrutiny as the tights-and-capes ones we’re so familiar with. When Aragorn cuts a snarling Uruk-Hai’s head off without a second thought, nobody’s questioning if he was justified.Why are traditional superheroes held to a different standard from sci-fi/fantasy heroes?
== TEASER ==
It wasn't until I started reading JUDGE DREDD that I figured out that this "double standard" was all about setting. Superheroes’ greatest strength and greatest weakness is the fact that they’re set in the real world (or an approximation of it, at least.) It makes them less believable and more relatable at the same time. Thus, a lot of these questions arise only because the heroes aren't set in an all-and-all fantasy world.
HOW DO THEY KEEP THEIR SECRET IDENTITIES?
In Mega City One, Dredd is just Dredd. He literally has no personal life. We've actually been seeing more of this lately with Cap, Iron Man and (possibly?) Batman "going public." For a long time, the cautionary tale of the first Nite Owl's death in WATCHMEN would dissuade that kind of thing. However, if you're an espionage agent or a billionaire, you'd probably have just as many enemies either way, so why bother with a mask?
WHAT GIVES THEM THE RIGHT?
There's a funny exchange in THE DARK KNIGHT when the amateur Batmen ask why Batman, alone, is allowed to take the law into his own hands. The Green Lantern Corps has some overlap with the Jedi Order since they’re both basically outfits of space cops. They have defined rules, jurisdictions and superiors they report to (answering the question of who, in fact, watches the Watchmen.)
WHO ARE THE BAD GUYS?
The power level decides a lot. I always figured that Spidey being superhuman negated any discussion of why he shouldn't just leave it to the cops. They simply can't handle a supervillain, and the more villains you add, the greater the justification is. Somehow, it’s more palatable to go against an army - - say the hordes of Mordor - - over a loosely-affiliated rogue’s gallery. We have been seeing more of this lately with things like VILLAINS UNITED and the Hood's mob.
SHOULD THEY KILL?
I always found it ironic that Luke Skywalker got so hung-up about killing Darth Vader when he had no qualms shredding through Stormtroopers. The morality of capital punishment will never cease being debated but, in superhero comics, it seems like you're either Superman or the Punisher when it come to the lethality of your force. Cap killing Baron Blood was considered a big transgression, as I recall. I figure, again, this is an issue of the heroes at war vs. the heroes fighting during peace time.
So there's more than a little to chew on there. I figure this would also address the concern of how ridiculous costumes could look since, if you put, say, the Super-Adaptoid in a fantasy setting, even the most ridiculous outfit will look less ridiculous by comparison. My aim here is to suggest a different way of looking at things for you maniacs and then step back as the discussion gets going. Do you prefer superheroes sitting on the fence between the real and surreal, as I've noticed, or would you prefer them in a more all-out fantasy milieu? Would that make them "work" better?