Batman's Refusal To Murder

  • 60 results
  • 1
  • 2
#1 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

Explanation of why Batman doesn't kill, Personally in my opinion it's being selfish and would make things easier but it's making more sense to me now.

http://www.quora.com/Batman-comics-movie-creative-franchise/Why-doesnt-Batman-comics-movie-creative-franchise-just-kill-The-Joker-fictional-character

Mark Hughes, Screenwriter, Forbes Blogger
Put simply, Batman doesn't commit murder, because he refuses to intentionally take a life with his own hands and become an executioner. The basic answer is easy enough to articulate. But the reason behind it is very complicated.

Bruce Wayne witnessed the simple power of taking a life, when he was a child watching his parents die in front of him. The act itself is easy, something anyone can really do if they want to, but the impact of murder is complex and monumental, because the implications of an execution last forever.

Joe Chill shot Bruce's parents in a moment of fear and desperation, just to grab some money and without the intention of taking anyone's life -- but his simple act of reflexively pulling a trigger, in a split second, forever changed the world through the ripples it sent out, taking the Wayne's from the world and ending Thomas Wayne's medical practice and the parents' philanthropy, and of course sending Bruce on a path inescapably toward becoming Batman.

Bruce is aware of this with every fiber of his being. He relives that murder in his darkest moments, and it is in the memory and honor of his parents that he fights to make their city a better place. He can never become the thing that struck them down, a murderer who takes the simple path that sends out those endless ripples. The purposeful taking of another human life, to assume the power and responsibility of forever ending a life, is the defining event against which Batman rose to resist. The moment he takes a life, he has lost his reason to exist, because he will have become the very thing he was born to end.

Bruce accepts that he must be a criminal, a vigilante, to do his work. But this he accepts as an unavoidable element of his mission -- to stand against the peculiar and very special circumstances of Gotham's corruption that reaches to the highest government offices and taints the justice system and law enforcement, Batman would necessarily have to operate outside of the legal system. To be free of outside influences and accountable only to himself and his mission, too, required being an outlaw of sort.

But this lack of accountability is also a burden, and it means he must carefully weigh his actions and police himself as much as he polices the city -- and he is well aware that without any other accountability or authority, he must restrict himself from actions that go too far and that are outside the ultimate goal of standing for the ideal of the rule of law as a social contract. A man accountable only to himself might be able to excuse actions that can be corrected or amended if he is wrong, but when he is answerable only to himself, the temptation to weigh the lives of others and to deal out judgment as a God deciding the ultimate fate of victims, is too much. A line must be drawn, or there will eventually be no line at all and no limitation on his own actions, because he will stop being accountable even to himself if does not hold himself accountable for the irreversible and absolute exercise of authority over life and death.

It is easy -- too easy -- to think that yes, the Joker has killed so many victims and escaped so many times, the only way to make him stop killing innocent civilians is to just kill him. In Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, there is a great moment when, after the Joker has detonated a hidden bomb in an apartment complex, Batman thinks to himself that he will stay and help the police pull people out of the rubble and do the best he can, and then he'll count the dead and add them to the list of all of the people he himself has murdered by letting the Joker live. So Batman doesn't fail to understand the horrible math involved, the terrible moral trap that presents itself the moment he begins to let himself even consider the possibility of killing the Joker in order to save future lives.

[Let me take a moment to comment on that last point, just to be clear: it is ONLY in the context of preventing future presumed murders, of course, that we can even begin to talk about the moral dilemma of "why doesn't Batman kill the Joker," because the notion of killing the Joker out of revenge or to make him pay for his past crimes doesn't enter into the equation. Punishment isn't what Batman is about, it's not his mission, it's not his mental frame of reference for what he does and why he does it. And he does on some level realize that the Joker's madness and psychosis are so absolute and pure, "punishment" itself is an irrational response to someone who exists beyond such concepts like the Joker. It is only the idea of killing the Joker to preserve other lives in the future, then, that we are talking about here.]

While Batman realizes the implications of the mathematical calculations, that refusing to execute the Joker will almost surely mean more innocent deaths if the Joker escapes again (and he always does, eventually), he also realizes that if the point is that the Joker's life isn't as valuable as the lives of his victims -- so much so that the mere CHANCE of more victims is enough to justify murdering the Joker -- then a single innocent life should be enough to justify murdering the Joker. It cannot be a case of weighing the number of innocent lives, if innocent life is so precious it justifies murder then even one should be too many, since the equation is one life (a victim's) versus one life (the Joker's).

And if one innocent life is too valuable, and would justify taking the life of a killer, then the same equation applies to most of Batman's other arch villains as well. And it applies to the mobsters. And it applies to any killers. And, if the equation is one in which the likelihood and chance of future victims is enough to justify murdering someone to stop the potential/likelihood of future victims, then rationally chronic drunk drivers and armed robbers and many others also qualify.

Which is where the lack of a prohibition means the lack of a clear line, which means the lack of ANY line, which means the lack of any accountability other than himself necessarily leads -- irresistibly and unstoppably -- to lack of accountability even to himself. He becomes absolute, and murder of anyone becomes justifiable. Because once you've justified the above examples, you place in your own hands a presumption of moral certainty (which you MUST presume, you MUST feel with absolute certainty, or you can never trust yourself to begin murdering based on who you believe should be murdered) that will eventually lead to the same certainty about your best guess, about your gut feeling, and the basic minimum standard becomes so arbitrary that there IS no minimum standard anymore. Once the idea enters your head that a person should die, your absolute moral authority, without accountability whatsoever, means you can find a reason to kill them if you wish to do so.

That is the logical progression, in the context of one man placing himself beyond all outside accountability and authority, and granting himself the latitude to judge when it is acceptable to murder other people. The mathematics is a ruse, a distraction to tempt and allow that first taste of blood, that first deceptively easy step across a line that vanishes forever once you cross it. If the loss of innocent life is enough reason to execute another life judged not innocent, then one innocent life becomes enough reason to execute another life judged less innocent.

Batman knows this, because he lives it every day -- he lives it by watching it transpire in Gotham, by fighting it when it manifests daily in the villains and in the hearts of ordinary citizens and in the minds of cops with a badge and a gun and a creeping sense that it's so easy to justify taking a life to stop future wrongdoing. But most of all, he lives it because it resides in his own mind, every single day, when he must remember that terrible moment as a child when he watched another man make the calculation of Bruce's parents' lives versus a few dollar bills. And he lives it because within his own heart, he hears that little whisper tempting him to cross the line, with the Joker or with the Penguin or with the mobsters or with a serial killer.

So he refuses to become a murderer, because he knows that murdering the Joker leads to murdering all of them, making each killing easier than the last. And that casts him as the very thing that created him, as the thing he fights against, because at that point the only difference between Batman and the Joker would be that Batman thinks he's able to justify his own murders.
#2 Posted by Rumble Man (11119 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jnr6Lil: Batman can always make a super jail with his money, something better than arkham and their lame excuse for a 'curse'. No killing is okay but not asking assistance from hero pals just butchers common sense.

#3 Posted by Cap10nate (1884 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jnr6Lil: The real reason why Batman doesn't kill anyone is because the writers don't want to create a new villain every month.

But seriously, nice article. I always found it frustrating when the heroes don't kill the villain and let them get away. I read Maximum Carnage, and there are like 4 different parts of it where Spider Man is fighting Carnage and is debating whether or not to kill him and either lets him get away or stops Venom from killing him. Carnage goes right away and kills hundreds more people instantly. If you can capture the villain and submit him to authorities then do so but if it is kill or let the villain kill innocents, I think it should be kill the villain every time.

However, you don't get the great stories if you kill off the best villains. I think that is why Punisher doesn't have many memorable enemies.

#4 Posted by Loki9876 (2981 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm gonna be honest I didn't read that whole thing but I think Batman refusal to kill is borderline Obessive compulsive.

#5 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@Rumble Man said:

@Jnr6Lil: Batman can always make a super jail with his money, something better than arkham and their lame excuse for a 'curse'. No killing is okay but not asking assistance from hero pals just butchers common sense.

Sure he could but how do you make a superjail?

#6 Posted by Rumble Man (11119 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jnr6Lil:

He has enough money to make JLA tower with all that tech, or send bad guys to phantom zone and let someone else sort it out

#7 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@Rumble Man said:

@Jnr6Lil:

He has enough money to make JLA tower with all that tech, or send bad guys to phantom zone and let someone else sort it out

Phantom Zone would work but then Batman wouldnt have comics anymore.

#8 Posted by Rumble Man (11119 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jnr6Lil: Dig up his past villains, ask snyder to make new ones

Superheroes are supposed to keep the world safe, do the job or its a prob

#9 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@Rumble Man: Batman has an ecxtensive rogues gallery. To just makes new one takes time and effort.

#10 Posted by Rumble Man (11119 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jnr6Lil: Haven't seen the monk lately or double x?

use silver age and golden age people

#11 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@Rumble Man said:

@Jnr6Lil: Haven't seen the monk lately or double x?

use silver age and golden age people

They're too obscure.

#12 Posted by Rumble Man (11119 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jnr6Lil: get a good writer on board

#13 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@Rumble Man: Bringing characters from 30+ years obscure?

#14 Posted by Rumble Man (11119 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jnr6Lil: Geoff johns baybeh

#15 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@Rumble Man: Making his rogues gallery worse

#16 Posted by KingofMadCows (345 posts) - - Show Bio

Gordon: What about escalation?

Batman: Escalation?

Gordon: We start carrying semi automatics, they buy automatics, we start wearing Kevlar, they buy armor piercing rounds, and *you're* wearing a mask and jumping off rooftops. take this guy: armed robbery, double homicide. Got a taste for the theatrical, like you. Leaves a calling card.

I would say that this is the reason why Batman can't kill. Comic books have different rules than real life. In real life, there is a limit to how far conflicts can escalate. In comics, there are no limits. Think about it, in the comics, criminals and super villains can gain access to weapons of mass destruction, demonic magic, technology from the future, and the backing of alien warlords. Batman is genre savvy enough to know that if he starts killing, the new villains that replace the old ones will be even worse and the conflict will simply escalate.

#17 Posted by Blood1991 (8098 posts) - - Show Bio

Personally I think without a clear line of morality he would become insane.

#18 Posted by Fuchsia_Nightingale (10180 posts) - - Show Bio

@Blood1991: Who said he wasn't lol

#19 Posted by RedOwl_1 (1664 posts) - - Show Bio

I didn't read exactly the whole thing (mah eyes are tired :P) but I reasoned it in two reasons

Self-discipline: Killing every villain it's just too easy, let anger and revenge conquer him it's too easy.... he shows he's stronger by doing things hard way ;)

I'm not sure of this, but I think it's maybe because he know himself so well that he knows if he kills one time he couldn't stop (I know if I eat a cookie I'm not going to stop till finish them all, so I think it could be something similar)

@Cap10nate said:

@Jnr6Lil: The real reason why Batman doesn't kill anyone is because the writers don't want to create a new villain every month.

LOL XD that's truth, the criminals would be DOOMED if he killed

#20 Posted by Blood1991 (8098 posts) - - Show Bio

@Fuchsia_Nightingale said:

@Blood1991: Who said he wasn't lol

Lol MORE insane like sociopath crazy. The psyche of Batman is a curious thing.

#21 Posted by Fuchsia_Nightingale (10180 posts) - - Show Bio

@Blood1991: Still nuts

#22 Posted by Avenging-X-Bolt (11732 posts) - - Show Bio

Love the article.

#23 Posted by Rumble Man (11119 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jnr6Lil: Not really, his rogues are all random anyways and its time for the fans to get reintroduced to the older villains.

#24 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@Rumble Man: Reintroduced? Comics is still business, bringing back a bunch of old guys won't help.

#25 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@RedOwl_1 said:

I didn't read exactly the whole thing (mah eyes are tired :P) but I reasoned it in two reasons

Self-discipline: Killing every villain it's just too easy, let anger and revenge conquer him it's too easy.... he shows he's stronger by doing things hard way ;)

I'm not sure of this, but I think it's maybe because he know himself so well that he knows if he kills one time he couldn't stop (I know if I eat a cookie I'm not going to stop till finish them all, so I think it could be something similar)

@Cap10nate said:

@Jnr6Lil: The real reason why Batman doesn't kill anyone is because the writers don't want to create a new villain every month.

LOL XD that's truth, the criminals would be DOOMED if he killed

Well that's the non-storyline reason. Of course that isn't the reason, Batman the character himself can use, unless he wants to break the fourth wall.

#26 Posted by clemj (817 posts) - - Show Bio

nice  post, but he tried to finish off darkseid... during final crisis...

#27 Posted by Rumble Man (11119 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jnr6Lil: how so?

#28 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@Rumble Man: The new fans would be out of touch with the villains

@clemj said:

nice post, but he tried to finish off darkseid... during final crisis...

Defeat, maybe not kill. Not to mention Darkseid was a god that couldn't be contained in a cell, and would come back to life probably if dead anyway.

#29 Edited by DocFatalis (1419 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jnr6Lil: Very nice article and you are right: when you're a vigilante, you decide by essence alone who deserves punishment and who doesn't. As soon as you kill one, it could be anyone the day after and you may end up killing the neighbour who doesn't pick up his dog's poop on one angry morning.

#30 Posted by Rumble Man (11119 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jnr6Lil: Same can be said with old fans out of touch with new villains

#31 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@DocFatalis: Indeed, When I read the last part of the article that really concluded as to why Batman, doesn't kill. In a way it's basically him saying. Just because I'm a vigilante, doesn't mean I'm not human. I still can't just go around taking people's lives because I feel it's the right thing to do.

@Rumble Man: Yes, but that's why there's new fans.

#32 Posted by Kairan1979 (15820 posts) - - Show Bio
#33 Posted by Nova`Prime` (4140 posts) - - Show Bio

I think the thread title needs to be changed from murder to kill.. there is a huge difference in the two.

#34 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@Nova`Prime` said:

I think the thread title needs to be changed from murder to kill.. there is a huge difference in the two.

No, because killing another human being unlawfully is murder. Even if it's for good deeds, if it's outside the law, it's still considered murder.

@Kairan1979 said:

Please read this piece of fanfiction. I can't think of better answer to the whole "Batman never kills".

Good fan-fiction.

#35 Posted by Rumble Man (11119 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jnr6Lil: Its the old fans that kept batman alive for so long

#36 Posted by RainEffect (3240 posts) - - Show Bio

This is absolutely brilliant, and I think Jason Todd fans need to read this. I'm not dissing you guys (as, hey, I'm starting to like Jason) but it is absolutely paramount to Batman's character and code of conduct that he doesn't kill. That excerpt about Batman's shame for failing when it comes to the Joker is sheer truth.
 

It is easy -- too easy -- to think that yes, the Joker has killed so many victims and escaped so many times, the only way to make him stop killing innocent civilians is to just kill him. In Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, there is a great moment when, after the Joker has detonated a hidden bomb in an apartment complex, Batman thinks to himself that he will stay and help the police pull people out of the rubble and do the best he can, and then he'll count the dead and add them to the list of all of the people he himself has murdered by letting the Joker live. So Batman doesn't fail to understand the horrible math involved, the terrible moral trap that presents itself the moment he begins to let himself even consider the possibility of killing the Joker in order to save future lives.

Loved this entire read.
#37 Posted by Rumble Man (11119 posts) - - Show Bio

It is really funny when a hero loves his supporting cast villain rather then those he swore to protect, punisher may be a psycho killer but that regard he is not a hypocrite.

#38 Posted by joshuagamer (623 posts) - - Show Bio

It makes him a stronger character though. It would be easy for him to simply murder those that make his life so difficult, it is much more impressive to endure that many tribulations at the hands of these people and still abstain from murder.

#39 Posted by Agent29 (53 posts) - - Show Bio

@Rumble Man said:

@Jnr6Lil: Batman can always make a super jail with his money, something better than arkham and their lame excuse for a 'curse'. No killing is okay but not asking assistance from hero pals just butchers common sense.

exactly, batman wont resort to killing because for example he knows if he killed joker, it would make him as bad as joker.... batman thinks of other ways.

#40 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

Super jails aren't possible though.

#41 Posted by Rumble Man (11119 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jnr6Lil:

#42 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@Rumble Man said:

@Jnr6Lil:

No such thing as a superjail. Closest thing to that is Maximum Security. Again, Arkham is the super jail.

#43 Posted by Rumble Man (11119 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jnr6Lil: Nope

DCAU superman would call it a cardboard prison

#44 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@Rumble Man said:

@Jnr6Lil: Nope

DCAU superman would call it a cardboard prison

No such thing as a superjail. Arkham was meant to be the superjail and that failed.

#45 Posted by Rumble Man (11119 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jnr6Lil: It was never a jail, rather a correctional facility with the idealistic hopes that the villains could be reformed

#46 Posted by Durakken (1593 posts) - - Show Bio

Response to the OP...

Like so many of these little posts you don't need to read past the first line to see that the author of the post doesn't know what they are talking about.

Bruce doesn't have a problem with killing if necessary. He doesn't because of several reasons. One of which is not wanting to become what the criminals are. Another which is a good argument is that he believes in the justice system, police are trusted with that privilege, and just like if you teach people to cook is better than giving them a 3 course meal it is better for him to stop the immediate threat and try to work on improving the system that one day he wont be there to help.

#47 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@Rumble Man: And it still didn't work.

#48 Posted by Rumble Man (11119 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jnr6Lil: The one that works better is Iron Heights in flash stories

#49 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@Rumble Man: Maybe, I don't think super prisons work in Gotham

#50 Posted by SamRevlon (134 posts) - - Show Bio

I think a lot of it has to do with the writers too.. I mean I knew a lot of kids growing up who preferred Batman over Superman, but imagine if Batman had been a murderer? That'd be rather grim to know your childhood hero was a killer and I dont think a writer would want to do that when after all these years, he hasn't killed for morals, reasons.

This edit will also create new pages on Comic Vine for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Comic Vine users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.