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|25||09/13/10||A Cop's Kid's Thoughts on Cops in Comics||(Blog) (Forum)||Cops: The Job||(Back) (Next)|
In my last blog, The Difference Between a "Killer" and a "Killing," I told a story about my dad, from when he was a police officer (he's now retired), and how he was almost forced to shoot one of my friends. This being a site about comics, it got me thinking about cops in comics. For the most part, in comics, cops are pretty stupid. They don't have the same powers of deduction as a private investigator or superhero, they never hit who they're shooting at (unless the target still escapes), they never fight as well as someone in a costume, and they are always the last to arrive at any scene of importance to the story, unless they are there to be killed. Cops are usually there to collect the bound up badguys, left on the steps of the local precinct house. They stand there scratching their heads and puzzling over the note left by the local superhero. They get slaughtered without landing a shot, if the badguy makes his escape, or his cronies bust in to break him out. Very few police characters break this mold, unless they are the officer that a superhero deals with on a regular basis (Jean DeWolff and Captain Stacy, in Spider-Man titles), or the main character of their own title (Maggie Sawyer and Dan Turpin of the Metropolis SCU, from the Superman titles).
Probably one of the best cops in comics is Commissioner Jim Gordon, but thanks to Frank Miller, he's got a drinking problem and lost his wife. While quite capable, he relies on the Batman to come in and find the important clues in most cases. One of Gordon's cops, Harvey Bullock, is two stereotypes in one: the fat, doughnut-eating slob, and the hardnosed, slightly bent cop that gets things done by being slightly outside of the rules. There was one other, truly good cop on the Gotham force, named Renee Montoya, so of course she had to be outed as a lesbian (a black mark to some, like her parents), and later become a vigilante - the new Question. Crispus Allen was introduced to the Gotham PD, but wasn't around long before he became the Spectre. It's kind of disturbing that good cops always seem to go for vigilante identities, as if they cannot do enough good on their own, simply by being good cops. As if justice doesn't move swift enough, and needs the fast nudge that a vigilante can give it. Dick Grayson did the reverse, being a vigilante first, but becoming a cop in Bludhaven later. It wasn't too long before he found he couldn't do both, and gave up being a cop.
There are some old school cops in comics, like Commissioner Dolan in The Spirit, and my all-time favorite, Dick Tracy, who has probably plugged as many badguys as he's arrested (although the shootings were always on the up-and-up). There has been Matthew Bright in Rising Stars, who was basically Superman with a badge, and a title that has been one of my favorites and most hated at the same time: C.O.P.S. It's a favorite, because even with all the gimmicks they fight with, they're cops, and they're actually good at their jobs. I hate it, because it never reached the potential I felt it could have, had it been applied to something besides kiddy fare.
There have been a few titles that were actually about cops, like Archie's Super Cops, which was based on two real cops, and Marvel's Cops: The Job and The Call of Duty titles. I always find it odd that though the bulk of comic sales are about superheroes, these titles about real life heroes never seem to do very well. Maybe that's because the same medium that glorifies super powered paragons of virtue also makes light of police officers, finding every opportunity possible to show them as inept, crooked, or just plain hated.
Once, I'd like to see a title that shows the cops to be as capable as the superheroes. Let them shoot straight, show their deductive powers, and shine as the heroes that they are in everyday life. Without being some kind of sick, twisted freaks behind all the shine. There are bad cops out there, but they're not all bad cops - not even close. I wish that was reflected in comics a bit more often.
EDIT (9/15/10): I've received several comments saying that cops are supposed to be there to make the superheroes look good. I thought I said this already, but I agree with that. My point here though is that cops are habitually downplayed to make the superhero look good, and that isn't necessary. Show the cops as actually good at their jobs, and that makes the superhero look even better when they outshine the police (and the supervillain look like even more of a threat). Firemen are not depicted as unable to aim their hoses at the right spot, and EMT's are not shown as incapable of doing their jobs. To downplay cops as incompetent or incapable is nothing except a bias against cops.