If there is one fact that readers of Batman can agree on, it is that Joker is not a nice guy. Between the murder of Jason Todd and the crippling of Barbara Gordon (not to mention countless murders of ordinary citizens), Joker has been wreaking havoc on Batman’s life from the very beginning.
Every time Joker busts out of prison, he ends up committing some sort of heinous crime. As you might expect, Batman is always there to apprehend the Joker and put him back in his permanent cell at Arkham, but what we have also come to expect after so many years is the inevitable escape of the Joker from Arkham. The fact that Joker always somehow manages to escape from Arkham and take some lives raises an important question very relevant to Batman.
Why doesn’t Batman just kill the Joker? Anyone can see that it would save so many lives if the Joker were just killed off. Throughout the years not only has Batman come within inches of finishing off the Joker, but even Commissioner Gordon himself. Despite their wanting to kill him, Gordon and Batman are always there to stop each other from doing so (during Hush, Batman has Joker in his clutches and before he does the deed, Gordon intervenes with a great dialogue between him and Batman; Batman says “How many more lives are we going to let him ruin?” while Gordon replies “I don’t care. I won’t let him ruin yours.”).
With this one line, we can assume that Batman has thought about killing the Joker AT LEAST once (although we all know it is a lot more). But he is also always going on about how if he were to kill his enemies, that would make him no better than them. Doesn’t this school of thought make Batman kind of self-interested? I mean, if he is trying to clean up the streets, isn’t he trying to benefit others? But what if benefitting other requires him to kill? Which is more important, doing good or not doing wrong?
Batman is constantly being faced with the moral dilemma to save one or many. Let’s speak hypothetically for one second. What if the Joker released his Joker Venom in to the ventilation system of Wayne Enterprises? And the only thing Batman is capable of doing is either killing everyone in the building by allowing the gas to disperse or divert all of the gas in to one room and kill five people in it. Is Batman now morally bound to save the entire building through diverting the gas and directly killing the five people, or does he remain steadfast in his not (directly) killing by not doing anything?
One argument against the previous situation would be that everyone in the building is innocent. But let’s make it even more interesting. Say the five people in the room are the only people in the entire building NOT stealing from the company. Now that different levels of innocence and guilt have been determined, would that change Batman’s stance on who lives and who dies?
With Batman’s stance on killing now established, let’s bring the Joker back into the picture. I think we can all agree that it would be morally justified if Batman had no other choice but to kill the Joker to save a hostage. But what if Batman showed up after the killing? Is he still justified to kill the Joker when there is no life to save? What about the argument for killing him to stop future murders? Do we know for sure if Joker will even kill again? Or do we have to give him the benefit of the doubt that this time he will pull a Riddler and turn over a new leaf? If Joker clearly says he WILL kill again, then it can be assumed that it would be acceptable to punish him in advance, but this raises other questions. Questions such as why would he confess to a crime he hadn’t committed yet know that he would be killed before having a chance to commit the crime? What about the fact that Joker has the capacity to change his mind? Does the ability to change your mind make the idea of prepunishment wrong?
I personally agree with Batman not killing his foes, despite the logical reasoning that he should. He is right in saying that him going around killing people makes him no better than his adversaries, but with the questions raised here, there are many ways to assume Batman cannot always stand by his rule. I was just curious as to what everyone else thinks of the “no-killing” policy, and if the arguments I presented had, in any degree, made you reconsider your position on this.