Should Batman Kill?

Should Batman Kill? it's a  question that has existed almost as long as DC's Dark Knight detective. Everyone knows (whether they read comics or not) that Batman is defined by his moral line: he does not go so far as becoming like the murders he punishes, and he never uses guns in his crimefighting. At the same time, a lot of fans argue that Batman's code has allowed villains like The Joker to mass murder so many more innocent people over the years, simply because Batman will not stop him for good.

 It's a debate that has followed Batman storytellers from DC Comics greats like Alan Moore and Frank Miller, all the way up to Zack Snyder and Ben Affleck's modern movie depiction of the character. Ever fan (and even actual scholars and intellectuals) seems to have an opinion on the matter – to the point that Batman's morality is a legitimate philosophical ponderance all its own.

Well, DC's new Peacemaker TV series has brought the question of 'Should Batman Kill?' back to the forefront of comic book culture. In episode 4 Peacemaker (John Cena) gets into a heated argument with a neighbor about whether his killer tactics are superior to Batman's non-killing code: 

"He's a jackass! Who wrestles with murders dressed like clowns and throws them in prison! So they can break out of prison and then murder more people," Peacemaker argues. "Riddle me this: How many people you think Batman's indirectly murdered by being too much of a candy-ass not to kill these fools who clearly need to be smoked once and for all...?"

(Photo: DC Comics)

The ComicBook Nation Podcast crew and special guest-host, wrestler Johnny Gargano, attempted to take on the question of 'Should Batman Kill?' and quickly got lost down the rabbit hole. Host Kofi Outlaw (yours truly) argued that life operates according to prison rules, and Batman should too, by killing one of his most fearsome villains (Joker), and letting that act convince Gotham's other criminals that the Batman has no line. 

Co-hosts Johnny Gargano,  Matthew Aguilar, and a whole lot of commenters all agreed that changing Batman's code effectively cancels out who the character is by definition. It was also suggested that Batman wouldn't be able to stop at deciding just one villain had to die – it would be a slippery slope the Dark Knight couldn't return from. That's when the talk got weird

Outlaw tried to use the example of real-life soldiers (like the WWII generation) who did horrifically violent things for one key reason or cause, only to lead normal lives afterward (like all your happy, doting grandpas!). Gargano ran with that crazy example, by countering with a story about how his own Vietnam Vet father was peaceful – until he wasn't. Like when he shot down his own eight-year-old son in a paintball match, rather than have him be a human shield. 

The point? If Batman is willing to kill once, there will always be a reason for him to do it again. So let's not go there. After all: Peacemaker doesn't seem like he's a very happy guy... 

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