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To kill or not to kill?

9th Jul 2014, 12:00 AM

To kill or not to kill?
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kidra on 28th May 2015, 7:40 AM

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Most heroes have a code of honor that prevents them from killing. However, there have been a number of times where a hero (not an anti hero like punisher, but one of the more "noble" ones) has killed a villain. This is generally meet with shock and outrage from the hero's community. Which personally I think is a little crazy. It'd be one thing if they killed lesser criminals who could be easily taken in, but when it's a warlord work supernatural powers who's goal is to destroy all of humanity, I'm inclined to think snapping his neck is the right choice. But what do you guys think? Should the heroes ALWAYS find a way to avoid bloodshed?



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Mistriousfrog on 28th May 2015, 7:57 AM

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To me, the issue is less whether they kill their enemies and more about consistency. If a hero lives by a code of not killing, then they should stick by it, whether it is bob holding up the corner shop or Galactic Overlord Xenu. Once the hero begins picking and choosing when to uphold their values, they aren't really upholding anything anymore. They cease to be a hero once they stop holding to their own moral or ethical code.

Hamof on 28th May 2015, 8:25 AM

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What about when that villain has escaped from prison a few times? (And let's face it, they always do.) How many lives could have been spared if Superhero x killed Villain y the first time? Or at least the second? The X-Men are a good example of this, I don't know much about the comics, but I know that they went by a strict "no killing" policy, how many people did Magneto and his band of goons kill because no one ever did more than toss them in prison. (Because again, they were never going to stay in prison, sparing them once is a good thing. twice after they show no signs of changing? Not so much.)

Kaze Koichi on 28th May 2015, 11:38 AM

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Is't the judge's move to make, not them. If the law condemn Joker to capital punishment, Batman wouldn't need to go on slippery slope each time he faces him.
There was at least 2 stories about Superman killing a criminal, and it went downhill from there: "Justice Lords" story and "Injustice: gods among us" videogame. I'm sure there are more stories with that premise that I don't know about.
Even when superheros has no choice but to kill, that decision should affect them greatly. They whouldn't be the same anymore.

Hamof on 28th May 2015, 11:42 AM

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Okay, so it should probably be the Judge's move, that would be a slight problem in a place like Arkham but never mind that.

And of course there are going to be negative effects, killing isn't something that should ever be easy, and it's certainly going to hit you hard the first time. Even if you had a damn good reason. (Say someone was going to fire off a nuclear bomb in the middle of New York (Just for an example.) and you had no reliable way of stopping him non-lethaly in time, then you pretty much don't have a choice, bit like the picture up there really.)

Keirgo on 29th May 2015, 9:04 AM

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The 'but they get out and kill more' arguement really can't fly. The reason these villains escape jail and kill again is because the author decides it. Let's face it, if Batman killed the Joker he'd be dead for a month then revived by the devil. In the world of comics death has proven equally as futile as incarceration. You can't really apply much logic to it because it immediately collapses as the illogical world decides that the Joker got out of his cell by virtue of 'he's the Joker', or Magneto goes back to killing people because the new author prefers him as a villain.

Situational.

Jarimor on 28th May 2015, 11:39 AM

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A hero ending a life outside of their normal patterns is not going to end well. Should they always try for non-lethal? Maybe, but if it ends up going Man of Steel, END THE FUCKER.

It saves more lives in the end. Be that as it may, a hero has to deal with the psychological problems of killing should s/he/it start by not killing and suddenly and deliberately take a life.

DYING BECAUSE OF CIRCUMSTANCE ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH HERE.

hiei82 on 28th May 2015, 11:46 AM

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Limiting the discussion to non-anti-heroes, I think the community is right to be outraged.

Using the Superman V. Zod example (since it was pictured), the difficulty wasn't about the rationality of the decision. Zod was a warlord bent on global genocide and neither humanity nor superman had an obvious way to contain him. The difficulty lies not in the rationality of the action, but in the context of why we turn to superman as a hero. Superman works as a character because he's supposed to stand for an "ideal state"

As I see it, there are two kinds of superheroes; those with finite power and those with infinite power.

The drama of finite heroes is that they must choose how to spend their limited power and direct it toward the best good they can. They may have rules but those rules can be broken under certain circumstances (i.e. The Flash doesn't kill, but he might be forced to; causing drama) The conflict comes from their limitations.

Infinite heroes are different. Their powers are effectively unlimited. They can accomplish any goal or task they put their mind to. Therefore, the drama doesn't come from watching them fight the villain. It's already a foregone conclusion that these heroes will win/ The drama comes not from the question of "if" they will win and at what cost, but from "how" they will win while maintaining their self-imposed limitations (codes of conduct).

Superman is a prime example of this second group. More than that, he and Captain America are the poster boys for this group. They exist as characters to say "This is the ideal everyone should strive for and you too can reach it if you work hard enough and never give up". That's why Superman stories always talk about "hope" and "leading the way to a better future/brighter tomorrow/etc". They stand for that ideal state.

So, when stories happen where this ideal is broken - i.e. Man of Steel - particularly after all of the build up talking about hope and better tomorrows - again, see Man of Steel - the community reacts negatively.

So, Man of Steel was effectively saying "If you work really hard and strive for greatness and work together, you too can compromise your ideals to get an arguably better/saved world".

Now maybe that's a true sentiment - after all, it's more or less what makes the Marvel universe work - but it's not the message Superman fans are looking for/believe in and it's certainly not going to just be accepted without outrage or resentment.

Hamof on 28th May 2015, 12:15 PM

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Would Superman fans have preferred it if he let that family die?

GAZZA on 28th May 2015, 6:25 PM

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It's not as if Man of Steel was a documentary. The family wasn't in danger because of Zod, they were in danger because a script writer wrote that scene, and a director filmed it.

If your Superman script gets into a corner where the only way out is for him to kill someone, you GO BACK AND REWRITE. Because that's not the sort of story Superman should ever be in.

That, I suspect, is why people rag on Man of Steel.

hiei82 on 28th May 2015, 6:53 PM

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What GAZZA said. Superman is the character who, when faced with the hard choice of killing his enemy or letting others die, takes the third choice where he saves the people and stops the villain without killing.

His drama comes not from making him face a hard choice and making the best he can, his drama comes from finding a way to break the hard choice and find a solution that helps everyone; the villain included.

In a "proper" superman movie, Man of Steel would have ended with the Kryptonians terraforming and colonizing Venus or something before the invasion even began, then setting up peaceful relations between the two civilizations... even if it meant he had to fly around the earth so fast it reversed the rotation of the planet and sent him traveling back in time :p

Plague on 28th May 2015, 8:53 PM

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Let us not speak of THAT particular movie my friend.

Hamof on 29th May 2015, 12:02 AM

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You both have good points, but none of that changes the fact that Zod is just as powerful as Superman, and completely nuts ("KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!") so he wasn't going to accept a peaceful solution, and if he escaped the phantom zone, where else would be able to contain him? I realize this isn't the comicverse, but let's assume that he has the same capabilities in Man of Steel.

GAZZA on 29th May 2015, 2:23 AM

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I would simply argue that if you can't figure out a way to have Zod as the villain that doesn't involve Superman killing him, then you shouldn't have used Zod as the villain in the first place.

Consider this is a reboot - an origin story, almost. If you come out of the gate with Superman killing someone, then you really only have two possibilities for the next movie. You either have to have him angst over it and decide "never again" - which, ignoring how awful it is to have Superman-Emo suggests that he DID have a choice or at least WILL have later - or else you have him accept the fact that sometimes he has to kill, making him a godlike being willing and able to execute if he deems it necessary. I would suggest in either case you have a superhero that is, at best, Superman-In-Name-Only.

To be honest I don't even think that was the biggest problem with Man of Steel, but that's the one our host wishes us to address, and I stand by my position: if you have a Superman story that requires him to kill, you rewrite that sucker until you have a better one where he doesn't. If you can't do that, then withdraw from the project so that somebody else can take over.

Hamof on 29th May 2015, 6:59 AM

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I think my problem here is that I read a lot of Harry Potter fanfiction by authors who actually know what they're doing, so I'm used to it being so that if it's a story where the main character and the big bad are about evenly matched (Harry is usually the underdog, at least at first.) then people are going to die, and Harry is going to have to kill voldemort, because there's not a prison in existence that can actually hold him. There have been exceptions of course, stories where some kind of "magic-free" prisons have been built to contain him (Which usually winds up killing him due to the nature of his body by that point anyway.) and such, but still. That's why it doesn't bother me that Superman killed Zod.

Wm

Wm on 29th May 2015, 4:09 AM

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Just going to point out here, that people rarely if ever escape the phantom zone
The fifth deminisional wizard with the funny hat ripped himself in half (killing himself off for real in the process) just to avoid that place
The phantom zone is not superman's arcam, it is his normal last resort weapon

If it could hold Shao-Kahn, and it could hold Mxyztplk, I'm pretty dang sure it could hold zod

Hamof on 29th May 2015, 6:56 AM

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I'm pretty sure Zod did escape at one point in the comics, so there you go.

Devlerbat on 31st May 2015, 10:27 PM

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There was a million things Superman could have done instead of killing Zod, so don't give me that "would you prefer he let them die" bs. >:(

(Not to mention the fact that the family could have just ran away, showing how badly done in general that scene was.)

Wm

Wm on 29th May 2015, 4:09 AM

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Just going to point out here, that people rarely if ever escape the phantom zone
The fifth deminisional wizard with the funny hat ripped himself in half (killing himself off for real in the process) just to avoid that place
The phantom zone is not superman's arcam, it is his normal last resort weapon

If it could hold Shao-Kahn, and it could hold Mxyztplk, I'm pretty dang sure it could hold zod

Catprog on 22nd Sep 2015, 4:39 AM

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He didn't fly fast enough to reverse the rotation of the planet, he travels back in time with the camera.

As it was traveling back in time of course the planet was rotating backwards.

the code

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thebatman on 28th May 2015, 11:19 PM

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No matter the circumstances, I believe there's always another option. I don't kill, because killing makes us stoop to "Their" level, something heroes simply don't do.
However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't have a contingency plan, as I have with the Justice League.
recurring villains make things more interesting anyway.

This isn't Youtube.

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Otaku on 29th May 2015, 7:59 AM

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You're posting under a webstrip where the fan base consists mostly of RPG players, comic book/movie fans, or both. Why is that relevant?

Because it means we all know that Batman has indeed killed before. Plus Batman tends to have his own famous hypocrite moments, especially looking at movie continuity so this is a terrible place to do the role-play thing (...which may itself seem paradoxical given what I said about this strip appealing to RPG players, but Comicfury wasn't set-up for a giant role-playing game and so you don't have a character sheet, game system rules and a GM to help you keep in character ;) ).

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thebatman on 29th May 2015, 11:47 PM

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I agree, just wanted to stay true to the role playing aspect.
Although Batman has killed before, it only happened two or three times: in the early Bob Kane version, and in "final crisis", where he kills Darkseid.
I also think this idea of going over the edge will play into "Superman v Batman"

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Otaku on 31st May 2015, 12:21 PM

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Since we are discussing movie Superman, shouldn't we also include movie Batman? If he doesn't kill, he still takes reckless actions that could easily have proven lethal and will "not save" someone... which when it is legitimately within his power to do, is indeed the same as killing them.

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Otaku on 29th May 2015, 8:16 AM

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A bit annoyed since posting a completely separate comment won't register as a "response" for this discussion but then again... I'm responding to everyone and now one. =P The writers put Superman into a situation where he had to kill Zod. I think Zod makes for a good Superman villain so I think it is was a bad move to kill him off, but it doesn't make Superman all "dark and gritty". It does expose the side of him that is all too easy to forget; Superman is a man with great power and with great power comes great responsibility.

...

Yes I went there; it is amazing that someone writing Superman for the 20 or so years he existed before Spider-Man didn't coin that phrase. Superman has so much power and it would be so much easier for him to simply kill his foes... but under most circumstances, that would be murder. Because Superman can stop them without resorting to killing and Clark worries that if he has to go that far he's putting himself above the law. So he'll take extra hits and suffer injury (even through his increased resistance to damage) so that as many as possible, including his foes, can be spared.

What happened with Zod, ignoring that I don't like losing Zod as a villain (or having to get him back with any of the various cliches), this would have been a good move for the second or third Superman movie of a new continuity. The first movie or two should have focused on Superman, since they went the "origin" story route, just needed the collateral damage to help us understand the character and his burdens and blessings better. Less damage I will add than we saw in the actual movie. The second one should have shown his willingness to allow himself to be battered if it means not only the people he's protecting, not only his foes, but often even his surroundings will avoid being injured.

Then in the third movie it happens. Someone so powerful that Superman, even when he allows himself to take a pounding, has to go all out. This third movie is where the devastation is widespread and where in order to keep even more lives from being lost, Superman must resort to lethal force because every second he waits, more lives are lost. And we get to see that yes, this is the most painful thing for him. This is what even Superman fears.

SeriousBiz on 29th May 2015, 9:41 AM

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The social implications of a "hero" taking a life are terrible, though. Once a hero sets the example that killing someone is okay if you deem them deserving of it, those who look up to him or her will decide that killing is something "good" people do, if they can just find someone "evil" enough to do it to, thus creating new murderous vigilantes, all deciding for themselves who is "evil enough" to "deserve death". Not exactly a good model to build a better society on, methinks.

Nobody just chooses to become evil. Most evil people believe they're on the side of the right, which is why certain acts need to be socially acknowledged as evil under all circumstances, full stop; otherwise, there is no functional difference between heroes and bad guys deciding to deal out their own special brand of justice.

Morality is about how you behave, not how others behave. You cannot excuse yourself from acting morally just because someone else isn't doing it. Doing so simply means that underneath your hypocritical facade, all you were waiting for was a justification to begin killing. How does that make you a hero? Once you start justifying the act of killing "out of necessity", as you could say, you're giving yourself an excuse from behaving morally, thus becoming a villain yourself.

An act is an act, the justification of that act is something else. Once you set on the slippery slope of justifying murder when you feel the enemy has deserved it, you're on the road to becoming an even more horrifying murderer yourself. Justifying taking your first life is the hardest thing to do. Justifying your second murder is significantly easier.

Do you think Batman would stop killing if he managed to rationalize the murder of the Joker to himself? Of course not. Next, Zsasz would go, then Deadshot, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, the Penguin and so on. He would indeed become a monster lurking in the dark, looking for an excuse to give in to his basest desires to hurt others. Worst of all, he might still think he's being the hero, even as Jim Gordon and the other Gotham heroes were hunting him down.

Though I don't think it would go that far. Batman has enough self-awareness to know that once he breaks his only rule, he can no longer justify being the Batman.

Still, there's a big difference between killing a villain to stop them from murdering a bunch of people and justifying murder. The former can be equated to self-defense. You make an action that will stop someone from harming others. If you still have the capability to feel empathy, you will feel bad about doing it. There's nothing wrong with feeling bad for hurting someone else, their level of evil be damned. That means you will do your hardest to learn from that and make sure it never needs to happen again.

Though Man of Steel handled that moment pretty abysmally (seriously, killing was his only option in that situation? Are you kidding me?), the idea was sound. Superman was shown to be devastated after the fact, just like in the end of Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow. As he should be, because he values all life, not just the life of those he deems "worthy to live".

GAZZA on 29th May 2015, 6:57 PM

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Ah, but the whole point of What Ever Happened... was that this was the LAST Superman story. That, after crossing that line, Superman no longer exists.

It wouldn't have been appropriate as an origin story. :)

SeriousBiz on 29th May 2015, 8:50 PM

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My point exactly. There is a difference, a subtle but crucial one. In WHttMoT, Superman makes a conscious decision to murder Mxyzptlk as "he can't allow someone as powerful and evil to live". Whether there was an alternative or not, what Superman does is calculated murder, not a desperate act of self-defense. Superman knows this, and in remorse, he quits being Supes. It is a powerful (if merely speculative) ending to the character.

In Man of Steel, the situation is slightly different. Zod can be contained, he has been contained before, but Superman is put in a situation where he only has the time-pressured choice to let Zod kill defenseless civilians, or to kill Zod himself. I maintain that the situation felt phoned in and unsatisfying (Supes really couldn't just block Zod's eye beams with his hand or something?), but there ya go.

I think the important part is that Superman handles the act as a tremendous personal failure, not as a victory. Had it been the latter, I would agree that the character was Superman in name only, as the real Superman would never start justifying such an act to himself in the name of preserving his ego. He is much too honest for that.

But honestly? I feel that a Superman who would have been forced to make that split-second choice once would be a Superman who works that much harder to make sure it never comes to that again. It is an interesting take on the character, and I would love to see how they follow through with that in future stories.

GAZZA on 30th May 2015, 12:59 AM

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You certainly raise an interesting point SeriousBiz.

There are, of course, other ways to look at this, and I suggest we examine other cases when Superman has killed, at least the Silver Age.

OK. One immediate elephant in the room is Doomsday. Supes at least TRIED to kill Doomsday, was prepared to do this knowing he might well not survive himself.

The fight between Supes and DD shows him trying absolutely everything he can to avoid killing the dude first, up to and including getting all his mates involved (a problem that MoS may well have retroactively, depending on how the sequel goes). Nothing else worked - indeed, DD literally beat the rest of the Justice League with one hand tied behind his back.

With Zod, it's hard to really believe we were at that point. He had the general restrained; could he not have flown into space? Knock him out? Or at least used his leverage to just turn his head so that the heat vision was pointed in a relatively harmless direction?

Devlerbat on 30th May 2015, 12:20 AM

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Define "devastated". His big dramatic "NOOOO!" shows him to be upset, sure, but to me "devastated" is a bit longer lasting than that. Instead the movie cuts to him throwing satellites in front of a general in order to tell the government to back off.

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Otaku on 31st May 2015, 12:27 PM

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The social implications of anyone taking a life are terrible. It is a horrible thing to do but sometimes it must be done. What worries me is you constantly toss around "murder" for seemingly all termination of human (or equivalent) life: according to you every soldier and every police officer that has been given no choice but to kill another are murderers.

Devlerbat on 31st May 2015, 10:34 PM

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"The social implications of anyone taking a life are terrible."

Something that, imo, the movie failed to get across. (Though the did give an attempt, just a very lazy one.)

Devlerbat on 30th May 2015, 12:14 AM

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It depends on the individual characters in question. For Batman I always saw his no kill rule as Batman knowing he is not entirely stable. The death of his parents left in him a rage that he has never been able to quench, but has spent his whole life trying to control towards more benevolent actions. He believes that if he crossed that line he would give in to his rage and fall down a slippery slope that he would not recover from. In the end that slippery slope would make him no different than the villains. He kills Darksied in the comics, but only when he believed he would die right afterwords.

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Zilfallion on 30th May 2015, 12:54 AM

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I tend to look at this situation as very similar to how I play a paladin. I often take a feat from the Book of Exalted Deeds within 3.5 to deal nonlethal damage, and against most things, yes, my paladin deals nonlethal damage, and often tries to turn in survivors to the town guard/nearest authority figure. But when you're facing down something you know isn't going to stay in prison if you could even get it there, that's seriously threatening you or your allies. You kill it so it doesn't have the chance to harm others.

This reminds me of a fun quote from a D&D webseries I just found out has 2 more seasons I never watched. "I'm 442 years old. I know what happens when they leave the bad guy alive."

GAZZA on 30th May 2015, 1:03 AM

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That would be the same D&D where Raise Dead exists, right? :)

Seriously, non-lethal attacks and imprisonment are actually arguably better tactics to take down a dangerous foe in D&D - unless you're prepared to take a walk on the wild side and use Animate Dead on the corpse to prevent resurrection magic working.

Mind you, D&D heroes aren't exactly cast from the Superman/Batman mould. Generally speaking, D&D is a game about kicking in doors, killing people, and taking their stuff - but even the most intricate D&D campaigns likely assume that PCs are going to kill their enemies rather than try to bring them to trial. Do they even have dragon prisons?

Note to self...

Subterran on 30th May 2015, 1:29 AM

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Note to self. Next campaign I write, include a dragon prison.

End on 30th May 2015, 10:10 PM

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So this is the "Prisoner's Dilema" (not the game theory one) you hear of in D&D. You have a person/being that is irredeemable evil and will never change and you know they will escape/you can't put them in prison (like you are in the middle of a forest and the town is 20 miles away). Its especially annoying when you now that the person/being will probably just be given the death penalty when you get to town.
Examples include children orcs, the son of a villain (who will seek revenge later on) and powerful Psionics.

End on 30th May 2015, 4:28 PM

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The non-killing heroes should never kill more so because of the setting than real life morality. Its a fantasy, not the real world. Superman should never kill because he is in the Superman universe, much like how the Care Bears don't kill people because they are in the Care Bear universe. Likewise, Superman should never be put in a situation where he is forced to kill.

In the real world killing bad guys is fine and we do it a lot, but if its OK for Super/Bat/Spider man to kill one bad guy, why not just kill all of them? In Man of Steel Superman kills Zod to save a family of 5ish. Why didn't he do that before when tens of thousands of people died due to dozens of skyscrapers collapsing?
Aside: though Zod is the bizarre exception of Superman villains having been killed in Superman 3, the comics and then in MoS. Dude can't catch a break.

In the Superman universe there are flying aliens, knocking people out has no negative repercussion, buildings have no people in them, and there is always a non-lethal way to deal with the bad guys.

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kidra on 30th May 2015, 7:51 PM

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You have very good points, but now the only thing I can think about is killer care bears. That sounds like a comic that needs to be made.

GAZZA on 30th May 2015, 9:08 PM

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Well there is the Robot Chicken episode.

Stuff and Stuff on 31st May 2015, 12:44 AM

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I know the Zod thing has been done to death, so how about we talk about another problem, the buildings of Metropolis toppling over killing who knows how many people and Superman not trying to save them. In probably any other story he would knock the bad guy away with a strong blow and try to save the building with freeze breath or something.

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kidra on 31st May 2015, 7:39 AM

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I dunno about that actually. I've seen a number of shows where he's fighting in metropolis and stuff is getting wrecked all over.

GAZZA on 31st May 2015, 7:35 PM

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Really? Because frankly I think the fact that Superman appears utterly unconcerned for the destruction he's causing is the thing that makes the sudden concern over the family feel really forced and difficult to believe.

Consider the similar scene at the end of Avengers 2, and how they explicitly concentrated on saving civilians as a high priority. There are claims this was done in direct contrast to MoS, specifically because it annoyed a lot of people that Supes didn't seem to care (it certainly annoyed me).

Devlerbat on 31st May 2015, 10:46 PM

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Heh. I still love the scene where Iron Man buys an unfinished building before wrecking it. :D

Devlerbat on 31st May 2015, 10:57 PM

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To talk about Man of Steel in particular (and to clarify some of my scattered responses to previous posts) my problem with Zod's death scene wasn't that Superman killed Zod, but everything else about it.

Superman was not forced to kill Zod and had plenty of other options. He could have covered his eyes, slammed his head into the ground, flown off, or told the family to run. (And to be honest I am sure there are also things I haven't thought of because I am not as smart as Superman is SUPPOSED to be.)

Which brings me to my second problem, that the family could have just freaking ran. They had plenty of room and Zod was moving his eye lasers very slowly, meaning they had the time to run as well.

My third problem is that Superman's turmoil over taking the life completely glossed as if he didn't have any REAL problem with it. Just a quick "NOOOO!" and then we cut to him breaking (even more) government property and telling the military to get out of his face.

Wtf

Stranger Danger on 1st Jun 2015, 6:16 AM

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Three updates, no comics.

Not to sound unappreciative - but I could give three shits over recycled nerd arguments. I want to read the comic not a bunch of whiny petulant arguments over a two year old movie that isn't even from the same company.

For fuck's sake.

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kidra on 1st Jun 2015, 7:18 AM

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I agree that it's not fair to have this many updates with no progress. Unfortunately since this is a hobby for us, real life gets in the way. We're still trying to figure out what to do to make updates more consistent, but for now we figured something was better than just not updating, if only to let everyone know we haven't just given up.
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