Civilian Common Sense

MARVEL’s Civil War rocked the industry. There is no doubt about that. It not only changed up the entire MARVEL universe and how the characters were approached, as well as forever altering the relationships between certain characters, but it redefined what it was to be a super hero in that universe, changing them from vigilante’s with powers and a sense of morality, to registered government sanction agents like Police Officers with powers. Now, this idea of monitoring the damage done by hero’s is commonplace to a the public’s reaction to any new hero, not just in MARVEL, but everywhere.

The fuck is Sentry doing? Doesn’t he know he could kill like… EVERYTHING if he fights? I mean, that was why he didn’t want to fight the Hulk in WWH wasn’t it?

They were not the first to introduce the idea that the people they are protecting may not be appreciative of the means by which they protect them. Watchmen introduced that idea long before, but being a stand alone story, it’s effects were not as great, unless you count Civil War as a product of Watchmen. But now that this idea has taken full hold over the way hero’s are viewed in their respective universes it leaves one wondering why it wasn’t a standard from the start. MARVEL alone has the Punisher running around killing thousands of people, bad guys and mobsters true, but doesn’t that go against the very nature of law and order as set forth by society? The very society he is attempting to uphold and protect no less? And how much collateral damage has Batman or the Hulk caused while fighting their enemies? These people would not have been put up with in the real world.

Punisher gives no fucks about killing bad guys.

And what of their enemies? Lex Luthor got elected president of the United States while being the most obvious villain ever. The Joker once, though briefly, was the ambassador for Iran. How many super villains continue to live as their billionaire selves? If these people existed in the real world, with how flamboyantly they go about their business, they would not be in the positions they find themselves in. Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke” saw a near catatonic James Gordon tell Batman to bring in the Joker by the book despite his paralyzing of his daughter, moving later to have Batman share a laugh with the Joker while offering him help. But who really does that? Who, in their right mind, would allow someone who does those things to live? Furthermore, who would beg to have them brought in correctly? During one crossover, the Punisher comes across the Joker and tries to kill him, only to be thwarted by none other than the Batman himself. Yes. Batman saves the Joker, the culprit of literally hundreds of murders and thousands of crimes, from the Punisher. And let’s be honest, the Punisher is the only realistic super hero. He has no super powers. He is just a well trained guy who uses guns, and really, if these bad guys actually existed and did the things they do in the books, would we have any other choice but to kill them on sight the way he does?


Point being, comics go about things in a highly rediculous manner. Yes, I know, they are comics so that stuff is to be expected. But when we are asked to believe that these characters exist in this world, isn’t it going just a little too far into the realm of ridiculousness to think they wouldn’t kill these super villains? It’s the only logical thing to do when locking them away barely gives a week respite from their murderous antics. All in all, the way super hero’s save the world doesn’t ever really save anybody, it just prolongs the amount of time they have to wait till the villains inevitably kill them.

After what he did to Barbara and you how could you NOT want him dead Jim?
After what he did to Barbara and you how could you NOT want him dead Jim?

Which brings me, finally, back to my point with Civil War. This universe rocking effect of the registration act, so wild for a comic hero, is really the most logical and realistic thing is it not? If these super powered people actually existed, would we really allow them to run free the way they do in comics while their nemesis wreak havoc? As Tony Stark says in Civil War, the people are fed up with supers. I am surprised it took them THAT long considering the collateral damage that comes from their super powered slug fests. So in a world where super hero’s exist, the strangest and most unrealistic thing is not THAT they exist, but that the rest of the people didn’t get pissed off sooner. This is finally being caught onto by comic writers and their movie making counter parts too as The Dark Knight finds Bruce Wayne struggling with the idea of enduring the public’s hatred of him, seeing him as the reason for the Joker, and Kick-Ass 2’s use of the plot twist that the president calls for an end to costumed crime fighting. It’s nice to see people acting like people in these stories because in real life, if we saw a man running around dressed as a bat, he’d be in Arkham right next to the Joker while Spiderman and the Hulk would be locked in some secret government lab having tests done on them constantly and Tony Stark would most likely have used his knowledge to keep making guns and money, because out of all the unbelievable stuff I have read in comics, the fact that the public puts up with these seemingly insane vigilantes whose actions barely run the side of good and almost never legal is the most unbelievable.

City is destroyed, Iron Man is near dead and NOW you decide to act???


  3 comments for “Civilian Common Sense

  1. cottontail
    March 22, 2013 at 8:33 am

    I feel like you’re addressing the idea of realism from a few different angles here, and I want to try to respond to them separately.

    How many super villains continue to live as their billionaire selves? If these people existed in the real world, with how flamboyantly they go about their business, they would not be in the positions they find themselves in.

    Villains in superhero comics do seem to be unrealistically skilled at evading any action taken by standard police and military forces – or, viewed another way, the police and military forces in superhero comics seem unrealistically ineffective. I think this is actually an important structural element of traditional superhero narratives: a world in which superheroes exist is a world in which they must exist, because there is crime that the government cannot fight alone. I specify “traditional” here because there are comics, like Watchmen and Kick-Ass, that choose to subvert this and show superheroism as a personal pursuit, but the archetypal model is superheroism as the answer to a public need for justice.

    So to me, the unrealistic ability of supervillains to repeatedly evade and escape capture seems like a kind of genre trope for which the readers are asked to suspend their disbelief, the same way they suspend their disbelief of superpowers. I think the issue of superheroes’ actions being unrealistic for their impracticality is actually a different issue.

    isn’t it going just a little too far into the realm of ridiculousness to think they wouldn’t kill these super villains? It’s the only logical thing to do when locking them away barely gives a week respite from their murderous antics. All in all, the way super hero’s save the world doesn’t ever really save anybody, it just prolongs the amount of time they have to wait till the villains inevitably kill them.”

    This can be understood as more of a problem of pragmatism than a problem of realism. You used Batman as an example, and I think that was a good choice, because he might be one of the worst offenders in terms of indirectly allowing villains to continue killing; I believe there have been many instances of other characters confronting him about this. But Batman’s personal, emotional conviction against killing always takes precedence over his knowledge that by killing one criminal, he could prevent many civilian deaths. This makes him an ineffective crime-fighter, certainly, along with all the other superheroes who allow murderous villains to survive and inevitably escape, but it doesn’t make him an unrealistic character. (I don’t think Batman is a realistic character, by any means, but his refusal to kill is not what I find unrealistic about him.) People often do not act in the most logical ways, especially if the practical course of action would take an emotional toll on them, as it would to kill another person.

    I think there’s always a tension in superhero comics between logic and ideals – specifically, the ideal of justice. Is it more important for a superhero to be morally good, or to get results by any means necessary? Different readers take different sides of this argument; there are people who would rather see the Punisher “go against the very nature of law and order” to effectively fight crime, and there are others who would prefer to read about a hero they can admire and relate to on a moral level. The fact that Marvel’s Civil War addressed this conflict literally and directly, by centering on a debate between the protection of the public and the ethical treatment of superheroes, is what I personally think made it so disruptive to the superhero comics genre.

  2. rpatters
    March 22, 2013 at 8:43 am

    I agree with this viewpoint. While the idea of superheroes in real life would be chaotic, vigilantism would also rise. For an example, since some think the police can be corrupt at times, one might start a movement of an “unofficial” justice movement that is composed of Punisher like people. With both movements it could cause even more disorder, going against their main cause. Another example of this happening with a superhero was with the Planet Hulk story arc. In it, the Illuminati decides to send the Hulk into space because of his amount of damage he tends to do.

  3. chocobunnysk
    March 22, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Very nice post. I also have my own problems with the entirety of the Civil War crossover. The biggest point was that the individual writers of each of the heroes had a different stance on the act itself, and so that lead to a lot of characters on the other side of the heroes acting like idiots. I guess one could argue that a big part of being a superhero, especially during the silver age, was being able to do what they felt like with their powers, and being covered by the mysterious hero’s insurance, thus being a form of wish fulfillment on the writer’s part. This seems to be prevalent in a great deal of hero stories, as realism was not a popular choice of story writing, because that would limit the hero and what the writers could do with them.

    However, there are exceptions. The biggest two in the Marvel Universe would have to be Spiderman, who has to juggle the his private and hero life and be constantly harassed by the officials there, and the X-Men, who from the beginning were subject to prejudice and discrimination for being ‘freaks’. Since the X-Men already had their own arc which ended up with them being registered in their own form, they sat this one out wisely.

    Now the idea needs a bit of modification, but on the main part of being registered and trained is the most sane part of the contract. The whole reason why the issue started was because the heroes pursuing the villain that caused the explosion were not prepared to handle it. Worse off, if I recall correctly, they were trying to film the whole ordeal for entertainment for the masses, while the villain was just trying to lay low and not start anything, having just escaped prison. I can see your point of the sudden media outcry, but again, I point to the fact that prior to this, a lot of the heroes did not have to deal with this sort of stuff because the stories were focused on the heroes fighting their enemies on a weekly basis.

    The biggest problem with the registration would have to be the public unmasking of the heroes. While there should be a way to keep track of who’s under the mask, just in case there suddenly came a bunch of villainous copycats, giving away your secret identity is just plain stupid. For obvious reasons, really. As soon as you give up your name and face, the villains will just be able to more easily target those you care about. For example Peter Parker himself, who was the first to unmask, had his aunt shot. Ignoring the problems and facepalm-worthiness that is One More Day, what did he expect to happen, especially since he kept it a secret from the loved ones themselves? They had no time to prepare for what may happened; suddenly one day they become a priority on a villain’s hit list. The only hero I can think of that actually shared their ID with loved ones would be probably the most recent incarnation of the Blue Beetle from the DC Universe.

    Now onto the question of why not just kill the Joker? Well, for one, it’s easier for writers to reuse the same villain instead of having to come up with a new one. Fans also like heroes having arch nemesis that constantly challenge the hero’s morals. I’m pretty sure there was a story of what happens if Batman decided to kill of the Joker, and that ended up with him turning the place into a crime-free police state. In story, I would argue that having a villain reoccur would be much better than the alternative. Think about it, once you kill off the Joker, especially since Gotham is a wretched hive, there will come a villain to one-up the Joker in terms of casualty, and things will be much worse off than before. I know there are some things that are unforgivable from a realist standpoint, but then again Batman originally wasn’t supposed to lie hard on realism, being a capped bat-costumed superhero.

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