Batman’s Morality on Killing

There’s something to be said for Silver Age, caper-oriented Joker.

He’d do a wacky, themed heist or something, yeah, you can believe Batman and Gotham’s law enforcement wouldn’t be as desperate to lock him up, throw away the key, and weld the doors shut. Not to mention, those heists could be entertaining and inventive.

Now when the Joker shows up it’s “Oh, he’s gonna kill a bunch of people and muse about how he and Batman are the same/do some crime and hurt people specifically to torment Batman”. For a chaotic, unhinged character he’s become very predictable.


it’s hard to keep up with all your various references. this is mostly my head canon: Batman doesn’t kill not because it is easy, but because it is hard. By going out of his way not to kill is just another means of challenging himself to keep him on top of his game. I suspect the temptation to do so would be almost ever-present be it on patrol or throwing down with one of his rogues or some no name hood that happens to cross his path.

Aside from the writer’s having to come up with new villains after every kill, the core of it is simply choosing to kill would make him as bad as the villains he is trying to stop. making that choice would also seal his fate as just another vigilante that the police would need to stop. I kind of like the idea that it’s not so much a “no kill” code as it is a “no murder” code (i think it was Acolyte?) because there can be a situation where he had to kill in order to survive (especially if well written).

This idea sort of ties into an earlier thread that unfortunately died where that thread’s author posited having Batman stories focusing more on redemption or reaching the person behind the criminal persona.

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That’s pretty much Batman’s point of view. I understand it. It’s interesting to me that so many people buy into it, and apply it to their own world view. I think I recall reading Batman state that he wouldn’t kill even if it were to save his own life, but I don’t remember where I read that.

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The silver and Bronze Age Joker is far better and far more of a true chaos inducing villain. His Bronze Age series is great. Ever since killing joke, the Joker has fell in my view as a great villain. He has become a mirror of Batman’s morality rather than his proper mirror of chaos vs order.

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I’m of two minds.

Life is valuable; once taken, it’s gone (then again, the revolving door of deaths and resurrections can make killing someone seem less permanent), Batman shouldn’t set out to kill people. Then again, there are definitely circumstances in which killing someone is, if not good, then at least justifiable. That’s just a fact. When you engage with people who are trying to kill, you sometimes have to do what you have to do. So the answer is, as usual, complicated. It’s good to hold people accountable under the rule of law, but it isn’t always possible to arrest them and get them to trial.

I get that Batman’s not real, and that having symbols who represent high moral standards are good, but we have to recognize that reality rarely allows us to hold to extremes in any way. Plus, let’s be honest; plot armor is the only reason the Joker survives. Everything else is a rationalization.

Even if Batman didn’t set out to kill, anytime a situation becomes violent, the potential for death or life-altering injury exists; this is why many of the people put in situations like that act to end those situations as quickly as possible, and then deal with the consequences when they have the luxury to stop and do so.

To reiterate, I don’t think that Batman should be a killer, he should to everything in his power to avoid killing and to save people who are in danger. But he’s fighting a war, and all wars have casualties, even if he hates it. Frankly, I think that, from a storytelling perspective, this is the superior option. Exploring how a character with high standards deals with a complicated world that doesn’t always allow him to live up to his own ideals is fertile ground for telling interesting stories.

Anyone else a fan of the JSA: the Liberty Files Elseworld? One of the things I found interesting about it was that it showed a Batman who had the same aversion to killing, but put him in a situation where he didn’t really have a choice in the matter.

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