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The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – So Did Captain America Kill People During World War II Or What?

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In this feature we examine comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today, based on a suggestion by reader Edward H., we take a look at the back and forth in Marvel Comics history over whether Captain America ever killed anyone during World War II.

Isn’t it hard to believe that I’ve never done and Abandoned an’ Forsaked on this topic? I’ve written a couple of times on the subject, but never for Abandoned an’ Forsaked.

Anyhow, during the Golden Age, Captain America killed relatively frequently. Here he is in his second issue ever…

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But the early 1940s was a bit of an odd time for comics. Batman was snapping dudes necks and gunning down bad guys from an airplane. So while yes, don’t get me wrong, it can still count as a retcon if it only happened in the 1940s and was changed in the 1960s, I think it is likely more interesting to see if the behavior carried over to the “Marvel Age.”

Luckily for this topic, it did. In the very first Silver Age Captain America story set during World War II, Tales of Suspense #64, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had Cap and Bucky clearly blow up a Nazi submarine with its crew still on it (minus the members that they captured)….

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In Tales of Suspsense #69, there’s Cap in his Steve Rogers secret identity shooting a rifle along with his fellow troops (no, that’s not proof that he killed anyone, it’s more part of a separate point that will come up with the retcon)…

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Much late, in 1977′s Invaders #21, Roy Thomas and Franks Robbins and Springer acknowledged that Cap isn’t a fan of guns (obviously, or else he’d carry one) but showed Cap using one anyways to shoot down enemy combatants…

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Then, of course, 1986′s Captain America #321-322 happened. First off, Mark Gruenwald and artists Paul Neary and John Beatty show Cap killing a terrorist when left with no other option than use the machine gun that he had in his hand as part of going undercover as a terorist…

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The following issue, Gruenwald drops the retcon bomb…

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Never carried a gun and never took a life until #321.

So that was the retcon for at least the rest of Gruenwald’s run.

In recent years, it has clearly been retconned once again. Cap has been shown killing in World War II a few different places, but I’ll use the recent Avengers: Endless Wartime graphic novel from last year by Warren Ellis and Mike McKone for now…

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Mostly because there’s the following exchange later in the book…

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Funny stuff.

Okay, there ya go, Erich! If anyone ELSE has suggestions for a future Abandoned an’ Forsaked, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!

106 Comments

Anyone thinking a soldier in a war never killed anyone is either an idiot or thinking of some rear echelon support person. Not a goddamn super-soldier.

War is hell. Really.

The reading public’s degree of acceptance of violence has certainly grown since the mid 1980s.

What I find hilarious is Cap going undercover as a terrorist… while still wearing his Cap mask.

“Hey, Bob… I think that new guy’s Captain America…”
“Don’t be ridiculous! He’s wearing the terrorist uniform, isn’t he?”
“I guess you’re right.”

I hope there was some effort made to explain that, but even if so, I’m cracking up at it regardless.

Yes, that was not one of Gruenwald’s better ideas.

Cap had been a full face mask (part of the Ultimatum uniform) over the top of his regular mask. He had pulled it off just before the scene where is forced to shoot the terrorist.

In fairness, Cap not killing in the War had been established before Gruenwald; Marv Wolfman had Cap mutter or think something to that effect way back in Avengers v.1 #169, a rather sub-par fill-in during Jim Shooter’s first run on the title.

Yeah, as a super soldier at the forefront in WWII, he would have of course had to use violence and probably would have had to kill enemy soldiers. I think it’s reasonable that someone like Cap could reconcile that he has killed in service of his country while at war, but would absolutely not do so in peace. Experience in war leading to a respect for life.

Yes, Logan’s insistence there’s no difference between them is singularly unconvincing.

Mark had some very Silver Age DC ideas about super-heroes. He had to get rid o the super soldier serum because ti was “drugs”. Cap never killed anyone in WWII…it was a very odd run in a lot of ways.

Here it is, from page 14, panels 1-2 of Avengers v.1 #169: “No matter how many times I’ve fought for my own survival — I’ve stopped before killing. If…if I degrade myself…If I become nothing more than a vicious murderer — even in defense of the causes I struggle for — then I’m as bad as the fiends I battle…and the name Captain America becomes a hollow mockery of justice and truth!”

Later, in Captain America v.12 #241, a Mike W. Barr fill-in featuring the Punisher, Cap says the following, on page 27, panel 1: “There’s soemthing you should learn, Punisher. Oh, I’ve carried a gun a few times in my career, but I’ve never willingly taken a life and I never will!”

Earlier, on page 23 panel 6, Cap tells the Punisher: “Wake up, soldier — you think you’re the only one who’s eve lost a loved one? Sure it’s a war — but if you fight on their terms, you’re no better than they!” (The Punisher is also really out of character in that story, though; he actually berates himself near the end for not killing Captain America for interfering with his vigilantism!)

So it may have been some sort of creeping editorial policy before Gruenwald, thoiugh Gru was certainly the first writer (and the only regular Cap writer) to emphasize the idea so strongly.

Saying Cap never killed anyone when he fought in WWII, often on the front lines, is of course silly. But I think there’s some value in saying he doesn’t like it, and only does it when necessary/in the heat of battle. I mean, my grandpa fought in WWII too, he drove a freaking tank. But once he got home, he put all that away. There’s a difference between killing, and being a killer.

Great post, Brian. Some comments:

1.Yeah, the movement towards retconning Cap’s service in WW2 does predate Gruenwald (cf Omar’s posting), but Gruenwald was the guy who tried to make it official MARVEL policy.

2. Golden Age vs Silver Age: Seeing as how MARVEL policy from the early ’60s on was that Golden Age stuff only counted if it was referenced in a post-FF 1 comic, I don’t think that we can really count Golden Age instances of Cap killing.

3. Silver Age: But Silver Age examples really do count! This was the foundation of the MARVEL age, ground zero for continuity. And Cap in Silver Age stories set in WW2 did kill. Besides the examples that you gave,Brian, one that really sticks out is TALES OF SUSPENSE 71. In that one, Cap launches a V2 at German troops who are attacking American Rangers (the soldiers with whom Cap was serving alongside in TOS #69).
For that matter, Cap was still willing to kill in Stan Lee stories set after WW2. In CAPTAIN AMERICA 113 (by Lee and Steranko) Cap has Rick Jones blow up the fuel tank on Cap’s motorcycle, which blows some approaching HYDRA troopers to smithereens.

Michael P:”Saying Cap never killed anyone when he fought in WWII, often on the front lines, is of course silly. But I think there’s some value in saying he doesn’t like it, and only does it when necessary/in the heat of battle.”

That’s an excellent point. Cap is not the Punisher or Wolverine. He does not enjoy the act of killing. And killing is not his first instinct. But he is willing to kill when the occasion demands it.

I think that one of the best illustrations of Cap’s ethos regarding killing occurs in DAREDEVIL 233. Nuke (the drug-using, bloodthirsty, Rambo-esque Supersoldier of the ’80s) is blasting his way through a group of MPs with a rifle. Suddenly, we hear the sound of bullets ricocheting and see Nuke’s face turn from murderous glee to shock. Then we see a full panel shot of Cap’s shield. At that moment, we see the difference between the gun and the shield, between a man who kills by instinct/preference and one who kills only out of necessity.

It’s worth noting that many of the Avengers started out as or have long been established as willing to kill: Iron Man’s origin story has him deliberately blowing up Wong Chu to avenge Professor Yinsen, Thor has centuries of giant-killing in his past, and the Wasp’s origin story has her helping Hank Pym kill the sentient alien that killed her father.

The “superheroes don’t kill” idea was partly the Comics Code, and partly just general softening for the younger audience: it happened in the 40s to Batman and Superman as they became popular, and it happened again in the 1960s and 1970s as other characters grew in popularity.

And starting around the late 1990s, it was slowly reversed so that even the “classic-model” heroes kill under certain circumstances; only Batman and Spider-Man have remained general exceptions, largely for reasons of characterization…and even there, Grant Morrison’s Batman was willing to kill in dire enough circumstances.

Here’s another blatant Silver Age example of Cap killing. In SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS 13 (by Lee and Kirby), Cap stops a planned Nazi invasion of Britain via a tunnel under the English Channel by blowing it up (pps. 21-22). The Nazi troops trapped inside drown (p 21, panel 7:” CAVE IN! VE’LL ALL BE BE DROWNED!!”).

Omar Karindu:”It’s worth noting that many of the Avengers started out as or have long been established as willing to kill: Iron Man’s origin story has him deliberately blowing up Wong Chu to avenge Professor Yinsen, Thor has centuries of giant-killing in his past, and the Wasp’s origin story has her helping Hank Pym kill the sentient alien that killed her father.”

Yeah, it’s interesting how many Silver Age MARVEL characters were established killers:

1. Reed Richards: as part of his original backstory, he was a behind the lines OSS operative in Europe. Hard to imagine that he made it through the war without killing his fair share of Nazis.

2. Ben Grimm: Marine fighter pilot in WW2.

3. Nick Fury. ‘Nuff Said

4. Thor

5. Iron Man

6. Charles Xavier: Soldier in the Korean War

Obviously everyone left the sub as part of the raiding party. To be fair, Cap and Bucky did capture and simply tie up the entire raiding party, so Cap and Bucky weren’t going out of their way to kill. On the pages shown, there wasn’t any mention of additional crew, so this very well could be one of those magic conveniences that comics, TV, movies, and the rest all rely on. (Same as how a movie character can cause multiple car crashes without a single death, superheroes don’t constantly cause mass casualties in their city battles, and giant monsters always attack abandoned warehouse districts. If you don’t see people afterwards, or hear mention of people afterward, then no one died.)

In the Cap with a rifle panel, if that is Cap with the thought bubble, then he’s lucky he didn’t kill that squad mate in front of him. With training that causes him to fire in the direction of an ally while looking in a different direction, maybe he made it through battles without killing anyone.

Cap shooting down planes goes back to the story convenience of how if you didn’t see a body, then no one died. Obviously Cap aimed to damage the planes so that the pilots would have to eject. Or he later pretended that he was fighting only unmanned drones.

Yeah, it is pretty silly to say a successful WWII hero didn’t kill anyone. But, comics… (and movies, and TV, and everything else.)

Billy:”Obviously everyone left the sub as part of the raiding party. To be fair, Cap and Bucky did capture and simply tie up the entire raiding party, so Cap and Bucky weren’t going out of their way to kill. On the pages shown, there wasn’t any mention of additional crew, so this very well could be one of those magic conveniences that comics, TV, movies, and the rest all rely on.”

Cap explicitly says that he does not want “them [the crew on the submarine] to get impatient” as he and Bucky launch the explosive laden raft their way.

I didn’t know this was up for debate. Of course he killed people during WWII, it was war and some enemy soldiers died along the way to get to where he was going.

I really like the Gruenwald Captain America story; it’s unfortunate though that it did a lot to increase Cap’s reputation as a weenie because it would have been a fine enough story with some minor changes.

First of all, Cap is incredibly justified in killing the terrorist, who is shooting at unarmed civilians. All through the story, though, Cap agonizes over some pretty silly things, like “sneaking up” on guys or whatever. If they wanted some gray area here, Cap could have shot the terrorist as the easiest means of ending the scenario.

However, I get that seems out of character for Cap so I’m okay with it. I also don’t mind Cap beating himself up over killing a man even if it was necessary–this is Captain America and beating yourself up is sort of his shtick. I would like Captain America to get upset over killing people, that’s what makes his character stand out. But the use of the omnisicent narration box to suggest he’s “never carried a gun or killed anyone” was dubious. At some point, someone (one of the other Avengers? A friend?) should have called him on the bullshit and told him that it wasn’t his fault (I forget, maybe someone does exactly that but I can’t recall right now).

I always saw Cap as seeing himself as an ex-soldier turned police officer. Has he killed in the past? Absolutely. Will he as a super-hero kill guys like the Constrictor or Batroc or some random bank robber? No. He’s too good (in both skills and morality) to do so.

Will he kill someone who’s about to kill innocents and Cap doesn’t see any other choice at that point in time? Yes. Absolutely. He’ll probably be bummed out for an evening or so that he had to but he will move on with his life.

Wolverine on the other hand pretty much sees himself as an assassin first and foremost and will never see himself differently.

The weird thing is that many of the same people who think it’s ridiculous that Cap can do a stint in WWII and never kill anyone somehow find it admirable that Batman is depicted as waging a war on all crime in a cesspool like Gotham yet he never kills anyone, ever. Sure it’s not an all-out war, but with all the psychotic serial killers and mass murderers there, DC writers express just as much a unrealistic Pollyannaish attitude about Batman not killing as Gruenwald did with Cap.

I wonder if the decision to portray Captain America as so unwilling to kill in the 1980s was an attempt to make him the ultimate paragon character of the Marvel universe – the equivalent to the early 1980s Superman and Supergirl. Other characters might consider killing or even kill – even Spider-man was tempted to cross the line “but not Cap!”.

He was certainly written as the pinnacle of humanity at the time – the perfect man in every way, the one we should aspire to be. And in the late 1970s and early 1980s, not killing under any circumstances was a common topic.

@ComicBook Coby – I think you missed the whole point of the “do you want to kill Nazis” question. If Steve had been trying to enlist because he was bloodthirsty and wanted to kill, then he wasn’t the guy Erskine was looking for. By saying he wanted to make a stand he was showing his character. He was going to war, he was well aware what that entailed, but it was the reason he was doing what he was doing that was being questioned.

One of my favorite parts of Brubaker’s run was those flashbacks to WW2 Michael Lark drew, and you saw Bucky Barnes as this sneaky little mothafucka who wouldn’t hesitate to slit a throat when the mission requires it. He was a 16-year old kid who could do the covert assassin shit that Cap and the soldiers didn’t do.

Because of course Bucky killed Nazis in WW2, he wasn’t just there for show

Jeremy: I loved when a few people complained about Bru’s reveal of Bucky as a badass in WW2, and he countered that Buck was seen fighting Nazis on the cover of one issue with a freaking flamethrower.

It’s interesting in general the acceptance of killing that’s generally seeped into the minds of readers. I’m not attempting to speak in favor or deference towards either portrayal, but it’s interesting to me that once upon a time there was a massive moral conundrum in Operation: Galactic Storm when half of the Avengers wanted to kill the Supreme Intelligence, but the more morally inclined half didn’t. Now, however, nobody bats an eye when Thor pulls his hammer through the chest of a Builder in Infinity. Again, I’m not trying to advocate or admonish either–it’s just interesting to me.

Robert Eddleman:”I loved when a few people complained about Bru’s reveal of Bucky as a badass in WW2, and he countered that Buck was seen fighting Nazis on the cover of one issue with a freaking flamethrower.”

You don’t have to go back to the Golden Age for that kind of stuff from Bucky. In TALES OF SUSPENSE 67 (page 9, panel 3), Bucky blasts a German soldier with machine gun fire at point blank range.

Cory, I don’t think fussing over the super-soldier serum being “drugs” is at all a Silver Age attitude. Back then taking Miraclo or anything else to give you super-powers was kosher, so long as you used them well. It’s much more a thing from the eighties Just Say No decade, which is also when All-Star Squadron took the view Hourman was addicted to Miraclo.
While it’s true many Marvel Silver Age character served in WW II, I don’t think that makes them “killers” in the sense the Punisher or Wolverine are.
Personally I prefer it when the heroes (outside of military service anyway) don’t kill. Often unrealistic, but it’s a worthy ideal.

The weird thing is that many of the same people who think it’s ridiculous that Cap can do a stint in WWII and never kill anyone somehow find it admirable that Batman is depicted as waging a war on all crime in a cesspool like Gotham yet he never kills anyone, ever. Sure it’s not an all-out war, but with all the psychotic serial killers and mass murderers there, DC writers express just as much a unrealistic Pollyannaish attitude about Batman not killing as Gruenwald did with Cap.

I dunno, I buy into the notion that Batman is pathologically averse to killing, which is generally how the whole thing has been justified. The part that baffles me is why (in-story) no Gotham cop or the like has ver just shot the Joker dead, how the insanity defense could possibly work in the DCU as compared to the real world where it’s basically a no-hoper in the few states that allow it, and how or why a bunch of gaudy lunatics even manage to get the funds and the secrecy to develop their elaborate plans.

Even then, the idea worked back when Batman was capable of, say stopping the Joker *before* he killed 500 people or preventing Two-Face from, I dunno, scarring one half of every pair of identical twins in the state. A lot of the the problems of the Batman books have less to do with Batman not killing the Joker — this is comics, so Neron or Etrigan or Ra’s al Ghul or whoever would just resurrect him three months later after his ghost took over half of Hell or for some scheme — and more to do with the decision to let the Joker carry out the horrible stuff he cooks up. Even if Batman kills his villains, what does it matter if he does that *after* several dozen or hundred people are dead each time out? Int hat case, he’s *still* the guy who can’t stop a mass murder from happening.

Gotham’s a cesspool, but it’s an absurd, impossible sort of cesspool in a lot of ways, most of which have little to do with Batman’s “policy” about killing and more to do with the writers lazily making every villain a mass murderer and every cop outside the five or so major supporting characters into an irredeemably corrupt stooge. Even the Punisher couldn’t clean that up unless he pulled a Grand Nixon Island stunt again.

More generally, we’re in a place where the villains manage to cause massive destruction, the heroes manage to kill everyone short of the popular villains, and thus the worlds of the DCU and MU are just carnivals of sad carnage minus the psychological and social consequences. As we know from real-world history, any *one* of the summer crossovers featuring mass destruction would put a long-term dent in the world economy, and these things happen three or four times a year! Heck, they happen even more frequently with the whole “sliding timeline” compression angle!

So either we accept that superhero universes work very differently from real life, or we demand finite stories and frequent, permanent character deaths and retirements. The first will actually happen; the second has billions in licensing dollars and media tie-ins working against it, because someone will always want to use the Joker again in those rebooted Batman movies or animated series or toyline or whatever. He comes back because the sales go up when he does; it’s the majority of readers, not the Batman, who refuses to give the Joker what he’s got coming.

Fraser:”While it’s true many Marvel Silver Age character served in WW II, I don’t think that makes them “killers” in the sense the Punisher or Wolverine are.”

Absolutely. With the Punisher or Wolverine it’s a matter of choosing when not to kill. With Captain America, it’s a matter of choosing when to kill. Very different mindsets.

I don’t actually think Batman not killing is any more Pollyannaish than the assumption heroes who do kill are only going to target actually guilty people. In the real world, even with all the procedural protection people get, innocent citizens have wound up on death row. The chance the Punisher or Batman would do any better, if we’re being realistic, is zero.

Stephen Conway

March 22, 2014 at 9:54 am

The topic of Cap killing came up in an issue of Avengers Academy a few years back. One of the kids killed someone during Fear Itself and started freaking out over it. Cap consoled him and said he’d killed in the past, and that while he didn’t like it sometimes it was necessary.

Captain America was a soldier. In a war. Of course he killed. He’d be derelict of duty if he didn’t.

Batman is a street vigilante. He’s not been drafted into military service or signed up. He’s not in a war. It doesn’t matter how many people Joker murders, it’s not his place to kill.

These two lines of thought do not contradict.

Of course, a lot could be said about the attitude toward killing over the years stretching from WWII to now, and a lot of the comics industry attitude probably has a lot to do with the age of readers. In the 40s and even 50s, bad guys got killed in movies aimed at all ages, especially if you’re talking Westerns. And whether you’d consider it propaganda or just a fact of life at the time, killing was justified during World War II, if it was soldiers facing off against soldiers. But superheroes are more like cops, going after individuals and fighting crime. And even the vengeful Batman is apparently interested in bring people to justice, turning them over to police, etc. The Punisher, the best example maybe, is a vigilante carrying out his own justice, and just has little concern over killing those who “deserve it”. Then in the late 50s you had the successful criticism of comics that had the industry running scared from any violence. Then, as you went through Vietnam in the 60s and 70s, any romanticized notions of war were tainted, so justified killing was harder to swallow for people.

But these days, the killing issue comes up more and more because the average comic book reader has become much, much older than the average reader in the 50s and 60s. And older people look at the world more realistically, or even cynically. Personally, I think I really good reason for superheroes to not kill people is that the law wouldn’t allow it. Batman is sometimes considered a dangerous vigilante, and Spider-Man’s always becoming a villain to citizens now and then. Imagine Jonah Jameson’s headlines if Spider-Man was actually killing people.

I can certainly buy that Cap doesn’t like killing people, and that he rarely does it now. But as a super-soldier in WW2, no way. I believe he killed people because it was a war and y’know shit happens.

Next up: has the Hulk ever killed anyone? Keep in mind that Greg Pak very carefully needled through that one in Incredible Hulk #110 (I think). I have no idea whether it was Pak or someone else who started that one.

“Here it is, from page 14, panels 1-2 of Avengers v.1 #169: “No matter how many times I’ve fought for my own survival — I’ve stopped before killing. If…if I degrade myself…If I become nothing more than a vicious murderer — even in defense of the causes I struggle for — then I’m as bad as the fiends I battle…and the name Captain America becomes a hollow mockery of justice and truth!”

Wow, it’s one thing to say that Cap didn’t kill in WWII (which is kind of silly), or that he had to but he didn’t enjoy doing it (which sounds about right), but this line of dialogue (is it by Wolfman?) comes off as really isensitive towards people who have had to serve, and sometimes kill, during wars!

A soldier who doesn’t kill during a war is outright nonsense. War is WAR. Such high morality and conduct are for great reading though (sanitized/romanticized maybe). At least, Wolverine is no HYPOCRITE whatsoever in terms of bloodshed. Yet, I’m glad Steve (and most writers) is consistent that he never ever relished killing, which is a different thing.

It seems clear to me that current interpretations of Captain America, reflecting the change in mood of the American public, are certainly far more willing to kill than they were 30 or 40 years ago.

Part of the reason is mishandled reaction to 9/11, of course. I believe some sort of political frustration also plays a role. And the deplorable moral standards of John Walker and of Ultimate Universe Captain America eased the transition for the current, highly questionable Captain America.

Either way, it is just too difficult to believe that the guy who actively patronizes such a concept as the “wetworks” (euphemism for assassin) team of the Secret Avengers has any significant aversion to killing. Or for that matter, any particular moral solidity.

Captain America could be a fascinating character if his political and moral conflicts were taken seriously (as they have been to a point with Bucky under the Winter Soldier and substitute Cap roles). But such a character study can only exist by endangering the “safe haven” role that Marvel insists on associating with the character, despite the increasingly ill fit.

To think of how good Cap stories could be were he allowed to grow organically as a character – and fall just as organically as well. Iron Man went through a comparable cycle since the early issues of New Avengers, and it did the character wonders in the relevance and interest departments.

The only true downside – and it can easily be argued that it is a blessing in disguise – is that it is very difficult to keep characters as viable storytelling tools if they are allowed to follow their due paths to the logical end.

That is however not so much a problem as a solution, because keeping characters static for half a century has made them distracting and unengaging. Marvel (and DC) should seriously consider rebooting their whole lines character-wise at set points in time -say, every decade or so – in order to restart fresh.

DC, at least, seem to be half-aware of that need already. It just did not embrace it quite seriously or skillfully enough.

^”Yeah, sorry Cap, we don’t all have peak level strength and speed and shield throwing powers so we can look down from a pedestal, some of us gotta make due with these here guns”

He’s not a killer.

He’s a soldier (and a warrior). There’s a difference.

There’s no time to negotiate on a battlefield.

And that makes him not a killer, how exactly?

Killing is killing.

I remember how surprised I was that people saw sense in giving the Punisher (or for that matter, Wolverine) their own books back in the day (not too long after that Gruenwald story, incidentally).

It got completely out of hand during the Dark Age of the 1990s.

Either way, despite what seems to be a strong desire of much of the readership to believe otherwise, killers are killers. Not heroes. Not “warriors” or “soldiers”, or at last if they are they are no less killers for that.

Heck, even Rick Jones and Wolfsbane are killers these days.

“Killer” has connotations of evil and malice. There’s nothing particularly evil or malicious about Soldier A killing Soldier B. Or, if there is, it doesn’t rest in the heart of Soldier A.

That is a popular perception these days.

And so very wrong.

What I find strange is that everyone more or less agrees it’s absurd to think Cap never killed anyone in his soldier days, but nobody points out how absurd it is to think Cap – or any superhero – never killed anyone in their time as a superhero. Superheroes regularly beat people unconscious, blow up enemy bases, and generally cause large scale destruction when fighting supervillains. It’s more ridiculous to believe that no one died during all those scenarios than that Cap didn’t kill in his comparatively short career as a soldier.

To take a recent example, before Superior, Doctor Octopus was dying basically because of the trauma his body had suffered after more than a decade of beatings from Spider-Man. If Ock had died from his condition (instead of the Superior switchup), then in a very real way, Spider-Man would have been responsible for his death. I’m not saying that makes Spider-Man a monster, only that, whether it was their intention or not, every superhero with a long history surely has killed a few times.

(Also, yes, I am aware of the Spider-Man vs. Wolverine one shot, where Spidey does accidentally kill. I just thought a higher profile, definitely-in-continuity example would serve my argument better)

For me the most egregious example of pretending “our heroes don’t kill” (and I guess this is in the comic books too, but I don’t read the character) is Ang Lee’s Hulk movie. I remember one scene in particular where Hulk takes a tank and throws it like half-a-mile. Two seconds after impact, you see the pilots climbing out. How can anyone buy into a universe like that? A fighting, unthinking rage monster rampaging through cities would surely cause many deaths.

“It seems clear to me that current interpretations of Captain America, reflecting the change in mood of the American public, are certainly far more willing to kill than they were 30 or 40 years ago.”

No. 30 or 40 years ago would be the 1970s and 1980s, and popular fiction was full of protagonists that killed by then. From Dirty Harry to Die Hard. That actually started in the late 1960s and early 1970s, due to the rise of urban crime in the United States plus the more relaxed censorship in cinema and special effects allowing for blood erupting immediately after a gunshot.

Comic books in the late 1980s and 1990s were only a delayed reaction to cinema. Maybe the influx of new creators who grew up with such violent movies.

i always saw it as he never killed to kill, though maybe he made some one “life deficiiant” in self defence

Cap rose to the occasion when the time came. When in war, do as warriors do. Cap’s first skirmish was the so-called “Good War”, and he couldn’t just run up to every Nazi, shake their shoulders, and say “Son, you don’t have to do this.” When you’re being shot at, you shoot back. Cap played the hero when he had the opportunity, but he was a soldier when he had no choice.

To address everyone saying “he was in a war, of course he killed someone”: It should be noted that at the time Gruenwald made his claim, the most respected historical research on World War II was SLA Marshall’s “Men Against Fire”, which claimed that three-quarters of combat soldiers in World War II never fired their weapons at the enemy. Today we know Marshall’s research to be profoundly flawed and that statistic to be frankly untrue, but at the time Gruenwald was writing that statistic was accepted fact.

Luis Dantas:”Heck, even Rick Jones and Wolfsbane are killers these days.”

Rick killed in the Silver age. Cf Lee and Steranko’s CAPTAIN AMERICA 113, where Rick kills a bunch of HYDRA troopers by blowing up Cap’s motorcycle.

Superheroes regularly beat people unconscious, blow up enemy bases, and generally cause large scale destruction when fighting supervillains. It’s more ridiculous to believe that no one died during all those scenarios than that Cap didn’t kill in his comparatively short career as a soldier.

They also live in universes where people get powers from radiation exposure instead of cancer and come back from literal, actual death under certain circumstances. I’ve always assumed concussions work differently int he Marvel and DC Universes; lord knows that tranquilizers do, since they safely and easily knock anyone out regardless of body size or latent allergies.

captain america was a solider during world war two so odds are he proably did kill some one for one can’t have a character fight a war with out some killing . even captain america.

They also live in universes where people get powers from radiation exposure instead of cancer and come back from literal, actual death under certain circumstances. I’ve always assumed concussions work differently int he Marvel and DC Universes; lord knows that tranquilizers do, since they safely and easily knock anyone out regardless of body size or latent allergies.

Well, I mean it can go either way. For all we know, the random guard really did die from complications ensuing from that blow to the head. And you do see stories where something that always happens in comic books suddenly has grave consequences this one particular time, because the writer feels like telling that story. The rules are arbitrary. But if we’re going to say “Hey it’s ridiculous to believe Cap didn’t kill during WWII,” where you could just as easily apply the same comic book logic (he knocked the Nazis out, intentionally shot away from their vital points, etc), to be consistent, we should also acknowledge the ridiculousness of the idea that his superheroics have never caused anybody’s death.

A lot of people like to shit on Captain America. Not here, of course, you guys are talking about something else, and I want to point out something completely else. The thing is, for me Captain America was the symbol of the dreams about the better future and the betterment of the country. It was a symbol of the innocence.

Captain America not killing anyone during WWII? Well, it’s the result of political correctness.
USA is so afraid of offending anyone that in the end they offend everyone.
War is Hell. I said it as a kid. Now I dare you, ask me, how did I know it despite my age then?
Captain America is not innocent because he didn’t kill anyone. He is innocent, because he believes in the best of us, even if people are raped, mugged, killed, every 5 seconds in USA.
The innocence is about the dream of the better world. A world to win, and a world worth fighting.

Captain America was always for me the epitome of heroics. Even if I’m not American. You Americans, should embrace your mythos much more than you are doing it. I met a lot of Americans who are self-loathing and embarrassed about their history. Well, what can I say, each one of us is creating the history. History is an ongoing thing. Even if you fucked up in the past, there is still future. And I always sided with Americans and your dreams. They are the things worth fighting for.

Uff, I’m done. Sorry if I offended anyone. It wasn’t my intention.

I’m afraid I didn’t make myself clear in my last post.
The reason I said what I said is because I noticed that a lot of times there are two extremes:
either people are overly embarrassed about their roots, or are overly proud to the point of repressing others.

In out lives, we need to find the balance. We must never forget our mistakes, but at the same time, we should never be ashamed of who we are.

Unfortunately we live in a times, when nationality, history, traditions, culture, means nothing.
Loving your culture, your roots doesn’t mean that you have to be nationalist.
You can preserve your culture and defend others’ cultures.

I don’t believe that the unity between the countries is possible.
Too many businesses, too many conflicts, and complete lack of mutual trust.
When I look at politicians, I see grown-up children pretending to play politics.
When I think about future, I don’t think about anything nice.
But it’s just me. Nothing might happen in next 50 years, but the fact is that the tension
arises. And it’s only a matter of time, before the people will say “enough”

Thank you for reading it, you didn’t have to.

Cheers and have a good night.

Even more thoughts.

Some people who know me, might notice that I take a voice in a lot of important matters.
Despite me being from backward country, I always cared about my culture.
I always wanted to experience as much as possible.
The internet made it all easier (in a legal way)
Thanks to the internet, we were capable of translating a lot of crucial things.
We were capable of experiencing a lot of goodness.
There can’t be a dialogue between a primitive and a cultured person.
It will end in a brawl anyway.
Unfortunately, it’s the flower of the youth that dies during wars and skirmishes.
And the most important question we should ask ourselves nowadays is
“Who profits from all of that”

You want to know why I love Captain America?
It’s because I believe in the same principles.
These principles are worth protecting.
This dream is worth fighting for.
And we will have to live the next 50 years either in fear, or….

But it will be worth it.
This time, it will be different.
The Great Dragon will be defeated and the peace will be finally
a fact.

This, I wish every one of you.
Cheers, and continue to be a good people, because you are a good people.
Nuff said, and never shut up! Talk loud and say everything you want to say!

I was was never against the idea that Captain America would refrain from killing during peace time but in war a Marine or Soldier or Super-Soldier will kill during war time. Besides I think that Captain America lives in a very grey world and he knows that, so having Cap not kill everyone is very juvenile.

I’ve been having an ongoing debate with someone about MAN OF STEEL, and Superman killing in it. There have been a few tangents in the discussion, but a position he’s taken that I think this partially refutes is the idea that superheroes having no-kill rules is primarily a device to keep supervillains as recurring characters. Here, though ill-conceived, it’s clearly about morality. I’m in favour of Cap taking lives, it seems absurd and convoluted to have him be a soldier that doesn’t kill, but this is interesting. We’re not talking about Cap avoiding killing his rogues gallery here, we’re talking him not killing random Nazis.

Hans –

I would accept that for a regular soldier. Not for a supersoldier sent to the most difficult missions and trouble spots.

Omar -

I agree with you, and I’m not necessarily bothered by a lack of death in typical superhero fights. But there is merit to the idea that depicting something like a real war means you must acknowledge that people die in real wars.

I agree with you about Batman too, by the way. Every new Batman writer wants to top the last one and make the Joker commit more and more shocking atrocities, and that makes Batman look innefective. On the other hand, I don’t like the depiction of the Joker as some harmless Silver Age clown either.

I dunno… it’s complicated. I think the best Joker is a compromise, like the one in the Golden Age and the 1970s. He kills, but not hundreds at a time. The current Joker is okay only if you’re a casual reader.

As the grandson of a WWII veteran, I see it that Cap was reluctant as he could be in war but sometimes he had to do it, he just hates talking about it (much as my grandfather did).

BTW, this leaves off this recent “Invaders” series where the Invaders in 1944 find a village of civilians inflicted with a Nazi plague and have to kill them to keep it from spreading. Bucky says he wants to do it alone but Cap insists on taking part as he’s part of the team too, pretty wild there.

Also, on Batman not-killing, it’s pretty clear that in his mind, he does take a life, he’s just like the man who killed his parents and he won’t let that happen. More importantly is that he recognizes the fear that if he does cross that line, he may not be able to stop. It’s really summed up when Jason Todd yells about taking out the Joker and it’ll save so much trouble.

Jason: “Not everyone. Not wholesale murder. Just him. Just one.”
Batman: “It always starts with just one.”

” I’ve always assumed concussions work differently int he Marvel and DC Universes; lord knows that tranquilizers do, since they safely and easily knock anyone out regardless of body size or latent allergies.”
This one is actually true across the board in fiction: any kind of action hero can get knocked out and wake up with just a splitting headache. Just like any injury to the arm or shoulder in combat can be healed by putting it in a sling.
Rene, I also prefer the very early Joker. A bizarre, theatrical stone-cold killer but not the homicidal maniac we have now.

I don’t have a problem with Cap killing during WW2 as a super-soldier. A bigger problem for me is during Brubaker’s run (the first issue IIRC) when *in the present* Black Widow has to chide Cap for killing people in a bad mood. That I think was a mistake because it’s a different kind of killing than line of duty.

Paul Garcia

“A soldier who doesn’t kill during a war is outright nonsense.”

Completely wrong. 16 Americans ALONE served in WW2. The allies were made up of more than just America. (I’m having the damndest time trying to find the total number of allied forces.) There were around 7 million Axis military deaths. (REALLY rough estimate, and I’m using wikipedia.)

Still, even if I’m off by a factor of 3, it would STILL be true that the overwhelming majority of Allies soldiers who served in World War 2 did not kill.

To argue that Captain America didn’t kill any one in World War 2 would seem extremely unlikely, but within the realm of “miraculously possible.” Certainly the Nazis in the machine gun nest panel that Cronin posted could have survived with only some minor blindness and a severed limb or three.

In other words: Cap not killing in World War 2 is certainly way the hell more possible than MODOK, or the existence of a heavy metal shield that you can throw like a boomerang, or any of the hundreds of other completely real-world impossibilities in Captain America comics.

This is a very big reason why I hate Steve Rogers. He bullies heroes and then punish them for not being perfect. He is also a total control freak that has one way of thinking, with his “It’s either my way, or the high way!!” crap.

MarkAndrew, my friend, you may have a good point. However if that is true, I think it would be more effective the allies killed there enemies than not doing so. We’ve come a long way from the wide eyed innocence we’ve used to have and now the world is no longer black and white, but instead there is shades of grey. That is, like I said, why I hate Steve Rogers.

Regarding The first issue of Brubaker’s Cap America, Sharon Carter implies that he killed some terrorist because he was in a bad mood. I don’t think that was really the case. It seems more like a situation where the bad guys kinda stupidly jumped to their own deaths cuz Cap Tossed a shield at them. He did not really save them, but he didn’t kill them either. Carter was more concerned about him being reckless (ie: property damage)

Thanks for taking my suggestion!

MarkAndew:”A soldier who doesn’t kill during a war is outright nonsense.”

Completely wrong. 16 Americans ALONE served in WW2. The allies were made up of more than just America. (I’m having the damndest time trying to find the total number of allied forces.) There were around 7 million Axis military deaths. (REALLY rough estimate, and I’m using wikipedia.)

Still, even if I’m off by a factor of 3, it would STILL be true that the overwhelming majority of Allies soldiers who served in World War 2 did not kill.”

Very true in terms of proportions. The people serving in rear echelon positions (clerical, maintenance, medical, transportation, etc) outnumber the guys at the sharp end. But Cap was quite clearly not serving in a rear echelon position. For a real world comparison, Cap’s role was roughly akin to that of an an American army ranger or British commando; he was at the front, not processing paper work.

@Adam
On the Hulk, John Byrne said no. I can’t remember if it was Byrne who came up with the idea that Hulk’s rampages were controlled so that he never killed anyone.

Peter David either found that funny or took some offense at, as it ignored not just the sheer damage Hulk has caused over the years, but also moments where there wasn’t really any wiggle room to say “There was no one there, or they got away, or they just weren’t hurt.” (David’s specific example was something like sinking/destroying an underwater submarine, where the crew couldn’t survive even if they had magically been able to escape.)

Wow, you should add a “like” button to the comments, ’cause i’m seeing a lot of great points from all sides…

My two cents:

I don’t get the “He must have killed people because he fought in a war” stuff… Why?. He fights with a nonletal shield far, far more effective that any gun (ask anyone at The Raft). If he killed someone with it, it was like Spider-Man deciding to strangle a thug. Ok, he used to blow away tanks, throw grenades, sink subs and stuff like that…but we are talking about the same universe in which Hulk has never killed a single soldier while thrashing the entire National Guard arsenal…You cannot blame real world coherence or the laws of physics for the death of someone: people die at writer’s will.

As someone said in a previous comment, I am far more concerned about the fact that he leads/approves a “wetworks” team in which torturing a guy (seen in a Warren Ellis Secret Avengers issue) is usual business. I guess the mentality (and morality) of the public has changed for worse.

Jaime F:”I don’t get the “He must have killed people because he fought in a war” stuff… Why?”

I think that a lot of it has to do with the fact that Cap was clearly shown killing German soldiers in the Silver Age, and the Silver Age is ground zero for MARVEL continuity (at least traditionally; God knows what counts as continuity these days).

I think the Gruenwald Cap issue has a lot to with that story happening right after the Scourge wiping out a bunch of villains in the Bar with No Name

God struck Mark Gruenwald dead for lying about Cap… (too soon?)

On the Hulk, I think Dan Slott addressed that in a She-Hulk issue where she’s reflecting on it: “I don’t care what these people who say it’s impossible no one dies in a Hulk attack think. I know my cousin. If he thought for one minute he caused someone’s death, he’d have put a gun in his mouth years ago.”

“killing” is not the same as “murder.” I always thought it was silly to think that Cap hadn’t killed anyone while at war. Not every soldier kills during a deployment, but a figure like Cap–who was meant to be on the front lines–I’ll be the smartass that says at least one out of every 100 bullets he fired ended up killing a Nazi.

Is he going out of his way to murder someone? No. He’s fighting. It doesn’t make us murderers.

I appreciate what a handful of writers do to make him feel guilt about no unnecessary killing–or killing in general. You don’t have to kill people to be a patriot. But in lieu of the fact he has been written to be at the point of friction–which sometimes means the expletive front lines–I would assume that Steve says a few prayers at the end of the day then gets the hell over it and–no pun intended–soldier on.

Captain America was a soldier. In a war. Of course he killed. He’d be derelict of duty if he didn’t.

Batman is a street vigilante. He’s not been drafted into military service or signed up. He’s not in a war. It doesn’t matter how many people Joker murders, it’s not his place to kill.

These two lines of thought do not contradict.

Batman in many incarnations is officially deputized. There is even a Bat-signal, which is paid for I assume with police department money, meaning taxpayer money, so it’s as official as it gets. So he’s more than just a street vigilante. Presumably he’s allowed to kill in situations where a cop would be allowed to kill based on his history of working with them. Even if he is intervening as a citizen and not a deputized agent, most jurisdictions allow a person to kill another person if it’s in self-defense and he’s in fear of his life, or if he’s doing so to save the life of another. You say it’s not his place to kill, but if he’s operating outside the law to begin with it’s also not his place to be a street vigilante or beat up thugs to get information or violate their civil rights in the myriad of ways he does day in and day out either, is it?

They also live in universes where people get powers from radiation exposure instead of cancer and come back from literal, actual death under certain circumstances. I’ve always assumed concussions work differently int he Marvel and DC Universes; lord knows that tranquilizers do, since they safely and easily knock anyone out regardless of body size or latent allergies.

That kind of backs up Cass’s point though. If we can forgive all the death a superhero would likely cause in a real life war on crime because we accept that we’re operating in a comic book universe where real life consequences don’t always apply and things are fantastically unrealistic, then why can’t we forgive the idea that Captain America didn’t kill in WWII. Again, I’m not denying that it’s ridiculous and Pollyannaish and an insult to a reader’s intelligence and common sense, but no moreso than Batman’s insane aversion to killing no matter how dangerous the scenario or how much his or someone else’s life is in danger. Batman not only won’t kill, he’s often shown risking life and limb to SAVE mass murderers. He will dive off a ledge to save the Joker if he slips and falls while escaping from Batman. That’s not only as dumb as Gruenwald’s take on Cap, it’s even dumber. Picture if Cap not only didn’t kill Nazis but tried to stop others from killing them and actually risked his life and limb to often save them from sure death?

I dunno, I buy into the notion that Batman is pathologically averse to killing, which is generally how the whole thing has been justified.

Yeah, but then that’s not heroic, it’s a mental illness. Also, why can’t we just justify Cap’s claim by saying he has the same mental illness, a pathological aversion to killing. Sure it makes no sense for someone with Cap’s job to have such a pathological aversion, but it also makes no sense for someone in Batman’s role to have it, especially given how Gotham is depicted nowadays.

Also, on Batman not-killing, it’s pretty clear that in his mind, he does take a life, he’s just like the man who killed his parents and he won’t let that happen. More importantly is that he recognizes the fear that if he does cross that line, he may not be able to stop. It’s really summed up when Jason Todd yells about taking out the Joker and it’ll save so much trouble.

Jason: “Not everyone. Not wholesale murder. Just him. Just one.”
Batman: “It always starts with just one.”

There is a problem that often comes up in internet (and real life) debates where if you don’t agree with a viewpoint, people think it’s because you don’t get it or never heard it properly articulated. But I have heard the reasons why Batman is pathologically dedicated to not only not killing villains but risking his life to save them repeatedly. Its repeated ad nauseum in the Batbooks in recent decades. However, I think it’s ridiculous, implausible, and it renders Batman an impotent idiot.

Besides, Gruenwald gave very similar rationales in his Cap issues for why Cap didn’t ever kill. Therefore if Batman’s overly simplistic rationale holds water, I dont see why Cap’s is so silly. Again, I’m not a fan of Gruenwald’s approach to Cap and killing. I just don’t get how so many of the people who laugh at it, and rightfully so, turn around and staunchly defend DC’s approach to Batman never killing a villain no matter how heinous or how much it endangers his own life or those of innocents to stick to that rule.

Either both are stupid approaches or neither are stupid approaches.

Disagree T. The standards for when it’s appropriate to kill in war are much different than in the civilian world. Even for cops.

Fraser, I know the standards for killing in war is different than in the civilian world is different even for cops. However given the way modern day Gotham is currently depicted, I’d argue that the city is overrun with enough mass murderers and violent criminals that Batman’s refusal to kill and claim to have never done so is as dumb as Cap’s. Even though there are differetnt standards for killing for cops and civilians than for soldiers, Gotham is so dangerous, especially at the level Batman engages it, that it compensates for those differences in standards. This is the same Gotham that at one point had Bane release every single inmate in Arkham at once and shorty after was shut down by the government as a disaster area in No Man’s Land. Given compressed comic book time these events happened close together.

I’m in the middle of reading Batman’s Golden Age stories, and it’s interesting to note that, though Batman stories did become somewhat lighter after Robin’s introduction, it’s still nowhere near as light as expected, and very much not Silver Age-y, at least not in the 1940-1941 period.

Batman and Robin weren’t quite killer vigilantes, but they were far more cavalier about criminals dying than today. If some criminal fell to his death after being kicked by Batman and Robin during a battle in the rooftops, they didn’t lose any sleep over it. There is also one story where Batman manipulates one mob boss into killing another criminal, just as a object lesson to some misguided kids that idolized the mob boss.

I think it’s not just the war that was going on in Europe that made the Golden Age superheroes more relaxed in their approach to killing, but also the real life gangsters that had plagued the US so much in recent memory. The thugs and mobsters in Golden Age stories were not of the harmless bowdlerized Silver Age variety. They were ruthless killers and torturers, like their real life counterparts. And Batman did not mollycoddle them.

And there was no call to hide those unpleasant realities from children. Not just yet.

But the problem began with the Joker, Clayface, and other “name” criminals. The Joker was supposed to die in his first appearance, Bill Finger had already recognized the problem that allowing for recurring killers in the comic would make Batman look inept! But he was overturned by the editor that recognized the Joker’s potential.

Still, the Golden Age Joker killed a couple of people sometimes, not hundreds. And he was almost “sane”, though very much a psychopath. He would kill people for a reason, either money or people who had “wronged” him, like district attorneys and such. There was not that sort of depravity of the Joker going around killing children and random people just because he was the incarnation of chaos or some other self-aggrandizing delusion, and the Batman somehow enabling his delusion by going out of his way to protect the Joker if someone like Tommy Monagham tried to off him.

LouReedRichards

March 24, 2014 at 9:55 am

I never had a problem with Cap claiming to not kill anybody in World War 2. I certainly never had anything close to the reactions that some here espouse about it being B.S. or unbelievably stupid. I always saw him as the commander on the front lines in battle with the soldiers and serving as an inspiration to those soldiers.

Given Cap’s abilities I never thought it much of a leap that he was able to defeat foes with non-lethal means.

I don’t have a huge problem with the thought that Cap did kill during wartime, but I also don’t think that he didn’t take lives is somehow totally beyond conception given the laws that govern the M.U.

Also: As someone who started reading Captain America on a monthly basis just before issue #321 I realize that it was the Mike Zeck covers that must have kept me coming back month after month, because the writing, art and coloring on the interiors of the book from that period is generally pretty awful.

Lou -

I have some problems with it, but not regarding the beliavability of it, but the morality. It reminds me of how Hal Jordan was portrayed in THE NEW FRONTIER. Now, I love that comic book, but Hal Jordan did come off as a bit of a hypocrite. He was fighting a war, and he didn’t kill, but he sure as hell must have set up enemies for his colleagues to kill. He enabled people to kill while pretending his hands were clean (The comic deconstructs that, of course, when Hal is forced to kill someone for real as the Korean War is ending).

If Captain America and Hal Jordan were so opposed to killing, they should have enlisted as conscientious objectors and become paramedics.

I think the problem a lot of people have is with some writers and fans trying to retroactively insert a 1950s superhero code that would only make sense a decade later into a 1940s wartime character. They want a war superhero, but want to avoid the more unpleasant aspects of war. They want to have their cake and to eat it too.

I think the problem a lot of people have is with some writers and fans trying to retroactively insert a 1950s superhero code that would only make sense a decade later into a 1940s wartime character. They want a war superhero, but want to avoid the more unpleasant aspects of war. They want to have their cake and to eat it too.

Yes, I agree. To build on this, I think throughout the early history the supposedly less sophisticated comic writers actually had more common sense and smarts than modern writers in a major way. They knew how to match the villains and heroes in such a way as to always keep the hero from being impotent. When the villains were killers, Batman and Robin would occasionally kill or at the least be more reasonable about when to let them die. There was no risking life and limb to save mass murderers. The level of the response was appropriate. When it was time to no longer make them killers, the villains killed far less too, if at all. This also allowed the revolving door prison policy to become acceptable, because there was far less damage to life and property with each escape. Joker could pop up month after month because he wasn’t destroying the equivalent of the population of a small town with each appearance.

Also important was the idea that these were people who wanted to commit crimes anyway. These weren’t villains who committed crimes solely to strike at the heroes. For example in Death of the Family, Joker is doing his crimes solely to get batman’s attention. Everyone he kills and mutilates, it’s solely to make a point to Batman. This makes Batman’s pathological aversion to killing even more idiotic and unheroic. At least WWII wasn’t being waged as a giant grudge match to get Captain America’s attention. The idea that these people are killing cops and civilians wholesale and indiscriminately BECAUSE of Batman’s existence but Batman is still too “noble” to ever kill them is ridiculous. Don’t mind all those civilians dying because of thse lunatics you attract Batman; as long as your sanctimonious code remains intact it’s a worthwhile sacrifice.

Modern DC writers want villains who are worse than ever with body counts on par with third world genocidal dictators but want to keep matching up those kinds of villains with heroes who refuse to kill ever and the old revolving door jail approach. Also throw in the sliding timescale that happens in modern comics and there are multiple mass murders and man-made disasters every week in comic book time. If Batman’s inflexible no-kill rule is sensible to readers under these conditions, I don’t see why they are so derisive of this Cap story, which while stupid is still significantly less stupid than the Batman version.

To me, it is really a question of the proximity to actual war.

In the forties and early fifties, there were an awful lot of young men who had gone to war and likely killed people in that context. It was important to frame those actions as heroic (or at worst necessary) so that they could re-integrate into society. Hence, there were a lot of Nazi (and Japanese) killing superheroes.

By the eighties, large scale war was a distant, largely unheroic memory. The Vietnam War was a generation in the past and it was framed as traumatic at best. Murder is largely viewed through the psychology of the killer. Today, we are in a place somewhere in between.

Regarding Captain America, it seems as though guns are a bit much as they are too personal. Throwing grenades without too much focus on the consequences seems like the right balance between “he is a soldier” and “he is highly moral”.

oh how adorable is bucky, straddling cap like a backpack? if wertham was right i ll gladly be wrong.

T. –

Very good analysis there. I can’t agree more.

I also would like to add that Batman as an impotent superhero vs, a Joker that is both a mass murderer and obsessed with Batman may be made to work in a finite story, like THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. There, it has the elements of a fine tragedy, with Batman struggling with his own limitations to remove the threat of the Joker once and for all. And in that book, the revolving door of Arkham Asylum was played for social satire, a criticism of political correctness and pop psychology.

But in a monthly comic it doesn’t quite work. It was a mistake to try to aport THE KILLING JOKE and THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS into the context of a monthly comic.

I’m also with T. here. I think fan attitudes on this really do just come down to what’s thought of as the “formative” period of the character rather than any sort of internal logic. Even in the Silver Age, Captain America was assumed to have killed Nazis during WWII, so trying to say otherwise will be perceived as silly. But the only time in Batman’s history where his killing wasn’t presented as an aberration is not what shaped most current readers’ views of the character, so Batman can’t be allowed to kill no matter how little sense it makes in-universe.

Well put Speck.

Even if they had retconned it, it would have been a ridiculous retcon to say he never killed. I can accept that he’s not Wolverine, the Punisher, but if he was in WW2 he killed nazis. I get that he values human life. There is a difference between war and peacetime, so I can see that he is against killing outside of war, so in 99.99% of his situations, there is a no killing code. I don’t think that applies to killing terrorists though. I can even accept that he doesn’t just kill and not think about it. He may regret that it came to that, BUT the “Good Lord, what have I done” is rather over the top. He may not think “oh well”, but killing a terrorist to save many innocent lives would be equal to killing nazis in war. And that to me also transfers to the Galactic Storm situation that I think started the main point. To me that would qualify as war, and Cap, although it may be a last resort and he may not Like it, would understand that it is necessary in a war.

I also find it insulting to our soldiers to have Captain America, The Soldier Superhero, say that he did not kill during the war (or even carry a gun) because then he would be no better than the enemy (nazis), that then he would not value life, would take away the freedom he fights for and would be a “killer”. That indicates that every other soldier (since that IS what Cap was) who did kill nazis (or any enemy in war) was just a killer, no better than the nazis (because they didn’t just knock the gun out of their hands and tie them up), and doesn’t truly value the freedom they fight for. Now as noted above, it is silly to say he never killed in war, but even if you Can accept that, it would be one thing for him to say that he found other ways to avoid doing so, but to say he didn’t Because then he would be no better than the nazis IS insulting to other soldiers who did kill in the war.

Logan –

In the 1980s, J. M. de Matteis wanted Steve Rogers to retire from being Captain America after the epic battle with Red Skull that happened in the end of deMatteis’s run, realizing that “violence never solves anything”. The Native superhero Black Crow would become the new Captain America (at least until Steve Rogers inevitably came back).

I think Jim Shooter nixed the idea. And I think Shooter was right.

You see, I respect pacifist philosophies and it would be interesting if any other Marvel hero adopted it. But not Captain America, never Captain America.

Because violence at least solved ONE thing, it got us rid of the nazis. So, the best you could say is that “violence never solves anything, except the nazi problem.” And Cap was created specifically to deal with the Nazi problem, and he fought in a war that was completely justified. He is the only superhero created to deal with a problem that WAS solved by violence.

I also find it insulting to our soldiers to have Captain America, The Soldier Superhero, say that he did not kill during the war (or even carry a gun) because then he would be no better than the enemy (nazis), that then he would not value life, would take away the freedom he fights for and would be a “killer”. That indicates that every other soldier (since that IS what Cap was) who did kill nazis (or any enemy in war) was just a killer, no better than the nazis (because they didn’t just knock the gun out of their hands and tie them up), and doesn’t truly value the freedom they fight for. Now as noted above, it is silly to say he never killed in war, but even if you Can accept that, it would be one thing for him to say that he found other ways to avoid doing so, but to say he didn’t Because then he would be no better than the nazis IS insulting to other soldiers who did kill in the war.

I agree, which is another reason why I hate the Batman status quo as well. If Batman is as bad as the Joker or Joe Chill if he kills a criminal, then any cop who has killed in the line of duty is as bad as the Joker as well, which is insulting to real-life cops.

I always got the idea that the “should Batman kill the Joker” argument was more should he kill him instead of just capture him because he’ll just escape and kill again. Which is a bit different from a cop killing in the line of duty, to save someone else or in self defense. So rather than being compared to a cop killing in the line of duty, I think a more accurate comparison to be if a cop had a killer in custody and killed him instead of bringing him in. Unless the argument is in fact that a criminal is ready to kill someone and Batman still won’t kill even to save someone or in self defense as a cop killing in the line of duty would be.

Logan, you nail it. Maybe it’s silly and such to us but in Batman’s mind, there is this line that he won’t cross, he won’t let himself cross and a key to the character. I remember a ’70′s story where he talks about killing the Joker but “that would give you the final victory, making me into a killer like you.” Yes, it may seem baffling and such to us but how he works. Again, that quote with Red Hood shows that mentality, his fear that if he does take a life, even the Joker’s, he may justify it over and over again just like Jason does.

I do remember this: In 2000, I was right along with so many thinking of how the Authority had it right, to kill these bad guys and such and save trouble. And then the classic Action #775 comes out and shows us why we need heroes to be heroes and why “oh, killing is okay” isn’t the way to do that.

First, more directly to the post, wasn’t this retconned back in Cap while Gruenwald was still on the title? Maybe I’m just remembering a letters page concession and not in story, but I really thought there was a “retraction” where Cap said “well, yes, I killed during wartimes, but not in peace times. There was a different set of rules to live by.” Or something similar. Still evokes problems and contradictions, but it did acknowledge they realized how silly it sounded how it was.

Asides:

Coby- It’s pretty apparent the link was just to get clicks on your site, but that review was really awful. You didn’t get the movie at all. I’d fisk it point by point, but this is the site for that.

Rene- If you think soldiers are killers, then you have an interesting definition. If someone is trying to kill you, or your family, or someone defenseless, I suppose you can’t kill them back, and the concept of self-defense is null and void? Because that’s what the Nazis were doing, basically on a grand, world-wide scale.

As for Batman vs. Cap, it makes complete sense when you consider how the heroes were created. Captain America was created to fight and kill Nazis (and other Axis powers). Batman was created because he saw his parents die in front of him, and wants that to happen to no one else. Other than the tv show era, he’s not deputized, and he doesn’t want to be the one that not only doesn’t kill someone, but isn’t the Joe Chill that kills someone’s family member. Does it make the character look impotent at times? Sure. A Batman like the end of Batman Begins who won’t kill someone, but isn’t out to save them from their own stupidity makes more sense. But really what people have a problem with isn’t a Batman who doesn’t kill and lets people get out and kill again. A cop who “catches” everyone by shooting them dead would be a problem in the real world too. It’s that there’s a prison/court system that lets this people out over and over again. If our serial killers were getting out 50 times each, you wouldn’t have a problem with the cop who arrested them the 51st time, but the system that let them break out, get paroled, not get the death penalty.

A soldier who didn’t kill the enemy you’d have a problem with. A cop who didn’t kill every repeat offender he came across you wouldn’t. And vice versa.

M-Wolverine:

First off, the thing about Batman being deputized only on the Batman TV show was an urban legend created by Frank Miller. Brian even covered it here:

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2013/03/15/comic-book-legends-revealed-410/

In many eras Batman has been officially and unofficially deputized by the police. How can the police justify owning and using a Bat-signal if he wasn’t recognized in some quasi-official or official capacity? And even if he wasn’t deputized, he beats up and falsely imprisons villains in blatant violation of their civil rights in order to get (likely legally inadmissible) information, takes the law into his own hands by being a vigilante, and breaks a lot of other laws. So it isn’t like he’s a stickler for not breaking the laws. Besides, given self-defense and justifiable homicide laws, killing a villain who is threatening his life or the life of someone else might actually be MORE legal than his vigilanteism and other activities.

Rene- If you think soldiers are killers, then you have an interesting definition. If someone is trying to kill you, or your family, or someone defenseless, I suppose you can’t kill them back, and the concept of self-defense is null and void? Because that’s what the Nazis were doing, basically on a grand, world-wide scale.

Gotham city villains are consistently trying to kill Batman, his friends/family, or someone defenseless throughout all of Gotham, but the Batman writers and many Batman fans apparently think that he can’t kill them back without being considered a killer and that the concept of self-defense is null and void. The exact rationale you gave in the paragraph I quoted easily applies just as much to Batman.

Batman was created because he saw his parents die in front of him, and wants that to happen to no one else.

He doesn’t kill because he doesn’t want what happened to him to happen to the family members of the criminals? Ok, let’s go with that. What about the fact then that by not killing mass murdering psychos like Mr. Zsasz and The Joker, he pretty much ensures what happened to him actually DOES happen to other people? HUNDREDS of other people, each time Joker or someone else goes on a murder spree? If his code is about keeping people from going through his pain of losing a loved one to crime, his code is failing MISERABLY.

Again, I think it’s dumb but if that’s what the writers and fanbase agree works, I’m cool with it. I just don’t see how the same people who somehow find that premise logical are turning around and criticizing it in Captain America when it’s the same “logic.”

Sigh. Is it so hard to see that for Captain America to truly work as a character he should eventually figure out that being a (para-?) military man is not the answer?

People talk of th Nazis as if they were some sort of terrible fluke that made otherwise execrable actions allowable. That is missing the point by a huge margin.

Saying that Batman has been deputized in many eras is like saying he’s smiled and fought on giant typewriters in many eras. Sure, for a long time that was Batman, but really the equal split of different Batmans we had from his creation through the 60′s has been overridden by the portrayal more like his orginal conception that has been going on for the last 45 years. The Bat-Signal is justified by a Commissioner that allows it, and is hardly protocol. It’s something he has to make an excuse for. Or says it doesn’t really do anything but make criminals believe there is a Bat-Man.

He’s obviously not against law breaking. He commits assault all the time. But comic worlds are obviously different worlds where you don’t need to testify to get admissible evidence in due to the fact that all these super villains keep getting convicted. It’s no different than a world where aliens regularly invade, but people aren’t rioting in the streets. That’s just the suspension of disbelief.

Batman wouldn’t kill in self-defense, because he’s not going to take another life to save his own. That might not be your philosophy, but it’s his. Now if there was no other way to but to kill to save an innocent in immediate danger? Well, writers either do one of two things…they have heroes so good that they don’t have to believe in the kobayashi maru sequence, and CAN FIND A WAY!, or they make a big to do about a hero having to kill, and the fallout. This Cap story. Superman in Man of Steel (oh wait, or maybe they just ignore it and smile and joke after).

Again, in Batman’s case his code isn’t failing him anymore than a cop who just shoots everyone instead of arresting them. Now if you want to say the DC Universe incarceration system is failing miserably compared to the real world one, no one would argue.

And Luis, the fact that the Nazis weren’t some fluke is the reason people like Cap still see the need for para-military solutions. Because there will always be people who aren’t going to answer to negotiations, and the only thing standing between you and I and their execrable actions is someone with a gun or shield willing to stop them. And you follow a funny genre if you don’t think force is ever an answer, because comic books with superheroes winning by holding hands and singing is few and far between. (Unless Grant Morrison is writing it).

I don’t see that just because Batman breaks some laws, means that his not killing is inconsistent. That’s simply where HE draws the line. Is it legitimate to him? Yes. Is it a legitimate distinction to someone else? Not necessarily, but to his character (in it’s current incarnation) it is part of what makes up his character. It would be like saying that it is inconsistent for Indiana Jones to be scared of snakes, when he’s not scared of many of the numerous other things he encounters. It’s simply a distinction of the character, even if I don’t have the same distinction. I may not have made the same choice as Batman, but I’m not the same character/personality. Wolverine kills, Batman doesn’t and many other characters don’t have a specific code against killing, but it’s the last resort. Different characters, making different choices and drawing different lines.

And I’m not even against Batman’s character being changed (though it’s current status is what it is) to not being specifically against killing. Personally I’d rather have it be somewhere distant from the early incarnation of casually kicking a petty criminal off a roof to their death, but not being against killing when necessary. Of course if he’s willing to kill the Joker rather than capture him (which I can see being a wise choice) then too many of his enemies would not be able to return for repeat appearances. So while it makes sense in reality, in order to continue telling stories……..

One of the first big Avengers stories I read as a kid was Operation: Galactic Storm and I remember when there was a rift in the Avengers over those willing to kill and those that wouldn’t. That always felt a little false to me because, for me, particularly in that story, the rift should have been over those willing to EXECUTE a bad guy and those that wouldn’t…because that was what happened there with the Supreme Intelligence…he was basically executed. I have no problem with a hero like Cap killing when he has no other choice (as in war) but there is a difference there and, in my opinion, that difference should have been the focus of the Avengers split in Operation: Galactic Storm. Some characters, like Batman, can pull off being categorically against killing (even if that wasn’t the case originally with Batman, it is how the character evolved) but most of the heroes have to be willing to kill under certain circumstances or the stories just don’t ring true…but how ready and willing they are to kill can define characters (as with Wolverine and Punisher) and writers should be mindful of that…they shouldn’t ignore or trivialize that distinction.

American Hawkman

April 25, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Pretty much all the points have been made here already, but I do want to mention Cap’s flashback at the trial of Hank Pym where he remembers almost killing a little girl during the war with a shield throw, and that being one of the most traumatic things that happened to him there. Avengers #214, should anyone want to look it up. Cap specifically mentioned that he throws his shield hard enough that if it hits wrong, you’ve got a dead target, although he always aimed to stun.

Personally, I think that Gruenwald’s take was just wrong. Not that Cap’s not a killer, per se, but he pretty much has to have killed a few people during the war if we recall the Steranko issues alone. Ignoring the moral debate, I’d just as soon not retcon those issues any more than Steve Englehart already did to get Cap’s secret ID back.

All the mentions of Galactic Storm make me nostalgic. Remember how Hawkeye’s big thing was that Avengers don’t kill no matter what? We’ve totally lost that take on the character these days, haven’t we? I miss that… having him become willing to kill actually struck me harder than seeing Cap become more willing to kill, simply because Hawkeye was totally willing to destroy his own life and marriage over the idea no matter what the justification. Certainly made him a richer character than he’s been since.

Completely wrong. 16 Americans ALONE served in WW2. The allies were made up of more than just America. (I’m having the damndest time trying to find the total number of allied forces.) There were around 7 million Axis military deaths. (REALLY rough estimate, and I’m using wikipedia.)

Still, even if I’m off by a factor of 3, it would STILL be true that the overwhelming majority of Allies soldiers who served in World War 2 did not kill.

To argue that Captain America didn’t kill any one in World War 2 would seem extremely unlikely, but within the realm of “miraculously possible.” Certainly the Nazis in the machine gun nest panel that Cronin posted could have survived with only some minor blindness and a severed limb or three.

In other words: Cap not killing in World War 2 is certainly way the hell more possible than MODOK, or the existence of a heavy metal shield that you can throw like a boomerang, or any of the hundreds of other completely real-world impossibilities in Captain America comics.

Even if by some miracle Cap didn’t kill during WW2, that doesn’t change the fact that he must have been willing to kill if necessary, otherwise he wouldn’t have joined the army. A soldier who has inhibitions such as refusing to kill no matter what is a crappy soldier and has no place in the battlefield.

Sigh. Is it so hard to see that for Captain America to truly work as a character he should eventually figure out that being a (para-?) military man is not the answer?

Um, what? Cap IS a military man. He’s a soldier. He agreed to kill if the situation calls for it when he became one.

I don’t get the “He must have killed people because he fought in a war” stuff… Why?. He fights with a nonletal shield far, far more effective that any gun (ask anyone at The Raft). If he killed someone with it, it was like Spider-Man deciding to strangle a thug. Ok, he used to blow away tanks, throw grenades, sink subs and stuff like that…but we are talking about the same universe in which Hulk has never killed a single soldier while thrashing the entire National Guard arsenal…You cannot blame real world coherence or the laws of physics for the death of someone: people die at writer’s will.

You know, there are many who think that the Hulk having never killed is BS. I happen to be one of them. I hate when they stretch probabilities to such ridiculous extents because they can’t accept characters dying. It gives me the impression that I’m watching a cheesy, censorship-filled children’s cartoon. Heck, even when I was a kid, I cringed when they did that in cartoons.

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