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Abandoned Love: Did Batman Just Kill That Guy?

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Every installment of Abandoned Love we will be examining comic book stories, plots and ideas that were abandoned by a later writer while still acknowledging that the abandoned story DID still happen. Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of Abandoned Love. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

This time around, we look at the time that Batman seemed to kill one of his opponents…

Ten Nights of the Beast pitted Batman against a Soviet assassin named the KGBeast. The Beast was a lot like Bane in that he was every bit as tough and as skilled as Batman. The Beast recently finished in the Top 40 on our ongoing Greatest Batman Villains list.

Soon before their final battle, Batman has an interesting conversation with a CIA agent…

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This clearly informs the final battle between Batman and KGBeast.

Their final combat took place in a sewer in Gotham City.

Writer Jim Starlin has Batman pull a bit of a trick on the Beast, though. The Beast thought that this was going to be their dramatic final battle. Batman, knowing the sewers of Gotham better than most, had other plans (note that KGBeast’s gunhand has malfunctioned and is therefore not working at this point)…

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So yeah, Batman just flat out decided to let the Beast starve to death. It’s a pretty hardcore ending for a Batman story.

That happened in Batman #420. Less than 20 issues later, the next writer on the series, Marv Wolfman, abandoned that plot for Batman, as likely editor Denny O’Neil changed his mind on whether he wanted Batman to be seen as having killed one of his villains.

During the Year 3 storyline, where Batman and Nightwing come together due to the release of the man who killed Nightwing’s parents, the pair watch as the villain is murdered by other gangsters…

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Nightwing believes Batman had something to do with it and uses the KGBeast example to show that something has changed within Batman since the death of Jason Todd…

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So yeah, he changed his mind off-panel after the end of #420. A pretty simple resolution, but an effective one! Well, except for even there, Batman’s plan to just tell the cops to go capture the dangerous assassin that Batman couldn’t even take out one on one doesn’t seem like a great plan, either, does it?

If YOU have a suggestion for an abandoned storyline that you’d like to see featured here, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com.

76 Comments

Hey, it beats the idea that Batman would not only kill an opponent, but deliberately give him a horrific, lingering death by thirst.

Bill Williamson

April 29, 2014 at 1:39 pm

To be fair, The Beast was probably perfectly capable of escaping. Not only could he have knocked down the door but he had whatever the hell that was as a replacement for his hand. Probably some useful tools on that thing.

As I recall in the KGBeast story, the KGBeast’s arm-gun was rendered inoperable at that point…which is why he just runs away with a pipe for a weapon instead of trying to shoot Batman in the face with it.

Unf. Love me some Aparo art.

Ten Nights of the Beast was my first Batman story after reading Dark Knight Returns. At the time I thought, “He’s just gonna keep getting darker, isn’t he?”

Good retcon. Clearly the locked room was never meant to be a final end for the character, but it’s good that they added to Batman’s behavior.

Hey, Batman! Maybe next time just throw some pellets of knockout gas into that enclosed space you have the villain trapped in, okay? I mean, I don’t want to tell you how to do your crime fighting or anything, but it seems to me that that would’ve resolved the whole situation pretty well.

But then again, we are talking about a story where a villain chooses to chop off his own hand instead of the rope holding his hand, so it’s not like anybody is really operating at their full brain capacity here.

And by the way, when exactly IS Batman in the mood for Alfred to wear his Ronald Reagan mask? That is some kinky stuff the Caped Crusader is into there. :)

It’s been a very long time since I read the story but if I recall correctly, KGBeast was plotting to assassinate Reagan, Batman caught wind of the plan and had Alfred impersonate Reagan.

@John Trumbull
The reason he did not use knockout gas in the first story is that he wanted the KGBeast dead, not captured. At one point in the story Batman says that if the Beast is captured the Russians will reclaim him, say that he is in prison or dead, but secretly freeze him and then thaw him out to kill high level targets.

I added the freezing part, but the rest is true.

As a thirteen year old I thought Batman starving a guy to death was to hardcore and was a little disturbed by it for a while. I did miss or quickly forget the mention of the Beast escaping in Year Three. When the Beast showed up again ‘with no explanation’ I thought it was another example of O’Neil’s bad editorship (it is still strange that the Beast never said to Batman ‘hey you tried to kill me.’ Maybe he was watching when the cops went in for him (with knockout gas, I presume).

i think it’s funny (and telling) that the Beast is running around looking like some BDSM Leather Boy/Dungeon Master and no one mentions it or bats an eye…

If only the KGBeast had fought Nightwing – that’s a comic I would have loved to have read.

I have always liked the ending of “Ten Nights of the Beast”.

First, KGBeast seemed like a one-off bad guy. He and Batman were pretty evenly matched as fighters, but the bloom comes off that rose pretty quickly.

Second, Batman won the battle with his wits and not his fists. He planned for the KGBeast to spring the trap and it worked. Smart Batman is my favorite Batman.

Third, Batman closing that door is really creepy. Jim Aparo brings all his considerable skills to bear on that sequence.

Fourth, Batman has shown a lot of ‘flexibility’ with regard to killing over the years. He is not the Punisher, but it does happen from time-to-time starting from his first appearance.

If only the KGBeast had fought Nightwing – that’s a comic I would have loved to have read.

He did! Twice! First in the “Troika” storyline just after “Knightquest” when Dick was Batman, and then again, briefly, in Nightwing #35-7 or so during No Man’s Land.

Whoops, sorry — it was just the one time in Nigthwing. Troika is Bruce-Bat, not Grayson-Bat.

I’ve been reading and watching batman for so long that when I discovered the 10 nights of the beast storyline I just automatically assumed Batman left him there and later told the police, let him starve for a week or two a man of his size and training I think Batman could guess how long Beast could survive in there

At the time, I thought it was a pretty cool ending. It actually made sense for Batman to do that as opposed to constantly trying to capture crazy evil murderers alive, even more considering the shape he was in. If they had left the Beast dead, the ending would have been cool. Since they didn’t, it makes Batman look like a moron that let the Beast escape.

Is the artist in those Zucco pages Pat Broderick? Those elongated faces look like his work. (Which I know mostly from his run on Captain Atom.)

Am I the only person who thinks that “he decides to rabbit” is something that Bruce Wayne would only say when written by Chris Claremont?
@Dean- the problem is that shortly after this, Batman is angry when Jason pushes a rapist off a building and lets him fall to his death. So Bruce thinks that pushing a criminal to his death is inhumane but leaving them to slowly starve to death is OK?

“…a villain chooses to chop off his own hand instead of the rope holding his hand…”

Its pretty well established in Bat-lore and in that story (IIRC) that Batlines are too tough to cut through without a tremendous amount of hardware. This is why The Beast cut through his hand instead—faster getaway.

@Mike Blake
Yes, that was Pat Broderick.

(IIRC)

You do not. KGBeast was caught in a cable not the Bat-line. And he earlier cut the same cable with the same axe he then used to NOT cut the cable but instead cut his hand. It was just a plain ol’ mistake.

It never dawned on me how disturbing Batman locking a killer in a room with the intention of slowly letting him starve to death was until now. That takes some serious pre-meditated murderous thinking, it wasn’t like an impulse or something!

Bill Williamson

April 29, 2014 at 9:15 pm

kdu2814: “…I thought it was another example of O’Neil’s bad editorship”

Um what? O’Neil is probably the best editor Batman has ever had, or ever will have.

Garrett Wroblewski

April 30, 2014 at 12:37 am

I love that this arc (first issues of Batman I ever bought) are getting a closer look. At the time I didn’t know about the whole no-kill thing and just figured that was badass and the beast got what he deserved.

Also, gotta agree with you Bill Williamson… Denny O’Neil is a classic bat-editor. The current editorial staff *cough Dan DiDio cough* is another question entirely. I could talk Batman all day long.

Nightwing’s timeline seem a little off, because Ten Nights Of The Beast (Batman #417-420) happened before Death In The Family (#426-429).

Bill Williamson

April 30, 2014 at 3:09 am

Marek: I’m thinking the same thing. I think Jason even featured in Ten Nights of the Beast.

Nightwing’s timeline seem a little off, because Ten Nights Of The Beast (Batman #417-420) happened before Death In The Family (#426-429).

Yeah, good point, Nightwing’s timeline is, indeed, off.

A key part of Wolfman’s run was that Batman was, indeed, acting more and more reckless since Jason’s death, as earlier in the storyline Nightwing visits bars where Batman had just been looking for information and everyone he “asked” questions of were bleeding badly. So that sort of fits into my theory that it was likely the editor who thought it should be changed, so Wolfman just worked it into his current plotline without it necessarily fitting (I guess the “No-Prize” argument is that Nightwing doesn’t know the exact timeline of when Batman locked up KGBeast, since the two events likely occurred very close to each other).

Bernard the Poet

April 30, 2014 at 3:39 am

@akkadiannumen “it makes Batman look like a moron that let the Beast escape”.

I completely agree.

Within the context of the story, Batman closing the door on KGBeast is a very strong and powerful ending, but I can appreciate that within the broader Batman universe it doesn’t make a great deal of sense ( – I mean if you think the KGBeast needs killing, what is stopping you from topping the Joker or Ras Al Ghul?). So I can understand why Wolfman/O’Neil felt it needed to be ret-conned.

But why did they have to reveal that when the police went to arrest the KGBeast, he had already escaped? It makes a complete mockery of the story. Super KGB assassin comes to Gotham, goes on a ten day rampage, kills various members of the Star Wars Project and then goes home. Really? Someone thought that was a good ret-con?

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Jim Stalin and Mike W Barr both wrote a pretty conservative, ends-justifies-the-means Batman when it comes to the death of enemies around this time. If a foe died accidentally, usually a fate their own making, Batman pretty much shrugged it off (if he bothered dwelling on it at all). This is that Batman that we see here. To his mind, KGBeast (one of the best villain names ever) has brought all this on himself so Batman would feel no guilt at leaving him to rot. In another story, a few issues before Death In The Family, Batman chastises Robin (Jason) for appearing to murder a diplomat’s son and this comes across as pretty hypocritical, especially he used another death in the very next issue as a huge “I told you so” while, again, not really caring that a man had died.

It always annoys me that super-heroes deciding “the rules pervert justice” means killing someone who won’t be convicted rather than, say, busting unfairly convicted people out of jail.

“I guess the “No-Prize” argument is that Nightwing doesn’t know the exact timeline of when Batman locked up KGBeast, since the two events likely occurred very close to each other”

I feel like when people are making impassioned arguments, they sometimes bend their logic a little, and confusing timeframes (Oh, that happened before this? Well, still!) is just part of that. I can totally buy it as a character making a mistake, even though it sounds like it was the writer/editor.

It’s just me, or KGBeast, with his thigh-high boots and leather costume, looks so very much like a gay sado-masochist?

@John Trumbull
The reason he did not use knockout gas in the first story is that he wanted the KGBeast dead, not captured. At one point in the story Batman says that if the Beast is captured the Russians will reclaim him, say that he is in prison or dead, but secretly freeze him and then thaw him out to kill high level targets.

My point was that if Batman is being written to commit premeditated murder (as Starlin had him do several times), he’s light-years out of character.

“It’s just me, or KGBeast, with his thigh-high boots and leather costume, looks so very much like a gay sado-masochist?” Why, yes, yes he does. Note to self: Get more of his appearances. ;)

@John Trumbull

What other times did Starlin have Batman commit premeditated murder? It’s been a while since I read these, but no other instances come to mind.

Man, I’ve been split on this ending since I first read it at thirteen years old. On one hand, I thought it was such a cool, bad ass way to end it and it was so well executed (no pun intended). On the other, it doesn’t make much sense in the context of Batman as a character, or in the specific stories Starlin had written around this one.

always figured that given how batman won’t even kill the joker for things like killing jason and the killing joke. that batman would not resort to killing the kgbeast even though he knew it would be the perfect way to make sure the kgbeast was not a threat any more plus the fact batman never does say if the cops did indeed pick up the beast after being informed.for batman does not kill not part of the character.

I know we’re getting into the whole debate of “Batman should kill” and such but in his mind, he kills, he’s just like the man who killed his parents and that’s a line he won’t cross. It’s been hinted that he really fears it, that if he does put down someone, he won’t be able to stop. It was summed up in the bit where Jason Todd wants him to kill the Joker, that it’d be okay, everyone would understand.

“Not go on a spree. Not take them all out. Just him. Just this one.”
“It always starts with just one.”

It’s easy for us to go “well, that’s niave” and such but it’s how Batman thinks and feels, shows his own mind (which, let’s face it, can be as obsessive as any of his foes) and why it defines him.

Unfortunately that led to a long tangent about how killing is like Pringles that’s better left unremembered.

@Bill Williamson
I never liked O’Neil’s attitude towards Batman’s history and continuity. His rule seemed to be that unless it happened in the last year or so, or unless it was one of his stories, it never happened.

A few examples I can think of; in Barr’s Detective (which I believe O’Neil edited) Batman knew Catwoman’s identity, when she showed up again (Knightfall), he did not, and she had never been arrested; in Dixon’s run, Huntress moved to Gotham, later she had always been in Gotham; Batman knew his parents killer was Joe Chill, then he never knew who did it. There was also the matter of Batman encountering all his villains in his first year, before Robin joined him, like Poison Ivy who became a Batman villain shortly before Dick Grayson went to college. If I am not mistaken, O’Neil also maintained that Batman had never been a member of the Justice League (this was after JLI, I think).

I never like that attitude, and I never thought there was much point to it. The characters history is a tool to be used, and if a writer is not interested in using it or working with it, then they should stick to current and original stories.

@ John Trumbull
Sorry, I obviously missed that.

Bill Williamson

May 1, 2014 at 5:55 am

kdu2814: So you think Denny O’Neil was a bad editor because of a few minor retcons? Most of which were insignificant either way and one of which (regarding the Justice League) was largely out of his hands.

You also mis-represent O’Neil’s stance on Batman’s history. Of the group editors of the big three (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman) O’Neil was the only one to embrace Batman’s history. Post Crisis not only did Bronze Age Batman remain in continuity, but a handful of Silver and Golden Age stories as well (Scarecrow’s first appearance comes to mind). The group editors for the other two did a complete and total reboot.

Bill Williamson

May 1, 2014 at 5:58 am

Fraser: They actually did that Batman story. The Devil’s Advocate. Where The Joker is found guilty of a crime he didn’t commit. and also found sane and therefore eligible for the death penalty. Batman then tries to get The Joker acquitted.

Careful what you wish for.

I think it’s a shame that the really powerful ending to 10 Nights of The Beast was ruined by a lazy ret-con.

Yes it is a shocking ending – but it’s shocking precisely because it’s something Batman never does. I think it’s a really cool ending to the story.

The point is clearly made that the KGBeast will walk free thanks to diplomatic immunity. That’s why Batman leaves him there. It makes Batman look pretty rubbish if he just ‘changes his mind after having second thoughts’. Completely spoils the whole of 10 Nights of the Beast for me.

AverageJoeEveryman

May 1, 2014 at 9:53 am

“Unfortunately that led to a long tangent about how killing is like Pringles that’s better left unremembered.”

I take that to mean that both are awful, and to that I totally agree. Pringles might be a bit worse though depending on the circumstances.

@Fraser- Isn’t that really based on how costumed heroes find the criminals? I mean, you see the guy killing people, or they brag about it (Joker). So you know he’s a guilty killer. In how many situations are they going to stubble across evidence that some guy has been wrongfully convicted? You’d almost need a hero openly looking for that.

And Pringles are like Super-villains – kill all you want, we’ll make more.

@Bill Williamson
Yes. Why bother with any of those small retcons to begin with?

As for the JLA, I think that was O’Neil’s decision. Just like the removal of Superman Wonder Woman, and later Hawkman were down to the writers and editors of those books. I think Superman and Wonder Woman needed and benefited from the reboots, but with Batman it was unnecessary.

As for Scaercrow, his origin and first appearance included Robin. He later got a new origin and ‘first appearance set in Batman’s year one. Joker, Two-Face, Catwoman, Scarecrow, Riddler, and Poison Ivy were all moved to Batman’s first year. Man-Bat and Mr. Freeze were to, but Man-Bat and maybe Freeze were done in LOTDK, a non’O-Neil book.

O’Neil did have some great writers and artists working on the books. I do not think there is any denying that, but he should have reigned in on the pointless retcons.

I don’t know who exactly made the decisions, but in-story it was all of a piece: Post-Crisis, Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman had never been JLA members, and Black Canary was suddenly one of the founding members. Hawkman was a weird exception because DC decided to reboot the character a while after the Crisis rather than immediately afterward, which led to a whole lot of stupid retcons to try to explain the inconsistence that just kept happening as long as that universe existed, all the way till the New 52 reboot. Hawkman may have been the fatal flaw that finally broke the universe.

M-Wolverine, I do seem to recall plenty of “hero tries to clear someone before execution” stories over the years,but mostly within the system. So I don’t think it’s much of a stretch. Or take the most recent version of Manhunter: she could just as easily have known about prosecutors bending the rules to get a dubious conviction, but the series focuses on her killing people because “the system” thwarts her from being able to get them legally.

“Jim Stalin and Mike W Barr both wrote a pretty conservative, ends-justifies-the-means Batman when it comes to the death of enemies around this time.” Barr’s Batman in Outsiders was hard, but he also intervenes to save Ned Creegan (Bag o’ Bones/Cyclotronic Man) and get him treated when a warden tries to deny him life-saving medical treatment. He also comes down on Geo-Force for trying to kill a slimeball professor (Geo’s friend having tried suicide over sexual harassment) and instead gets proof of the guy’s sleaziness (“You might laugh off one woman accusing you.. but seven?”).

Buttler, I remember Dan Jurgens cited the Hawkman reboot as one of the things that prompted him to try solidifying the post-Crisis universe with Zero Hour. Only of course it didn’t stop more reboots. Once DC embraced the idea continuity was disposable, they never stopped.

Yeah, that’s what I was thinking of. Zero Effect set off a long series of lousy retcons and reboots, and definitely counts as one itself. The part of Zero Effect dealing with Hawkman was really an impressively hamhanded attempt to reconcile the character–effectively making Hawkman unusable for years thereafter, until enough readers had forgotten about it that DC could get away with just not mentioning what happened in Zero Hour anymore–and it’s pretty impressive that Starlin somehow managed to make it even worse.

Zero HOUR, I mean. I have no idea why I kept typing Effect.

(Actually, I do. I’m writing something in another window that’s all about effect or lack thereof.)

@Bill Williamson- the most idiotic retcon O’Neil came up was the “Batman is an urban legend” idea, which makes no sense unless Gotham’s population is composed of Holocaust Deniers and Flat Earthers.

To be fair, I could totally believe that of Gotham. And don’t get them started on the “moon landing.”

@buttler
I thought your ‘Zero Effect’ was commentary on Zero Hour.

Also, I am pretty sure I read somewhere that Superman not being a JLA founder was Byrne’s idea.

@Michael
That is another one I never liked. I thought it especially did not make sense considering that Tim Drake was able to study Batman and figure out he was Bruce Wayne.

Hey, it beats the idea that Batman would not only kill an opponent, but deliberately give him a horrific, lingering death by thirst.

Yes, that’s the worst thing Batman can do. Much better is the accepted convention that Batman not only keeps mass murderers with genocide-level body counts alive to constantly kill again but even risks his own life and limb quite often to save their lives when they almost get themselves killed while trying to kill him or when another vigilante resolves to kill them.

Modern Batman fans and where they draw the line for what is a good moral code is so strange to me.

I know we’re getting into the whole debate of “Batman should kill” and such but in his mind, he kills, he’s just like the man who killed his parents and that’s a line he won’t cross. It’s been hinted that he really fears it, that if he does put down someone, he won’t be able to stop. It was summed up in the bit where Jason Todd wants him to kill the Joker, that it’d be okay, everyone would understand.

“Not go on a spree. Not take them all out. Just him. Just this one.”
“It always starts with just one.”

It’s easy for us to go “well, that’s niave” and such but it’s how Batman thinks and feels, shows his own mind (which, let’s face it, can be as obsessive as any of his foes) and why it defines him.

People who criticize modern Batman’s moral code totally get it. We just think it’s utterly ridiculous.

I only say this because every time this debate comes up, someone always chimes in with “Hey guys, you don’t get it, Batman doesn’t kill because he thinks if he kills one person, ANY one person, even the Joker, he is as bad as the person who killed his parents” as if we need it explained to us. All of us GET that that’s his rationale. It’s just stupid. Killing a mass murderer who will likely kill hundreds more people if left alive is morally equivalent to killing two innocent and morally upstanding people in front of their child? It even gets stupider once you have Batman actively risking his OWN life to save the Joker. I’ve even read modernBatman stories where Joker will lunge at Batman to kill him or something and fall off a building and Batman dives after him and saves his life. Not only is he not killing the Joker but is now going as far as to save the Joker from self-inflicted death. Even in Joker’s first appearance in the Golden Age was Batman’s morality so poorly thought out. In that story the Joker, who wasn’t even half as homicidal back then, stabs himself on his own knife while trying to kill Batman and Batman and Robin lose no sleep over it.

Bill Williamson

May 2, 2014 at 3:15 am

T: Batman’s not an elected official or member of local Law Enforcement. He’s a vigilante. If he decided that aforementioned mass murderers were better off dead than facing trial, he becomes a much bigger problem for law enforcement than the people he kills, A) because he’s killing people and B) because he’s arbitrarily deciding who lives or dies.

Michael: How much of that retcon could honestly be blamed on Denny O’Neil? According to Alan Grant, the older Denny got the more reliant he was on his assistants who, in Grant’s mind, were all a bunch of hacks and not up to Denny’s wisdom and expertise. I find it unlikely that Denny O’Neil would have come up with that idea and implemented it on his own.

Of course, like I said before, a few minor retcons here and there doesn’t detract from the fact that Denny O’Neil was and is the best Batman editor ever. Ask the people he worked with.

Bill –

The Joker is killing people and also “arbitrarily” deciding who lives or dies. Actually, the way the Joker kills IS the definition of arbitrary. Why is it that a murdering Batman would be a bigger problem than the Joker? At worst, he woud be as much of a problem as the Joker. Though I’d dispute even that.

The Punisher, for instance, isn’t killing people “arbitrarily”. His victims are chosen through certain criteria. The Joker has no rational criteria. That is the point of the Joker.

I suppose you meant “arbitrary” as “extra-judicial”, as liberals are wont to do when discussing such matters. Then yes, no doubt vigilantes like the Punisher are violating the law and all legal channels, and I get why liberals call it “arbitrary”. However, their victims aren’t really chosen arbitrarily in the same way as the Joker’s victims.

Bill Williamson

May 2, 2014 at 6:01 am

Arbitrary was the right word. Batman would be executing people he deems to be guilty regardless of whether or not they actually are (and Batman’s not infallible).

Assuming Batman hadn’t already killed the Joker, then he would be just as big a problem. See, if Batman started killing people, Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD couldn’t very well leave him to his own devices.

I side with Bill Williamson on the matter of Batman not killing. I know a mot of vocal readers like to say it is not realistic that Batman (and Iron Man and Captain America and Superman…) do not kill. As Bill pointed out, Batman (and most of the others) are not official law enforcement, and if they killed the realistic thing would be for the police (and other heroes) to try and bring them in.

I also think T has a point. Batman should not try and save a villain if it puts himself or others at risk doing so. If it is an easy save, he should do it., if not he should let them meet their fate and not loose sleep over it. Kind of like Mike Barr wrote him.

Of course it also make sense to save the Joker if Batman is worried that the Joker will not really die, but will survive and kill some more. At least if Batman saves the Joker he knows he is going to Arkham. At least for a while.

The law is not infallible either. But yeah, I suppose I am arguing semantics here.

Though it’s interesting that vigilantes like Batman are considered “all right” as long as they don’t kill, but they do violate legal process in a myriad of other ways.

Astro City had a story about the Street Angel, a Daredevil-like hero that was forced to face his own hypocrisy when he was made to realize that a lot of the criminals he assaulted developed permanent physical conditions, and some eventually led to death. Being hit by clubs or batarangs often enough will likely not do wonders for your lifespan.

Starman also had a nice story that illustrates well what would happen if Batman killed the Joker, if Batman stories were in any way realistic about human psychology. The judge and the jury would simply shrug and let the Batman go on any technicality they could find. Particularly if the fight took place in a dark, out of the way place, with no witnesses.

But since the Batman stories have transcended human psychology and become fables about law enforcement and whatnot, and we can’t have a “bad example” (as if the Joker wasn’t a bad example!), then we have a maniac mass murderer serial killer elevated to symbol of the sacredness of human life.

Bill Williamson

May 2, 2014 at 6:49 am

Rene: Well, I guess GCPD feel that they have bigger problems than a guy who dresses up like a bat and generally makes their job easier for them. I mean, some of the stuff they could charge Batman with would be difficult to prove. For example, breaking and entering, they’d have to prove that it was Batman who broke and entered. Assault, well Batman could always claim self defence. Etc.

Realistically, if Batman was ever brought in for killing The Joker or anyone else, Bruce Wayne could easily afford the top criminal lawyers in the country, people who’d make Johnnie Cochran look like a high school drop-out.

Of course, I’m not sure that the justice system would be so eager to let Batman go free, especially if they’re as corrupt as depicted. If Batman is executing every criminal he feels is worthy of execution, then no doubt top law and government officials would be thinking that Batman could come after them next.

T: Batman’s not an elected official or member of local Law Enforcement. He’s a vigilante. If he decided that aforementioned mass murderers were better off dead than facing trial, he becomes a much bigger problem for law enforcement than the people he kills, A) because he’s killing people and B) because he’s arbitrarily deciding who lives or dies.

A few things:

* To be clear, I don’t want Batman to be the Punisher or even Punisher-lite. I don’t want him stalking criminals with the intent to murder them. I don’t want him doing a shoot first and ask questions later or adopting a take no prisoners attitude. I think Batman should always look for the nonlethal option first, when reasonable, but if it becomes too risky to do the nonlethal option or he has to actively risk his own life to save murderers, he should draw the line there.

* If Batman wants to avoid killing whenever he can, and within reason, that’s good. That’s how it should be. But his rationale should be that he thinks life is precious and killing shouldn’t be taken lightly. Not some ridiculous extreme of “the minute I kill even one person, no matter who that person is, I’m as bad as Joe Chill or even the Joker.” That’s ridiculously black-and-white view of morality, even for a superhero comic.

* It’s not true that Batman is not deputized or that he’s totally outside of the law. He’s been deputized to various degrees as far back as 1941: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2013/03/15/comic-book-legends-revealed-410/ The Gotham police have a Bat-signal even, designed just for calling him. It’s not like the show Arrow where a cop helps Oliver Queen unofficially behind the scenes. Batman’s recognition by law enforcement is worked directly into the bureaucracy of the city government and police department, since I assume the Bat-signal is city government/police property operated by their employees.

* Even if he wasn’t officially recognized, and is totally an unsanctioned vigilante, in most places a private citizen can (1) legally kill in self-defense, (2) legally kill to save the life of another, and (3) is under no obligation to intervene and save that life of a person in mortal danger, even if doing so would not place the would-be rescuer in any danger himself. So killing under those three circumstances is actually LESS illegal than Batman’s actual vigilanteism. Now if Batman was actively setting out with an agenda to stalk and hunt down criminals like prey that wouldn’t be covered, whether he was a private citizen or a cop, but that’s not what I’m referring to.

* With all due respect, I think the idea that his killing criminals under the situations I describe would hardly make him a bigger problem to the police and society as the criminals he chases and it definitely wouldn’t count as arbitrarily deciding who lives and dies. Look at the havoc Joker recently wrought on the Gotham Police department in recent years, including Death of the Family.

Of course, I’m not sure that the justice system would be so eager to let Batman go free, especially if they’re as corrupt as depicted. If Batman is executing every criminal he feels is worthy of execution, then no doubt top law and government officials would be thinking that Batman could come after them next.

With all due respect, this is a bit much I think. It’s a big leap from being pushed to killing Zsasz or Joker in self-defense or while trying to save others to targeting to law and government officials for death.

As I recall wasn’t it changed that Superman and Batman were there for the JLA’s first adventure, but refused to join because they were “too busy” but would “heed the call” if needed, thus explaining how they were in those early stories? Wonder Woman was retconned out for Black Canary because after Crisis they were reintroducing her as just then coming off the island for the first time. Then later I think they abandoned (and forsaken?) it to make them all original members again.

Does anyone know why they came to that decision? I can see why you wouldn’t want your character in current stories out of your control, but who cares if the character was in stories set 10-15 years in the past or not? Of course the minute you have the JSA in the same world with the JLA and Superman isn’t your starting point for all superheroes things get hazy.

And I’m with kdu2814 on Batman- while I don’t think he should be killing bad guys, I think the Batman Begins idea that I won’t kill you, but I’m not going to save you from your own stupidity and evil makes more sense. Joker gets shot up and his helicopter is crashing into the bay? Oh well, but I’m not giving you CPR. He at least needs to at least let Darwin Award winners thin out.

My opinion is more or less like T.’s

I also don’t want to see the Batman become the Punisher. However, I do find it absurd when superheroes go into all sorts of rationalizations for why they’re always saving and enabling mass murderers, only because said mass murderers are their “arch-enemies” (i.e. important characters).

For instance, Superman wouldn’t let any harm come to the Joker either. In Kingdom Come (granted, that is Elseworlds, but it’s emblematic in how saving mass murderers has been elevated to a sort of fetish, in that killing the Joker is apparently what sets the wheels in motion for millions to die in Kansas!), Superman is berating himself for allowing Magog to kill the Joker.

But let’s think about it, on Earth there are always people dying, I bet people die even as Superman is saving lives. Someone is assaulting the Joker here, while there is a building falling there. Do you go help the Joker or do you save those nice ordinary people in the building? It should be a no-brainer to anyone, except to a DC superhero! Of course, they will go save the Joker.

The Joker’s life is the most sacred life in all the universe.

Batman and Superman and all the rest should be symbols of the triumph of good, of justice, of crime not paying. However, the way Gotham City has evolved since the 1980s, it became more like some sort of existentialist crime novel, written by Patricia Highsmith, where bad things happen to good people all the time, and evil psychopaths always go unpunished.

I don’t think that is the sort of message intended by those people who say Batman should cherish all life, but that is sure as hell the message that is being sent. Ordinary citizens are not safe in Gotham City. Prominent citizens like James Gordon’s wife also are not safe. Even other superheroes like Jason Todd and Barbara Gordon are not safe. However, the Joker is safe. He is the only one that always thrives.

Sure as hell, this sounds like an existentialist tale about the absurdity of life and the unfairness of it all. In Gotham City, either God doesn’t exist, or God is evil.

I’m not saying Batman should necessarily kill the Joker, only that writers should cut down on the Joker’s lethality. Or maybe I’m getting this all wrong, and the Batman comics have become about celebrating the Joker’s evil?

Bill Williamson

May 2, 2014 at 11:05 am

T: Acts of killing in self defence or defence of others rarely, if ever, goes unchallenged. If Batman killed in self defence, there would be an inquest or an investigation, which would probably lead to Batman being placed under arrest or, more likely, being hunted as a fugitive for resisting arrest. It would be much easier for Batman to not kill whoever in the first place. Not to mention if the GCPD managed to arrest Batman and unmask him, that would open the floodgates.

Also, it only counts as defence of others if there is a clear and present danger to the third party at the time of killing. Killing The Joker just because he’s killed so many innocent people would still be straight up murder.

The mention of the cops using the bat-signal reminds me of a bit in–GCPD?–where they stand around on the roof waiting for civilian employee (somebody’s secretary and not a member of the PD) to come turn on the signal. Because officially the department cannot be seen as asking for a vigilante’s help.

Brian, ever do a When First We Met or whatever on the history of the bat-signal?

Acts of killing in self defence or defence of others rarely, if ever, goes unchallenged. If Batman killed in self defence, there would be an inquest or an investigation, which would probably lead to Batman being placed under arrest or, more likely, being hunted as a fugitive for resisting arrest. It would be much easier for Batman to not kill whoever in the first place. Not to mention if the GCPD managed to arrest Batman and unmask him, that would open the floodgates.

With all due respect, that’s the type of hacky premise that’s up there with “Batman is an urban legend to the Gotham citizens.” Sure there are writers who will try to sell that, and readers who would inexplicably find it plausible, just like with the urban legend premise, but it’s ridiculous. The idea that Batman would be public enemy #1 for using self-defense against Joker is a tough sell in my book.

The mention of the cops using the bat-signal reminds me of a bit in–GCPD?–where they stand around on the roof waiting for civilian employee (somebody’s secretary and not a member of the PD) to come turn on the signal. Because officially the department cannot be seen as asking for a vigilante’s help.

That’s bizarre. So who paid for the creation of the Bat Signal? Is it on police property? How did it get there? Once it gets shined, who talks to Batman to give him the assignment? I can’t see that defense of using a non-cop shining the signal passing muster.

Yeah, the accused is a guy that has saved the universe countless times with the JLA. The victim is a mass murderer that has killed children by the score. In addition, one has helped save cops time and again, the other is a multiple cop killer.

The idea that any court of law would make it hard for Batman to get away with using self-defense against the Joker is ludicrous. Even if it isn’t self-defense, it’s just Batman losing his cool for a second and hitting the Joker a bit harder causing a lethal wound, even so no court of law would condemn the Batman, IF human psychology worked like it should in the Bat-Books.

Batman shouldn’t kill. Ever.

It is core to his character, and I don’t think it is unbelievable that a man who has dedicated himself to protecting life would never kill or refuse to save someone in danger.

I don’t want to see a Batman who simply doesn’t care if people live or die, good or bad. That isn’t Batman (comics).

On the self-defence argument, there is a difference between these two situations:

1, I’m walking down the street and someone pulls a knife on me.
2, I put on a suit of armour, drive around town in a tank and specifically pick a fight.

The law does not play favorites, he is a vigilante and would be subject to the same laws as everyone else if he killed someone (even if we suspend disbelief that the GCPD actively works with him).

P.S. I would maybe make an exception for the Joker (allowing to die, not killing), but then we’d just get yet another resurrection/wasn’t really dead story six months to a year down the road and I utterly sick of them.

@ kdu2814

I think you’re blaming O’Neil for a few things that might have been above his pay grade. In regards to changes with Selina Kyle, you’re talking about a change in continuity as a result of Batman: Year One and a change in her character that also sprung from Catwoman: Year One (aka: Her Sister’s Keeper.) The Catwoman that Barr wrote was very much the Pre-Crisis Catwoman and the Catwoman who showed up after that was very much influenced by Frank Miller’s take on the character.

And in regards to The Huntress moving to Gotham then being a Gotham native, that was an attempt to tie her more closely with Gotham and theoretically make her a more viable character. It was a bonafide attempt to reboot the character, with plans to incorporate her fully in the Gotham-lore, as well as add a new dynamic with Huntress being willing to kill, while the rest of the Bat-fam deciding not to kill. And I believe the change in the Huntress origin occurred in her first mini.

Batman not knowing about Joe Chill was, I believe, a Zero Hour reboot. I’m pretty sure the gimmick of Zero Hour was that every Zero Issue would retell the origin but add something new. Batman’s origin was pretty much set in stone, so that was the only addition that could be made. Plus as a character Batman had like four different Zero issue.

I don’t really recall the Bat Rogue appearing prior to Robin retcon, so I can’t defend that.

But I think Denny did a solid job as a Bat editor. Now if you want to attack him for 100 issues of Azrael…

Finally, as someone else who began reading Batman with Ten Nights of The Beast, I had not problem with the ending. Much like others, I thought it was “cool.” I imagine that I theorized Bats was keeping him there for awhile before he could a) come up with a different plan b) call for super heroic back up. I don’t think that I thought Batman was really leaving him there to die.

Man with No Face

June 13, 2014 at 3:51 pm

How do we know Nightwing was talking about the KGBeast?

Dick mentions a bad guy “you locked in a SUBWAY TUNNEL.” Then Batman says “I called the police,” et cetera.

But the KGBeast was locked in a SEWER. Not a subway tunnel.

Since he never uses the name “the Beast”, or says “that KGB assassin”, maybe Dick is talking about some totally different criminal that Batman temporarily locked in a subway tunnel. Dick may not even know about the KGBeast…whom, yes, Batman left to die in the sewer, and never told anyone about.

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