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Tuesday, April 28, 2020 

More on the overused premises of Superman killing for the sake of it

Since the subject's been in discussion recently about Superman being marginalized for Batman's sake in publicity promotions, I recently found this Screen Rant entry about a very irritating moment in the past decade, when DC decided to insult people's intellects even further, in a Justice League tale where Superman "murders" supervillain Dr. Light, who's being depicted as a "good guy" for some reason in the New 52:
There's little question Superman is a hero driven by a strict moral compass. One of the Man of Steel's biggest rules is that he doesn't kill. However, he once unintentionally broke that rule by murdering longtime DC Comics' villain Doctor Light.

Superman has shown a murderous side before, even if the idea of killing goes against his personal beliefs. He has previously revealed how he believes not killing makes him a better hero, but, in certain situations, whether that's in film, television, in alt-universe stories, or in main comics' continuity, Kal-El has killed before. One of the most brutal examples was during The New 52's Justice League arc, 'Trinity War,' when Superman used his heat vision to melt Doctor Light's skull.
Ii always seems like Superman's the one said to show a "murderous side", but Batman incredibly enough, doesn't seem scathed by that kind of propaganda hammer over the head. I did try doing a search for information on whether Batman had ever "turned evil" as in becoming a potential criminal, and found, for example, this Newsarama page, but the majority of these seem to be alternate reality variations on the Masked Manhunter, so they don't really count. And that's exactly why Superman being subjected to these tactics so irritating, and a prime example of shock value marketing, as he seems to wind up in these positions far more than Batman ever does.
In Justice League #22 by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Eber Ferreira, and Oclair Albert, Superman and Wonder Woman are visited by Pandora, who is part of the Trinity of Sin. She reveals she's the reason the seven sins are in the world, as she was tricked into opening the (Pandora's) box that unleashed them. She tells Kal-El and Diana it's possible the sins can be imprisoned again but she needs Superman's help - she puts a skull in his hand which influences him into turning evil. After dropping the artifact, Superman returns to normal and the league meets up with the new Justice League of America. In their encounter on Khandaw, when Doctor Light accidentally hits Diana with one of his light blasts, Superman kills him with his heat vision.
It doesn't sound so much like Superman recovered to normal, so much as it does sound like a spell was cast upon him, although there's another crook - and a female at that - who turns out to have something to do with this ghastly incident, more on which anon. That Dr. Light was made worse than need be in Identity Crisis, retconned as he was into a sex offender, is precisely why this whole Justice League story was an insult to the intellect. First, Arthur Light was retconned into something he'd never been characterized as before in his first 3 decades of existence since 1962. Now, in this Johns-penned atrocity, Light is suddenly a good guy, we're apparently supposed to feel sorry for him, and Superman's brainwashing notwithstanding, he's made to look like the guilty one? Just another shoddy example of modern DC writers trolling the audience with insults to the intellect. Now, about that aforementioned crook:
Doctor Light's murder leads to a brawl between the league. However, Firestorm is able to sense Kryptonite in Superman's system. It's revealed the Justice Leaguer Atomica (the Earth-3 version of the Atom) actually put a tiny piece of Kryptonite in Superman's brain and hit a nerve that triggered his heat vision. It turned out Atomica was actually part of the Crime Syndicate. So, while Superman killed Doctor Light, Atomica was responsible as she turned Superman into a weapon.
Well! So as if it weren't bad enough Jean Loring was turned into a sacrificial lamb in the aforementioned 2004 offense, Johns and company concocted an evil female version of the Atom. It's pretty obvious the Johns-penned storyline was no accident, and he did this to troll the audience, subtly or otherwise. It should be no surprise the New 52 was such a botch. Even if this rendition of Dr. Light did return, albeit differently:
Thankfully, the story is from a comic book, so you can bet Doctor Light didn't disappear after getting murdered by Superman. He later returns as a being of pure light that's able to shape himself into a human-looking form - although it's basically the end of Doctor Light's turn as a hero. The New 52 was an especially confusing time for continuity, so while Superman murdered Doctor Light, it wasn't by choice - and he didn't stay dead. So did Superman really kill him? Yes, yes he did. Did Doctor Light stay dead? Sort of.
But does this change the fact that an evil female take on the Atom was behind the ploy? Nope. Nor does it change the ill will piloting the story, and it clearly doesn't change the fact that, brainwashing and "drug effects" or not, Superman was depicted committing murder of a character originally portrayed as a criminal, and now suddenly depicted as a "good guy". Something is definitely wrong when the setup is so deliberate.

Here's an older Kotaku article about this forced story:
The victim this time is Dr. Light, a reluctant superhero caught up in the battle between two superteams. After he inadvertently attacks Wonder Woman—who Superman happens to be dating—Dr. Light gets his head burned off by Kal-El’s heat vision. It's clearly set up as an accident with any number of outs, and Superman expresses shock and regret right after it happens. There’s a vast evil conspiracy going on that’s trying to get the public to distrust the Justice League and this apparent murder at the Man of Steel’s hands is part of that campaign.
Again, this is exactly why I distanced myself from the writings of Johns, for example. The pairing of Supes with WW is a telling example of laughably obvious economy writing, as the change of Dr. Light to a "good guy" and an evil female Atom variant are a slap in the face to fans of the Silver Age creations.
Justice League #22 marks the third time in recent months that Superman’s killed someone. The previous incident comes at the end of Man of Steel, the blockbuster film that’s re-introducing Superman to a new generation of fans. In the Zack Snyder film, Superman snaps the neck of fellow Kryptonian General Zod when faced with the reality that someone just as unstoppable as him will kill as many people as possible. It’s presented by the movie’s creators as the only possible out.

The moments where Superman kills in this year's Injustice: Gods Among Us comic are both similar and different as Man of Steel and Justice League #22. He kills Lois Lane by accident but ends the Joker's life with clear intent.
It may be one thing if Superman kills a criminal who's actually characterized as a criminal, but to write such a forced and contrived story as Johns did in his Justice League volume is, as said before, trolling the audience and insulting their intellect. And that storyline from Injustice, where Lois Lane is accidentally killed, was another example of shock value going too far. Say, did anyone notice the above is another example of overusing the Joker as an adversary, and in a franchise other than Batman to boot?
Between the Injustice comic, the Man of Steel movie and today’s issue of Justice League, the questions of the moment now seem to be these: "Is Superman still Superman if he kills?" "Should Superman kill?"
The questions should be whether Superman should kill in self-defense, and to prevent lethal supervillains from killing again. This was the case at the end of Green Lantern's 2nd volume, when Sinestro was put to death for committing mass murder of the surviving members of Kilowog's race, and it was indicated that wasn't the only offense of its sort Sinestro committed at the time. It pays to make distinctions, yet these mainstream news sources don't seem to be doing that.

We could also bring up the subject of whether Daredevil's been depicted killing in the past, and whether it was for the right or wrong reasons. I did some research on that, turning up a CBR history list, and this article too, describes it as a case of Daredevil murdering people, which is disturbing, because it fails to make a proper distinction between whether the character in focus killed in self defense or just plain outright committed murder in cold blood. Here's their description of Frank Miller's and John Romita Jr's Man Without Fear miniseries from 1994:
Created by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. in Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #4 (1994), the Kingpin's best assassin was a man known only as Larks. Since he was a child, Larks was trained by Wilson Fisk to be the perfect and soulless assassin. For Larks, killing was as natural as breathing, and ending a life was the only thing that made him happy.

In the issue, some of the Kingpin's men went rogue by kidnapping and holding a little girl for ransom, and the Kingpin sent Larks to clean up the mess by killing everyone involved. Matt Murdock went to stop him before he became Daredevil. As Murdock chased Larks with the girl, they confronted each other and Larks fired a shot that Murdock reflected to hit the assassin right between the eyes.
So Matt was supposed to just let himself be wiped out by vermin with nothing but murder on the mind, and not defend himself (or the girl) from the assassin? Keep up the lecturing, please. Some of the other examples are more from the post-2000 era, and IMO, nothing following the cancellation of the first DD volume after 1998 is worth reading. I seem to recall Kevin Smith's run opening the 2nd volume, published as it was under the Marvel Knights sub-label, saw Karen Page being murdered by Bullseye. No matter how dark a title like Daredevil is, I feel they were going much too far with those Knights entries, and that's why I feel DD was basically brought to an end, mostly by an overrated filmmaker who certainly was less understanding of comics than movies.

This whole subject even reminded me of the horrific Green Lantern run in Action Comics Weekly during 1988-89, where Carol Ferris, still under the influence of the Star Sapphire gem, murdered Katma Tui in #601. Though it was later established in the 3rd GL volume that the Predator was actually responsible by controlling her via physical and mental possession, it's still very extremely embarrassing (but hey, like I said earlier, the disgraced Gerard Jones didn't handle it very well in any case). What's really irritating about the whole debacle to start with is that it served as a precursor to the Alexandra deWitt debacle during the Emerald Twilight insult by just 6 years. So Ron Marz, Darryl Banks and Kevin Dooley were just taking their cue from the jerks who caused all that trouble in the first place.

What's really galling about the whole ACW debacle with GL, whose feature in that run likely torpedoed its sales and reception singlehandedly, is that the late artist Gil Kane, Carol Ferris and Katma Tui's very own co-creator, actually took part in the production, with Denny O'Neil serving as editor. Why these two otherwise talented people would put such a black mark on their careers we may never know. But this much is clear: Katma Tui's death in 1988 was handled much worse than that of Jason Todd, who at least was trying to prevent the detonation of the Joker's bomb before it went off in A Death in the Family, whereas Katma died without even defending herself. Indeed, that whole GL story in ACW served as a precursor to later stories where a heroic woman winds up dead for no good reason, at times without even acting in self-defense. It even goes without saying that ACW's Green Lantern entries were otherwise inconsistent with stories from the 2nd ongoing volume (the 3d volume suffered similar problems at times), and there was only so much illogic abound, such as how Hal Jordan could steal a diamond from a mine in a south African nation, whose racist representatives proceeded to pin the blame on John Stewart, all in order to set up the plot in the 1988 GL Special for a supposed commentary on the apartheid situation in south Africa at the time. Except that the focus later turned to some black criminals who murdered a white couple and spray painted graffiti on their house wall saying "kill whitey". So in other words, it all became as much a case of moral equivalence as it was forced and contrived. Above all, it was mind-boggling. There were at least a few elements during this ACW run that ended up forgotten, and deservedly so. It's truly awful when you consider that the door had been left open for Carol Ferris to return and have the mind control undone, and similarly, the GL Corps could be reassembled, and some basket cases at DC just had to ruin everything, taking it all from worse to hopeless. If Katma Tui's still in the afterlife, then this still remains an embarrassment that hasn't been repaired.

Now to get back to the main subject here, I think it's time already for these shock value stories where Superman has to be seen killing anyone to stop. And the same goes for other notable characters, like whom I just mentioned here. These kind of stories are exactly what bring down the Man of Steel's reputation, along with other corporate owned characters.

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"the change of Dr. Light to a "good guy" and an evil female Atom variant are a slap in the face to fans of the Silver Age creations."

The evil Earth 3 variant of the Justice League was a Silver Age creation. It debuted in JLA 29, way back in the Summer of 1964. Although the Atom had already joined the JLA, the evil analogue included only counterparts of Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Flash and Green Lantern. Adding an evil Atom to the Earth 3 Crime Syndicate was an extension of Gardner Fox and Julius Schwartz' creations, not a slap in the face to them.

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