Monday, June 26, 2006

Jim Corrigan for the Defense

When it comes to discussions of vigilantism, I mean, superheroes, the question always comes up, "Why doesn't he just KILL him?"

Now, besides the fact that it deprives your ongoing series of a good villain, there's also the fact that a lot of people are anti-death penalty, including Batman and me.

I'm not talking about shooting criminals in self-defense or the defense of others (rabid dogs need to be put down), or in the middle of a war. That's fine, justifiable, and darn exciting storytelling. But EXECUTING captured criminals to keep them from escaping and killing again? I just don't hold with that.

Except for this guy:

But he has three major advantages over, say, Manhunter or the Punisher.

One, he's the wrath of God. So there's no question about his authority. God put him in charge, it's God's universe to do with as the Presence wishes, you can't really argue with that.

Two, he's omniscient. So there's no question of his accuracy. The Spectre will never kill an innocent man. No later DNA evidence will exonerate the executed. No false alibi will hide the true criminal. No confession gotten out of duress will convince the Spectre of anything other than the truth. If you're innocent, he knows. And if you're guilty, he REALLY know.

Three, he's dead. So there's no question of his impartiality. The world holds nothing of interest to a man with no body and no real connection to the living. He cannot be bribed. He cannot be threatened. He will not kill a man simply because he does not like him, or his kind of people. He will not increase executions so he can seem tough on crime. He will not decrease them to show concern for a minority group. An intelligence without a physical, fallible brain, the Spectre may be the single most rational being on the planet.

Only a being with the proper authority, absolute knowledge of the murder, and complete disinterest in the outcome of the event should be allowed to say who lives and who dies. Everyone else WILL make a mistake eventually (I cannot believe that the Punisher hasn't killed an innocent person at least once).

Plus, the Spectre gets all creative when he kills people. Anyone can just shoot a guy in the head, or break a neck. It takes someone pretty vicious to turn a doll collection into hungry zombies.


Batmanisgrim said...

Just because Batman doesn't kill that doesn't mean he is for or against the death penalty. In the Devil's Advocate, the Joker is found to be sane and is sentenced to the death penalty. Batman finds out that the Joker is not guilty, in this case and gets the Joker off. He didn't do it because of his views on the death penalty.

Steven said...

That example is... poor.

The Devil's Advocate, as a book, is the argument against the death penalty. The courts make the reasonable, but wrong, verdict, and the wrong man would have been permanently punished if Batman had not intervened. This is THE scenario death penalty opponents most fear (because there is no Batman to intervene in real life).

But it is VERY clear (from the end of Infinite Crisis, to his reaction Diana killing Max Lord, to his reaction to Diana's suggestion that the League should have killed Dr. Light rather than mind-wipe him), that Batman DOES NOT APPROVE OF KILLING BAD GUYS, either in the line of duty (he ABSOLUTELY REFUSES to carry a gun) or as punishment afterwards (he kicks Huntress out of the JLA for almost executing Prometheus).

Now, Gotham clearly has a death penalty, and you're right, Batman hasn't stopped that, but Gotham's police force also carry revolvers, and Batman hasn't stopped that either. So just because Batman would have allowed the state to execute the Joker, doesn't mean he approved of it, and EVERYTHING else he has every done or said suggests Batman is ABSOLUTELY OPPOSED to the death penalty.