Yeah, I figured that what I said might also apply to policemen, but there is a difference: policemen to not deal with people they deem a threat to society. They - ideally ^^ - deal with people who break laws which were made by society and they are employed by society to fulfill that task. Superheroes on the other hand, afaik, tend to be vigilantes.
I’d say it’s precisely part of the concept of the superhero/ine that s/he exercises his/her own independent judgement, rather than just dealing with what society tells him/her is unacceptable behavior in society—though (ideally) for the most part his/her judgements do happen to coincide with what his/her society considers unacceptable behavior. Sometimes (if not often), unfortunately, those in power in a society can become corrupted and twist all the rules to their own ends, and in situations like this the superhero/ine becomes IMO a genuine source of inspiration by not following the now corrupted rules of society anymore but going by his/her own judgement.
To some degree, I would assume, superheroes deal with a basic problem society and law making and enforcing do have. You can’t prevent crime. You can’t punish every crime. Not every punishment is just. They’re broadsword approaches to regulating the lives of millions of individual cases. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a wise Superman not only able but willing and smart enough to supply justice where policemen and judges and politicians can only fail? That’s not all there is to the superhero concept, but I think it’s a part of it. In that way they are fundamentally incompatible with reality. Played straight, superheroes are like the justice version of the land of milk and honey.
That’s what myth is about, right? An ideal expressed through some imaginative medium, say a comic book or cartoon show.
I’m sure there must be some issues of Superman (or some other hero) around in which he exercised great wisdom in passing judgement. Certainly more than a few heroes/heroines abide by a ‘code against taking life’.
Sure, but like Superman, Lex Luthor is a fictional character. I guess superhero stories would be far less entertaining if the villains were not, well, evil. It’s a fantasy after all. I guess at this point in time mist important villains have a solid back stories and even relatable motivations - and that’s great - but I agree that in the end, there’s probably a lot of ‘black and white’. Everything else might actually end up challenging the whole superhero concept. If Superman was to beat up a decent Lex Luthor with a relatable goal, Superman would be the villain. Or it would reach a conclusion that could no longer be solved by just punching someone. I’m sure there are superhero comics like this and I think this would be a sign of a comics maturity, but it would definitely challenge superhero cliche, wouldn’t it?
Truth be told, I myself actually find the ‘black-hat-versus-white-hat’ formula simplistic and tiresome as well. (That’s why I’ve never had much patience with Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings.) I’m sure many villains could have been forced to become what they were by circumstances beyond their control. And it’s also of interest to note that in all of the East Asian religious traditions no human being could ever be truly evil—just temporarily deluded.
I would certainly consider it a good thing in this respect if there were to be more superhero/ine fare showing a greater awareness of the complexities of human motivation, but at the same time I think it would be a challenge to make the story both entertaining and showing such awareness.
I myself have been entertaining this idea of a new superhero who doesn’t just catch ‘crooks’ and hand them in to the police. In #1 of his comic series he catches a street thug who’s attempting to rob a lady, but talks to him and finds (with the aid of a spell to ensure he’s telling the truth) that he’s really just a normal guy caught in extremely difficult personal situations, so our hero magically creates a diamond and gives it to him to sell for money, thereby relieving him of his woes. Would this story work? Whaddya think? (Hey, I might seriously make this into an e-comic. Below is how I intend my hero to look like.)
Some supervillains have actually been portrayed as possessing a tiny spark of goodness in them as well, which occasionally shines out in what they do. Skeletor from the He-Man cartoon series, for example. (You know He-Man?)