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Heroes Don't Kill People. Wait! Why?

Updated on September 24, 2014
Regina and Zelena face off in Once Upon a Time
Regina and Zelena face off in Once Upon a Time

Where do people get these ideas?

This seems like an idea that would come from the same brilliant people, who decided that we couldn’t let children see death in their Saturday morning cartoons. This of course gave us shows with terrorists and soldiers fighting and no one dying because that makes logical sense. Yes, G.I. Joe, I am looking at you.


In watching shows and movies, I have noticed a strange and quite frankly upsetting trend. People have somehow come to the outrageous belief that heroes should be naïve idiots. In fact they take it a step further and act as though one’s heroism should be measured according to one’s stupidity. One such show that is infected by this belief is a show I like, Once Upon A Time. The phrase, "Heroes don't kill people", in my title is borrowed from it. What they fail to see when they use such naïve phrases is that sometimes a hero must kill to protect the innocent. After all, isn’t a hero supposed to protect the innocent? Once Upon A Time is not the most major offender here. I understand that this idea has been around in comic books for a while now. This started with the idea that it was wrong to teach children that it was okay to kill people. While I agree that we should teach children that it is wrong to kill Joe pedestrian over on the sidewalk, I disagree that we should teach them that it is wrong to a kill person, who is about ready to say blow up the city with a nuke. There is a moral difference between these two.

However, some might ask, “What about redemption?” I’m all for the idea of redemption. I’m a Christian. Redemption is an integral part of my faith, but how many innocents did Regina in Once Upon A Time slaughter before she was redeemed? I am not writing this article in response to Once Upon A Time though. I recently watched Man Of Steel, and yes, I know by now that this movie is old news. But I feel like responding to the absurd uproar surrounding Superman’s killing of Zod.

I first heard about this uproar before I watched the movie. It sounded to me as though the scriptwriters had Superman do some sort of execution style thing, which I could understand people having a moral objection to. Not saying that I would agree with it. The fact of the matter though is that Zod’s death isn’t some cold blooded execution. Here, let’s watch the clip.

Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel
Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel

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To answer the main objection that I have heard to Superman’s killing of Zod, I would note a few major things in this clip. The first, Zod has just attempted to wipe out the entire human race. At this point, Zod already deserves death for his murders. He may have once been some sort of great valiant military hero, but he has become a psychopathic mass murderer, at least an attempted mass murderer. It is wrong to let someone like this roam free. At this point in the story, kryptonite, which could take away his power, has not been discovered. The government also has not developed red sun radiation prison cells, which could contain him. What is the government supposed to do with Zod? The only person who can successfully fight with Zod is Superman. Therefore it falls on Superman to make the decision.

Second, Zod is targeting innocents at that very moment. There is a family, including children, whom Zod has decided to kill in cold blood to make Superman suffer. What is Superman supposed to do? Let Zod kill the family? Maybe he could take off and fly up into the atmosphere with Zod. However, Zod’s heat vision as it goes up the wall might structurally damage the building causing it to come crashing down on the family. Also, it is not quite clear how well Superman would actually be able to hold onto Zod while in flight. Superman could try to protect the family by covering Zod’s eyes to block the heat vision. However, this would require him to loosen his grip on Zod, which could allow Zod to break free and kill the family. Also none of these solutions deal with the first problem, Zod’s desire to wipe out the human race.

Third, Zod shows no intention whatsoever of changing his tune. How does Zod respond when Superman pleads with him to stop? He says, “Never!” He means to continue torturing Superman by slaughtering humans. What is Superman supposed to do? There is no other option. He is faced with a megalomaniac, who believes that Superman has destroyed any possibility of saving the Kryptonian race and therefore desires to punish him by killing humans. Superman reluctantly accepts the only option.

Not Zack Snyder's biggest fan, but here he made the right choice
Not Zack Snyder's biggest fan, but here he made the right choice


Now, I have seen the argument that if we follow this line of reasoning, Superman should also just go kill Lex Luthor. But there is a major difference between Zod and Lex Luthor. Zod is a Kryptonian. Lex Luthor is a human. Other people are capable of dealing with Lex Luthor. He is not invincible to normal weaponry. He is also subject to the laws of The United States, and therefore he enjoys the protection of said laws. That said, I would have no moral qualms with Superman killing Lex Luthor if Lex Luthor had a gun aimed at the head of a child. However if there is no imminent danger, there are courts in place to deal with men like Lex Luthor. No human court could have dealt with Zod.

In closing, the entire idea that heroes don’t kill people is naïve and shortsighted. Some people will say that just because one has power does not give one the moral authority to choose who lives and who dies, and I agree with that in general. Certain situations though force the decision. When the hero is forced to choose between killing a murderer or allowing a murderer to kill his victims, he should choose to kill the murderer. Not doing anything is making a choice. Not doing anything is deciding who lives and who dies. Violence is not the ideal option, but sometimes it is the only option.

This was not the first time that Superman killed Zod

One should point out here that this is hardly the first time Superman has killed Zod. Superman killed an alternate Zod in Superman #22. He then kills Zod again in Action Comics #805. Also back in The Golden Age of Comics before the CCA (Comic Code Authority), Superman apparently killed quite a few people.

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    • Anate profile image

      Joseph Ray 3 years ago

      Yeah, I was really wierded out by that comment since I think almost every hero character in the show has killed multiple people. It seems like they've killed quite few of the villain's henchmen. They just never seem to want to kill the villain.

    • sallyrose333 profile image

      Sally 3 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

      I agree with this. Great article. I had such mix feelings with that Regina "heroes don't kill" scene. I really was loving Regina's character and her redemption arc but I didn't agree with heroes never killing. Sometimes it's what is needed to be done. Superman killing Zod was a good example of this.

    • Anate profile image

      Joseph Ray 3 years ago

      Thank you all for your comments. And I agree with your comments. I do not think that I mentioned this in the article, but the thing I really find annoying about the entire idea of heroes not killing people as it removes having the hero have to make hard moral, which show his character.

    • Movie Arbiter profile image

      Movie Arbiter 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I agree too that the scene fit. I was either Zod or the people of Earth and was symbolic for Superman embracing his destiny as our planet's savior.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Interesting reflections and observations. I agree with your summary.

    • Ally Lewis profile image

      Ally Lewis 3 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      Interesting analysis of Zod's death in the newest Superman installment! I thought that scene was appropriate as well, especially showing how much of a struggle it was for Superman to ultimately realize that he needed to kill him for the madness to end.