When Our Heroes Come to Blows

 

Not Pictured: Our Feelings

This is the year we make our heroes beat-up each other: Superman fights Batman; Captain America (and friends) fights Iron Man (and friends); Daredevil fights the Punisher; Deadpool fights Our Sense of Decency and Good Taste; the Flash and Supergirl team up to fight our Suspension of Disbelief. Such concepts bring up questions from my non-cool (read: non-nerdy) friends ,who ask, “Why would good guys fight each other?”

Good question, actually! In fact, the hero vs. hero concept is an old one, not just in comic books but in literature as well. In comics, of course, it’s quite prevalent and we’re seeing a glut of it at the moment. Perhaps it’s the nature of the superhero: take a handful of guys in funny outfits who are fighting crime for a variety of personal reasons and you’re bound to find conflict. Crime-fighting vigilantes are already working on (or past) the fringes of the law, which puts them in highly subjective and nebulous territory.

Once you’re out there, you’re going to come at odds with others who’ve made the same choice for different reason.

For example, in his first comic book appearance, the Punisher was actively hunting down Spider-Man. The former was under the common mistaken impression that Spider-Man had killed Norman Osbourne. And being the Punisher, seeking justice means trying to kill Spider-Man. See? Conflict!

However, having our protagonists become mutual antagonists serves a purpose as well. It helps us to ask questions that are more difficult to wrestle over than if it were placed in a simple protagonist vs. antagonist set-up.

In Daredevil’s second season, the conflict brings up the concept of justice and how two very different vigilantes pursue it. Daredevil works outside the law but, once criminals are subdued, he brings them back to it by handing them over to authorities and the courts (often worse for wear). For the Punisher, this is not enough. The system itself is corrupt and flawed and can’t be trusted. For Daredevil, the Punisher goes too far in killing as a first (and largely only) option; for the Punisher, Daredevil doesn’t go far enough and just perpetuates the problem, telling him:

I think you’re a half-measure. I think you’re a man who can’t finish the job. I think that you’re a coward.

In Captain America: Civil War, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark wrestle with the question of who these super beings are beholden to. What happens when their abilities seemingly get out of control and people are hurt? Who’s responsible? Who keeps them in check? These answers aren’t easy (though I dislike the solutions this film offers on either side). Superman v. Batman asks much the same questions, just not as well.

In some ways, too, this need to see our heroes fight is reflective of our times as well. Look at our primaries, where we’ve had hotly-contested nominations on both sides. Our nation is strongly divided between progressives and conservatives and each of those sides is riven with internal conflicts. These groups and sub-groups come to near blows, and their fringe elements are sometimes accused of abetting the real enemy. We all agree that something is wrong, what precisely it is and what to do about it often leads to conflict.

If you want to know why our heroes fight each other, it’s because we fight each other and they’re our champions. They fight each other because, in the pursuit of what’s good, we can’t even agree on what is good.

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  1. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    TG:

    Titus Techera:

    There is not one thought here; there is merely that which people say.

    Titus, if I understand you … you are saying that Austin has made a banal statement, here?

    If that is what you meant … do you realize that it would have been less insulting to simply state “That is banal” rather than what you wrote?

    If I have understood you … do you care?

    I regret any insult. I hope to have shown by my previous comments that I pay attention & attend with some care to what the man has had to say. That’s some kind of respect–we have disagreed, but without insults–up to now, that is–& without belligerence.

    What I meant to say, I’m not sure I should call it banal–I meant it literally. The individual choosing about power: Not thinking. Much of what we say is devoid of thinking; I do not mean to single anyone out for special attention. Only the line, the phrase trotted out–one could not say who invented it or made it popular, but there it is. The untold millions have it upon their lips now & again; we live in an age where tools are said to be neutral & so, too, power. Everyone takes it for granted; no one tries to prove it; no one feels there is any challenge, at the movies or on Ricochet or elsewhere, to say what power is & how come it’s neutral. One merely utters it in unpurporting confidence-

    • #31
  2. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Titus Techera:

    TG:

    Titus Techera:

    There is not one thought here; there is merely that which people say.

    Titus, if I understand you … you are saying that Austin has made a banal statement, here?

    If that is what you meant … do you realize that it would have been less insulting to simply state “That is banal” rather than what you wrote?

    If I have understood you … do you care?

    I regret any insult. I hope to have shown by my previous comments that I pay attention & attend with some care to what the man has had to say. That’s some kind of respect–we have disagreed, but without insults–up to now, that is–& without belligerence.

    What I meant to say, I’m not sure I should call it banal–I meant it literally. The individual choosing about power: Not thinking. Much of what we say is devoid of thinking; I do not mean to single anyone out for special attention. Only the line, the phrase trotted out–one could not say who invented it or made it popular, but there it is. The untold millions have it upon their lips now & again; we live in an age where tools are said to be neutral & so, too, power. Everyone takes it for granted; no one tries to prove it; no one feels there is any challenge, at the movies or on Ricochet or elsewhere, to say what power is & how come it’s neutral. One merely utters it in unpurporting confidence-

    That’s an interesting perspective.  If you mean to suggest that power, regardless of who is wielding it, is inherently evil … that thought causes me, as a Christian, to experience a severe case of cognitive dissonance (because who or what could be more powerful than The Lord?).

    • #32
  3. Palaeologus Inactive
    Palaeologus
    @Palaeologus

    Titus Techera: we live in an age where tools are said to be neutral & so, too, power. Everyone takes it for granted; no one tries to prove it; no one feels there is any challenge, at the movies or on Ricochet or elsewhere, to say what power is & how come it’s neutral. One merely utters it in unpurporting confidence-

    This is a bit overstated, but mostly accurate as a generalization. There are folks like Neil Postman who push back at the claim.

    I don’t view tools or power as neutral things. I think they shape us whether we like it or not. However, the fact that a claim is routinely repeated does not necessarily mean it has been unthinkingly parroted.

    • #33
  4. Vald the Misspeller Inactive
    Vald the Misspeller
    @ValdtheMisspeller

    Quinn the Eskimo:When heroes fight heroes, it reminds us that just because people don’t see things the same way that we do, it doesn’t make them evil.

    Edit: fixed typo.

    Right, it’s not disagreeing with us that makes them evil, it’s being evil that makes them disagree with us.

    • #34
  5. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    TG:

    Titus Techera: we live in an age where tools are said to be neutral & so, too, power. Everyone takes it for granted; no one tries to prove it; no one feels there is any challenge, at the movies or on Ricochet or elsewhere, to say what power is & how come it’s neutral. One merely utters it in unpurporting confidence-

    That’s an interesting perspective. If you mean to suggest that power, regardless of who is wielding it, is inherently evil … that thought causes me, as a Christian, to experience a severe case of cognitive dissonance (because who or what could be more powerful than The Lord?).

    So power is this-worldly, as commonly understood, not otherworldly. Power is properly part of science & politics. I know that words tend to become abstract in our times, but to my way of thinking, without the this-worldly character of both nature & human power, the other-worldly character of salvation doesn’t stand out–this world is still a vale of suffering. Christ did not change that.

    & the Biblical teaching has always been that power is inherently evil. From Cain’s fratricide down to then end of Genesis, it turns out to be almost impossible for a family not to be fratricidal! Abraham’s race manages, but only barely–there are close calls. The founder of cities & the father of the arts, crafts, & sciences is Cain. Babel is the truth about what cities are, for the most part…

    • #35
  6. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Palaeologus:

    Titus Techera: we live in an age where tools are said to be neutral & so, too, power. Everyone takes it for granted; no one tries to prove it; no one feels there is any challenge, at the movies or on Ricochet or elsewhere, to say what power is & how come it’s neutral. One merely utters it in unpurporting confidence-

    This is a bit overstated, but mostly accurate as a generalization. There are folks like Neil Postman who push back at the claim.

    True! Great book.

    I don’t view tools or power as neutral things.

    & what is your experience then: Mine is that people always trot out neutrality as a defense of something they do not wish really to defend–they would rather avoid having to do it. I think this has become so influential a mode of argument that at this point neutrality is supposed to prevent even discussing something. Before any dangerous thoughts even emerge, it’s: What’re you even talking about? It’s just a tool! Power is neutral!

    Except when it’s political polemics. Then tools & power are never neutral!

    I think they shape us whether we like it or not. However, the fact that a claim is routinely repeated does not necessarily mean it has been unthinkingly parroted.

    I’m not claiming it’s parroted unthinkingly. It seems to me more in the way of a salvific. At any rate, it defends people from an intellectual discomfort & ugly or gloomy thoughts.

    • #36
  7. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Titus Techera:

    TG:

    Titus Techera: we live in an age where tools are said to be neutral & so, too, power. Everyone takes it for granted; no one tries to prove it; no one feels there is any challenge, at the movies or on Ricochet or elsewhere, to say what power is & how come it’s neutral. One merely utters it in unpurporting confidence-

    That’s an interesting perspective. If you mean to suggest that power, regardless of who is wielding it, is inherently evil … that thought causes me, as a Christian, to experience a severe case of cognitive dissonance (because who or what could be more powerful than The Lord?).

    & the Biblical teaching has always been that power is inherently evil. From Cain’s fratricide down to then end of Genesis, it turns out to be almost impossible for a family not to be fratricidal! Abraham’s race manages, but only barely–there are close calls. The founder of cities & the father of the arts, crafts, & sciences is Cain. Babel is the truth about what cities are, for the most part…

    Biblical teaching is that power is inherently evil?!?  That’s not what I was taught.  The evil is in the choices, and the actions, and the harm.  I’d like to say something clever and convincing starting with “leaving aside what I was taught …” but in this I can’t.  I don’t see “truth” in what you say, here, about power.

    As always:  if I have properly understood what you mean to say.

    • #37
  8. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Well, we can do this one of two ways, ma’am. You can tell me about what you were taught; or we can talk about the Biblical stories. That way, we will come to understand each other. I am not sure we will agree, of course. I will leave you the choice-

    • #38
  9. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    People of good conscience often find themselves in dispute. It’s basic human nature.

    To believe that such disputes can be eliminated is the basis of most Marxist thinking.

    • #39
  10. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Off topic: It drives me nuts that Iron Man can operate his suit without his helmet on. The helmet supposedly contains the brain-computer interface that allows him to operate the suit’s systems. Taking off the helmet should be like shutting down the B2 Bomber’s fly-by-wire computer.

    • #40
  11. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Misthiocracy:Off topic: It drives me nuts that Iron Man can operate his suit without his helmet on. The helmet supposedly contains the brain-computer interface that allows him to operate the suit’s systems. Taking off the helmet should be like shutting down the B2 Bomber’s fly-by-wire computer.

    Haven’t seen it, but from the previews it looks like in Batman v Superman, Batman can fight Superman toe to toe because he has a special bat suit that makes him as strong as Superman.  If he can build that, why doesn’t he wear it all the time?

    • #41
  12. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Judge Mental:

    Misthiocracy:Off topic: It drives me nuts that Iron Man can operate his suit without his helmet on. The helmet supposedly contains the brain-computer interface that allows him to operate the suit’s systems. Taking off the helmet should be like shutting down the B2 Bomber’s fly-by-wire computer.

    Haven’t seen it, but from the previews it looks like in Batman v Superman, Batman can fight Superman toe to toe because he has a special bat suit that makes him as strong as Superman. If he can build that, why doesn’t he wear it all the time?

    batsuit1a) In the comics he had to hard-wire it into the city’s electrical grid in order to power it. That’s pretty inconvenient for fighting crime.

    b) Also, most of the time Batman depends on stealth, not brawn.

    c) Also, except for The Dark Knight Returns, most of the comics where Batman dons a power suit kinda suck.

    d) I just realized that The Dark Knight Returns mirror’s Marvel’s Civil War. Unlike the Batman v. Superman movie, the the comic Supes was “just following (the President’s) orders” to take Batman down.

    The Dark Knight Returns (and even more so, The Dark Knight Strikes Again) is a cautionary tale of what would happen if Team Iron Man were to win.

    Makes way more sense than Batman v. Superman, really.

    • #42
  13. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Misthiocracy:People of good conscience often find themselves in dispute. It’s basic human nature.

    To believe that such disputes can be eliminated is the basis of most Marxist thinking.

    Oh, give it a rest. What is it with conservatives with an education trotting out Marx every day & every night? Most people do not want disputes, at least not the stuff that cuts to the cure. Most people hope & pray that they can be done away with when they arise. What is law but the attempt to discover how human beings could live without dispute!

    • #43
  14. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Titus Techera: & what is your experience then: Mine is that people always trot out neutrality as a defense of something they do not wish really to defend–they would rather avoid having to do it. I think this has become so influential a mode of argument that at this point neutrality is supposed to prevent even discussing something. Before any dangerous thoughts even emerge, it’s: What’re you even talking about? It’s just a tool! Power is neutral!

    Or it could be that some people think you can’t impute inherent moral values to objects or attributes.

    There’s a qualitative difference between using a firearm to defend yourself from attack and using a firearm to rob a bank but the simple fact of the firearm’s existence is not part of that difference.

    To suggest that an object is inherently good or evil is morally lazy: it’s an attempt to push self-responsibility onto a third party so that you don’t have to worry about your own actions.

    • #44
  15. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Why do heroes fight? Unresolved personal tension, of course.  What else?

    • #45
  16. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Zafar:Why do heroes fight? Unresolved personal tension, of course. What else?

    Well now I feel silly for writing this.

    • #46
  17. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Austin Murrey:

    Titus Techera: & what is your experience then: Mine is that people always trot out neutrality as a defense of something they do not wish really to defend–they would rather avoid having to do it. I think this has become so influential a mode of argument that at this point neutrality is supposed to prevent even discussing something. Before any dangerous thoughts even emerge, it’s: What’re you even talking about? It’s just a tool! Power is neutral!

    Or it could be that some people think you can’t impute inherent moral values to objects or attributes.

    There’s a qualitative difference between using a firearm to defend yourself from attack and using a firearm to rob a bank but the simple fact of the firearm’s existence is not part of that difference.

    Well, you make it impossible to disagree when you say such things that are obviously accepted. But I think I have managed a way: I’m told that it is possible for Americans to buy guns legally. You go get one & show it around to people–you might learn about the morality inseparable from facts.

    To suggest that an object is inherently good or evil is morally lazy: it’s an attempt to push self-responsibility onto a third party so that you don’t have to worry about your own actions.

    I think there is something like inherent good or evil precisely because I worry about human action, including my own.

    • #47
  18. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Zafar:Why do heroes fight? Unresolved personal tension, of course. What else?

    Unresolved homoerotic cravings?

    • #48
  19. Patrickb63 Coolidge
    Patrickb63
    @Patrickb63

    LesserSon of Barsham:

    Quinn the Eskimo:When heroes fight heroes, it reminds us that just because people don’t see things the same way that we do, it does make them evil.

    Depends which universe they’re in at the time…

    (I know you meant doesn’t, but who could pass this up?)

    If I remember correctly that would be the Earth 3 universe.

    • #49
  20. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Misthiocracy:

    Zafar:Why do heroes fight? Unresolved personal tension, of course. What else?

    Unresolved homoerotic cravings?

    The best kind of homoerotic cravings then-

    • #50
  21. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Titus Techera: Well, you make it impossible to disagree when you say such things that are obviously accepted. But I think I have managed a way: I’m told that it is possible for Americans to buy guns legally. You go get one & show it around to people–you might learn about the morality inseparable from facts.

    You have not managed a way after all: people’s reaction to an object reflects them as a person and any internal feelings, not the object itself. A person might have a deep seated loathing of rakes and react viscerally to any rake when shown it after having been beaten by an abusive parent with a rake as a child.

    This does not make the rake evil, nor does the fact that most people use rakes to keep their lawns neat and presentable makes rakes good.

    Titus Techera: I think there is something like inherent good or evil precisely because I worry about human action, including my own.

    Then you’re not thinking about good or evil in objects but in how they’re used which is exactly my point.

    • #51
  22. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    If you abstract the objects from the fact that only human beings make them & all human action is purposive, then you can talk about ‘the objects in themselves’ or some such hilarious stuff…

    For my part, what I had in mind is that I do not think it is possible to come to know things–not just objects we make by art & science, but all things–without having first in mind what’s good. We presume that knowledge is good. That is questionable, to say the least.

    • #52
  23. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Titus Techera:Well, we can do this one of two ways, ma’am. You can tell me about what you were taught; or we can talk about the Biblical stories. That way, we will come to understand each other. I am not sure we will agree, of course. I will leave you the choice-

    Oh, I think it would be very interesting if you wrote a post describing one or more Biblical stories and leading us through how you come to your conclusion that all power is inherently evil.

    A separate post, because then people who are not interested in “superhero stuff” might join in!

    • #53
  24. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Titus Techera:I disagree about the relative merits of Marvel & DC movies. Broadly, I’d say Daredevil is the best hero there is–he’s Catholic. But I do not think the show brings out the best in him. But of what’s actually been done on TV & in the movies, the Captain America thing is woefully mediocre, bordering on the insanely hilarious. The Batman movie, for its many flaws, looks at the experience of the good & faith in full seriousness & also introduces American politics into the stories in a way that is finally capable of revealing the importance of super-heroes: The modern executive. Whoever would like to read what I think are thoughtful notes, please visit my comic-book movie page.

    I hope you’ll get lucky & get more than contradictions out of Daredevil: This guy thinks the system is too corrupt; the other guy disagrees. Who’s right? They can’t both be right, can they?

    I remembered another one. Isn’t the blue X-man teleporter guy from Germany a Catholic?

    • #54
  25. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    Saint Augustine: I remembered another one. Isn’t the blue X-man teleporter guy from Germany a Catholic?

    Nightcrawler.

    • #55
  26. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Quinn the Eskimo:

    Saint Augustine: I remembered another one. Isn’t the blue X-man teleporter guy from Germany a Catholic?

    Nightcrawler.

    Like the worst superhero name ever.

    • #56
  27. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    You can’t say you haven’t been warned:

    • #57
  28. SEnkey Inactive
    SEnkey
    @SEnkey

    Austin Murrey:

    Titus Techera: Well, you make it impossible to disagree when you say such things that are obviously accepted. But I think I have managed a way: I’m told that it is possible for Americans to buy guns legally. You go get one & show it around to people–you might learn about the morality inseparable from facts.

    You have not managed a way after all: people’s reaction to an object reflects them as a person and any internal feelings, not the object itself. A person might have a deep seated loathing of rakes and react viscerally to any rake when shown it after having been beaten by an abusive parent with a rake as a child.

    This does not make the rake evil, nor does the fact that most people use rakes to keep their lawns neat and presentable makes rakes good.

    Titus Techera: I think there is something like inherent good or evil precisely because I worry about human action, including my own.

    Then you’re not thinking about good or evil in objects but in how they’re used which is exactly my point.

    I don’t completely by this argument, although I think it has merit. Consider, should I not judge someone who thinks that money is good, or feces is good, or poison is good? True these things may be used well, and it is their use that makes them good or ill. Still, some things should carry some taint of good and evil. I’m not sure I’ve explained this well. Forgive the feeble attempt.

    I am really enjoying the thread!

    • #58
  29. SEnkey Inactive
    SEnkey
    @SEnkey

    Titus Techera:If you abstract the objects from the fact that only human beings make them & all human action is purposive, then you can talk about ‘the objects in themselves’ or some such hilarious stuff…

    For my part, what I had in mind is that I do not think it is possible to come to know things–not just objects we make by art & science, but all things–without having first in mind what’s good. We presume that knowledge is good. That is questionable, to say the least.

    I think you are on to it here. In the first Capt America movie I don’t see CA and Red Skull as being two sides of one coin. I see one pursuing power, and one pursuing the good. It’s not that CA wanted power to do the good, he wanted the good. The power was given him by others as he pursued the ability to serve. He didn’t ask to be in the experiment, he asked to enlist. In this sense, CA didn’t argue give me power so I can do good. CA sought the good and with power was able to further it.

    Red Skull pursued power. The pursuit of power is, I think, always evil because any pursuit that district from the good is evil. Now, I think many who get power are pursuing the good. But many who convince themselves that they are only pursuing power to do good are deceived and begin making the proverbial deal with the devil.

    • #59
  30. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    I don’t think the kid Steve Rogers is pursuing the good. I’d say, he’s pursuing justice. I’d even go so far as to say this is typical of Americans, confusing them. The good you mostly learn about & it tends to be reasonable going. But it’s not flattering & it’s not really all that tied up with justice.

    On the largest possible scale, when America wins wars against tyrannies, lots of people can enjoy good things. But it is not good for the soldiers doing the dying & killing. Soldiers cannot be animated by a concern for their own good. Defending an order where good things are possible for people, sure–but they have to have a capacity to abstract themselves from that order even if they have experienced it, because where they’re going, it cannot help them…

    The way people lie to themselves about evil is always this pretense of morality: It’s my choice! Nobody starts out trying to be evil, right?

    Man’s natural experience of his world does not leave much room for freedom or choice or morality. For people to have choices, you first have to have civilization.

    But the notion that good & evil are purely in your choice–one wonders how one even learns what they are then!–requires a prideful assumption that all the work put into building civilization is neutral, so that it does not affect the choice between good & evil. That is hilariously misguided & untrue to experience.

    • #60
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