When our superheroes first donned their tights and capes, they were avenging angels that put all of the wrongs in the world right. They fought evil and could be relied upon to save stranded kittens up trees, and helping old ladies cross the roads safely.
These bastions of morality only beat-up criminals as a very last resort, and, if possible, turned villains away from their destructive paths. Comic book heroes were all about justice and they delivered a knightly and honorable justice. Some were endowed with super powers, and some merely wore a disguise, but they all knew right from wrong.
Today’s modern heroes are not hewed from the same block of righteousness, they hardly care about justice, morals, or service. The heroes spawned from graphic novels are macho and sexist, and they really care only for themselves.
It all started from the graphic novels by Frank Millar, Sin City. All the so-called heroes are characters of dubious morals and in many ways are simply perverse. You never see Batman or Spiderman killing anybody, but the heroes of Sin City regularly mutilate, behead and enjoy brutality.
There is a famous moment by Marv in one story that he is quoted saying that he does not like killing but he enjoys inflicting pain. This brings forth a kind of twisted and vindictive violence into the story, and a comment by Hetzel Gunkel who is a professor at Columbia College explains why, The apocalyptic tone tells us something about where we’re at as a culture.
Violence with no Consequence
The new breed of gothic-style novels and films show violence that has no morality, and there are no consequences to gratuitous violence. And with progresses made in special effects the violence has never been more graphic, and the point of it all is purely for voyeuristic pleasure.
Comics followed Film
It is hardly surprising that we have gone down this route of vicious violence with highly moral ambiguity. Comic books have followed the same route as heroes of the silver screen. The American Western movie was as popular as cherry pie. Outlaws were brought to swift justice by the lawman played by actors like Gary Cooper, and John Wayne.
But if we look at some of the recent versions of the American Western films, such as HBO’s Deadwood, then we can notice that things have greatly changed. Another example may be The Godfather trilogy that highlighted the nobility of a family, and a modern version The Soprano’s where a killer is somebody to be admired.
The comic book heroes have simply trodden the same path as the silver screen heroes, they have adapted to what we as a society have demanded. The development reflects what the world now considers is morally acceptable, and a high dependence of violence seems to be the bedrock on which this judgment is made.
Going back to the superheroes of past times, they were characters that were beyond question and enlightened the world with their actions for the greater good of humanity. Unlike our brooding modern comic book heroes, which were created from a much darker place.