In fiction/comics (aye even in real life too) we see the hero that crosses the line. The one that takes it upon themselves to make the hard choice and end a life. It can be for the greater good or any other reason that comes to mind to justify the means. The interesting thing is the way characters that kill come to that logic. For some it could be as simple as money, it is the job/ skill they are good at. Others may be pushed to their last resort in order to protect loved ones and there are some that don’t even have any cause, care, or concern. We’re going to explore some of those reasons and the characters that best exemplify them.
I’m Fire, Don’t Try Me Cause I Am Hot”
Frank Castle aka The Punisher (Marvel) is the epitome of habitual line stepping when it comes to killing. Sure, one could say he was brought to this by the death of his family. However, Frank was a soldier in ‘Nam and other wars, so when his family was killed it was nothing more than a catalyst. Punisher makes it very simple, kill those that do wrong — the murderers, rapists, kingpins, and corrupt political figures. Anyone thriving off of human suffering. Now you could say this approach to vigilantism is only sound in theory because looking at the big picture, there will always be people out there to continue the cycle. I think the vigilantes that follow this approach know that, but this is the only way they know and if their actions (although extremely violent) are enough to push out those hurting the community, then it is at least worth the shot of seeing how far you can push.
Mad Violence, Who I’m Gon’ body, This Hood Politics”
Natalia Romanova aka The Black Widow (Marvel) is there for when you absolutely need to get some cloak and dagger shit done. Natasha represents the espionage side of this business/ job / hobby that requires one to get their hands dirty. Dead folks don’t drop dimes, snitch, or talk and when you dealing with information that can harm people and countries, sometimes you gotta do what’s required for whatever country/person is paying you. Now Natasha went through a lot of training to become the killer she is; she is a trained killer through and through. The Black Widow Program / Red Room made damn sure of that. The folks in this always got their past hidden or classified. Some are bred for this line of work since a young age, some are recruited. Whatever the condition, they are being put into a program that makes them capable of being spies, thinking fast, and above all killing with no hesitation. This is an archetype that either kills off emotions or puts them away in a small black box buried under years and years of of desensitization.
John Watson (Sherlock) was a doctor during the war (Afghanistan) and was diagnosed with PTSD. John was having flashbacks of himself at war, waking up in a cold sweat and he even walking with a cane. It wasn’t until hanging out with Sherlock and going on some cases that we could see that it might have all been psychosomatic. It’s confirmed when John meets Mycroft (who read his file) and tells him his Doc got it wrong. He misses the war, all he sees is the battlefield… Mycroft then proceeds to tell him, “Welcome back.” TELL ME THAT IS NOT THE HARD SHIT MAN! John represents the characters that need a war to fight in order to go on. They aren’t suited for civilian life. They need danger, to serve, to protect, the go-go-go rush that the field brings. Of course this all could just be a coping mechanism for PTSD as it isn’t something so easy to get rid of. John, of course, is a bit of a special case as he is a doctor foremost that attempts to save lives. However when his loved ones and friends are in danger, he will not hesitate to bring back Wartime Watson.
Cross Dressing Nothing But My Mama’s Stalking On My Face”
The killer that has promised himself to no longer take a life, Marko (Saga) is a great example of this archetype. He did some horrific things in war (notice how war is already a common theme in these characters) and has been trying to not turn back into the person on the field. This is in complete opposition to the “Soldier without a war” trope. Characters like Marko don’t need a war to go on and are trying to keep that violence away from their new life and ideals. The best part about this character is that although they don’t want to indulge in the violence… they are usually so fucking good at it. There’s always that moment when all that killer instinct has been suppressed long enough that when it comes out, we as a viewer get to see why it’s been locked away under pacifism in the first place. This type of character usually struggles with what they are trying to be versus what they are.
John Stewart aka Green Lantern 2814.2 (DC Comics) best represents the man that does what needs to be done. He has made the hard decisions for the greater good, which included killing Mogo (the Planet Green Lantern) when Mogo got taken over and was causing millions of deaths across the galaxy (although he reassembles and revives good as new), as well as having to kill another fellow Green Lantern that was on the verge of spilling information after hours of torture. This is no easy task at all, especially when you have to take the life of a partner. Let’s also keep in mind the focus that has come into play with John’s days as a sniper in the Marines. John is abiding by a code to serve and protect which means by any means you may need to use in order to save lives. This character can be seen as cold or as filled with a bloodlust but on the inside they are taking the responsibility of deeds that no one wants or should have to do, allowing one person to live or another person to have a clean conscious with no dirt on their hands. This is a character making a lot of sacrifices for others while condemning themselves to guilt and the weight of the situation required of them.
“Lay Here And Speak To Me” Just To Say How Psychotic I Am Not.”
Wade Wilson aka Deadpool (Marvel) — there may be no better example of complexity as the mercenary Wade Wilson. He is a very, very talented killer that is shown killing for comedic effect, however there are lines even he won’t cross. Such as a mission which required a reincarnated pre-teen Apocalypse to be killed. That didn’t sit well with Wade despite Logan trying to affirm its necessity. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Wade go off over a child’s murder. That is a line he never crosses, although he does at times work for money. Wade really wants to belong more than anything, money isn’t actually a motivator (as Warren told Logan, “Wade never cashed any of our checks”). Wade represents a character that will put the right thing before the mission he was hired for. When Wade Wilson has a line and something of a conscience you know that for these type of characters, there’s more complex thought at work as to where the bullet is landing before they pull the trigger.