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Guns and Superheroes

For a while I was trying to figure out what movies I wanted to fill out the first half of this month with. The last half of the month I’ll be looking at the cast of the Avengers and all the movies that came out featuring the other members before watching them all together in theaters. For a little while I was considering watching a bunch of the worst movies since I had just made the list of 33 of them. But many of those movies are straight to video or TV movies or in one case completely unreleased and made just to keep the rights to the characters. So after watching a couple of the Punisher movies, I decided to watch some more superheroes that prefer guns over their other powers if they even have any. So I’ll be watching movies like The Spirit, The Shadow, and The Phantom. And for this week’s blog, I thought it would be a good idea to look at how guns affect the superhero dynamic in general.

One thing that many casual fans of Batman might not realize is that when he was first introduced, he actually used guns just like a regular police detective. In fact, several of the heroes I’ll be looking at this month came from the same era of pulp novels and noir detectives, heroes like The Shadow, The Spirit, and Dick Tracy. I love the style of classic noir detectives, there is just something about them that is much more interesting than a beat cop or a crime scene investigator. The stark contrasts, the fedora hats, and the guns. But the question is what makes these heroes stand out from a regular detective story to make them super? I think a big part of it is the villains. Especially for the classics, it’s the myriad and colorful villains that make the story super. It’s not just a robber or a gangster, it’s Flattop and Pruneface. It’s not a neverending string of faceless criminals that you see once and are put behind bars, it’s the ones that make a name for themselves and keep coming back issue after issue. Add to that the occasional superpower like The Shadow has and of course they’re super in my book.

The one big exception to this rule is The Punisher. He’s not a detective, he’s a military man, he’s a modern man. He has no superpowers, although the Thomas Jane movie did try to add a little bit of mysticism to his survival. But he is a man that gave up his identity as a man to become this entity of justice. He’s not an action star that got thrown into a situation where he has to survive, he puts himself into the situation and flourishes there. In almost every movie that they’ve made, he says that Frank Castle is dead, only The Punisher remains. And while he may not have the powers of a superhero, he has the mentality of a superhero, a singular motivation to bring what he believes is justice to the guilty.

There are a few others that I’m not as familiar with, like The Phantom. I know he wears a purple outfit, the Billy Zane movie is considered pretty bad, and they came out with a miniseries years later that I’m not sure how it was received. And on top of that, I’ll be taking a look at Robocop. Robocop was a movie that I initially didn’t include in my list, I believe my reasoning for it is that it was more sci-fi than superhero, but I’ve decided to take another look at it, and also an April Fool’s joke from Fog’s Movie Reviews made me want to watch the movie again anyway. But he’s not any more sci-fi than Judge Dredd, which I’ve included in my list. There’s definitely sci-fi elements to the story, but it’s set in more of a not-to-distant future than a sci-fi future. And there are plenty of Robocop comic books out in the world. He’s very similar to superheroes like The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman.

I realize that I started out by talking about guns and superheroes, but while I’ve talked a lot about the heroes, I haven’t talked much about the guns. One of the reasons why guns aren’t a big part of a lot of superheroes is the simple fact that guns kill, heroes don’t. But throughout history, the heroes always killed their enemies. Greek mythology, war heroes, it all involves death. I think it’s a great idea that there are tons of superheroes out there that make it a point to avoid death at all costs, but death is a part of life. Guns still play a large part in our culture, and that culture should be represented in comics and superheroes. Guns can be used responsibly when the situation calls for them, and there is definitely a place in the world for superheroes that use guns instead of just their superpowers. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.

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About Bubbawheat

I'm a comic book movie enthusiast who has watched and reviewed over 300 superhero and comic book movies in the past four years, my goal is to continue to find and watch and review every superhero movie ever made.

Posted on April 3, 2012, in Blogs. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. kitsune9tails

    Personally, I think guns bounce off of the superhero dynamic in some very interesting ways.

    When I see someone running around in tights, doing detective work, one of the first things that occurs to me is, “what makes this a cool guy and not a crazy guy? (Kick-@$$ notwithstanding)? To me, a non-reliance on guns is a part of that, and that goes back to having super powers.

    Nothing wrong with watching a movie about an action hero, but once you put on the tights to become iconic, part of me starts expecting super powers. After all, you are running around in front of armed criminals in a colorful suit! If that super power amounts to, “I spent $1000 at an army surplus store”, I am going to be a bit disappointed unless you have enough style to make up for it.

    Or unless you are Kick-@$$, or the Punisher, or someone for whom that is the entire point.

    If you are going to be a super hero, your suite of powers should probably include “I can knock out a guy who is standing 30′ away with a gun before he can get a shot off” or “I am bulletproof”. In either case, you probably don’t need a gun.

    Unless the gun is really cool.

    • I like how you put it “guns bounce of superheroes” since guns do bounce off many superheroes or are dodged or whatever. I do agree with you that unless the hero comes from the 20’s or 30’s, then their entire superhero persona needs to revolve around the concept of having guns. If they have powers and also use guns, then why even bother?

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