How Batman’s ‘no kill’ rule changed pop culture forever

Published : 07 Oct 2021 07:40 PM | Updated : 08 Oct 2021 08:51 PM

B atman’ didn't always have a problem with murdering criminals, but the introduction of his famous "no kill" rule changed pop culture forever. In his first few months, the Caped Crusader was a gun-wielding killing machine. However, between concerned parents and ethically minded editors, the ‘Dark Knight’ triggered one of the most significant moral shifts in the history of comic writing. The effects of one ‘Batman’ comic still ripple throughout pop culture more than 80 years later.

Bruce Wayne was famously introduced in 1939 in Detective Comics #27 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. In this six-page story, he deliberately kills at least one baddie by pushing him into a pool of acid. This trend of violence continued, with many of Batman's early comics featuring the hero brandishing a gun! This wasn't at all uncommon for comics at the time. Most comic book heroes used deadly force when necessary, like the real-world war heroes who were so popular after WWII.  However, after the introduction of Robin in Detective Comics #38, ‘Batman’ comics started to draw a younger audience. Parents began to express concern until a breaking point was reached in 1940 with Batman #1.

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This issue sparked the need for the "no kill" rule that would come to define the Dark Knight. As ‘Batman’ guns down several villains with a machine gun, he says, "Much as I hate to take human life, I'm afraid this time it's necessary." A few panels later he remarks, "He's probably better off this way," as he hangs a man by his neck from the Batplane. Parents were shocked, and Editor Whitney Ellsworth agreed that some changes were necessary. He immediately told the artist to never show ‘Batman’ using guns, and soon after issued a company-wide editorial policy for DC Comics that "Heroes should never kill a villain, no matter the depths of his villainy." This became a famous trademark of the character in ‘Batman’ #4, when during a sword fight with pirates he tells his sidekick, "Use only the flat of your sword, Robin! Remember, we never kill with weapons of any kind!"


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