The Taste of Death

Alex M. Parker

Alex Parker is a policy writer in Washington, D.C. with 15 years of journalism experience.

Related Post Roulette

17 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    If you look at Batman’s Rogue’s gallery, you see that a surprising number of them deserve to be in Arkham. (I mean, if you’re fundamentally against the death penalty. I could easily see the argument that a surprising number of them deserve the chair.)

    But look around in the real world and you’ll see that the crazy we’re surrounded with isn’t particularly brilliant and it’s not particularly skilled and it’s not particularly disciplined.

    If we took our various crazy people and tried to turn them into supervillains, we wouldn’t end up with The Joker or The Scarecrow.

    We’d get The Condiment King.

    You want realism in your comic books? You’ve got it.

    Florida Man: The Villain.Report

    • Alex Parker in reply to Jaybird says:

      I’ve always wondered about the criminal insanity laws in Gotham–I mean, these people obviously planned their crimes well and knew what they were doing, it doesn’t meet any legal definition of insanity that I know of.

      My theory is that the prosecutors are all too afraid to push for convictions because of Batman’s involvement and civil rights laws, so they cut deals to put them in Arkham. A revolving door that Batman is unaware he’s a part of.

      But well-put–Florida Man should be the next big DC villain!Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Alex Parker says:

        There are a number of arguments against The Death Penalty (in the real world) that make no, and I mean *NO*, sense whatsoever in The Marvel or DC Universe.

        The best arguments in the real world involve issues of doubt and issues of institutional corruption.

        If, however, you’re watching the news and you see a guy in a Mister Freeze suit shoot someone else with a freeze ray gun then punch them so that they shatter into a million pieces, get bataranged and tied up, and then sent off to court…

        Well, the arguments about “doubt” are left with “maybe the guy in the Mister Freeze suit wasn’t the guy sitting here in the courtroom right now and there was a switch at some point?”

        And it’s not like the cops were doing a frame-up. You *SAW* the guy get frozen solid and then punched into confetti.

        So the question is whether the guy should get the chair or not. Not whether he’s guilty… just whether he should get the chair. And the whole “he’s crazy, he’s grieving his wife, he’s trying to find a cure for something or other” just might be enough in sentencing to swing to “Life Without Possibility Of Parole”.


        The second time? The third?

        At this point, you’re just stuck with having to argue that the position against the death penalty is, in itself, principled to the point where you cannot use it *EVER*. Not even against Mister Freeze.

        Not even against The Joker.

        And you have to work backwards from there. Why shouldn’t we, as a society, put these bad guys to death? Well… um… he’s… crazy?Report

        • Alex Parker in reply to Jaybird says:

          Well, the biggest argument against the death penalty in either universes is that then the writers wouldn’t be able to use these amazing characters again.

          You can come up w/whatever in-universe argument works the best, but that’s the final deal.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Alex Parker says:

            Well, of course. Rule 1: We can’t kill the characters.

            So now we have to justify Rule 1.

            Back when they weren’t killing anybody, this was pretty easy. Hey, he robbed a bank. Who among us has not daydreamed of robbing a bank? It’s not like he shot anybody.

            But then Frank Miller goes and gets himself mugged and now we’re stuck with grimdark forever.

            So we have to justify Rule 1 in the face of grimdark.Report

  2. Doctor Jay says:

    I love the piece, and have just one quibble: When the Batman TV series, with Adam West and Burt Ward, was airing, the people of the time referred to it as “camp”. I think the meaning of “camp” has shifted a bit since then, along with our understanding of Batman. (These days, my understanding of “camp” is “flaming, but not gay”. That can sort of describe how they held Batman, though if you think of the pattern rather than the gayness). However, it’s clear they did not take it as earnestly as 10 year old me did.

    DC comics in the Sixties had things like Krypto, the Super-Dog, and Supergirl had a super horse and a super cat named Streaky. The Iron Age swept all these things away, but the Condiment King seems to reach back to them, as you say.Report

    • Alex Parker in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      It’s a good point to raise. One of my favorite lines is “camp can never be made, only found.” In other words, intentionally trying to be ridiculous isn’t true camp, because you know you’re doing it. Is that true with the Adam West show? It’s genuinely hard to say. Obviously they had to have been aware it was so silly, and it often seems like a satire. OTOH, part of its mad conviction is how much it seems like it’s all sincere. And it was appreciated as a real Batman show at the time. They supposedly told Adam West to deliver each line as if he were announcing the Hiroshima bomb, and you can see how he handled that instruction in every episode.

      This was originally in the piece but I cut it because it was getting too long–apparently this was controversial at the time. Chuck Dixon, the creator of Bane, claims he got into a fistfight at high school because it seemed like everyone was making fun of his hero, Batman. This is from Glen Wheldon’s “The Caped Crusade,” which looks at this extensively and is very informative.Report

  3. Em Carpenter says:

    Just want to say, this is such a fun piece! My children are some serious Batman fans but I don’t think theyre familiar with Condiment King, can’t wait to share. Thanks for submitting this!Report

  4. Saul Degraw says:

    Is there any reason why DC comic book villains often have sillier names than Marvel ones? Sometimes plain out stupid names like Reverse Flash.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Eobard Thawne’s official villain name is “Professor Zoom”.

      When he’s called “The Reverse Flash”, that’s a quick and dirty description of his powers.

      Good day, Sir.Report

    • Jesse in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Many DC villains were created in the 30’s and 40’s. Marvel villains were created in the 60’s and 70’s. Also, it’s not like The Vulture or Dr. Doom is much less silly, in the long run.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I think it’s mostly Batman’s villains that have dumb names. To Jesse’s point, no one’s got a sillier rogues’ gallery than Dick Tracy, and he also has early origins.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Marvel was more daring in what it tried to get away with for most its early history. DC seemed to want safely within the Comic Code while Marvel wrote on the edges of the permissible. I think Marvel also wanted to be more anchored in the real world than DC even if they handled real world issues in ham-fisted ways. Its why their villains had more realistic sounding goals like justice for mutants or be the greatest hunter or were ordinary thieves with super powers.Report

    • Others pointed out that DC is older so it’s collected a bunch from the 40’s-50’s, the golden era of insane villains.

      I think Batman villains are very unique and there’s a way that they all feel right for Batman, even the crazy ones. Batman is defined by his villains in a way that Superman, Spider-Man, etc. really aren’t.Report