It's one of comics' oldest and most popular rivalries—the Dark Knight versus the Clown Prince of Crime—and it's gone on so long, in part, because Batman has a strict no-kill rule even when it comes to the most dastardly members of his rogues' gallery. But is sparing the Joker's life the right thing to do?
Tauriq Moosa, who writes about a broad array of ethical issues over at Big Think, posted a lengthy essay this week arguing that despite Batman's strong stance against murdering anyone, common hoodlum or ultra-deadly supervillain, keeping the Joker alive does more harm than good in the comic book universe.
"The Joker is a clear example of 'an unstoppable' force that can be seen to harm," Moosa said. "The Joker proves time and again his disregard for law, any semblance of respect for other lives, and his consistent need to create chaos in a methodical way. No prison can hold him, no punishment will effect [sic] him, no treatment will cure him. All have been tried, all quiver into dust or, like Harley Quinn, are transformed into another tool for his plans."
Moosa also argues that even permanent incapacitation of the Joker (if such a thing is possible) is ineffective, since his psychological presence in Gotham City seems dangerous enough on its own.
"What's powerful is not The Joker's physical presence but what he can create and conjure," he writes.
Therefore, Moosa argues that death is the only answer if Batman wants to save the most lives and prevent the most catastrophes, and even thinks that the Caped Crusader could pull it off and still keep his virtuous image intact.
"Batman could make it such that The Joker's death appears to be an accident," Moosa said. "This means The Dark Knight can retain his image as a nonlethal superhero, but still have the chaotic force of The Joker forever gone."
Obviously, as long as he remains one of the most popular and bankable villains in comics, the Joker's not going anywhere. Moosa does raise a good question, though. If a superhero takes an absolute moral stance against killing anyone, supervillain or no, can he, or should he, break from that stance in the interest of the common good?
(via Big Think)