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Betting your family on a pair of glasses

You know why superheroes' loved ones keep ending up hurt or killed? Because traditional superheroics is a very stupid idea, that's why.


1. Security through obscurity? Always fails

As Bruce Schneier keeps repeating, the thing about secrets is that they are a one-off thing: once a secret is known, it stays known (fighting this logical fact is the reason behind a good part of comic books' logic-defying reset buttons). If you are trusting the safety of your loved ones to bad guys not knowing your real name, that's a delaying tactic, not a solution.

Even Batman gets busted now and then, and he's the best at this sort of thing.



2. Powers are temporally and spatially restricted

In other words, if your power is being able to fight real well, you better make sure you will be where you need to be. Always. Every time. Sooner than a sociopath can kill an unprepared civilian. Because the first time you don't, somebody you love will die.



3. The bad guys keep coming back. Loved ones don't.

Mental exercise: lets you and me play a game. We pick a random card from a deck. If it's not an ace of spades, we try again. If it is, I win.

I think the logic is fairly obvious.


The overall message is this: it's not good enough that you can win every battle against the Bad Guys. You need to be able to protect against said Bad Guys a vulnerable civilian target 24/7 for ever while leaving you enough resources (time, money, Oan rings, whatever) to defend yourself and thwart the Bad Guys' world domination plans. That's a whole different story about relative power levels. Most Good Guys aren't that powerful (Superman once wasn't fast enough to prevent an sniper from shooting Lois. Superman. Imagine somebody without his full complement of senses, speed, and powers, like, I dunno, everybody else.)

Your alternatives are simple: Don't fight bad guys (keeping people alive begins at home, right?) or become powerful enough that you can do the above. That means around-the-clock surveillance of everybody you remotely care about, proactive attacks, alternative forces that can defend your loved ones while you are otherwise engaged, damn fast reaction systems (it only takes a second to shoot somebody in the face), and forces as powerful as anything they can throw at you.

Anything less than the League seems like risking it, and that's only assuming they have something like Batman's Brother I going on.

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Comments

( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
rivkat
Nov. 12th, 2007 01:56 am (UTC)
I love 3. Now I want to see some bad guy say it to a hero. Preferably Lex to Superman, of course.
__marcelo
Nov. 12th, 2007 02:03 am (UTC)
Heh. That would be an scene to watch!


jarodrussell
Nov. 12th, 2007 03:24 am (UTC)
You know why superheroes' loved ones keep ending up hurt or killed? Because traditional superheroics is a very stupid idea, that's why.

I disagree. For the sake of argument, let's say Bruce Wayne wasn't Batman. How could you ensure that as a billionaire, his wards were never targeted for abduction? Children are kidnapped all the time, whether they're parents are super-human, super-wealthy, or super-normal.

Also, let's not forget, Barbara Gordon wasn't shot because she was Batgirl, she was shot because she was Barbara Gordon. Sue Dibney wasn't killed because her husband was Elastic Man, she was killed because Ray Palmer's wife went crazy.

"But my loved ones!" is a strawman argument used by pro-"secret identity" fans. There's no correlation between public super-heroes (Jay Garrick, Wally West, John Stewart) loved ones being killed and heroes with a secret identity (Batman, Spider-Man, etc.). I think it's also important to point out (at least as far as I know, in the U.S.) the lack widespread reports about FBI, DEA, Military, and Police family members killed due to criminal and terrorist backlash.

I see what your saying, and your points have merit, but I disagree that in a world with super-villains, super-hero families are in that much greater danger than anyone else.
__marcelo
Nov. 12th, 2007 03:30 am (UTC)
I agree with you on the basis of statistical evidence, but let me submit the (perhaps inappropriate in this context) counterargument that comics are too skewed and it just happens to happen that Ra's has never wanted to hurt Bruce, Luthor has never figured out and kept the knowledge of Superman's identity, etc. Were it not for these statistically unlikely events, Bruce could protect Alfred from the League of Assassins to a much lesser degree than he could protect him from commonplace kidnappers and murderers... that is, probably not at all.
(no subject) - jarodrussell - Nov. 12th, 2007 03:55 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - __marcelo - Nov. 12th, 2007 04:00 am (UTC) - Expand
wicked_poly
Nov. 12th, 2007 03:24 am (UTC)
I agree with what you wrote, but that's also why I always thought that if I had the chance, I'd be one of the bad guys and not a superhero.
__marcelo
Nov. 12th, 2007 03:31 am (UTC)
:D That's good to know in advance. Just in case.

I'd be... Morally Ambiguous Guy? Good intentions, questionable methods, not much for self-sacrifice.
(no subject) - wicked_poly - Nov. 12th, 2007 03:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - __marcelo - Nov. 12th, 2007 03:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wicked_poly - Nov. 12th, 2007 03:51 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tigerbright - Nov. 12th, 2007 03:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - __marcelo - Nov. 12th, 2007 03:45 am (UTC) - Expand
jarodrussell
Nov. 12th, 2007 04:11 am (UTC)
Or, as Adam Warren explains it...
Empowered 2
__marcelo
Nov. 12th, 2007 04:21 am (UTC)
Re: Or, as Adam Warren explains it...
Ah, but this assumes a) if the Bad Guys kill your aunt, the entire cape community will help you to b) harm the Bad Guys in such a painful way as for this to serve to deter people who had decided to engage you (and the global forces of the law) anyway, c) despite the fact that -world conquest plans and all- they haven't yet wiped them out. It's an attractive idea to explain why bank robbers and such don't, say, kill hostages to deter Superman, but I'm not sure it can be said that Superman will (or should) be more pissed off by your killing Jimmie Olsen that by your plans to blow up California.
(Deleted comment)
__marcelo
Nov. 12th, 2007 06:45 am (UTC)
:D Thanks!
boredom_doodles
Nov. 12th, 2007 06:53 am (UTC)
The great thing about the current Blue Beetle book is that all the Bad Guys know who Jaime is, where he lives, etc. And, on the flip side, so does everybody within his circle of family and close friends. And a few people who are harder to categorize, like Danielle Garrett.

And yet, somehow, it all still works.
__marcelo
Nov. 12th, 2007 07:01 am (UTC)
*is impressed*
(no subject) - boredom_doodles - Nov. 12th, 2007 07:23 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - __marcelo - Nov. 12th, 2007 07:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sockich - Nov. 12th, 2007 12:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - __marcelo - Nov. 12th, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sockich - Nov. 12th, 2007 06:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - __marcelo - Nov. 12th, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
bagheera_san
Nov. 12th, 2007 11:16 am (UTC)
Oh, this is awesome. I'm taking notes in case I'm ever going to write that Lex-with-a-Sinestro-ring story.
__marcelo
Nov. 12th, 2007 03:37 pm (UTC)
Ow. That'd be scary cool.
rubynye
Nov. 12th, 2007 12:04 pm (UTC)
*loves the way you think*
__marcelo
Nov. 12th, 2007 03:38 pm (UTC)
*loves you* Thanks!
sockich
Nov. 12th, 2007 12:41 pm (UTC)
*licks your brain*

And, the thing is, most bad guys have figured out by now that if they do kill a superhero's loved one, it's not like the hero's gonna kill them back and really, crushing a hero's spirits is totally worth some jail time (especially with the revolving-door types of jails we get in comics).

Actually, I think the no killing rule is the stupidest aspect of traditional superheroics, but that's probably why I'd make for a lousy superhero. ;)
__marcelo
Nov. 12th, 2007 03:38 pm (UTC)
There's always the Authority :).
runespoor7
Apr. 14th, 2011 04:35 pm (UTC)
alternative forces that can defend your loved ones while you are otherwise engaged

This is subconsciously why Bruce keeps putting people he loves in costumes. Puts them in costume, train them-- make them better. Then he tries to make them leave, so they have the means to defend themselves but hopefully not the painted on target that comes with being associated with Batman.

Of course, in giving them the means to defend themselves, he also gives them the means to tackle danger full on.
__marcelo
Apr. 14th, 2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
Interesting! I think you're right.
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )

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