In the superhero genre heroes fight the bad guys daily. Not everyone is blessed with super-toughness and the like, so there will be casualties.

Even if everyone is fighting with the best intentions, someone is bound to get hurt.

Yet I rarely see a villain die or become critically injured, and put out of action.

The only example I know of is Doc Oc who after years of 'gentle brawling' with the webbed wall crawler, who is more than happy to lock Octavius up, without resorting to deadly force, ends up crippling him instead.

Look at his lovely mug.

Why don't more villains end up like this? It seems both likely in universe and a good plot point to use out of universe.

  • In universe, if you knew that the heros were 99% immortal/invulnerable why would a normal, mortal person with aspirations of villian-hood bother?
    – Xantec
    Aug 19, 2012 at 10:09
  • Ask Doc Oc, Lex luthor, The Joker, Penguin, Lt. Stryker....etc.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Aug 19, 2012 at 12:03
  • I don't think people are understanding the question. Heroes might prefer to not kill the villains but they do fight, and someone should be hurt.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Aug 19, 2012 at 21:50
  • 1
    @Pureferret IMO this question is too broad to be useful. Where does this happen? Just DC and Marvel comics, or superhero fiction in general? Which writers do this? Do you expect there to be a single, conclusive reason which encompasses all authors, comics and villains, and which can be posted as an answer here? I think the question would be more useful if you narrowed it down to a specific comic universe and, if at all possible, to a smallish set of characters.
    – Andres F.
    Aug 20, 2012 at 6:12
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    I have no idea what comic this was (if anyone knows, please tell), but I do remember one issue of a group (possibly the Justice League) having an actual trial, for one of their members who killed a villain. Apparently he manipulated gravity to kill someone who was shooting at him. The prosecutor pointed out that accused could have also used gravity to drop a tree branch from above the shooter, thus not killing the person.
    – John C
    Aug 20, 2012 at 10:13

5 Answers 5


Because creating a "good" villain is far from easy, and it takes great skill to write one. Yet they are crucial to the story, making the difference between a good and a great story (e.g. Darth Vader, The Joker).

So when you have one you keep it as long as you can. In movies or books you kill them at the very end, but in comics there is no end, so you never kill them.

  • Or a difference between a good and an awful story (e.g. Hayden Skywalker) Aug 19, 2012 at 14:26
  • But how good was the ending when Vader did die? And How're good a plot print (regardless of acting, and Annie not being 'normal') was the scene where he pulls himself out of the lava, obi-wan believing him dead? That is the exact sort of thing I'm saying we are bereft of.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Aug 20, 2012 at 5:59

All of the other answers seem pretty good, but they miss something. In-universe, dramatically speaking, there's one additional reason: Villains play for keeps, Heroes, by their very nature, tend to allow for redemption.

Heroes have many origin stories, and not all of them are good; often, a back-story involves the hero being a villain (or on his way to becoming one), until an even 'brought him to his senses' and caused the change to heroic behavior. Sometimes it's not even villainy that was in the heroes path, but simple self-serving behavior. (Look at Peter Parker, for example, until Uncle Ben died.)

The villain tends to kill; he doesn't really care about the state of his target's moral compass (well, excepting situations where the villain sees a possible tool/ally/whatever that can be turned to evil.) The hero, on the other hand, only wants to destroy (kill) totally unchangeable evil, and as a rule, doesn't believe that describes most villains. The hero always wants to leave an option open for the bad guy to become one of the good guys. So, while the villain uses deadly force, with the intent to kill, the good-guy is always trying to not quite foreclose future redemption.

Take a look at TvTropes page one 'Heel Face Turn' to see many, many examples of the villain becoming a good guy. This is why bad guys keep their phasers on kill, and the good guys keep them on stun.

(That being said, it's also common for lesser evils to be 'clearly unredeemable' and thus fair game for instant slaughtering; commonly done with zombies, demons, etc. But they don't tend to be the 'villain', but just a tool the villain uses.)


The main reason is the symbiotic relationship between hero and villain. Without super-villains, there would be no heroes. Without heroes, there would be no villains. It's the symbiotic relationship and the need for each other that causes the hero to show mercy and merely capture and and imprison the villain, while the villain will monologue long enough to allow the captured hero to escape and foil their plans.

It is the circle of superhero life which allows both to continue in a more or less endless spiral. Villain threatens world. Villain captures hero. Villain monologues. Hero escapes. Hero foils villain's plan. Hero captures villain and turns him over to the authorities. Bumbling authorities allow villain to escape. Rinse and repeat.

  • 1
    But my point is accidents happen. In capturing the bad guy there's normally fisti-cuffs, and a mortal villain should be dead pretty quickly
    – AncientSwordRage
    Aug 19, 2012 at 19:40

If a villain can stand against superheroes, it means that he/she isn't normal. Either he/she is intelligent, powerful in front of superheroes or super lucky. Mind it, real-world Laden can easily die or heavily injured. In fact, villains in comics are "Super Villains".

Not all, but most of superheroes have motto of not to harm anyone even if target are bad guys. They let laws to do their work.

Out of Universe: To challenge a superhero, you need a special villain. And, establishment of new character isn't easy.


Because most comics are essentially for kids/juveniles. Hence no real blood, no real violence and no death.

  • 4
    Smaug dies. Voldemort dies. And no real violence? Cartoons for kids are the most violent programs on television...
    – user8252
    Aug 19, 2012 at 13:06
  • @ALS: But nobody dies in the cartoons. Compare that with Marvelman #15. Aug 19, 2012 at 20:10

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