Ending a life is usually
a permanent thing. There's no way to say "I'm sorry", or to make up for it later. And for some people, killing is a line they will not cross
, no matter how much the death might serve the greater good (or, in some cases, the greater evil). "He needed killing" is not in these people's vocabulary.
This is common in works with Black and White Morality
, but even appears in works with Grey and Gray Morality
. In the latter, it's sometimes the only way to tell the "good" guys from the "bad" guys.
Opinions differ on how this applies to sentient life other than humans.
In general, it's still up to Big Damn Villains
to kill other villains. It's perfectly fine to "kill" immortals though
as it is to kill the undead. The Mercy Kill
sometimes winds up as an exception. Karmic Death
, Self-Disposing Villain
, and Hoist by His Own Petard
provide alternate ways to kill off villains without forcing the hero to get his hands dirty.
Thou Shalt Not Kill is closely related to Joker Immunity
. Whilst many writers believe a never-kill creed makes the hero more likable and righteous, on another level it might simply be a plot device to prevent the hero from killing off popular recurring villains. Related is Pacifism Backfire
, where their reluctance to fight (or to kill as in this trope) may cause Joker Immunity
. This trope is more common in serial fiction, such as TV shows and comic books, rather than one-shots like movies. In action movies it is common and acceptable for the hero to kill the villain because there is usually no planned sequel for the villain to appear in.
With superpowered characters, attitudes toward no-kill policies range from utterly ignoring it (such as the protagonists of Watchmen
), to strict adherence except in extreme circumstances (such as Superman
). One rationale is that if, say, Superman were to kill a bad guy in one story, why wouldn't he simply resolve all situations by, for example, incinerating Lex Luthor
with his heat vision on sight.
Whatever the moral case is, this trope is often used to show off the hero's incredible precision, whether it be with a fist or a gun. This can include things like separating the mook from their weapon with a precisely aimed bullet
, or possibly knocking an opponent out
. Whatever the case, their non-lethal attacks are due to their incredible skill. Note that this often a case of Reality Is Unrealistic
as many of these attacks are very capable of causing serious injury or death.
This is Truth in Television
. In general, there are very few humans who can stand the thought of truly
ending the life of another human without military training. The military has developed many studies over the years to evolve the best training curriculum to dehumanize the "enemy" and enable their soldiers to kill enemy soldiers. Even then, when a soldier is tasked with actually shooting a bullet that would end the life of another human being...many would rather intentionally miss. It is this (strength, in the case of all human life, but weakness in the case of human life with an opposing ideology) that makes modern militaries attempt to make the enemy soldiers appear as "unhuman" as possible. Otherwise, despite how some may make boasts to the contrary, in truth most people - including law enforcement - are loath to take a life unless absolutely necessary in the course of self-defence or the protection of others.
See also Kick Them While They Are Down
, Actual Pacifist
, Reckless Pacifist
, Technical Pacifist
, Martial Pacifist
, Non-Lethal Warfare
, Would Not Shoot a Good Guy
, Restrained Revenge
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Anime and Manga
- Superman has taken a solemn vow never to kill. It's strongly implied - and outright invoked in Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow - that he believes that he should give up being Superman if he takes one. (He cannot kill himself, since his oath applies to himself as well. This was shown in a number of Bronze Age stories, including one where he is caught in a hallucination that supposedly shows the future and realizes that since it shows him killing himself, it must be false.)
Superman: I broke my oath. I killed him. Nobody has the right to kill. Not Mxyzptlk... not you... not Superman. Especially not Superman.
- A Post-Crisis Superman story had the hero face such a situation when an abusive husband, whom Supes gave a deserved thrashing, later murdered his wife. Superman later caught him secretly viewing her funeral and was sorely tempted to kill him right there and then. However, the relatives of both husband and wife began to plead for Superman to spare him and kill him respectively. Superman, holding the murderer while this argument is raging, painfully realized that he was in no position to make such monumental decisions and decided to simply hand the criminal to the police so the justice system can handle the matter.
- Another Superman story, "What's So Funny 'Bout Truth, Justice, and the American Way?" famously had him forced to deal with the arrival of "The Elite" (a thinly-veiled copy of The Authority), superheroes with absolutely no qualms about killing villains. Over the course of the issue, he watched them become more and more popular, despite their excessive use of force. In the end, he challenged them to a fight - and proceeded (after giving them a Hope Spot) to subdue them more or less harmlessly. Though it sure dang LOOKED like he killed them, until he revealed that he used painful-looking non-lethal techniques. The story showed not only why does Superman not kill, but just how downright scary he would be if he did. The story eventually got an Adaptation Expansion into the made for DVD movie Superman vs. the Elite.
- And another Superman story had him actually killing (well, executing) three Kryptonians on an alternate Earth who had annihilated all life on the planet. Despite the circumstances which almost anyone else would deem it both just and necessary—as they had committed the act of planetary murder, threatened to find an way to Superman's universe and do it again, and were stronger than he was—the act haunted him for years. After he did it, he even developed a split personality and then exiled himself from Earth after he got that under control.
- This trope is somewhat justified in another story where Superman explains to the Ultramarines, a team of superheroes known for their use of lethal force, after the Justice League has pulled them out of a situation they were unable to handle, that their "'no-nonsense' solutions just don't hold water in a complex world of jet-powered apes and Time Travel," as death apparently held less barriers for them, and in fact was more merciful, than some of the extreme incarceration punishments the League had to devise.
- Superman has shown to be one of the most extreme examples of never killing. In one case he saved Darkseid's life (Darkseid helped him stop the threat that put him near death, granted, but come on, it's freaking Darkseid) and in another instance, he was trapped in a dimension where he was forced to go to war with demons for a thousand years, but still refused to kill them. He even initially objected to Wonder Woman killing them, but didn't have an answer when she asked him what she was supposed to do.
- Though it's often overlooked, during his final fight with Doomsday at the end of "The Death of Superman" storyline, he was trying to kill him. If he hadn't, Doomsday likely would've destroyed Metropolis and everyone in it. It probably helps that Doomsday's mind was read a couple of times in the story, and was revealed to be nothing but rage and bloodlust. This was followed up in Hunter Prey, as Superman, after finding out that Doomsday was now far more powerful than himself, and constantly growing in might, he could come up with no other available options than letting Waverider exile the beast to the end of the universe, to let entropy consume it. Doomsday was later rescued by Brainiac, keeps coming back after being killed, and heals all other injuries instantly, so breaking his neck has the same effect as knocking a regular villain out, which, in combination with being more than Superman can handle upfront, is the reason why he can be the exception.
- Kingdom Come revolved around the fact Superman abandoned humanity when he realized the public approved Magog's murder of The Joker.
- In the pre-Crisis mini-series Phantom Zone Superman confronts General Zod, who laughs that Kal-El won't kill him. He's right. To quote: "I can't take your life, much as I'm tempted. But my code doesn't say a damn thing about not battering you to within an inch of it, murderer!" Once Zod is out cold for a long, long time, Superman, still holding him by the tunic, thinks "And there are times I've considered chucking that code entirely."
- Played with in the Legion of Super-Heroes story where the Legion decided whether to expel Star Boy for killing. Superman voted to not expel him. The reason? Because it's easy for him, Superman, to have a code against killing when there aren't a lot of things that can hurt him, but other people may have different circumstances than him and he has no right to hold them to his code.
- Emphasizing Superman's adherence to his code is this: in the few official crossover series that exist, Superman has even refused to kill Xenomorphs! For context, xenomorphs are a highly aggressive species of alien predators with no higher reasoning than basic animal instincts and a parasitic reproductive cycle, which are capable of causing planet-scale extinction events thanks to their voracious and insatiable need for living victims as food and hosts for their young. Even Batman, himself a noted devotee of this rule, is willing to forgo it when xenomorphs are involved, and in the Superman/Batman/Aliens crossover (yes, this exists)), actually calls Superman out on his willingness to spare such dangerous animals.
- In Our Worlds At War he helps kill both Imperiex and Brainiac 13 by sending them both back in time to the Big Bang; in Final Crisis, he is the one who finishes off Darkseid. In general his code is based on the fact that he is far more powerful than most of the villains he comes across and if he is capable of defeating them without resorting to violence, he will; on the flip-side, if you are an enemy who is as strong or stronger and you are sufficiently ruthless or dangerous enough that death is the only thing that will stop you...then yes, Superman will kill you. Helps if you aren't human, too.
- The Post-Crisis version of Wonder Woman has trained as a classical Greek warrior with a fighting practicality of that time. That means while she is willing to control herself in combat when possible, when she decides that lethal force is necessary, she will use it without any regrets as seen when she beheaded the demigod Deimos in order to help her friends in peril.
- In a crossover series, Wonder Woman cold-bloodedly executed Maxwell Lord by breaking his neck. Although some other heroes have accepted the justification (Lord had telepathic control over Superman, had killed Blue Beetle, and was at the heart of a planet-wide conspiracy), she was wanted for murder by some authorities as the act was broadcast. Might be noted that she used the Lasso of Truth on Lord and he told her she would have to kill him if she wanted to stop him, so as far as Lord himself thought at least, killing him was the only real choice.
- Her killing of Von Bach in Kingdom Come was the climax of her Heroic Breakdown during the miniseries, and earned her a What the Hell, Hero? from Batman.
- There were at least two Bronze Age stories in which criminals tricked Superman into believing he had accidentally killed someone, so that he would hang up his cape and stop fighting crime (in one, they tricked him into thinking he had accidentally killed Lana!).
- In the long running independent superhero comic book, Nexus, the titular superhero kills as the very reason of his career; he periodically has agonizing dreams of the crimes of murderers that will drive him insane unless he eliminates the cause by going out to kill the criminals and he has the power to get through nearly any defense to do so.
- In recent years comics have tended towards a greater degree of cynicism, or been more willing to engage with the ambiguities of this rule, with the result that most heroes have ended up killing at least once.
- Batman is the poster boy for this trope. In fact, it's been heavily implied that his almost psychotic compulsion to never kill is the only thing keeping him from being one of the psychopaths he regularly fights - he has outright stated that he fears if he started, he would never stop. Famously, Batman was willing to kill in the first year of his existence. As early as Batman #4 in 1940, he was declaring "We never kill with weapons of any kind."
Salvatore Morone: "From this height, the fall wouldn't kill me."
Batman: "I'm counting on it."
- Flashpoint Batman aka Thomas Wayne dispenses with this altogether and shows himself to be an exceptionally violent and uncompromising psychopath who has killed off a good portion of the villains in that timeline and threatens to use lethal force all the time.
- Similarly, his Earth 2 counterpart is more than willing to kill, and it's what tips Lois Lane off that the batman in front of her isn't Bruce Wayne, since the Earth 2 Lois was in on his Secret Identity and was very close to him and his wife.
- In the Novelization of Knightfall, Batman's use of violence is explored. A monk refuses to reach Batman some of the most secret fighting techniques because he won't foreswear violence. Lady Shiva teaches Batman to fight again, but is mildly offended and amused when Batman learns how to enjoy violence again, but won't cross the line into lethal violence. Bruce has a startled, depressing Eureka Moment when he realizes that he'd always loved the violence, despite what he told himself.
- Cassandra Cain/Batgirl II had an even deeper aversion to killing as she could read human body language perfectly. After seeing death once she vowed to never see it again and tried to save a death row inmate to uphold that oath.
- This is so inherent to his character that it's called 'the Batman rule' by other characters, specifically Batwoman and her father.
- Batman will often take this trope to extremes. Not only will he avoid killing his enemies, if his enemies are dying of natural causes or of a Hoist By Their Own Petard situation, if he can, he'll save them even villains as bad as The Joker.
- This is the basis of Jean-Paul Valley's tenure as Batman during Knightquest as he would be lost within the System and constantly battling between acting like Batman and acting like Azrael. It's only when he allows Abattoir to die is when everyone decides to shut him down.
- The bylaws of the Legion of Super-Heroes firmly forbid killing any sentient - unsurprising, since they were created during the Silver Age. The tradition has been retained throughout the Legion's various continuities; even in the Darker and Edgier Legion Lost limited series, Live Wire officially resigned from the Legion before performing a Heroic Sacrifice to kill the Progenitor, an Omnicidal Maniac with the power to control matter on a cosmic scale, in order to allow his teammates to escape without the Progenitor following them back and taking over their universe.
- The Legion Constitution was once published in the comics, in its entirety. The section in question says that "[n]o Legionnaire shall take the life of any sapient being, save as a provable only alternative to the death of the Legionnaire, or the deaths of other sapient beings." The writers usually have the Legionnaires treat the question of lethal force more strictly than their constitution actually requires.
- Lampshaded in Invincible. After the JLA-analogue repels the same Alien Invasion for a second time (by destroying the devices that allow them to safely exist in our universe), Invincible, as the Naďve Newcomer, wonders at the wisdom of just letting them go again:
Robot: Keeping them here would be a death sentence. Hopefully they've learned their lesson.
Invincible: Right... and I'm supposed to be the new guy.
Robot: It is not mathematically inconceivable that at some point we encounter an adversary that realizes the error of their ways and gives up their plans for revenge.
Invincible: I hope you're right.
- In the Wildstorm Comics imprint, in one issue of The Authority, it was mentioned that an alternate earth was essentially destroyed when the Hero refused to kill their enemies no matter what, and the villains killed every single one of them. They attacked the Authority's Earth, and were quickly killed, much to their surprise, saying "Superheroes don't kill". Unfortunately for them, The Authority did. This universe in general, and The Authority especially, fall on the cynical side.
- In Astro City, the Street Angel, a Batman-like vigilante who had recently become Darker and Edgier but who still refused to kill, receives a nice bit of smack-talk from murderous antiheroine Black Velvet. She notes that, although he still claims that he never kills, he leaves an awful lot of people with severe internal injuries without actually checking to see whether they survive or receive medical attention. (After she says this, a Beat Panel follows as this sinks in...)
- Daredevil used to have a typical view of killing, claiming that it wasn't his place to pass judgment. During Frank Miller's run, which redefined the character, Daredevil eventually went against his principles when he tried to kill his archenemy Bullseye. He's killed people several times, and he hasn't tormented himself for issues on end because of it, perhaps the only "regular" superhero who can make this claim.
- However, despite the occasional team up he is frequently at odds with The Punisher for his blatant disregard of the no-kill rule, to the point where the latter might qualify as a members of Daredevil's Rogues Gallery. Though their enmity has softened somewhat ever since Punisher rescued Matt from prison and helped him keep his secret identity, Daredevil was probably the hero most devoted to locking Frank Castle up, even more than Spider-Man who hardly ever tried to capture him. Murdock was known to organize hero teams for the sole purpose of hunting The Punisher down.
- The key word here being "blatant." Daredevil has killed when the situation called for it. And when the situation has called for it, he has hated but not regretted doing it. That said, he does not endorse wholesale murder as the answer to his, or anyone else's, problems.
- Well and truly averted after he finally killed Bullseye.
- Black Panther is not averse to killing, though he usually tries to use non-lethal means if at all possible. During his run as the protector of Hell's Kitchen, he notably told a thug that as a warrior first and foremost, he did not share Daredevil's no-kill rule.
- And in the first arc of the third New Avengers series, he tells Namor that once their mission is over, he's going to kill him for the innocent Wakandans that were drowned during Avengers vs. X-Men.
- In The Avengers, there is (was?) a very strong policy against killing, to the point that one of their mottoes was "Avengers don't kill." This has been brought to attention several times, with Hawkeye almost getting separated from his wife because he heard that she allowed her rapist to fall to his death.
- Their later divorce was specifically built on the tension caused by this incident. Notably, however, all the Avengers who heard Mockingbird's side of the story (Hawkeye heard about it from the ghost of the dead man, who significantly downplayed his actions) sympathized with her, because her circumstances were considerably different from that of their usual fights.
- These days they are a little more flexible about this rule.
- Specifically, it's a bit of Characterization Marches On. After Scarlet Witch killed Hawkeye, Ant-Man and The Vision during Avengers Disassembled, Iron Man came to the conclusion that it was unethical and dangerous to completely take killing off the table. He asked Wolverine to join the Avengers precisely because he wanted a hero who wouldn't hesitate to use lethal force if a situation ever called for it.
- This was continued in Secret Avengers. In one instance, Beast was forced to kill a group of terrorists in order to save the populations of two large cities. He was understandably upset by this, and Captain America comforted him by telling him not to dwell on the few lives he'd taken, but the millions he'd saved.
- Spider-Man is also strongly against killing anyone. He's the most pacifistic person of the Marvel Heroes due to his kindness and nobility, valuing every life and taking responsibility for every action. He takes this to a massive extreme after the Spider-Slayer murders J. Jonah Jameson's wife and, haunted by it all, declares no more lives will be lost if he's around.
- In Spider-Man: Noir, Peter carries a revolver in his masked identity, and uses it to kill the Vulture when he threatens Aunt May. The fact May is as horrified by him as the Vulture is what convinces him to adopt his mainstream counterpart's morals.
- In Superior Spider-Man, Massacre is executed by the new Spider-Man (Otto Octavius) after going on a bloody killing spree. Wolverine defends Spider-Man's actions by noting that Massacre was a particularly vile and depraved villain, and that most of the Avengers have used deadly force at one point or another.
- In X-Men, the rule against killing is partially due to the usual reasons, and partially due to human/mutant relations. Mutants have a hard enough time without Wolverine carving people up on the six o'clock news, so you'd better stifle any Darker and Edgier tendencies, especially while wearing an X symbol. However, it's not as absolute as it is with Batman or Superman, as individual members can fall anywhere from The Cape to Nineties Anti-Hero, and most X-teams will defend themselves or others lethally if it's the only way. A few of their main villains also have Joker Immunity.
- In general, Xavier has a personal no-killing policy, and he does his best to enforce it on teams he leads. But there have been many different leaders of the X-Men over the years, and many teams affiliated with them but not actually accepting Xavier's authority.
- In one issue, Cyclops explicitly refutes this trope with regard to villains over Storm's objections when they're looking for a villain who may have perished in a fight with the team; he states that he doesn't take killing lightly, but at the same time isn't going to waste any tears over someone who poses a clear risk to his team and students and has no compunction about attacking and killing them.
- Nineties anti-hero Cable (an amazingly powerful telekinetic infected by a nano-technological virus who used huge guns ... no, really) had no qualms about killing and invariably racked up a huge body county every issue. Always without any ramifications. And in his most recent shared series, he came across as the good partner. The other guy was Deadpool.
- Invoked to an almost headache-inducing degree in the early 2000s run of Justice Society of America. Black Adam, having gotten utterly fed up with villains who don't give a damn about the lives of people being allowed to go free again and again, gathers up a small crew of like-minded people and goes off to smash the brutally dictatorial regime that's set itself up in his home country. Even though one (one) JSA member acknowledges that they and the US government had turned a blind eye to the fact that these people had been conducting murder sprees and enslaving children, the entire team nonetheless goes after Adam's crew for taking them out. And then when Hawkman's methods for dealing with Black Adam's allies proves too brutal for their taste, they turn on him. All in about five issues.
- The Green Lantern Corps used to follow this policy. The Guardians revoked it in order to defeat the Sinestro Corps. Apparently this was Sinestro's goal all along. Whether the Sinestros won or lost, a more lethal and fearsome Corps would be policing the cosmos. Part of the writers' reasoning was that real-life police are permitted to shoot to kill; Space Police shouldn't be any different.
- This is actually one of the few times both sides are given fair consideration. Some Green Lanterns are against it, some are all for it, but neither side is presented as wrong and the ones against killing can't deny that being able to kill was the main reason they won the war. (Though needless murder is right out.)
- There was a subversion in the case of Nineties Anti-Hero Jack Chance. When he discovered his Green Lantern Ring would not let him use lethal force, he adapted and started using a revolver to deliver the killing blow. The only reason the Guardians didn't throw him out was because nothing less had worked on his Crapsack World.
- The Sonic the Hedgehog comic has something like this: in one issue Dr. Robotnik, still insane after the events of issue 200, is locked up in New Mobotropolis. A character asks Sonic why he's showing mercy to Robotnik. Sonic admits he doesn't know for sure, and guesses he moves too fast to get hung up on revenge. The character isn't sure if Sonic has a Zen state of mind or is foolish, but he's impressed either way.
- In issue 225 Robotnik mocks Sally for showing mercy on all the times she could've finished him, as doing so allowed him to stay a threat. A few pages later, he seemingly killed her, then reset the Universe.
- During Dark Reign the Thunderbolts team observed that, despite being Osborn's hit squad, they almost never killed anybody. In fact they completed one assassination without taking any lives.
- Used for great dramatic effect in ElfQuest. The main tribe of the story, the Wolfriders, have one simple rule: elves don't kill elves. It's a concept so ingrained in their culture, killing others of their kind would not even occur to them. Until one elf from a different tribe, Kureel from the Gliders, ends up kidnapping a young Wolfrider and threatens to kill him. The boy's father (the tribe's archer) shoots and kills Kureel. He goes into a complete Heroic BSOD until he's finally able to ask Kureel's spirit for forgiveness many months later. As it was, since Kureel's spirit was at peace and barely remembered the circumstances of his demise anyway, he granted that forgiveness without hesitation
- Interestingly, at the very start of the series, the Wolfriders seem to treat death much more casually, briefly considering killing Rayek because he looks at them funny. This is, however, shortly after the humans burnt down their home and the trolls betrayed them and left them to die in the desert, and while they were still figuring out what to make of these strange new elves who walked around in broad daylight, had huts, and actually cooked their meat just like their old human enemies did. (It's telling that the Wolfriders decided to 'introduce' themselves to the Sun Village by raiding it for food rather than just walking up and saying hello. Thankfully for both sides, that didn't last long.)
- Also interestingly, in the very early days of the Wolfrider tribe, there were many elves born with wolf-blood and just as many wolves born with elf-blood (it's not as icky as it sounds - the first elves were shapeshifters lost on a low-magic planet. Mating with the local fauna was their way of bonding with the new land). Timmorn, the first Chief and first mix between elf and wolf, took on the task of deciding what was elf, what was wolf, and what should just be killed instantly.
- Two-Spear didn't have too many qualms either about killing his own daughter. But (a) Two-Spear tried to be more wolf than elf, using the pack's way of life as an excuse to act violently insane, and (b) the story in which he thinks he's killed his daughter was a case of Running the Asylum anyway.
- Obviously, The Punisher has no business with the standard version of this. However, he will absolutely under no circumstances ever kill someone who isn't a criminal or otherwise corrupt. He'll go out of his way to prevent bystander casualties and will even let a bad guy slip if he has to. (Depending on the Writer. At least one issue has him willingly allow a woman to be killed in order to stop a criminal who is banking on his "Doesn't allow innocents to be harmed" schtick.)
- With the exceptions of truly mindless incarnations of the character, the Incredible Hulk rarely kills anyone intentionally. Most deaths caused by his rampages are accidental and the result of property damage, that—to be perfectly fair— could result from most superhero battles (admittedly, the Hulk tends to cause more damage than most superheroes). Even then, deaths are fairly rare. In one issue, where Bruce Banner admits to murdering his abusive father and making it look like an accident while defending himself, he stated that as the Hulk, he had leveled entire cities without killing a single person. All of this being said, it isn't clear just how much of this is intentional and how much is coincidental; in some cases the Hulk clearly intends to kill an enemy, with them happening to meet a Karmic Death during the course of the battle.
- In Empowered, this is played utterly straight with the title character; even her most powerful energy blasts have never been seen to do worse than knock someone out cold. The rest of the cast (including, from the look of things, her costume) averts it, especially Thugboy. In volume 6, she does leave Deathmonger to be disintegrated by a nuclear blast... but he's not only an enslaver of the walking dead, but a walking dead man himself.
- Birds of Prey member Huntress had no time for this early in her vigilante career. She's getting better, but she still doesn't seem to have too much of a problem with killing criminals. It's the main reason Batman doesn't trust her. Oracle, being more forgiving and willing to offer second chances, does trust her. Oracle does, however, use this excuse to treat her like crap.
- Green Arrow is a big believer in this. It's why he uses so many trick arrows, like the infamous boxing glove arrow, instead of actual arrows. The downward spiral that culminated in his first death started the night he actually killed someone. He made an exception for Prometheus after the latter attacked Star City with a Kill Sat and killed thousands, including his granddaughter Lian Harper.
- Seriously averted during Mike Grell's run, where Green Arrow began using lethal force regularly after killing a man who was torturing Black Canary. The series flip flopped on how he felt about killing, sometimes doing it casually and other times feeling remorseful about it. Once his series ended, the events and characterization have been ignored.
- Enforced in Quantum and Woody by Quantum's heroic idealism. This proves problematic when the duo attacks Terrence Magnum's private mercenary army and Quantum has loaded Woody's rifle with rubber bullets.
- In one issue of Alpha Flight, the writer says "Some armchair moralists would hold superheroes to an impossible standard, requiring them to routinely face opponents who use lethal force while denying themselves the same option." This punctuated a series of panels in which the members of the team agree, reluctantly and with much debate, that the particular foe they're facing cannot be contained, cannot be controlled, and cannot be made anything remotely resembling safe. You can guess what comes next. Surprisingly, this did not mark a Start of Darkness for the title.
- In Antarctic Press' Gold Digger, the giant superheroine Crush is adamant about this - mainly because, during a brief period during which she was being blackmailed by a supervillain, she killed a bunch of gang members... and, coincidentally, an undercover cop.
- Moon Knight is a strange case. Being Batman wearing white and an obsession with Egyptian moon gods of vengeance, he has a disdain towards killing. However, it's not so much he doesn't want to be like the people he fights, it's that he is extremely tempted, to the point of addiction, to killing, and wants to fight it. Doesn't stop him from torture, maiming, and cutting off a guy's face and wearing it for the sake of the moment.
- The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, being ninja, were pretty much trained to kill from their first appearance in order to avenge Splinter's owner via his death from The Shredder. It varies from incarnation to incarnation with some versions vowing never to kill, but for the ones that do it's made apparent that none of them really relish having to kill anyone period, but if it comes down to survival or saving someone they will take that step.
- Discussed in Issue 9 of The Shade (2011). The Shade is about to kill a villain before he brings up this trope. The Shade outright denies being something so "average". The villain then talks to Silverfin, a friend of The Shade's and a true hero. Silverfin then responds that, as a hero, he only fights for what he perceives as good, citing no superhero rulebook. And if letting this villain die is a good thing, then he'll let it happen.
- Subverted in Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel. Guiv subdues a lion which attacks him in the mountains. Kneeling over the lion, he lifts his sword, then has a thought and says, "No one gave me the power to take life." As he walks away, the lion gets up and charges at him, and he quickly turns and slashes it to death.
: No one gave you the power to spare
- This attitude causes some trouble for Batman in The Ultimate Riddle, as he isn't willing to murder those who are trying to kill him. This is contrasted against the more pragmatic Dredd, who has no moral qualms with lawful killing, though isn't pleased to be doing so for someone else's amusement.
- Subverted in Lucky Luke: The Tenderfoot. The titular character, Waldo Badminton, challenges the Big Bad to a Ten Paces and Turn duel. The latter panics, still manages to shoot first but misses, then begs a stoic Waldo for mercy, offering him his estates and promising to never return; Waldo accepts. Whem Lucky Luke later asks him why he didn't shoot, Waldo reveals that he couldn't because the shot had hit him in the arm.
- Mocked by Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass:
Kick-Ass: "No way. I'm not going to kill anybody. I'm supposed to be a fucking superhero."
: "Oh, kiss my ass. What is this, the Silver Age
? I'm afraid we forgot our magic fucking hypno-ring that turns bad guys into good guys."
- In the Justice League/Naruto crossover "Connecting the Dots", the superheroes have a very hard time getting the ninjas (who are essentially underage soldiers) to understand this concept.
- One scene that stands out is where Robin and Cyborg are for this trope, Neji and Sakura are against and Naruto as devil's advocate after Neji killed Dr.Light. Just a taste of that talk:
Robin: "You killed him."
Robin: "We don't...you weren't supposed to do that?"
Neji: "He was required for interrogation then? My apologies. I assumed termination was the objective"
Robin: "Termination is NEVER the objective! Not with us! We don't kill!"
Neji: (puzzled)"But the fight necessitated the need for lethal action. Cyborg (*points at him*) knocked him off a 10 story building with intent to kill."
Cyborg: "Well yeah, but… Dude, we knock people off buildings all the time! They just never actually fall, they always catch themselves!"
Neji: "So it was a distractionary measure? But I thought you didn't know he had that jetpack. And Beast Boy destroyed it shortly after, he could have died from either of those falls."
Cyborg: "Dude, the point is that a fall NEVER actually kills anyone."
Neji: "Yes they do. I've killed several people that way."
Robin: "The point is that Beast Boy and Cyborg didn't aim to kill him. You did."
Robin: "Look. In our line of work, you're not supposed to kill, understand? Not by accident, definitely not by intent. Regardless of the circumstances, you do NOT use lethal force."
Naruto,Neji and Sakura: "Why?"
Cyborg: "You… you just don't!"
- The argument ends with Cyborg and Robin saying that the villains normally get taken to prison. Naruto says "I get that. They get to live instead of executed. As long as they can't escape from prison it's still good right? (Cyborg and Robin nervously look at each other) RIGHT?"
- Sakura actually questions Batman on this and points out the idiocy of it in some cases.
"If he (Joker) is so dangerous, why don't you kill him? Someone like that needs to be put down because it's clear he gets off on the killing and a monster like that doesn't need to exist."
- This is normally a point used in Harry Potter fanfiction when mocking a bashed Dumbledore, who he and his followers tend to view any sort of death as immoral and dark. For instance, in the story Harry Potter and the Curse's Cure, he is horrified by Hermione's fanfiction made uncle, Dan Granger's, killing of several death eaters with a gun (Despite the fact that they were there to kill and rape Hermione and her family). In the story The Harem War, he refers to Harry as dark when he kills Dolores Umbridge and two death eaters with a gun, despite the fact that the universe that Harem War exists in explains that Death Eaters have to kill in cold blood and rape to join, and the fact Dolores sent a squad of them into the innocent country that Harry ruled (of course, this Dumbledore is evil however).
- Not to say there aren't Fanon Harrys who believe in this rule, but it really depends on the writer and who they are dealing with. It is more acceptable among the fandom to mock a no kill policy when the people not being killed are Death Eaters as oppose to less utterly despicable characters.
- The four in With Strings Attached, being Actual Pacifists, are very much committed to this stance, sometimes to the point of having to get really creative to solve a problem because the opponent's death, or even the opponent's ass-whooping, is not an option. The irony is that collectively they have been gifted with enough power to wipe out a city before breakfast.
- Though at least two of them were not averse to handing out a good nonlethal ass-kicking in revenge for heavy abuse (of themselves or their True Companions) at the hands of some baddies.
- Plasma's Folly's interpretation of N fiercely opposes killing after having to witness the deaths of many of the injured Pokémon Ghetsis gave him to play with as a child. This becomes a bit of an issue when he realizes that putting the suffering Genesect to death may be the best option.
- Justice League of Equestria: Rainbow Dash/Supermare strives for this. That said, she comes very close to breaking that rule when Brainiac whacks her Berserk Button by almost killing her mother — she unleashes a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on him and is barely talked down by Thunderlane before she goes too far.
- Empath in Empath: The Luckiest Smurf tries to adhere as best as he could the Smurf rule of honoring all life, which also includes no killing, but in the story "The Innocence Of A Smurf", he reveals that he had killed a Psyche during a training battle where killing is mandatory for all Psyches that undergo this training. That earns him a death sentence on the day that he and his fellow Smurfs must swim across the Pool of Souls to judge his innocence, as he ends up dying during his swim. Fortunately, he only suffers a Disney Death as the spirits of the pool judge that he didn't kill the Psyche out of malice and thus he deserved a second chance.
- In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, ProtoMan has a self-imposed policy to not kill. He breaks this vow in episode 9.
- In the multi-crossover A Spark of Genius, Green Lantern insists that Leviathan (secretly a Xander Harris who's been magically made into the grandson of Agatha Heterodyne) is nothing but a murderer after he killed a group of soldiers and mercenaries. Said soldiers and mercenaries invaded his country, killed several civilians, and kidnapped a young woman with the intent of raping her before turning her over to Lex Luthor for the miracle cure running through her veins. Superman even points out that by international law, killing them and invading their country is completely justified, especially since Leviathan isn't a superhero but the leader of a nation.
- In Frozen Hearts, Johan Jorgen, a pirate, albeit a nobler sort, has this principle, which is why he is disturbed when Hans admits to trying to kill Elsa.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- Technically, The Bible doesn't say "Thou shalt not kill", it says "Thou shalt not murder/shed innocent blood". In other words, don't kill someone without a very good reason. Warfare and capital punishment were accepted practice in ancient Israel and in many cases sanctioned by God. Killing in self-defense of your own life, or killing someone who is currently attempting to murder someone else, is likewise permissible and obligatory under Biblical law, as elaborated in the Talmud; a would-be murderer is considered legally "dead" for the period of time in which he is attempting to commit murder, and killing them during that period is therefore not considered murder at all. (It is still preferable to stop them in another way if possible.)
- Sometimes God's direct orders violated this commandment, such as His command to massacre the Canaanites, including women and children.
- In the New Testament, Paul quotes that commandment as "Thou shalt not murder". This disagreement might have something to do with the fact that not only did the translators write in an outdated style (for the day, that is), not all of them spoke English on a regular basis. It easily meshes with Christ's teachings as well when you think about it: He said to turn the other cheek when struck, not to offer up the other kidney when stabbed. Sufficient to say, like many parts of the Bible, there are other interpretations to what this actually means.
- In the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Oath of the Land plays with the ideal of Thou Shalt Not Kill, and takes it further:
Do not hurt when holding is enough
Do not wound when hurting is enough
Do not maim when wounding is enough
And kill not when maiming is enough
The greatest warrior is he who does not need to kill
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, when Gandalf tells how Mordor has learned from Gollum that the One Ring is now in the possession of hobbits, Frodo exclaims, "What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!" Gandalf admonishes him:
Gandalf: "Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need... Deserves death! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends."
- This really comes down to the difference between killing an enemy in battle (which neither Frodo nor Gandalf shows any aversion to) and executing a defeated foe. And as it turns out, Frodo fails in his quest to destroy the One Ring, with Gollum completing it for him... by accident. Which could tie into some translations of the trope-naming commandment using "murder" instead of "kill".
- The same mercy is shown to Gríma Wormtongue (twice!) and Saruman as well. Neither can comprehend mercy, thinking it's a trick. As a contrast, Gríma kills Saruman at the end.
- This is spoofed in the prologue to Bored of the Rings, where, after the answer to "What have I got in my pocket?" is demonstrated to be a .38 pistol, the thought behind "pity stayed his hand" is explained as "It's a pity I've run out of bullets."
- Dorden, The Medic from Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000: Gaunt's Ghosts series, pledged not to kill as part of his medical oaths in the backstory. Since our setting is a Crapsack World with Black and Gray Morality, he has found the going tough, with the one time he was forced to still weighing on him books and years later.
- The Seekers of Truth use this, as they work with the law enforcement and justice system. A couple of them violate this rule once, which as it turns out is one time too many.
- Interesting subversion in Warrior Cats, where the warrior code says: "An honorable warrior does not need to kill other cats to win his battles, unless they are outside the warrior code or it is necessary for self-defense.", so Thou Shalt Not Kill... unless it's in self-defense... or the person you're killing really deserves it. But you are still just considered "dishonorable" (although, being Proud Warrior Race Guys, this is A Fate Worse Than Death for some). The rule is still important, though, and main characters have so far only killed Big Bads, and at times have had to be restrained from killing others.
- Pulp hero Doc Savage started out killing bad guys left and right, but evolved a pragmatic "don't kill unless there's no other way" policy after the first few stories. Many a villain ended up fatally Hoist by His Own Petard. More often than not, Doc knows this is going to happen (since he's sabotaged the weapon) and tries to warn the Big Bad, who just laughs and pushes what has now become the Big Red Button.
- An alien race in Tom Holt's Falling Sideways had this as a rule. They also had a very high level of technology and the collective mindset of a Rules Lawyer. As in, it's OK to make people believe themselves to be frogs and eat nothing but flies, because they have a rule saying "Thou Shalt Not Kill" but not "Thou Shalt Not Make People Feed Themselves Horribly Inadequate Diets".
- In The Mysterious Benedict Society books, Kate's father, Milligan, always works to find solutions that would avoid killing his opponents (generally the vicious Ten Men) no matter how savagely they try to kill him or others. When asked about this by his daughter, Kate, he tells her simply "We're not like them." Indeed, when Kate later has the opportunity to toss a bomb at them and their leader, Mr. Curtain, she instead tosses it away into the water where it can do no harm.
- In the Harry Potter series, the rules here are… tricky. Wands are often wielded threateningly like guns, yet the actual Killing Curse, Avada Kedavra, is extremely illegal, and using it possibly requires some degree of malice. (Perhaps not in the case of Mrs. Weasley, although Bellatrix was threatening to kill her daughter, and almost certainly not for Snape's mercy-killing Dumbledore). Nonetheless, there are numerous other spells (like Sectumsempra) which would presumably also cause death under the right circumstances. In Book 7, the disarming spell, Expelliarmus, becomes Harry's pacifistic trademark, and the following conversation occurs:
Lupin: "Harry, the time for Disarming is past! These people are trying to capture and kill you! At least Stun if you aren't prepared to kill!"
"We were hundreds of feet up! If I Stunned him and he'd fallen, he'd have died the same as if I'd used Avada Kedavra
- Of course, he was perfectly willing to shoot his pursuers off their brooms earlier and only stayed his hand when he recognised a familiar face in one of them ("familiar" in this case means he'd known him several years ago for a few hours), so his point is a bit shaky.
- When it comes to ultimately dealing with the Big Bad, Karmic Death it does the trick.
- The magical world apparently has extremely dim views about killing, since murder can literally rip your soul in half.
- Artemis Fowl tends to avoid any killing by the good guys, regardless of possible need or justification. No character at all died in the first book, and the only deaths in the second were three goblin assassins, one by Karmic Death in an avalanche and the other two shot in the back by their accomplice, as well as the Big Bad's second-in-command also by accidental Karmic Death.
- Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn-trilogy features the Kandra. A race of shape-shifters whose own laws forbid them from killing humans. Kandra who break this law are punished by death.
- In The Dresden Files, the First law of Magic specifies that Thou Shalt Not Kill With Magic. Violating this law generally leads to execution by the White Council, except in rare cases where the wizard responsible was judged to be acting in self-defense and another wizard is willing to mentor the killer. Killing people without magic is allowed if circumstances dictate though. The sole exception to this is the Blackstaff, who is allowed to kill if it is deemed absolutely necessary. Also, the Law specifically states that it is illegal to kill humans. Killing supernatural creatures such as faeries and vampires with magic is allowed, as the Laws only exist to protect humans.
- Technically, the law is to not use black magic, which includes mind control and the like ( Hence Blackstaff). It gets into a grey area with regard to collateral damage from magic and largely involves intent as being a key factor, thus making it closer to Thou Shalt Not Murder. Because of the nature of magic in the Dresdenverse, a person must believe in what they are doing. So using black magic and murder actually taints the soul and is very addictive. For what it is worth The Blackstaff is one of the kindest people in the series, and when he starts unleashing magic to kill it is a horrifying scene. The Blackstaff is allowed to break the Laws because the staff he wields somehow prevents his soul from being tainted.
- In the Iron Druid Chronicles Druid magic cannot be used to harm a living being in any way. If you do, the magic will kill you on the spot. However, Druids can kill people in any number of mundane ways like cutting their heads off. The prohibition also only applies to direct magic use. Druid magic can be used to indirectly hurt someone (e.g. summoning elementals to do the fighting or simply having a hole appear in the earth so the opponent breaks a leg). It also does not apply to supernatural beings with no connection to the earth (eg demons).
- In Wearing the Cape Hope's expectation is that superheroes follow the Golden Age superhero code, and this is strengthened by Ajax' statement that "heroes don't use guns." But in her first fight she discovers that Atlas is perfectly willing to let the bad guys kill each other, and in the surprise-attack on Whittier Base half the team breaks out automatic pistols, the better to cap their attackers. Hope herself kills an unspecified number of terrorists in the heat of combat, then kills two heroes in the Dark Anarchist's secret base.
- In the Chronicles of Prydain, Lord Pryderi taunts the enchanter Dallben, believing that he "secret to his power" is that Dallben cannot kill. Dallben says he has never killed anyone, but that doesn't mean he can't. The issue is never settled, since Pryderi dies shortly thereafter without Dallben's intervention.
- In Septimus Heap, Aunt Zelda has to remind Nicko of this when he suggests to make the Hunter remember he's not a lion tamer while he has his head in a lion's mouth.
- In The Quantum Thief, the Sobornost collective hold a rare, villainous principle in this matter. They could wipe out all their enemies from the Solar System with Strangelet bombs in a matter of hours, but in their ideology, every mind has its place and every memory is worth preserving. It's just happens to be that they decide what place each mind should have, and they'll cheerfully Mind Rape the uploaded personalities into any function they find the most suitable, be it an infiltrator or a missile guidance system, and then copy them as needed. In their minds it's only a murder if all the copies of an uploaded individual are destroyed.
- Trapped on Draconica: No matter who it is Daniar will not kill them, though some people really ask for it. She just about killed Zarracka after the third time she was spared. Interestingly, Rana doesn't persuade Daniar out of killing Zarracka out of concern for the villain's well being but to prevent Daniar from breaking her code.
- During Galaxy of Fear, the protagonists will destroy basic speechless droids and squish beetles forming swarms, and Zak once accidentally kills a birdlike animal and feels remorse, but anything smarter, if it dies, dies some other way. In Spore, Tash flees Spore, which is controlling the crew of a Star Destroyer and taking it after her into an Asteroid Thicket, where it's attacked and destroyed by space slugs. Her Actual Pacifist friend, who flew with her, is horrified and feels like she's killed the crew. Tash says it's not the friend's fault, she was following Tash, but also puts the blame on Spore.
- Similar to the Warrior Cats, Percy Jackson and the Olympians downplays the trope. While the demigod heroes do kill monsters, Death Is Cheap with them. They recover in any time between weeks and centuries. On the other hand, Percy deliberately avoids killing other demigods, though it's a bit like Harry Potter's example in that many of them are duped. The views of other demigods aren't really as known but probably were not as merciful.
- The Exile's Violin: Jacquie is a downplayed example; after killing her father's murderer she swore to herself that she would never kill again but kills mooks when there is no other option. At the climax she kills Gunslinger because her rule is not a unbreakable rule.
- Discworld: Witches consider this an important part of their ideology, hence why they often use Laser-Guided Karma on their enemies. Good witches practice this because life has value, or else because death is too good for the villain. Conventional bad witches, such as the late Black Aliss, also don't kill because you can't rub a dead enemy's nose in your victory. (Even evil curses come with Fantastic Fragility for similar gloating-related reasons.) Actually murdering someone is treated as crossing the Moral Event Horizon by all parties nearby.
- In Steadfast, Kate's teachers impress upon her the need to not simply call on her Elemental allies to burn her abusive husband to ash. It's not that he doesn't deserve it, but her teachers don't want her to taint the innocence of her Elementals by using them to kill humans. This is specific to Kate and her teachers; using elementals to kill is elsewhere not considered to be Black Magic.
Live Action TV
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Slayers are definitely not supposed to kill humans (even villainous humans). Vampires and other assorted demons are fair game. Although there were a number of Karmic Deaths for the human enemies. There was also that time she had to kill about ten of the Knights of Byzantium to defend herself and her sister, one by throwing an axe into his chest at pointblank range.
- After Faith accidentally kills a human with a wooden stake while still on a massive adrenaline rush after a fight, seconds after Buffy tries to warn her Giles actually tells Buffy that due to the high-stress nature of the Slayer's job, the Watcher's Council expects one or two accidents and has ways of dealing with them. This doesn't stop the angst on the part of the accidental murderer, though. An episode soon after shows Buffy stopping just short of the killing blow to a vampire after Willow cries out, in exact parallel to the situation with Faith, showing that Faith could have avoided killing the deputy mayor if she had a clearer head. Shortly afterwards, Faith's poisoning of Angel drove Buffy to nearly kill her so that her blood could be used as an antidote. Thankfully, Faith was only put in a coma and Buffy snapped out of killer mode, though actually entering it in the first place haunts her for a good long while.
- Mentioned in one episode when Ethan Rayne tells Buffy she can't do anything to him since he's human, only for The Initiative to arrest him.
- The same rule also generally applied to Angel, though he had quite a few "exceptions" to it throughout the series' course. Humans were excluded if they had supernatural powers. Even then there was the episode "Conviction" where Angel killed a special ops soldier who was technically his employee by kicking him causing him to shoot himself in the head, just to make a point that the soldier's way of doing things wasn't going to be tolerated anymore under Angel's management.
- Heroes: Matt Parkman had ample justification to kill Emil Danko, who is heading a program started by Nathan Petrelli to round up persons with special abilities. First, Danko's operatives shoot Matt's girlfriend Daphne. Then when Danko takes control of the operation he removes the still-living Daphne from the medical facility. Consequently, Daphne develops sepsis, leading to her death. Parkman seeks to get even by taking away the most important person in Danko's life, a call girl named Elena who knows Danko as "Jakob Pradasa". He telepathically forces Danko to divulge his true identity, to admit what he does (hunting and abducting people), and to confess that he let Daphne die. Parkman then points his gun at Elena, but cannot bring himself to shoot her.
- Supernatural: Hunters are supposed to kill evil monsters and protect humans, but just like Buffy example above, killing humans is not acceptable. The one time the Winchesters considered killing a human, Well-Intentioned Extremist Gordon Walker (who thinks Sam is purposely evil), he gets turned into a vampire (his specialty) so that Sam can kill him without feeling really guilty about it.
- However, when up against truly monstrous humans (like the family who hunts other humans for sport or the other one with feral children who were bloodthirsty Tyke Bombs), Sam and Dean have had to kill. As Dean said "Demons I get, humans I don't."
- The Sarah Connor Chronicles starts off with John and Sarah like this. Derek and Cameron, not so much. Sarah frequently orders either or both of them not to kill (they tend to take it under advisement). The first season features Sarah's reluctance to kill a man she believes will one day create Skynet, and is shown dwelling on it. A common theme throughout the series is the importance of human life. However, Sarah ends up being forced to kill a man midway through season two and John even earlier.
- Doctor Who: This is the Doctor's apparent modus operandi. Give him points for effort, but it doesn't usually work.
- Of course, depending on just how far an enemy pushes him, he might make them genuinely wish he just killed them.
- Heavily subverted in the seventh season episode "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship". Sure, that guy had committed genocide on an entire shipload of refugees and tried to enslave queen Nefertiti of Egypt. Being used as a missile decoy was the least he deserved, but coming from the Doctor that was cold.
- Completely subverted by the creation of the War Doctor whose entire purpose was to bring about the swift conclusion of the Time War in the most efficient manner possible regardless of how many deaths that caused. He outright asks to be made into a Warrior when he starts that regeneration cycle.
- In Smallville, Clark Kent refuses to kill enemies, but he does not consider Karmic Death or accidental death to be murder. The one time he attacked an opponent (Titan) with the intent to kill, he was haunted after he did the deed. Chloe also stresses this often, sometimes to meteor freaks who aren't bad at heart. Oliver on the other hand... It leads to clashes between him and both Clark and Chloe. He often tries to get them to do what he does.
Oliver: This is justice.
- Clark also doesn't hesitate to kill Brainiac, justifying it with the lame technicality that Brainiac is a robot.
- In another episode, Chloe admonishes Clark that he should not hesitate to let her die if that's what it takes to save the world.
- In the 1998 miniseries Merlin (the one with Sam Neil), this is the limitation of the magic of The Fair Folk, that it cannot be used to kill, according to the novelization.
- The Leviathans of Dark Shadows have this as a rule. Not due to any sort of morality, but rather because anyone they kill will become a super-powered ghost, capable of hindering their plans even further. At least that's how it's supposed to work, but due to Real Life Writes the Plot issues the matter was rather derailed.
- Michael from Prison Break fluctuates between this and Technical Pacifist.
- In Have Gun — Will Travel, Paladin will avoid killing if possible, and more than one episode ends without anyone dying. When it becomes necessary, however, he won't hesitate.
- Tracker Cole does not kill; he just incapicates the human long enough to withdraw the life force from the body. Justified, because Cirronians are a peaceful species by nature, and abhor violence (yes, even the criminals-most are in prison for nonviolent crimes).
- Gabrielle, of Xena: Warrior Princess.
- In the pilot episode of The Incredible Hulk, David Banner's research partner assures him that the Hulk will not kill, "because David Banner wouldn't kill." Nevertheless, David spends the series worrying that the Hulk will one day cross the line. (He doesn't, but only because so many of the bad guys are Made of Iron.)
- Shepherd Derrial Book from Firefly follows the Ten Commandments to the letter, including the Trope Namer. However, he rather dryly notes in "War Stories" that the Bible is "somewhat fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps." In Serenity, after shooting down the Alliance gunship that just mortally wounded him and burned his town to the ground, he comments that it was "not very Christian of me." This is explained somewhat in the comic books: He spent the Great Offscreen War doing black ops, including assassinations, and is now The Atoner.
- The Shaolin philosophy from Kung Fu has this as one of it's core tenets. "Avoid rather than check. Check rather than hurt. Hurt rather than maim. Maim rather than kill. For all life is precious nor can any be replaced."
- The Lone Ranger, in some ways a precursor to Vash, used silver bullets as a symbol of his pledge never to take human life.
- GURPS has the Pacifist disadvantage, which comes in several flavors, one of which is Cannot Kill. Characters with the "Cannot Kill" disadvantage can start fights and use any tactics they like, but they cannot kill, or be responsible for a death, or leave a wounded enemy to die. They also cannot stand by while their teammates administer the Coup de Grâce. If they do, they angst about it for days and are effectively rendered useless to the team.
- Some Superhero RPGs would invoke rules against killing. Two notable examples were Marvel Super Heroes and DC Heroes, which would eliminate all Karma/Hero Points (a combination of experience points, and self-boosting reserves for various tasks) and keep you from accumulating more for the rest of the adventure (usually one night of gaming). In DC heroes, this punishment came from using lethal force at all.
- Dungeons & Dragons has the Book of Exalted Deeds, which contains the feat "Vow of Peace". It grants benefits as long as you don't inflict lethal damage, allow an ally to finish off a defeated opponent, or cause similar harm to a creature. It takes this trope to extremes; accidentally swallowing a gnat in your drinking water will cause you to lose the benefits of the feat, in fact the feat specifically references paladins drinking their water through a strainer. It doesn't really make you a pacifist, technical or actual, though; you can still fight all you want, as long as you never inflict lethal damage.
- "Code vs. Killing" is one of the most commonly seen Psychological Limitations in Champions, usually bought as "total commitment" (i.e. the character can't bring him- or herself to kill at all and won't stand idly by while others do it either). Normal people are already assumed to be "reluctant to kill" by default (being Ax-Crazy would be its own different Limitation); the code, if taken, is intended to go beyond well beyond that to proper comic book levels. Of course, being a Limitation that you get points for, it's also supposed to cause your character trouble from time to time.
- The MMORPG City of Heroes takes this to its natural extreme: the player-characters are always sent to "arrest", "defeat", or just plain "stop" the villainous NPCs, and even if the enemies are "arrested" with a high-powered assault rifle, a broadsword, or repeated fireballs, nobody ever dies. Instead, they're sent to the local Cardboard Prison, The Zig. That's just for human enemies. Robots explode, rock monsters crumble, and spirits are banished.
- Word of God has stated that it's up to players what happens to the Mooks — they could be killed or not, depending on how players roleplay. Named enemies are usually explicitly captured. Robots and rock monsters are confirmed to be non-sentient, the former having no real intelligence and the latter just being the fingers of a massive and powerful ball of jello. The various banished spirits are truly and completely immortal, so banishing doesn't kill them.
- City of Villains, however, sees it quite differently: There are several missions where you're explicitly told to 'kill' someone, or to 'Leave No Witnesses'.
- Used occasionally in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, funnily enough. In chapter 15, you get bonus points for not killing any enemies except the boss (except you don't really kill him), and in chapter 22 you get bonus points and a gift for not killing any priests.
- Maintaining the same belief in the comics, Batman in Batman: Arkham Asylum never kills. According to his detective mode, his enemies always wind up unconscious. Yes, even the ones who have been punched in the face, or had a wall they were standing in front of blown up. Unconscious, every one.
- The game has many ways of preventing you from killing enemies, bordering on The Dev Team Thinks of Everything territory. Knock a guy off a tower, and Batman automatically attaches a cable to his foot. Throw a Mook down a bottomless pit and you hear a splash right away, implying that there's water just out of sight. There's even an invisible wall around the pool of electrified water, so you can't throw anyone in (Batman can still fall in himself, though).
- The sequel Batman: Arkham City extends this selective invisible wall to all of the many rooftops Batman fights on. Pay no attention to the fact that he's beating people into immobility, and leaving them lying around unable to defend themselves in a city filled with psychopaths, while they're wearing light clothing in the middle of winter.
- Taken to the extreme in Batman: Arkham Origins, where in the finale, Joker is so hellbent on forcing Batman to kill someone he connects a heart monitor Bane is wearing to an electric chair, which the Joker is sitting in. Either Batman kills Bane, the electric chair kills Joker, or Bane kills Batman. How does Batman solve this situation? He puts Bane into cardiac arrest so that his heart stops strong enough for Gordon to secure the Joker, then uses his shock gloves to bring Bane back to life, knowing that Bane will try to kill Batman as soon as he wakes up again... and he does, leading to the boss battle with Titan-Infused Bane.
- As pointed out by Outside XBox, the people Batman nails in the head with propane tanks, drags off the GCPD roof to a multi-storey fall, pummels in the face at point-blank with "less-than-lethal" ammunition, or clonks in the throat with a car door should really not be as alive as Detective Mode claims they are.
- In the NES Batman game, Batman averts movie canon and hurls the Joker off the cathedral. The rest of the ending is spent zooming in on the Joker's corpse. Then it plays it straight with the NES only sequel, Batman: Return of the Joker.
- In Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, to keep with their credo, the heroes of the DC universe get "Heroic Brutalities" instead of Fatalities, moves that punish the enemy without killing them... or so it's supposed to be. In practice, crushing a person's body in a Green Lantern orb isn't exactly nonlethal. Neither is Superman pounding someone into the ground like a hammer to a nail.
- Touhou features a Spellcard System that is explicitly designed to prevent the death of anyone using its rules. This allows the youkai the ability to try and kill the Barrier Maiden heroine, without the risk of destroying their world, while giving Reimu a fighting chance at defeating absurdly overpowered monsters with abilities like the ability to kill with just a thought, total immortality, and the ability to drop someone out of existence. Reimu has the ability to go invincible, so it's usually more helpful to her opponent.
- inFAMOUS has an interesting way of handling this. Killing your enemies in a fight doesn't affect your Karma Meter, but killing enemies who are already bound is marked as an "Execution," which gets you bad karma.
- Sort of. As you gain Good Karma, your default attacks get replaced with "stun" weapons. Obviously you are still probably killing a lot of them so it is sort of true, but it rapidly falls into the category of Mercy Bullets and the like, plus when you "take down" an enemy, killing them doesn't get you any Karma but Arc-Restraining them gets you Good Karma. Also, Bad Karma lets you get more Bad Karma as you kill enemies in combat.
- It is strongly implied in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions that the player never kills anyone. This is Lampshaded in the tutorial, when Spider-Man 2099 throws a Mook off an elevated bridge, only to have Madame Web whisk him to safety via a dimensional portal. Also, Spider-Man Noir doesn't have his pistol from the comics; its absence is never acknowledged.
- In the Thief series, higher difficulty levels prohibit players from killing the guards, presumably not out of morality but for the sake of stealth and forcing them to rely on other means of defeating or evading them.
- This could also be for the idea behind Thief that a true infiltrator would not leave any means to suggest they'd been there. A trail of corpses would most likely be noticed, no matter how stupid the guards may seem.
- In the first level of Thief 2: The Metal Age, Garrett is not allowed to kill any guards on any difficulty level. This is because the target he is to help escape would be distraught if anyone were to be killed over her.
- In Ryu Ga Gotoku, no matter how much of a criminal the main characters are. They do not have the murderous impulses of their Crime Sandbox brethren. It is often used to separate the honorable and dishonorable characters. For Kiryu, his reason for not killing was after the deaths of the only 3 people he considered family, and his vow to renew his life by being Haruka's father-figure.
- Carol's response in the titular Carol Reed Mysteries when you try to shoot her attacker at the end of Amber's Blood is a shocked "No, I'm not going to shoot anyone!"
- King's Quest: Mask of Eternity: Thrown out the window, unusually for a King's Quest game.
- Luna in Virtue's Last Reward never, ever picks "Betray", which can kill a person if their BP gets low enough. Justified, since she's Three-Laws Compliant.
- This trope was actively enforced in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe. Player characters who were casual killers were absolutely not welcome, and those that became it later were booted from the game. Accidents still happened, but for the most part the idea the various campaigns operated under was that real heroes didn't kill criminals. The single exception was the Big Easy campaign, but as that campaign was based on The Dark Age of Comic Books, it got a pass.
- Shortly after 9/11, The Onion reported that God held a press conference to remind everyone exactly what He meant by "Thou Shalt Not Kill."
- Batman: The Animated Series
- In "The Underdwellers", the villain Sewer King uses a small army of abandoned children to steal and commit crime for him, punishing them cruelly when they fail. Batman corners him at the end of the episode and angrily shouts that although he realizes that passing judgment is a matter for the courts, he's sorely tempted to take matters into his own hands.
- In "His Silicon Soul", the robot copy of Batman that Hardac created in a final attempt to gain revenge on Batman and Kill All Humans follows his human template's example all too well. The robot has a Heroic BSOD when it thinks it killed Batman during their fight and sacrifices itself to foil the scheme it had earlier set in motion when it realizes more people will die because of it.
- In Batman Beyond, Terry seems to have an attitude somewhat similar to the Batman Begins version of Batman: the series makes it a specific point that he won't kill in cold blood, and he generally tries to make sure his villains rot in jail, but he often won't go very far out of his way to save them, either. He's also consistently willing to use lethal force in the heat of combat, usually in the form of combat pragmatism such as chucking handy barrels of toxic waste.
- In Justice League, an alternate universe episode sees the Flash die by Lex Luthor's hand, to which Superman responds by killing his archvillain in a gruesome fashion. These events eventually draw the default universe's Lex Luthor to try to ruin Superman by goading him into the same murderous rage. Late in this arc, the Flash appears to sacrifice himself to stop Lex's grandest scheme, to which Lex defiantly gloats. Superman hoists Luthor in front of his face and bitterly growls, "I'm not the Superman who killed Lex Luthor. Right now, I wish to heaven I were, but I'm not."
- The prime universe Superman made an exception for Darkseid in "Twilight". After Darkseid's latest gambit to conquer the universe, Superman has had it with the tyrant and stays behind on the exploding asteroid so he can kill Darkseid with his bare hands. The only reason he doesn't manage it is because Batman pulls him and Orion into a Boom Tube to save them. As it stands, Superman does manage to kill Darkseid by trapping him on the self destructing asteroid. It even sticks for four whole seasons. Notably, he spared Darkseid the first time he beat him, and this is when Darkseid had nearly (indirectly) killed Supergirl. Kara herself persuaded him from killing Darkseid that time though.
- In the series finale, Superman subtly expresses his hopes that Darkseid and Lex Luthor are dead for good, without his having to kill them. He is so hopeful that five of the other founding seven have to convince him otherwise. According to Word of God, Superman was actually right this time. Darkseid and Luthor both became part of the Source Wall.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983): He-Man seemed to live and die by a code of not killing anyone (which explains why the same villains keep coming back again and again). This causes a crisis of conscience in one episode where he believes he has allowed someone to be killed but it was actually a trick by Skeletor to make him give up his powers.
- Aang in Avatar: The Last Airbender is more than willing to use violence if necessary, but draws the line at killing. While he doesn't complain when his friends use potentially lethal force against soldiers, he does take issue when they suggest deliberately killing someone (Katara avenging her mother). This weighs heavily on him in the finale, where he is faced with the possibility that killing Fire Lord Ozai may be the only way to end the Hundred Year War, and pretty much everyone is telling him that he's going to have to do so despite his reservations. He then tries communing with the spirits of previous Avatars, hoping one of them will provide a non-lethal solution, but they too say he'll have to kill Ozai. Even the previous Air Nomad Avatar, who shared Aang's religious objection to killing, says that as Avatar his duty to protect the world is more important than his personal beliefs. Good thing he just happens to come across someone who has the perfect solution to his problem, eh?
- This is averted by Aang's successor Korra in the Sequel Series The Legend of Korra, who is not only more violent than Aang, but has shown that she is willing to kill, even when it isn't strictly necessary. When Tarrlok pressed her Berserk Button one too many times and started a fight, she implicitly intended to kill him for it even after he was rendered defenseless (he used bloodbending to stop her). In the following season, she blatantly threatens to murder a judge when he sentences her father to death for supposedly trying to kidnap her uncle, then chases him down and threatens him further when the sentence is reduced to life imprisonment. When she thought her father was killed by Zaheer in Book 3, she likewise threatened to kill him (that didn't pan out, though not for lack of trying). She also actually kills Unalaq after his fusion with Vaatu, though she regrets having to do so. Korra's allies haven't shown any aversion to lethal force, either; in the Book 3 finale, P'Li is killed by Suyin and Mako kills Ming-Hua.
- Gargoyles has an interesting relationship to this trope. In the modern day, the Clan is generally averse to killing. In the flashbacks to Scotland, though, they don't seem to have any problem with it. At one point, Goliath spells it out that killing someone in the heat of battle was alright. Just attacking someone with the intent to kill, however, was murder.
- Averted near the end of the series where a family hunting Demona nearly kill Goliath's daughter. He declares that he will "hunt them down. And I will kill them." He doesn't (initially) change his mind either; the next time he sees them, he tries to kill them by hurling them into a wall of electrical equipment. They only survived because they had special armor on that absorbed the damage. Apparently, the writers had to fight tooth and nail to let that line stay in as it was.
- It's even more complicated. From a cultural standpoint, revenge is an acceptable response within Gargoyle society, to the point of it being honorable (at least for the Scottish Clan). Probably for the sake of family-friendliness, one of the first lessons the Gargoyles seem to absorb is that the modern day justice system is now the proper outlet for punishing transgressors. But as mentioned above, that isn't always good enough for the heroes.
- In Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys, the titular heroes' Sufficiently Advanced Alien benefactors supply them with non-lethal weaponry, presumably because of this trope.
- In Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo Robin gets in some trouble with the law when it looks like he killed the supervillain he was fighting. In the series itself, however, the episode "Aftershock" averts this trope. While the other Titans were holding back, Raven's words and actions indicate she was genuinely trying to kill Terra when they fought. Later Terra decides to pull a Heel-Face Turn and stops working for the villain Slade; she accomplishes this by throwing Slade into a pit of lava.
- In the 1960s cartoon The New Adventures of Superman, Superman (yes, Superman) kills his opponents at least twice, although they might fall under What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The first is when he causes a group of possibly sapient "lava men" to revert to being just ordinary lava, and the second is when he consciously and deliberately allows the Parasite to absorb all of his power, knowing that the Parasite cannot contain so much power. Superman is right, and the Parasite explodes. On screen. Oh, and this version of the Parasite isn't a weird-looking purple humanoid. He's a heavy-set man with a strange power.
- Although killing is rarely touched upon in the show, Codename: Kids Next Door seems to somewhat demonstrate the KND, and some villians going by this trope. They instead try to subdue each other as a means to win fights; respectively, the KND would subdue and apprehend villains to imprison them in Arctic base, while the non-killing villians merely do whatever they have in mind with KND Operatives once they overpower them.
- A Robot Chicken skit had Batman managing to get past his code by giving the court a testimony that ends with The Joker getting the death penalty.
- In Dan Vs., the title character is a violent Jerk Ass with a Hair-Trigger Temper who will go to a Roaring Rampage of Revenge for the most minor of inconveniences. But he draws the line of killing his offender and takes offense when someone suggests it.
- More Played for Laughs, but Dan was pretty surprised when his best friend Chris admits that he would kill for bacon.
- Worth noting, however, that in the pilot, Dan was all too willing to kill a library patron because it furthered his goals at the time. Chris talked him down, but a passing vehicle took the whole thing out of their hands anyway.
- In essence, Dan's willingness to kill depends on two factors: exactly how irrational he is at the moment (and he's almost always on some level of insanity) and Rule of Funny.
- Saint Jeanne d'Arc took this very seriously, despite being called to lead the French army to victory (from the front!). As she herself stated at her trial, "I have told you often enough, that I have done nothing but by the command of God. It was I, myself who bore this banner, when I attacked the enemy, to save killing any one, for I have never killed any one."
- Just like his counterpart in Goodfellas, the real life Henry Hill (who was a big time gangster) claims to have killed no one. In reality he is known to have killed at least three people.
- One of the Ten Commandments is usually written as Thou Shalt Not Kill, though experts disagree on the translation and interpretation. Some people who follow the Bible, and the Commandments, find justifications in extreme situations, as with Christians who go to war, or Jews who fought back against Nazis. It's generally seen as a prohibition against murder, meaning that killing in war is at least sometimes justified.
- Jesus commanded Peter to put his sword away, and told him that those who live by it, also die by it. This could be a New Testament account of Jesus' statement on pacifism, especially killing.
- The very same book that contains the Commandments also contains "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" in the King James Version, however this version alone explicitly included the phrase. Others simply say:
"Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord;"
- This is because the same word which constitutes "poison" in both Hebrew and Greek", also refers to "witchcraft". Poison Is Evil.
- In Catholicism, the work of scholars like Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas led to the Just War doctrine, spelling out when it is acceptable for a good Christian to go to war and kill if necessary, and requires that both the cause and the conduct of a war be just.
- A belief in general non-violence that extends to all life is central to Buddhism, and this includes prohibiting the killing of any animal, human or otherwise. Certain sects, including Tibetan Buddhism, yield to practicality and accept that sometimes it is necessary to defend oneself or one's nation.
- The related Hinduism has similar beliefs, mostly grounded in the concept of reincarnation (as potentially any other animal), so it's thought that an animal you encounter could be a reincarnated ancestor.
- The Jains, the monks take the idea so seriously that they would walk while gently sweeping the ground before their feet with a broom so that they will not tread on any insects. They also wear a small mask on their face so that they would not accidentally inhale and kill a bug.
- In general, police forces in most civilized countries prioritize bringing people in alive as opposed to killing them. Sometimes, this doesn't happen. Most cops never even fire their weapon in anger, much less kill anyone. Some nations place such a high priority on non-lethal policing that their police officers don't even carry guns at all under normal circumstances.
- Note that this even applies to units like SWAT, despite the fact that they're the police equivalent of Special Forces. Like any other police officer, they are supposed to prioritize the saving of lives. However, this goes out the window should a suspect demonstrate the intent (threatening with clear intent to follow through) or action (they've shot at the officer or some such) of being a threat to themselves, the officer, or another human being - in which case, the officer may use lethal force.