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  1.  (1195.1)
    "Superheroes don't use guns"

    The above is a quote from a very intelligent blogger commenting why the current Captain America is not going to stick. Its based on a reaction to a leaked cover, a throw away joke of course is only Cable and the Punisher use guns. Now she was mostly kidding, but it got me to thinking on the (over)reaction to Cap and his sidearm.

    Now, marvel did allot to underscore this idea, asking pointed questions in fan voting and making incredibly unsubtle comments about how a gun means a more modern - more and I hate this word - "edgy" Cap. Superheroes do not, after all normally use guns.

    Only thats utter crap. Of course they do.

    Pulp Heroes could not be pried away from their fire arms. Nobody would think of The Spider or the Shadow without their guns:

    And we all know this:

    But there is also this:

    What about today? Well we all know about today.

    What "Superheroes don't use guns" means is code that silver age superheros, who still make up the majority of the characters published monthly by the big two capes companies, don't use guns. And those are the "real" characters. The others are flash in the pans who do not count. And this is not said with purpose, its under the surface - all real superheroes were created between about 1960 and 1977, the rest are simply fads. "Superheroes don't use guns" is short form for "this is not a superhero It recall from my childhood - make it stop."

    Yet, superheroes have used guns for longer periods of time then they have not.

    Heroes used guns all the time well in the 1940s. And more so, they started using them again with the introduction of characters like the Punisher in the 1970s. And since the 1980s they are everywhere. Both time periods that sandwich the no-guns era are longer then that time period itself now.

    And people reading todays superheros? Also see things like this everywhere:

    Anime and manga have no presumption that a gun is short hand for the bad guy , its simply a tool used as part of a action story like any other "power". In the end its not about the guns, its about an aging generation of comics fans not wanting to be told they don't get to define what a superhero is for current writers.
  2.  (1195.2)
    Oh if anyone would like to play along here please do, some more examples of superheroes clearly not holding guns:

    The Black Widow:

    The Unknown Solider:

    Robot Jesus:

  3.  (1195.3)
    I was under the impression the 'no guns' was due to some legal rule or self-censoring thing from the time; something akin to why you can't swear too much on public radio.
  4.  (1195.4)
    Yes, as far as I know It was tied into the same legal issues that killed horror comics.

    Excerpt from the Comics Code for you Roo:

    7) Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal
    torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gun play, physical agony,
    gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.

    I was not so much concerned with the reason for it then as that fact is still an issue now, despite being a relic of a specific time and not representative of the overall historical trend. What annoys me exactly is it really masques a different issue: the deep seeded attachment to the characters from one period of American comics. The early to mid silver age is still the base line for DC and to a lesser extent Marvel. DC especially clings to the time with a death grip these days. Having a gun is less about having a gun then it is about not being from that time, or more exactly not following the rules of being from that time in writing the character in question. The fact is a gun is nothing more then another visual tool for a type of power, it has its own baggage sure, but nobody can fairly argue the moral baggage of a gun is worse then that of the "ubermench" ideal that still pervades many heroes. Or even worse then baseline common notion of vigilante justice (which funny enough Marvel is now building its entire world off arguing about).

    Tons of fanboys are using the fact Cap has a gun to prove Bucky is not a "real" Cap and Marvel is played into that in interviews for the publicity. It such a deeply ingrained notion and it actually poisons the well a bit.

    Yes I think too much about superheroes.

  5.  (1195.5)
    gnomgnom PICTURES.
    • CommentTimeFeb 27th 2008
    While I agree with your assessment that Bucky having a gun as the new Cap makes him "NOT TEH REAL CAP WTF!?/1" is a pretty weak argument against the story (which is really a fantastic spy story when it comes down to it), I would like to point you to the iconography that is associated with a firearm. Guns in general are symbols of power, specifically of unwanted force. Guns represent crime. Violent crime. To have a hero with a gun immediately marks them (whether you or I agree) as an anti-hero, using the tools of the criminals to get at them. Why does Green Arrow use a bow? Aside from being a Robin Hood analogue, it's because the bow and arrow as a symbol of force do not have the same resonance as a gun. A similar assessment can be made about Green Lantern.

    You make a good point that pop culture heroes use guns too (John Wayne, Dirty Harry, John McClain, to name a few outside of comics), and I agree that it shouldn't be a surprise that a true-blue hero (as in not anti-hero) is using one. I also agree that many of these companies are pandering to the silver age in an almost whoreish way. But I will say that if these companies weren't successful in pandering to the silver age, they wouldn't be doing it. Marvel in particular is really distant from this idea, but I feel they're moving back to it with Secret Invasion, and I for one am glad.

    Well, argued, but I feel there are more factors to this than just the fact that guns have been used in comics before. While I don't agree with some reactions to the new Cap, I do understand them. To push functional pacifism as an American ideal might be fallaciously idealistic, I think that the belief in our country as a peaceful one, while not generally accurate, is a commendable ideal. Even at that, Cap's main icon is his shield--a value of defense against violence, as opposed to the active act of violence that a gun represents. So Cap's traditional iconography is not one of aggression, but one of defense. Just playing devil's advocate.

    Also, sorry for all the parenthetical side notes.
  6.  (1195.7)

    Oh I am very familiar with the iconography of the gun, and your right. But I think setting it down as a rule of superheroes comes from the bias above not the external rules, as its freely used in too many acceptable heroic motifs for the violent imagery to be why fans object.

    Did you read my other (earlier) legacy hero posts? You might like them if did not already look (hint go tell me what you think. heh).
    • CommentTimeFeb 27th 2008
    I agree that it should not be a rule, and the superhero genre suffers from limitations such as these. I was mostly playing devil's advocate, as I think is important to do with a subject such as this.

    I will check out your other posts. If this one is any indication, they should at least be interesting.