Superheroes like Nightwing and Daredevil are increasingly being positioned against the police in their respective universes – and that’s a big deal.
WARNING: The following are spoilers for Detective Comics Annual # 1, now on sale
Superheroes have long been associated with fighting for justice in an eternally dangerous world, and they have often allied themselves with the police for most of the 20th and 21st centuries. But as views on policing in America have changed in recent years, it seems that big superheroes are increasingly confronting their own concerns with the authorities.
Detective Comics Annual # 1 by Mariko Tamaki, Matthew Rosenberg, David Lapham, Trish Mulvihill, Lee Loughridge and Ariana Maher is just the latest mainstream superhero story – from both DC and Marvel – to get its heroes to confront the problematic elements of policing in America.
IN Detective Comics Annual, Nightwing is revealed to be one of the only guards in Gotham that the GCPD still openly respects. Although the threats from the judge are gone, it seems that there is still general mistrust of the heroes of the authorities – and some of this stems from Mayor Nakano. Nightwing is initially portrayed as having friends in the force, but after confronting a group of officers over their treatment of a mentally ill suspect, he aggravates them and probably burns some of his bridges with the police. However, given the blasé attitude of the officers towards the suspect and his health, Nightwing is highly portrayed in the moral court, even though the police do not agree.
It quietly resembles the structure to The Devil’s Reign over at Marvel. Wilson Fish is still nominally in a major position of power in New York City as acting mayor, and the city has been created to eventually try to overthrow the heroic community. This has been most prevalent in vovehals, where the NYPD’s attempt to get Daredevil arrested after his escape from prison was met with opposition from other masked heroes – which clearly indicates frustration from the police on that front. Fish will soon use its connections to install anti-vigilante laws aimed at the heroic community Devi’s Reign apparently to put the authorities in the city of New York against its protectors. But given the corruption exhibited in vovehals in particular, the overall police force is not portrayed in the best light.
Given the history of superheroes working with the authorities, this is a major shift for heroic communities to embark on – but not necessarily a new one. Other heroes have also increasingly neglected government and police structures across the production of both superhero publishers. Jon Kent has been arrested for standing with refugees who were forcibly detained by Metropolis police in Superman: Son of Kal-El, while Punisher condemned officers who admired him, and the latter outlaw crossover saw the young generation of Marvel heroes directly oppose attempted arrest by the authorities. All of this has created an inventory of how superheroes interact with the police – and how the police can sometimes be seen as a threat instead of a protective force.
In recent years, there have been major re-evaluations of how the police operate, especially in the United States, where calls to redistribute police funds to other social services and to hold certain officers accountable for their actions have resulted in a heated discourse on the future of police work in America. . It is important that superheroes also face these problems as the genre for decades was irrevocably tied to policing and went beyond the law when it was considered corrupt. Characters like Batman spent decades openly working with members of the police force, with even the loneliest versions of the character often having James Gordon on their side. But given the recent numerous incidents of police actions being considered exaggerated and even cruel, it does matter that genres that often trumpet the police are capable of confronting harsh realities in the conflict between the police and the general public.
While modern society reflects on its relationship to policing and how to deal with such a tumultuous subject, superheroes also confront questions about the limits of policing, the ethics of excessive power, and the boundary between what is right and what is legal – with both Marvel and DC is apparently directly opposed to these ideas. No matter how you feel about the subject, it is an important and relevant direction for the genre to take in 2022.
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