The Deterrent Effect of Superheroes?

Superhero comic books assume to a large extent that superheroes can actually be effective in combatting criminal activity. But how effective would they be?

Matt Yglesias says not really unless they acted as leaders of larger numbers; Bradford Plumer flip-flops a bit but seems to come down on the side of not really since lone superheroes can’t be everywhere at once.

Ezra Klein disagrees noting that “the very thought that, somewhere in the city, some guy with powers unknown and a really unpleasant attitude towards lawbreakers was waiting to tie you up in a web or swoop down and kick the crap out of you offers a real deterrent capability.”

Xaviar Xerexes

Wandering webcomic ronin. Created Comixpedia (2002-2005) and ComixTalk (2006-2012; 2016-?). Made a lot of unfinished comics and novels.


  1. Dunno. I’d say times have changed quite a lot. While in the 50s and before people would have a blind faith in a character like Superman, the idea of having an invulnerable, unbelieavly strong folk walking around sounds eerie. Pretty much like living beside a nuclear central, mighty and powerful, but potentially lethal.

    I’d say it’s time to move along and let superheroes rest to give place to newer styles, more suited at today’s mentalities.

  2. If I had super powers I’d probably be more tempted to become a Super Villain than a Super Hero.

  3. If I had any superpowers I’d be none. I’d be a total showoff and use my powers for the sole purpose of getting laid all the time.

  4. Super heroes may or may not have deterrent effect on crime, but they are still the best way we have to combat super villains.

  5. Riiiiiiiight.
    Isn’t that what Peter Parker said?
    Just before burglars KILLED HIS UNCLE?

  6. See, that’s the fate of every wise ass who tries to get into a fight with an armed criminal.

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