Law Text Culture


Comics have a long history of engagement with concepts of justice. Mainstream comics in English have commonly focused on crime, crime prevention, and punishment as part of their broader preoccupation with themes of power, abuse of power, and responsibility. This engagement is perhaps most obvious in the traditional superhero genre, in which ostensibly ‘good’ heroes are charged to protect the innocent and right wrongs perpetrated by ‘bad’ villains. Analysing the stories of the two iconic heroes Superman and Batman, Reyns and Henson identify a ‘crime control’ model of justice focused on preventing and repressing crime (2010). In this model, the formal legal system is inadequate and due process is failing, thus indicating the need for vigilantism. Yet despite the failures of the legal system, the overall social order and obedience to the law is nevertheless the accepted morality. Phillips and Strobl similarly conclude that the underlying message in mainstream comics is a conservative one: the goal is always to reinforce or restore an 380 Hanley ideal of social order (2006). Thus, the concept of justice can be utilised as a broad model for understanding inequality, abuse and recompense in human relations.