Last week a lot of great comments were generated when I asked the question “If someone you loved was killed and you had the power, would you go after the one who hurt them?”

The responses were as varied as you might expect. From the extreme “YES!” to the extreme “NO!” Whatever the response was, it was usually well-argued and the point of view well-stated.

It would be easy to read today’s SuperFogeys as my feelings on the subject. Authors often get accused of using their characters as mouthpieces for their own feelings. This was something I worried about early on, particularly when crafting Dr. Rocket’s more chauvinistic dialogue. I didn’t want anyone to think I actually had thoughts like that running around in my head.

Now that I’ve been at this a little while and have written for dozens and dozens of characters both here and inĀ Monsterplex, I’ve come to think that it’s actually pretty rare that characters speak for their creators. At least for me, I think you can find out a lot more about an author by looking at the themes they write about–not so much what their characters are actually saying.

Case in point: today’s strip. I did try initially to put some of my words into Captain Spectacular’s mouth. They didn’t fit. He has a perspective that is completely foreign to me when it comes to the revenge (and justice) issue. On the one hand he’s a hero, so I didn’t see him taking off to find the Third Man and kill him…but he’s also an aggressive man who has known a lot of violence in his life. I figured he’d probably struggle with doing the heroic thing. In a lot of ways, overcoming that struggle is what makes him even more of a hero.

So where do I come down on this issue of revenge? Read no further if you don’t care. (Really, it shouldn’t matter what I think about such issues. You’re following these characters, not me. But I’ll tell you anyway.)

Back in college I took a course on deviant behavior in juveniles. It fulfilled some sort of General Ed requirement, but I don’t remember which. During one class, we were asked to break off into groups and discuss revenge and what we’d do if anyone hurt someone we love.

Most in my group were in agreement that if anyone came after or hurt one of theirs–be they daughter or brother or mother or etc.–then they’d do whatever they could to see them pay. They wouldn’t rest until the person was either dead or miserable.

When I got the chance to say something, I went the opposite way. I talked about how if everyone sought revenge then it would be a pretty miserable world. At some point, mercy and forgiveness has to enter into the equation or we’d all just wipe each other out.

I talked about the tearful, bitter families you sometimes see on television who have had family members killed by others and how their dogged pursuit of justice and monetary compensation is often flavored with language that speaks to the hatred they’ve developed for the new villain in their lives. I talked about how soul-destroying that is and how it makes that family only the latest victims of the crime, not the justice-seekers they sell themselves as at all.

One woman in my group turned to me and said “So, if someone hurt someone in your family, you wouldn’t want to see them hurt?”

“No,” I responded. “I wouldn’t.”

“You can’t say that. Until you’re in that situation yourself–until someone you love has been hurt or killed, you don’t know how you would feel.”

“Actually…” I began.

My father was killed in an armed robbery in 1996. This was eight years after the first time he’d been shot (also in an armed robbery) when his body was sent onto a slow path of degradation that only ended when his life did.

I remember quite well the night I was informed what had happened. I was a missionary at the time. I hadn’t seen my father in 10 months. I don’t remember why, but I came home early that night from a long day of knocking on doors and riding my bike in the hot Arizona sun. A message on the answering machine led me to get in touch with Mom, who informed me of the news that Dad had been killed.

That first rush of emotion was intense. I’ve never been brought to tears so quickly. I didn’t want my fellow missionaries to see me in that state so I went to my room. I didn’t really know what to do so I began taking off my tie to put it away. I thought about what I’d lost and how much life I had left to live and how Dad wasn’t going to be a part of any of it. I thought about what he must have felt as he was dying. I knew from his own accounts what it felt like to get shot. And he went through that again.

I stood there at my closet door and tried to put my tie on the rack, but my hands, for some reason, couldn’t find it. I thought about the men who had killed him. Two men had killed him. Two people chose to execute my father. This wasn’t an accident. This was something that didn’t have to happen.

In my anger, I hit the wall next to my closet and under my breath I muttered “Those jerks.”

And then, the feeling left. I was angry and then I was not.

My wife often accuses me of lacking the “grudge” gene. I’m too forgiving, according to her. Too willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, even when all the evidence points the other way. I suppose. I don’t really think about it. I’m just how I know to be.

I don’t share this as though it is special or that somehow, by the fact of it, I am. I simply offer it by way of explanation when I tell you this: I don’t see any benefit to revenge and I do not feel the need for it. I have never felt anything but pity for the men who killed my father and that’s not likely to change. My father lost his life, but in my view what they have lost is much, much greater. To take the life of another human being…talk about soul-destroying.

So, no, I don’t struggle with revenge. I don’t feel it. I dismiss it, utterly. But I recognize that that is not the typical experience.

And so, today’s strip.

Love to hear from you guys on this subject. What do you think of the Captain’s decisions? Can justice be served if revenge is intended?


On Tuesday, Swifty’s got a big ol’ panda to chase!

Then, on Thursday, the conversation between the Captain and the Spy shifts gears. [sniff, sniff] Is that love in the air?