One of the things I’ve heard in the past is that superheroics aren’t believable since criminals would just kill masked vigilantes whenever possible. Like most ideas this has a grain of truth. However, it falls apart under close scrutiny.
The first point is that if such were the case then nobody would be a police officer. After all, they don’t even wear masks, how could they protect themselves and their loved ones from criminal attacks? Granted a few coppers do become corrupt and work with gangs, but a majority do not, not even in Gilded Age America!
Second, it presumes that each criminal gang views their best options similarly. What criminal gang is willing to get beat up and arrested for killing a heroine, knowing that they just made the lives of their competing gangs easier?
Finally, despite literature and movies most gangs aren’t there to kill people. Force and murder are just the necessary applications in order to make themselves rich on whatever vice or crime they engage in. Barring a league of assassins, most of them want to quietly make their money without catching attention from the public and its officials.
As an example of what happens, I give you this story from one of my home chronicles. A vigilante in Chicago was captured by a criminal syndicate. He was tortured and killed, and his body left as a warning to others. What happened? Virtually every member of heroic SuperMankind went to Chicago, attended Crusader’s funeral, and then spent a week smashing every criminal enterprise they could find. Telepathic Mesmerists helped with finding them, and the Strongarms, Vigilantes, and Paragons went in and beat criminals into submission.
Now, did these “citizens’ arrests” hold up in court? Some did, many did not. But the criminal rackets of the city were shattered, most beyond repair. By the third day two hoods were found dead in Lake Michigan with notes on their bodies saying, “these were the guys who killed Crusader, now lay off!” As you might imagine, the heroes didn’t.
Naturally, its up to an individual Genteel Magistrate to adjudicate their home game. But I hope the above gives a GM something to think about. Unless you want a Grim and Chaotic campaign, criminals will think twice before offing every hero that falls in their clutches. At least, in any way that could be directly traced back to them. Maybe an elaborate death trap? 😀