22 years ago, comic book history was made. Sick of the direction the Batman series was headed in and the lukewarm reception of the second Robin, Jason Todd, DC comics Editor Denny O’Neil decided to leave his fate to the fans, either signaling the beginning of a new era in the series, as the “Caped Crusader” would have no sidekick, or affirming that the second “Boy Wonder” had a place in the DC universe after all.
On September 16, 10, 614 fans called a number provided by DC to determine Todd’s fate. 5, 343 readers called in for a change back to the Batman of old.
The one, without a sidekick.
In the words of O’Neil, “Hail and farewell Jason Todd.”
Chronicled in the “Batman: A Death in the Family” trade paperback, this four-issue mini-series is a must own, not because of Todd’s death alone, but for the way it occurred.
Still adhering to the Comic Code, DC nevertheless managed to kill off Todd in one of the most emotionally gripping and bloody scenes in the medium’s history. While most of the writing by Jim Starlin [known more for his epic space operas than his work on Batman] is hokey and takes away from the monumental moment in the series, there are still several moments that either make you feel like you’re witnessing history or other times where Starlin isn’t scared to exhibit some great use of wit [Batman punching Superman in the face and nearly breaking his hand is perhaps one of the coolest moments in the series.], making it a trade that in spite of not aging particularly well, is still entertaining.
And how could it not be? Seeing Joker alone as a UN Ambassador is one of the weirdest moments in comics…period.
The same thing goes for the art work of Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo and Adrienne Roy. In his old school blue and gray suit, Batman is cool and without a doubt tough, but he’s still pretty damn corny. Make no mistake about it, this is no where near as menacing a Gotham Knight as you’d expect, but it’s still a nice old-school treat. Between Starlin’s writing and the softer visuals of everything except the scene where Robin meets his demise, you can see how far the medium has come over the past two decades and as a result, you get a front-row seat to witness what the industry would eventually become, is a rare gem.
However, in spite of the glimpse into the future this mini-series provides, the series is a special one for another reason.
For as long as their have been comic books, characters have died. As long as there is such a thing as comic books, characters will continue to die. Nonetheless, the fact that DC listened to its fans, despite such a small majority, and delivered the goods in such grand fashion, shows that comic books are not just about good guys taking down bad guys. Their stories will always mirror reality, regardless of the powers the main characters and villains have and amazing situations and places they encounter.
Regardless of that, there’s nothing you can do when tragedy strikes.
Batman and thousands of fans learned that the hard way.