There is no more significant comic-book moment for DC in the past 20 years than the four-issue swan song for Jason Todd.Batman: A Death in the Family is notable not only for the death of Robin, but for the 900 number that readers could call to vote for life or death. Forget American Idol, this was the first true test of American phone voting. In just 36 hours, DC received more than 10,000 calls — each one costing the vote a buck. 10,000 people paid a dollar to vote yay or nay on Jason Todd.
They chose nay. I can’t blame them.
Todd was cursed with writing that made him seem bitter, arrogant and disagreeable to a large majority of comic-book readers. Had he been as affable as Dick Grayson or Tim Drake, it’s likely DC would never had taken the phone-voting gamble. But Todd was just too obnoxious to live month to month in the pages of Batman. So he died horribly at the hands of the Joker. It’s the single best decision DC has made (or, I guess, hasn’t made) in decades.
The death of Robin forever changed the Dark Knight and has been fodder for numerous stories. This, however, isn’t a tale of the repercussions of said death — this is the story of how Robin met his end.
When the brash Jason Todd discovers that one of three women living abroad may be his birth mother, he runs away from Wayne Manor on a quest for the truth. As it so happens, Joker has stolen a cruise missile and taken it to the Mid-East to sell to the highest bidder. Batman follows and by chance runs into Todd. Together they work to take down the Joker and find Jason’s true mother.
Ironically, Todd is never more likable than in issues 2 and 3 of this classic tale. It’s almost a shame he had to die — but not really. Even knowing what events are coming, Batman’s discovery of Todd remain chilling even two decades later.
It’s hard to imagine anyone who reads comics who hasn’t readBatman: A Death in the Family, but if you haven’t, you should. It’s not that this is the best Batman tale ever, in fact plot seems a little far-fetched even for Batman. But the emotions dripping from the pages are raw and real and the death scene is worth the price of admission.