benicio127: (Jason being badass)
[personal profile] benicio127 posting in [community profile] scans_daily
Since Under the Red Hood comes out on Tuesday, a few of us fans decided to get together and write a few essays, look at scans and even perfect moments of Jason Todd (you know, coincide with the theme week already going on!)

So thus begins the start of JToddz Appreciation Week.

For starters, I wanted to revisit A Death in The Family. Lots of text and about 11 scans under the cut.



For most new and old Batman readers, A Death in the Family is considered essential reading. It's listed in IGN's Top 25 Greatest Batman Comics of All Time at #15. It's considered seminal for two reasons: one, it involves the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd, at the hands of the Joker and at the hands of the fans: nearly 11,000 fans called a 1-900 number to vote whether to kill Jason. The death vote won by a margin of 72 votes: 5,343 to 5271.


But is A Death in the Family actually a good story? And just what (or who) made Jason so "unlikeable"?


The story begins with Jason jumping the gun on a kiddie porn ring Batman had been tracking for three weeks. They end up taking the ring down, but afterwards Batman reprimands Jason for acting recklessly. Batman notes Jason’s been moodier lately and asks him whether he thinks this is all just some kind of "game," to which Jason replies: "Of course. All life's a game."
One page from Batman 426. Thanks to [personal profile] shelleymaree for the scans!




As Robin, Jason had previously been shown to be increasingly violent towards criminals. He may or may not have pushed a serial rapist to his death. One page from Batman 424. It's been hypothesized by the amazing Weekly Robin blogger, it wasn't this event, but the meeting between Jason and Nightwing that may have pushed readers to dislike Jason much more, especially since this particular issue came out only two months before the start of A Death in the Family (Batman 426).





At the same time, Jim Starlin, the Batman writer charged with writing JasonRobin was not keen on the idea of Batman having a Robin.
In fact, in an interview with Adelaide Comics and Books, Starlin said he was pretty intent on getting rid of Robin, practically by any means necessary.
"Well, I always thought that the whole idea of a kid side-kick was sheer insanity. So when I started writing Batman, I immediately started lobbying to kill off Robin. At one point DC had this AIDS book they wanted to do. They sent around memos to everybody saying "What character do you think we should, you know, have him get AIDS and do this dramatic thing" and they never ended up doing this project. I kept sending them things saying "Oh, do Robin! Do Robin!" And Denny O'Neill said "We can't kill Robin off." Then Denny one night got this flash that “Hey, if we get this number where people call in and they can vote on it, they can decide whether Robin lives or dies" So that's how it started. I wrote up two endings and the readers came in and voted and I think it was 93 or something, it was this negliable (sic) amount, the difference for him to be put to death. And the death won out of course."



Does A Death in the Family warrant such a high ranking as a graphic novel? It came out around the same time as The Killing Joke (just after as Barbara is in a wheelchair in the funeral scene) and three years after seminal graphic novels like the futuristic Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One and The Watchmen.

In fact, it's quite possible The Dark Knight Returns set the stage for Jason's death a few years before A Death in the Family came out as Bruce already has Jason's costume memorialized in the Batcave with the epitaph: "A Good Soldier."


Yet, A Death in the Family almost seems subpar in quality when you compare it to other Batman graphic novels that were coming out around the same time, including Starlin's own The Cult. It is built upon a series of very conspicuous and coincidental acts: Jason's three potential mother suspects all happen to be in the Middle East the same time Bruce is headed there to see why the Joker is there. On top of that, there's the issue of the Joker (a known mass murderer and terrorist) having an alliance with and diplomatic immunity from Iran.


Over the years, it seems as though it's accepted truth that Jason's death was his fault. That he blundered into the situation and got himself killed. That he failed, rather than fell victim to the Joker.

In A Death in the Family, Jason recognizes the Joker and sees him go into his biological mother's tent.




The Joker threatens to reveal that she had been involved in a botched abortion back in the day and attempts to blackmail her for supplies.






Jason overhears this and follows the Joker and his kidnapped/blackmailed mother. Jason recognizes there’s more trouble than he can handle on his own and tells Bruce. Bruce gives Jason a direct order: to take no action against the Joker until he returns.




However, Jason decides to protect his mother instead.




He tells her he's Robin and she betrays him and hands him over to the Joker.




She tells him "I can't afford to have you stirring up trouble. I’ve been dipping into the medical funds myself. If you blow the whistle on the Joker, the ensuing investigation would certainly uncover my embezzling."





So Jason gives a couple punches to the Joker, but is overwhelmed by the henchmen and then the Joker starts beating him with the crowbar.




Despite everything that his biological mother has done, Jason still attempts to save her and tell her he loves her. Yes, he died a hero.




He tells her to run for it, save herself. It's a scene that's echoed in Grant Morrison's Batman and Robin #6, when Jason tells Scarlet to run away, save herself and demands the Flamingo come after him -- showing once again, he'd rather die than let someone he cares about be hurt.






Since this is exactly what happens, why do you think there is now this idea out there that Jason was the one who "got himself killed"?

The end result was controversial. There was lots of mainstream press, and definitely some of it negative.

From the St.Petersburg Times in 1988, an editorial said: "Sure, Robin struck a lot of people as a repugnant little twit, but is that a capital crime? Where are the phone-in polls to decide whether we should kill Garfield? Or Charlie Brown? Or Batman himself, for that matter? He can be really hard to take when he launches into one of his sanctimonious speeches on the obligations of citizenship"

Canada's Globe and Mail even poked fun of the medium’s use of the 900 number in its editorial:
"Urgent appeal: call 900 and tell Shakespeare whether you want Regan
and Cornwall to put Gloucester’s eyes out. Vote on whether Robinson Crusoe
should be rescued. Victor Hugo needs your help - should Jean Valjean get
off with a suspended sentence or spend his miserable life wading through
sewers? Do you support the murder of Roger Ackroyd?"



Creators like Frank Miller said: "To me the whole killing of Robin thing was probably the ugliest thing I've seen in comics, and the most cynical."
Fabian Nicieza recently said on the DC Robin Message Board: "I was not a fan of how they'd turned Jason Todd into a jerk post-Crisis (nor was I too happy with original red-hair Jason as he was too much a duplicate of Dick).
I found the "call in to kill Robin" marketing stunt pretty distasteful."

What do other creators who frequent these message boards on here think about the death in general? Do they have an opinion on the use of the poll?
And Scans_Daily'ers, what are your thoughts?
Nine pages in total from Batman 427, a 45-page comic.
Edit ETA: and 1/4 of a page from BnR 6


suggested tags: char: batman/bruce wayne, char: the joker, char: robin/red hood/jason todd, creator: jim aparo, creator: jim starlin

Date: 2010-07-26 11:56 pm (UTC)
whitesycamore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] whitesycamore
While I don't know Jim Starlin's stance on abortion, this is a very interesting point you bring up. The way I understood the "botched" operations is that she performed an illegal abortion that went bad -- a woman (or women, perhaps, it never says how many...) may have died as a result.

I definitely remember Joker saying something about a "poor dead teenager" (jeez, what a hypocrite!).

Yeah, I'm not sure if Starlin meant anything pointed by having Sheila be a back alley abortionist - it might just have been a lazy way of making her seem kind of seedy without really thinking about the implications.

I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I have to admit that a lot of Starlin's writing makes me think he has issues with women. I feel a bit unfair about this because I can't quite put my finger on what it is that bothers me.

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