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[personal profile] benicio127 posting in [community profile] scans_daily
This is an essay written by myself and [personal profile] whitesycamore. It was posted on fuckyeahjasontodd in two parts: part one and two. We have updated and added a few more elements and scenes to the essay.

This essay is heavily meta-textual and is a deconstruction and analysis of how Jason was painted as a character post-death (and resurrection). Obviously, Jason Todd can't literally be "blamed" for his own death by anyone, since as a fictional character he has no autonomy, and therefore cannot be guilty or innocent, blameless or deserving. Neither are we suggesting that anyone in the Bat-family canonically believes that Jason deserved to die. However, we will argue that a victim blaming attitude is pervasive in the way Jason's death was written about after the fact. Moreover, this victim blaming would not only be unjust in a real life context, it also requires the reader to ignore many vital plot details of A Death In The Family.

The death of Jason Todd is one of the most iconic moments in Batman's history. The loss of his young partner is one of the greatest tragedies of Bruce Wayne's life, considered about as great as the deaths of his own parents when they were gunned down in front of him.
Following Jason's death, the Dark Knight is tormented by his own failure to prevent it, and during the years afterwards, Jason was most frequently alluded to in the context of Bruce struggling with this guilt.
However, Jason's death is also often described as the inevitable result of his own reckless and disobedient nature. Sometimes this goes even further, and Jason is implied to -- and readers are meant to assume -- that he was responsible for, or even deserving of his own fate.

In Deadman: Dead Again #2, written by Steve Vance and released October 2001, Deadman/Boston Brand watches helplessly as Jason Todd is killed by the Joker.
In this story, Jason and Deadman are ghosts. In the first panel, Deadman berates Batman, despite the fact that Batman cannot hear him.

Deadman/Boston Brand: Where were you ten minutes ago, chump? What the hell were you thinking, letting Robin take on the Joker alone? I'd like to inhabit you and make you slug yourself over the head with a --
Jason: No -- it's not his fault! I screwed up. I disobeyed his orders... went out on my own.

Here, Jason is putting the blame on himself. What is victim blaming? This document, prepared by the Canadian Resource Centre for Crime explains it thoroughly. Some victims and survivors do do that to themselves, however, in reality, society will often blame a victim for transgressions they did and hold the victim partially or entirely responsible for their abuse, assault, murder, and so on. According to the article, survivors of homicides, like family members and friends, will even sometimes blame the victim in order to ease their own guilt.

In essence, blaming the victim suggests that the victim deserved "what was coming to them" or "what they got." A common theory is that victim blaming arises from the human tendency to believe in a "just world." That is, people prefer to imagine that the universe is on balance a fair, reasonable place, and that human beings have more control over their fates than they actually do. So, in order to preserve their belief in this just world, people often imagine that victims must be somehow responsible for their own misfortune. The fictional worlds that people create often reflect this just world sensibility too; after all, there are no truly random events in fiction, all occur in order to serve the story and to express ideas. Many writers also feel that stories with a "moral" are more satisfying than stories in which tragedy happens for no reason - and this may explain why Jason has come to be routinely blamed for his own death, even though it is inconsistent with the facts of the original story.

The idea has been put forward on more than one occasion that Jason's incompetence, recklessness, anger, hot-headedness, attitude, etc. got him killed. That he was essentially responsible for his own death.
And unfortunately for Jason, this attitude of victim-blaming has retroactively tarnished his reputation as a crime-fighter and a hero, and even fuelled retcons that seek to paint him in a darker light even from the beginning of his career as Robin.

An excellent example of this is seen in Batman 456, as then new Robin Tim Drake is attempting to solve a mystery and can’t seem to come up with the answer. He imagines former Robins Dick Grayson and Jason Todd speaking to him and chastising him for not being able to live up to the name of Robin.

Jason: “Drop outs don’t make it and dead heroes are no use to anyone! I thought I knew better than Batman. I thought I could run before I could walk. I killed myself, Tim. Because I couldn’t wait. Because I couldn’t think it through.”

But Jason, as we will explain in a few paragraphs, did think it through: he wanted to save his mother from the Joker. And although it is a hallucination, and is ostensibly cautioning Tim about failure, it is one more retcon that paints Jason as the one who failed, the one who wasn’t good enough and basically, the one who was the major contribution to his own demise.

And in Teen Titans #29, written by Geoff Johns, Jason tells Tim that he failed. And note he says that right after he says he died, reinforcing the idea that his death was a failure on his part.
Jason: It didn't surprise anyone when I died. When I failed. I failed -- but I'm still beating you.

Which is not what happened at all. Jason went to save his biological mother dressed in his Robin costume. The reason he went to save her is because he believed she was in danger, trapped in a warehouse with the Joker.

Batman's orders were specifically: You stay here and keep an eye on that warehouse until I return. Take no action until I get back! I repeat no action! Just for once, please listen to me, Jason! Don't tangle with the Joker alone! Wait for me to get back, please!

To which Jason thinks: Sorry, Bruce. But that's my mother in there with that lunatic.

Batman specifically ordered Jason not to engage the Joker alone. However, when his mother emerged from the building unharmed, Jason decided to go and talk to her, to explain that he knew she was being blackmailed by the Joker and to offer his help as Robin. It was at this point that she asked him to come into the warehouse, claiming that the Joker was no longer there. She lied. She betrayed him and sold him out to the Joker, which cost him his life.

The Joker, being evil and insane, beat Robin with a crowbar and then blew him up to get to Batman because Robin is the closest person to Batman. Batman failed to get there in time to save Jason.

There were many elements in A Death In The Family, but gradually Jason's demise came to have only one regularly used meaning: a sober warning to the Robins who followed. It seems that after his death, the writers tacitly agreed through retcons that Jason should be remembered as the Robin who killed himself through his own foolishness. However, in order for this meaning to work, one has to gloss over the actual events of A Death In The Family, which were propelled more by his mother’s betrayal than rashness on Jason's part. It's also interesting that the one of the most striking elements of the story - the betrayal itself - is very rarely addressed afterwards. This may be because the Batfamily aren't supposed to know precisely how Jason died, or more likely because the betrayal doesn't fit with Jason's symbolic position as "the Robin who killed himself."

Additionally, Jason was not the only Robin to disobey orders, either. In Batman: The Return, written by Grant Morrison, Bruce tells Dick Grayson he can't work with Damian because Damian does not follow orders.
Dick says: Bruce, come on! I made a career out of not doing anything I was told when I was Robin.

It's also no secret that Jason in the role of Robin was not as well loved as Dick was by the fans. And of course, Dick was not killed in the field. This essay, however, is not meant to highlight what Dick could or could not do; but rather show that despite Jason disobeying orders as all Robins have done, it is because he died that it is consistently argued that he was incompetent or that in some way his character flaws resulted in his death.

Jason was angry and rebellious, but there's no suggestion prior to his death that he was incompetent in the field. What he did do was deal out a harsher form of punishment to criminals and, in one instance, possibly kill a serial rapist. Yet, once he dies, that is forgotten and revisionist history makes us believe that because he died, he must not have been good enough.
On top of that, the failure to save Jason was intended to be Batman's greatest failure; it was essentially a story of the hero's failure, not the victim or the sidekick's. In the A Death in the Family story arc, even as Bruce heads off to intercept a truckload of Joker toxin, he has misgivings about leaving Jason on his own.

He says: "I'm already regretting leaving Jason behind. Something deep inside me is screaming that that was the wrong move."

He knew that Jason was in danger, but he failed to listen to his instincts. There was also a failure on Bruce's part to recognize Jason's emotional/anger issues. Bruce himself had difficulty coping with his parents' deaths and that's part of the reason why he put on the cowl. When he saw Dick's parents' fall to their deaths, he believed he could offer him a way to cope, the same as he had.
When Jason came along, Bruce took him in because the young teen had no one. Jason's adoptive mother, Catherine, had died of a drug overdose. His petty criminal father, unbeknownst to Jason at the time, had been killed by Two-Face. Again, Bruce assumed making Jason Robin would help him to cope with this loss. He also had selfish reasons for doing it -- he missed having a Robin around since Dick had grown up and become Nightwing.

But remember, Bruce and Dick came from loving homes where they had the basic essentials to survive: food, shelter, clothing. Bruce came from a very wealthy family, and Dick from a happy, loving home in the circus, but Jason came from very meager means. We learn that Jason loved his parents, even nursed Catherine for a year and stole to keep her alive; and he was angry, hurt and upset when he learned of his father's murder. But of them loving him back in return, we have little knowledge. And no two persons in reality cope the same way, so naturally, two different characters may cope differently when faced with similar situations.

Children like Jason, deprived of a stable upbringing, often have greater difficulty coping with and recovering from traumatic events than others do. In Stress, Coping and Development in Children,** it's explained that temperament, familial support and other sources of external support are the most reliable predictors of child and adolescent adjustment following stress and/or trauma. Children with "difficult" temperaments are more likely to cope poorly in response to trauma, as are those who lack family support. (**Garmezy & Rutter (eds.) (1983) Stress, Coping and Development in Children. New York: McGraw-Hill) Jason could very well be described as having a difficult temperament, and on top of that, he lived alone for nearly a year after he was orphaned (while his dad was in jail and his stepmother had died), seemingly without any external support.

But Bruce ignored the many signs that Jason was not adjusting well to his role as Robin. Jason had arguably suffered more from the effects of crime and poverty than anyone else in the Batfamily. After the death of his parents, he lived alone in Crime Alley without adult protection, and had already been forced to compromise his own moral values by stealing to survive.
"Hey, I don't wanna learn to be no crook. I just boost what it takes to survive..." Jason says to Batman in Batman 409.

Most crucially, Bruce ignored Jason's propensity towards anger and violence. Upon discovering Jason brutally beating a pimp, the following exchange took place in Batman 422:
Bruce: "I think he's had enough Robin. What were you trying to do, kill him?"
Jason: "Would it have been that big of a loss if I had?"
Bruce (to himself): "What's going on in that head of yours, Jason?"

However, following this incident, Bruce made no serious attempt to discover exactly what was going on inside Jason's head. Neither did he truly listen to Jason's frustration and anger with the justice system and its failures. It is not surprising that a boy with Jason's background would have a radically different attitude to criminals and crime fighting than Bruce or Dick, but Bruce refused to fully engage in moral discussions with him.
Even after Bruce suspect that Jason may have allowed a serial rapist to fall to his death (or even pushed him himself), he did not suspend Jason's crime-fighting activities. He refused to accept that being Robin was not a suitable outlet for Jason's rage until their working relationship reached its absolute breaking point, at the beginning of A Death in the Family.

And then Jason died. And Bruce did blame himself, which is something real survivors often do. But he, and other supporting characters, were more than willing to also lay blame at the victim's feet.

Here's a scene from Nightwing #99, written by Devin Grayson, where Dick is speaking to Bruce:

Dick: But Jason didn't know what the hell he was doing or why

In the context of this discussion, Dick is blaming Bruce for failing to impart the same clear moral code to Jason that he felt he himself understood when he was Robin. But his choice of words in “didn't know what the hell he was doing” also carry the implication, again, that Jason was incompetent or not sufficiently gifted enough to be Robin. And as mentioned before, the theme of Jason's incompetence is one that gained more traction after his death, fuelled in part by the very idea that he failed to save his own life.

This idea surfaces again and again in the DCU comics – even in the midst of Bruce's guilt and self-blame, the text is scattered with suggestions that Jason should share some or all of that blame.
In Gotham Knights #44, written by Scott Beatty, when Bruce returns home from the Middle East without Jason, Alfred tells him: "It's not your fault. The lad was determined to disobey you."

Alfred: And then you went and found another child with vengeance in his heart. I told you this could very well end in disaster. I warned you. I did everything but beg and plead.
"It's not your fault. The lad was determined to disobey you."

Here, Alfred blames Bruce in his internal monologue, but then chooses to comfort him by saying that Jason's death was not his fault, instead describing it as the inevitable consequence of Jason's disobedience. The implication that the reader is expected to garner is that Jason's reckless, rebellious nature was the direct cause his own death – rather than the tragic (and rather improbable) convergence of coincidences that it in fact was.

In Detective Comics #790, written by Andersen Gabrych, Batman visits Jason's gravesite on Jason's 18th birthday. Batgirl Cassandra Cain attends with him. At this moment, it should be noted that Jason is not the only Robin to be blamed or believed to be at fault for his/her death. Stephanie Brown, too, was blamed for being incompetent, reckless, and held responsible for starting a gang war – although this was in part because Batman, her field commander and mentor, deliberately withheld vital information from her. Stephanie was tortured and mutilated by Black Mask and was believed* to have been killed by him. Again, the fault was assigned to her, the victim, and not the insane and evil Black Mask. See Project Girl Wonder for more information. (*Note: Stephanie was later revealed to have not been tortured to death, but in Africa with Dr. Leslie Thompkins. She was still tortured and mutilated and was considered deceased from the period of 2004 until it was revealed in 2008 that she was not dead)

In these first few panels, Batman, in an attempt to note the similarities between Jason and Stephanie, calls Stephanie "reckless" and one who "doesn't know when to quit."

In these next two panels, Bruce says Jason was "brash. Impulsive. Headstrong. Never looking before he leapt." The way it reads is that these appear to be bad characteristics that directly led to his death.

Rather than respect Jason (and Stephanie) as heroic, or at the very least playing a heroic role, the attitude of victim blaming is continually reiterated in the text by other superheroes in the crime-fighting community.

Again, here we have Adventure Comics #3, written by Geoff Johns as well, from 2009. In this, Superboy questions Tim Drake on why he chose to wear the Red Robin costume. Conner calls Jason both the "bad Robin" and the "failed Robin."

When Tim took over the role of Robin in late 1989 in A Lonely Place of Dying, creators went out of their way to make sure he was nothing like Jason.
As Mary Borsellino writes in her paper, "A lot like Robin if you close your eyes: Displacement of meaning in the Post-Modern Age,"

DC Comics needed a Robin who looked like Dick Grayson and Jason Todd had -- dark hair, white skin, male -- and equally importantly, he had to be obviously distinct from the "uneducated children" which the readers had been coached into disliking. On his first visit to Wayne Manor, Tim gazes around, wide-eyed, before remarking
"Gosh -- you know, I've seen pictures of this place, but it's even bigger and better than I thought.
Oh, my -- there's the Renoir Mr. Wayne bought last year. I read about that in Art World Today .
He's got an Erte ? Oh, I love his stuff. My dad bought an Erte litho last year... But this is a statue . Mr. Pennyworth, Dick, please, can I see the rest of the house?"

Borsellino continues by saying: When Urricchio and Pearson, in the closing chapter of The Many Lives of the Batman, refer to the differences between the "often clearly ethnic" thugs who menace Gotham and the "Graysons, Todds and Drakes, with their blue eyes, firm chins, straight noses, noble brows, and Anglo names," they write without a knowledge of the less immediately evident (but deeply textually ingrained) class distinctions between the Robins.
Denny O'Neil described Jason as "an arrogant little snot" on more than one occasion, citing his rough, slangy speech and abrasive personality as reasons why the character had earned himself such a grim fate. Contrast this disruptive, unruly force with the well-spoken character of Tim. Where Jason was homeless and orphaned, Tim is from a wealthy family -- his father can afford to buy an Erte lithograph. And Tim is very much an educated child: he reads Art World Today.

In an early Robin mini-series, written in 1990 by Chuck Dixon, before Tim was featured in his own ongoing Robin comic, Tim questions whether he's good enough to be Robin, particularly in the wake of Jason's death. Bruce tells him:
I don't need an impulsive partner, someone who jumps in without considering the consequences. That's not what I'm looking for, Tim.

Later on in the mini-series, as Tim travels to Hong Kong, he again questions his abilities and his worth.
He says:
Fail here and I don't get up again. Fail here and I die. And all I can think of is that I might let him down. Might show the world that I wasn't really worthy of the honor he gave me.

It is, in essence, suggesting that to fail is to not be worthy of the name Robin. And in part, implying that because Jason "failed" or "died" he just wasn't worthy of the title, or couldn't live up to the honour and prestige the title of Robin holds. As Batman said to Dick in Frank Miller's futuristic tale The Dark Knight Strikes Again, it's implying Jason simply "couldn't cut the mustard."

Such an act of selflessness that Jason did, to save his mother -- who had betrayed him in the first place -- and die doing so should afford him the benefit of being called a hero. And yes, Tim believed Jason to be a hero and Jason's memorial and grave suggest as such. But fans and characters of that universe are also led to believe that Jason is still somehow responsible for his own demise.

The idea that Jason got himself killed because he disobeyed orders is one that's often repeated by creators, right down to their letter to an eight-year-old girl who said she cried "for a whole day" after learning of Robin's death.

Notably, DC has never done another 1-900 vote-in on a character's demise or anything else related to a call-in stunt because of a character since Jason's death. The comic creators and editors were blasted by fans and the media for the stunt. Denny O'Neil, then editor who oversaw Jason's death, spoke about this on the Blu-Ray Documentary for Under the Red Hood.
O'Neil even blames a caller who is rumoured to have dialed the 1-900 hotline number over and over again to kill Jason. Yet, it was O'Neil's idea to create the 1-900 call-in stunt in the first place.
Here's what O'Neil had to say in the foreword of Robin: Tragedy and Triumph:

The comment O'Neil makes is, "he was an interesting, and somewhat spooky case of a fictional character seizing control of his own destiny. Nobody ever decreed he be less likeable than his predecessor..."
Because interestingly, that is in fact, what was decreed. In an interview for The Many Lives of the Batman, edited by Roberta E. Pearson and William Uricchio, O’Neil said they actually played up the idea of making Jason “bratty”:

I think that once writers became aware the fans didn’t like Jason Todd, they began to make him bratty. I toned some of it down. If I had to do it again, I would tone it down more. But you make these decisions from hour to hour and sometimes not under the best conditions.

So we did a story, for example, in which it was left vague as to whether or not Jason pushed someone off a balcony. The writer, Jim Starlin, thought he did—I thought he didn’t, but we let the reader decide. There was certainly no doubt that throughout much of the story he wanted to push this guy off of the balcony.

And then when we were building up to the death of Robin we made him rebellious—he ran away, and in a way he got what he was asking for. He disobeyed Batman twice, and that’s what led his demise.
(via OzandEnds/WeeklyRobin blogspot)

It's troubling that O'Neil's view of Jason as “less likeable” and a “disagreeable problem child” seem so closely tied to his realistic portrayal as a troubled youth from a severely impoverished background. And again, O'Neil focuses on Jason's transgressions, but what's worse, actually comes out and says: "in a way, he got what he was asking for." Does disobedience really deserve death? Most parents would say a time-out, some might even opt for removing privileges or grounding a child. But in Jason's case, it clearly means capital punishment, and boy, oh boy, did he deserve it!

The idea that Jason got what he deserved even made its way explicitly onto the printed page, in the form of the Joker's commentary as he bludgeons Jason. The Joker calls Jason a "bad boy,” and whimsically describes his brutal beating as both a "punishment" and a "severe spanking.” Although Starlin chose to put these words into the mouth of the villain, ostensibly the unreliable voice of "anti-reason,” they could be read as a darkly humourous reflection of the real life views of Starlin and O'Neil.

Joker: “That wasn’t a very nice thing to do to Uncle Joker. You’ve been a bad boy. You must be punished. Prepare yourself for a severe spanking, young man. But let me tell you right from the start... This is going to hurt you a lot more than it does me.”

Starlin, who wrote Jason in Batman issues up to and including A Death in the Family, stated he didn't like the idea of Robin or a kid sidekick.
Starlin in an interview with Universo HQ:
I wanted to kill off Robin as soon as I started writing Batman. The idea of taking a kid along to fight crime is ludicrous.
And, in an interview with Adelaide Comics, he says he wanted to kill off Robin so badly that he pitched a story about "giving Robin AIDS."
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!”

Starlin’s frank proclamation that he intended to kill Robin right from the beginning of his run belies O’Neil’s attempt to frame Jason’s demise as an organic development rooted in his essential character. The death of Jason Todd was not a “case of a fictional character taking control of his own destiny,” but a long-planned outcome. Jason was doomed from the outset, written as he was by a creative and editorial team who were no longer sure what purpose the character of Robin was supposed to serve. It seems as though it was much easier for the editorial team of Starlin and O’Neil to blame an individual character for the “failure” than to admit that who or what Robin in the modern era should be was in a state of uncertainty.

Unfortunately, for Jason, the victim blaming has not only held the character accountable for his demise, but has also had a detrimental effect on his reputation among his fellow crime-fighters, and has birthed retcons that attempt to paint him as a bad seed from the very start.

And, really, who decides -- or should be the decision maker in a fictional character's life and death? Not the character, but the creators. Yet, this is an attempt on the editors part to shift the blame, once again, to Jason -- a fictional character.

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Date: 2011-03-04 11:25 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] hyperactivator
Damn. This begs for a spirit journey dream. Say the Batman wondering what to do about Jason and the Phantom Stranger showing up and showing him exactly what happened in that warehouse followed by a montage of everyone saying how it was Jason's fault and only he is to blame intersperced with Jason doing good deeds as Robin and finishing up with the crowbar in Bruce's hands and Jason's mangled corpse saying that he understands it was his fault for trusting his mother and that Bruce should punish him some more for being a bad boy. Then he apoligises to the Joker for being close to Batman and his mother for trusting her. Which they respond by insulting him. Cue Bruces parents lying on the ground apologising for dieing and saying thier deaths were thier own fault too and not to blame anyone but them. Then a big spread of thousands of victims that Bruce has failed to save apoligising for thier failure.

Anything but this continued demonising of a child murder victim who died trying to save his mother.

Date: 2011-03-05 02:47 am (UTC)
lbd_nytetrayn: Star Force Dragonzord Power! (Default)
From: [personal profile] lbd_nytetrayn
That would be an awesome story, and I'd love to read it.

Pity it will probably never happen.

--LBD "Nytetrayn"

Date: 2011-03-04 11:28 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
This may surprise you a little, but I am in complete agreement with the entirety of your post. (You may wish to have this reply framed, or maybe bronzed)

I've never understood or agreed with the "Jason was a disobedient punk" school of thought. He didn't disobey Batman, he simply was in over his head, he didn't go to fight the Joker, he went to talk to his mother, and the Joker turned up completely unexpectedly. There's nothing of a "failure" or blame to be assigned in the case of a kid being completely betrayed by his own mother who then watches him get beaten to death and is only REALLY upset when she realises she's about to die too.

And Starlin's intense dislike of Robin in terms of the "It's ludicrous" explanation is such a complete WTF moment. BATMAN is a ludicrous concept, in it's entirety. Yes taking a kid into a warzone is a dumb idea, but so is the whole concept of a millionaire vigilante, never mind one prone to wearing a long cape and standing on rainslicked gargoyles in high winds.

Date: 2011-03-04 11:45 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] whitesycamore
This may surprise you a little, but I am in complete agreement with the entirety of your post. (You may wish to have this reply framed, or maybe bronzed)

Not as surprised as you might think. XD I had to revisit benicio's old DITF post to harvest some panels, and I saw that you made some similar points in the comments there.

I don't know about Sheila though... she's definitely a deceitful, selfish character, but she seemed distressed by Jason's beat-down, right from the beginning. I can only think that somehow it hadn't fully occurred to her that Joker was going to kill him?

And Starlin's intense dislike of Robin in terms of the "It's ludicrous" explanation is such a complete WTF moment. BATMAN is a ludicrous concept, in it's entirety. Yes taking a kid into a warzone is a dumb idea, but so is the whole concept of a millionaire vigilante, never mind one prone to wearing a long cape and standing on rainslicked gargoyles in high winds.

Well yeah, but it was 1989 and everyone had a hard-on for DKR at the time. Gritty was the new black, and Robin was the antithesis of gritty.

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Date: 2011-03-04 11:42 pm (UTC)
alcyone: (Default)
From: [personal profile] alcyone

I'm going to link to this everywhere now.

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Date: 2011-03-04 11:47 pm (UTC)
janegray: (Default)
From: [personal profile] janegray
...They actually made a 8-year-old little girl cry! For a whole day!


I'm so used to thinking of comic book fans as adults that it didn't occur to me that back then most comic book fans were children.

And the vote-in was a relatively-expensive phone call, wasn't it? That means that many children wouldn't have been allowed to make it. So, despite the fact that most fans were children, the death was decided by the minority of older fans.

And here I thought the whole thing couldn't get any more tasteless.

Date: 2011-03-05 12:26 am (UTC)
lorriek: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lorriek
I remember reading that letter. I was a 13-year-old girl, and while I didn't cry the whole day, I did cry. I liked Jason, and to see him murdered so brutally was very upsetting. And I knew the editor was full of crap for blaming Jason for getting murdered, since I'd read the comic and knew better. And it's not like I was allowed to call a 1-900 number, so kids like me probably weren't the people who voted to kill Jason. No doubt it was mostly adults.

I still feel sick to my stomach whenever I see those panels of the Joker beating Jason with that crowbar.
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Date: 2011-03-04 11:48 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] omgwtflolbbqbye
Wow. That was really insightful.

Jason is the Robin I've always been least familiar with since Dick has always been the most famous one, and Tim already had been Robin for a while when I started reading comics. And what little characterization I got about him was mainly derived through references by other characters.

Like you said, Jason was always simultaneously lionized as the 'soldier' who fell in Batman's war, but it was always followed by "...cause he screwed up".

And I remember when I read "A Death In the Family" for the first time feeling the discrepancy between how he actually died and how he was recalled to have died later on. The kid disobeyed orders, but just to offer his mother help and not to take on the Joker and an army of henchmen like future references would lead you to believe. And even if he knew The Joker was there, and thought his mom was in trouble, I think disobeying Batman's 'stay' order to do the right thing and save her would have still been a pretty damn reasonable, if not heroic, decision anyways.

As for the class issues you were talking about, that is some food for thought as well, but since I haven't read many Jason stories I don't have much to add. Although, it does sort of make me appreciate how in the DCAU, Tim Drake, was never as being 'rough around the edges' because of his impoverished background.

Date: 2011-03-05 12:30 am (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
I was never happy with Bruce EVER considering any Robin "a soldier", good or otherwise. A Robin is more than a soldier, they should be a partner, a son (Steph never quite worked as "daughter" that dynamic was never present in her Robin-ness), a balance. Soldier doesn't enter into the equation.

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Date: 2011-03-04 11:53 pm (UTC)
jarodrussell: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jarodrussell
[Batman] deliberately withheld vital information from her.

I know I'm missing the main thrust of this well written post, but this line of thought always cracks me up. He didn't tell her he was Matches Malone, which wouldn't have really been a problem if she hadn't tried to enact his plan. How would him telling her he was Matches have changed her rooting through the Batcomputer trying to find some way to prove she could be Robin? If it hadn't been the Matches Malone thing, she would have used another plan that would have potentially backfired, and we'd be back at the same place. Your argument is tantamount that, upon firing Stephanie, Batman should have divulged all of his secrets to her because only then could she have properly chosen not to use one of his plans.

Date: 2011-03-05 12:34 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] whitesycamore
I can't really debate you on that, since although I love Steph, I only got to know her after he reappearance. I haven't read War Games, on the grounds that it sounds tasteless and depressing.

Also when we posted this before on tumblr it got totally derailed into a discussion about this fairly minor (to the argument at hand) point, and I really don't want that to happen again...

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Date: 2011-03-05 12:01 am (UTC)
jaybee3: (Yellow Batman)
From: [personal profile] jaybee3
Very good essay, though if you think about it its more about DC Editorial than Jason Todd himself, i.e. "he was an interesting, and somewhat spooky case of a fictional character seizing control of his own destiny". I would think Denny knows better than this. Jason was written as unlikable because TPTB didn't like him. Just as Stephanie Brown was written as incompetent and foolish because that was what folks like Willingham and Didio (he admitted to only making her Robin because she was already set to die) needed her to be. And I think this has hurt both Stephanie and Jason since.

Perceptions don't change that much, even with writers sympathetic to the character. Miller had Stephanie has a quasi-newbie when she took over as Batgirl even though she had already been a Robin, and Winick has had Jason go over and over and over his "issues" with Bruce (and in the upcoming B&R we're going to get some of it) and yet not a peep from the resurrected Jason on the betrayal by his mother which (as you point out) led more to his death than anything else. No - instead we have a Jason beating up/knifing Tim (in TT and BftC) or fighting Dick (in Battle for the Cowl and B&R) or plotting to kill Bruce (in Lost Days) but addressing his mother issues? Nada. It's like a never ending circle with the character and nothing moving him forward.

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Date: 2011-03-05 12:03 am (UTC)
irrelevant: (Lost Days Jay)
From: [personal profile] irrelevant
Pretty much yes. I'd say more, but I've already hashed out everything said here multiple times with too many people, and it all boils down to, I'm tired of people needing me to explain Jason Todd to them. I think from now on I'll just send them over here.

For post-Crisis Jay, that is. Pre-Crisis Jay is an animal of a different color.

Date: 2011-03-05 12:31 am (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
Pre-Crisis Jay is an animal of a different color.

Yeah, strawberry blond! :)

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Date: 2011-03-05 12:06 am (UTC)
autumn_lily: jason todd (Default)
From: [personal profile] autumn_lily
I can only hope the writers read your post and decide to keep it in mind if they decide to start using Jason in the Batman & Robin titles in any regular fashion again.

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Date: 2011-03-05 12:26 am (UTC)
greenmask: (Default)
From: [personal profile] greenmask
Oh my gosh, Jenna Loughlin! They told her Batman is all alone now, way to compound the crying-for-a-day!

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Date: 2011-03-05 02:59 am (UTC)
voltairine: (raeg)
From: [personal profile] voltairine
Eee, I love this article! Critical analysis? In MY comics?

I don't have a lot to add, except lol @ Starlin's "oh, I don't know what purpose Robin was supposed to serve!" psst, Starlin, I am going to tell you a secret: HE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE AUDIENCE STAND IN, BECAUSE THE AUDIENCE WAS PRIMARILY KIDS, WHICH IS WHY SOME OF THEM WERE UPSET WHEN YOU BRUTALLY MURDERED HIM, PERHAPS?

Date: 2011-03-05 03:33 am (UTC)
turtlefu: (Default)
From: [personal profile] turtlefu
Jason's death wasn't his fault, but that doesn't mean he should've been resurrected...
Just sayin'

Date: 2011-03-05 11:01 am (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
This I also agree with.

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Date: 2011-03-05 04:08 am (UTC)
freddylloyd: (Tim)
From: [personal profile] freddylloyd
One aspect of this history that I haven't seen noted before is the end of the editorial reply to young Jenna Loughlin:
I’m also sad that Robin died in “A Death in the Family,” but more readers wanted him to be dead than wanted him to be alive.

Maybe if those readers thought about what they were doing to Batman when they voted to let Robin die, they might have changed their vote. Now Batman is all alone.

I’m sorry you cried for a whole day.

Editors don't usually criticize the fans who feed them, but that's as close as I can imagine to: “Okay, all you heartless assholes who voted for death, you just made this little girl cry! Now how do you feel?"

Date: 2011-03-05 04:40 am (UTC)
starwolf_oakley: (Default)
From: [personal profile] starwolf_oakley
I intend to read this in more detail, but the similarities between Jason and Stephanie were hit over our head with a crowbar after her death. The fans had to "know" that her death was her fault because she screwed up and had to pay the price. Or something.

With Jason, it was just because he was poor. Poor people just should not be costumed vigilantes in the DC Universe.

Date: 2011-03-05 10:48 am (UTC)
mrstatham: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mrstatham
I got more annoyed over the fact that her death was pretty much ignored in the face of Bruce's wholesale dickery following War Games, which saw pretty much everyone other than Batman evicted from Gotham.

That's right, Bruce, because it isn't your fault at all that girl you improperly trained and gave false hopes to and treated unfairly decided to do something to make you proud, dick.

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Date: 2011-03-05 04:43 am (UTC)
retro_nouveau: (23)
From: [personal profile] retro_nouveau
Excellent post!

So what's it going to be, Bruce is so dead-on right all the time it's scary, shrewdly thinking four or five steps ahead of everyone else, detailed plans for every possible contingency ... or Bruce has colossal failures that he should have seen coming in Jason and Steph. Fuggeddaboddit. He took Dick in, saving him from eventually killing Zucco and dying in the process or going to jail for murder. Then the floodgates opened, and Babs, Jason, Tim, Cass, and Steph strapped on capes. Each time Bruce decided that training them would be much better for them than letting them make their way on their own. He never had the option of telling them not to follow in Dick's footsteps, but that they had to stay home, go to school, to stand by and watch from the sidelines. I think it's natural for Bruce and Jason to blame themselves, if only to protect the other. I'm a little angry with the writer that had Alfred blame Jason in order to comfort Bruce, instead of pointing out that the crowbar didn't swing itself.

Geoff Johns has never impressed me, and it's shifting to definite dislike now.

Jenna Loughlin's letter really tears at my heart. "You don't kill heroes" has also been my philosophy.

Oh, and one more thing...

[personal profile] retro_nouveau liked this :D

Date: 2011-03-05 04:25 pm (UTC)
jaybee3: Nguyen Lil Cass (Default)
From: [personal profile] jaybee3
Jenna Loughlin's letter really tears at my heart. "You don't kill heroes" has also been my philosophy.

You can also see in their answer that basically its the start of an era where writers/editors were not even trying to bother reaching out to kids or younger readers anymore but were aiming for an audience like themselves - middle-aged cynical males. Thus, we got the anti-hero 90s, Identity Crisis (where the heroes are unheroic douches), Infinite Crisis (where the Golden Age Superman and Superboy are the "villains") and on and on.

And then they wonder why readership has dwindled.

Date: 2011-03-05 05:01 am (UTC)
tauruschick12: (Default)
From: [personal profile] tauruschick12
Jason is my favorite Robin; maybe my favorite Batman character overall. That's why it always kills me to see how he's treated in comics- no matter what anyone says about Jason acting 'wrong' and 'problematic' and 'deserving' of his pain, no matter how they try to twist it so that Batman can't be blamed for Jason, there are still only three people to blame for his death: Joker, for killing him. Batman, for not realizing that of *course* Jason was going to go after his mother (because Bruce, you would have done the same), and his mother, who despite having many problems herself, still let a lot of what led to his death happen.

Jason was a boy. A boy who had suffered a lot. A boy who felt a lot of justified rage towards criminals and the justice system. A boy who despite everything, loved his mother and wanted her safe.

I may not be saying this word for word, but after he meets his mother, and she tells him her story, he says "I'm so sorry, you must have suffered so much." and hugs her. This boy, who lived on the streets, who wouldn't have been blamed if he was angry with her, still felt her pain.

No matter what anyone tries to say, Jason was a good boy, if one with a lot of problems. That's why I commend this article. More people need to realize this about Jason. He shouldn't be blamed; he was just a boy, too brave to become a man.

Date: 2011-03-05 07:10 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] darkknightjrk
"he was just a boy, too brave to become a man."

Hmm...could you explain what you mean by that? Because to me, bravery is kind-of requisite to becoming a man.

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Date: 2011-03-05 05:38 am (UTC)
sistermagpie: Classic magpie (Default)
From: [personal profile] sistermagpie
It is very...from a meta perspective you've got it all here, but looking at it from a Watsonian view within the text there's some seriously unhealthy things you have to imagine going on in the character's heads for them to have changed Jason's history this way. Particularly given that Jason is alive and in their faces now.

But from the pov of the writers you always have to wonder when they grab onto a particular retcon and keep referencing it that way. Because in the beginning it was imo a lot more interesting and meaningful to have Jason's death lead back to Bruce. Not even in the sense that Bruce shouldn't have put him out as Robin, because that's not really how he died. But in terms of, as you say, Bruce failing to be there for his partner when he even thought he was needed at the time. Having Bruce himself convince himself that Jason just couldn't have been saved is understandable as a survival instinct on his part, but it's also a really selfish one. And it says something really dark about the Wayne family that Dick and Tim would back him up in it, especially with Jason alive again. Jason as bad seed from the beginning is a lot less interesting--and I can't help but hope that some writer in the future might take on the challenge of debunking it. It's not like it wouldn't be dramatic since at this point that's kind of the dirty little secret of the family.

I do think-and I know this might seem like derailing because there was a thread related to it above--but I don't think it's always victim-blaming to see a tragedy coming out of a character's fatal flaws, though. Jason's death simply wasn't one. I would never say that Stephanie was responsible for her own death or deserved it--Black Mask got the jump on her in a moment when she was being pretty noble. But I do think her death was written as an actual tragedy that came out of the flaws of both Bruce *and* Stephanie. Lots of tragedies end in death and the whole fatal flaw thing is central to them.

Date: 2011-03-05 07:20 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] darkknightjrk
I can get what you mean--ultimately what happened, like any great tragedy, is simply too big to place blame on either way.

One thing that was interesting was your usage of The Return with Dick saying that disobeying orders was a requirement. While I think it was meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek his reply, it did remind me of a moment in Batman & Robin #7, where Dick is telling the reason why he's trying to raise Bruce from the dead:

"...Me and Batman, we had an arrangement... If he was in trouble, I got him out. If there was a death trap he couldn't handle on his own, I was there to get him free. He knew he could count on me. That's how we worked."

Between Dick's words here, and how he's saved other people in the past, I think I figured out the reason why Dick and Jason were so different:

Dick was all about saving people, protecting the innocent.

Jason was about finding those that hurt others and punishing them.

Seriously, outside of The Cult, where Jason went down into the sewers to try to rescue Bruce from Blackfire's army, I don't recall ever seeing him actually helping people.

Date: 2011-03-05 11:29 am (UTC)
janegray: (Default)
From: [personal profile] janegray
There was a scene where he witnessed a pimp about to beat up a prostitute because she hadn't been able to earn enough money, Robin got between him and her and beat him up.

There was also the issue where he desperately tried to help a victim of a serial rapist. Jason found her, beaten and terrified, shortly after her rape; he was very protective towards her, and while she was exhibiting PTSD he tried to reassure her that the guy would go to prison so he wouldn't be able to hurt her again. But it turned out that the rapist had diplomatic immunity so he couldn't be kept behind bars, and as soon as he got out he made a phone call to the girl and basically told her that he would rape her again, so she committed suicide. The serial rapist in question is the guy Jason either killed or let die.

It's noticeable that, in both cases, Jason didn't save anybody. The woman in the first example was spared a single beating, but she was still stuck working for violent criminal assholes. And the woman in the second example was terrified into killing herself.

But he did try to help. He doesn't just want to punish the bad guys, he does want to protect the innocent. He is simply much, much better at the former than the latter...

Date: 2011-03-05 07:29 am (UTC)
gamerguy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] gamerguy
Eh, Jason was an unlikeable little punk who was needlessly violent and cruel, and is more than likely a murderer (pre-death) as well. As much as I love the character of Robin, I disliked Jason intensely after his Post-Crisis reboot.

He deserved every whack he got with that crowbar.

Starlin can kiss my tuchas, though. I can't say I've ever liked anything he's done after looking at his bibliograpghy, and his attitude just confirms it.

Date: 2011-03-05 08:59 am (UTC)
neev: Be Yourself Until You Bleed (Default)
From: [personal profile] neev
I find it kind of funny that you accuse Jason of being needlessly violent and cruel and then laud his needlessly violent and cruel death in the same post. That's...uh...some fine double-think you've got going on there.

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TYSM for this post

Date: 2011-03-05 10:57 am (UTC)
meicdon13: (Batman: thinky thoughts)
From: [personal profile] meicdon13
TBH, I don't really think it's fair to say that it was Bruce's fault for not being able to get back in time to save him. (I do think, however, that he shouldn't have left Jason there in the first place.) If you ask me, if anyone's to blame, it's Jason's mother. True, not all mothers give a shit about their kids, but if we're talking who's to blame for Jason's death, then it's her because she's the one who lured him inside the building.

Also, this page is sad forever

Re: TYSM for this post

Date: 2011-03-05 11:20 am (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
(I do think, however, that he shouldn't have left Jason there in the first place.)

Neither Batman nor Jason had any reason to believe that Jason's mother was in any way connected with the Joker, so I can't see any blame to be assigned to Bruce there either.

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Date: 2011-03-05 12:03 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
Oh I also meant to add, don't know if you'd seen this Scott McDaniel commission (Which isn't one of mine). A supervillain telethon is a MUCH more Jokerish idea than the crowbar IMHO, and I like the little explanations as to who is voting which way and why, even if I don't agree with them! :) )

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Date: 2011-03-05 03:53 pm (UTC)
kenn_el: Northstar_Hmm (Default)
From: [personal profile] kenn_el
The most obvious example for me of retconning Jason into someone who 'deserved what he got' was in the flashback issue where he teamed with Babs/Batgirl and he was SMOKING A CIGARETTE! You could just imagine Mayor Bloomberg looking for a crowbar after reading that issue! (They did much the same with Babs in an Annual, where she was seen in flashback needlessly donning the Batgirl costume when she'd CLAIMED to have retired it. Cut to Babs in present day 'justifiably' confined to her wheelchair, because who knew when she'd get the foolish notion to play Batgirl again if her mobility were not taken away? )

Date: 2011-03-05 04:19 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] whitesycamore
And a lot of people living on the streets smoke because it's often a more cost effective way of dulling hunger pains than actually buying food. I'm not going to fault Jason for lighting up occasionally when he's feeling stressed.

Still, I've got to LOL at pop-culture signifers of evil. I've sometimes thought that Jason should have known Sheila was baaad ever since he first saw her take out a cigarette.

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Date: 2011-03-05 06:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Excellent read. Sadly I only got into comics in the mid-90's and missed most of the Jason Todd years but I do remember one of the first Batman comics I did read being the one where he found out his dad's murderer was Two-Face.

I have always liked Jason, while I do not believe that he is the best Robin (Dick holds that place in my regards) he is the one I can identify with the most in terms of attitude.

I also agree that it was more heroic to try to save his mother then his being disobedient. It was also somewhat foolish/risky but that is part of heroism.

Date: 2011-03-05 07:33 pm (UTC)
halloweenjack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] halloweenjack
I can completely believe that DC retconned Jason as a screw-up who deserved what he got as a way of passing blame for their 900 number scheme, probably the scummiest, most reprehensible money-making gimmick in the history of comics. (This is basically the same editorial regime that alienated Alan Moore forever after nickle-and-diming him and Dave Gibbons on royalties on Watchmen merch, and also for firing Marv Wolfman from his editorial post after co-signing a petition with Moore, Frank Miller and Howard Chaykin protesting the new comics rating system that DC was implementing.)

Also, and I hate to say this because of his work on Captain Mar-Vell and Adam Warlock in the seventies, but Jim Starlin comes off as a real creep here. I'm already not kindly disposed toward him because of his pulling the trigger on the New Gods more recently, but AIDS? Really, Jim?

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] jaybee3 - Date: 2011-03-06 03:39 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2011-03-05 09:28 pm (UTC)
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From: [personal profile] sindra
This is the best comic article I've read in a long time. So well written and analyzed. I've always felt his character was handled poorly after he died because he was blamed more than anything, and I'm like "Didn't his mother sell him out?! Where's all her blame??"

Consider this tweeted.
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