A Death in the Family

Something had to be done about Jason Todd. Introduced in 1983, Todd was created to fill the void that Robin #1, Dick Grayson, left behind when he graduated to Nightwing.

Could I just say that Nightwing's original costume is one of the ugliest things I've ever seen?

Could I just say that Nightwing’s original costume is one of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen?

Jason, at first, was a carbon-copy of the original Grayson; he was involved in the circus, he lost his parents, he was bright and energetic. However, when Crisis on Infinite Earths happened, the writers had the opportunity to allow Jason to be a character all of his own. No longer did he borrow from Grayson’s origin story. Instead, he was an orphan, a kid with street smarts who hits Batman’s radar when he’s trying to jack the tires off the batmobile. From then on, he became the problem child. He talked back, he didn’t take orders well, and he was volatile. When the writers began getting hate mail regarding this new Robin, it became clear that Batman wasn’t the only one being bothered by Todd’s attitude. So, when the opportunity arose for Jason Todd to die, the creative team decided to do something that had never been done before: they let the people decide. In a way of letting them “put their money where their mouth is,” if the audience really hated Jason Todd, they could kill him.

"...this is going to hurt you a lot more than it does me."

“…this is going to hurt you a lot more than it does me.”

With the Death in the Family story arc in full swing, issue #427 ends on a cliff-hanger. The Joker beats Robin to a bloody pulp with a crowbar. Batman races to save him. The building explodes with Jason inside…that page is followed by the telephone poll. The people were to call one 1-900 number to save Robin, or a different 1-900 number if they wanted Robin not to survive (worded that way because the printing company didn’t allow the word “die” for the ad). The poll was open on September 15, 1988, and closed on September 16, 1988. phonenumbersEach call cost 50cents and they received over 10,000 calls, which was high for the time. With a difference of only 65 votes, the people decided that Jason Todd should die. The result was big news and people were not happy. There was a lot of anger (how could they kill off a child?) and some controversy (it is said that there was a lawyer who programmed his computer to call the “kill him” number every few minutes), but the poll also inspired thought. In a time where comics were getting a lot of attention for being increasingly more violent, the poll became very telling of the readership and of the creators themselves. Was the readership so dark that they promote the death of a child, whether he is ink and paper or not? Did the creators encourage their readership to be that way? Personally, I think the readership was simply fed up with the character, and that those who were angry were those who still saw Robin and the energetic kid they had all grown up with (Grayson). This poll was the pinnacle of giving the readers what they want and editor, Dennis O’Neil, vowed that on his watch, Jason Todd would stay dead. A year later, Tim Drake was introduced to the series and became the third Robin (because a healthy Batman is a Batman with a Robin) and it seemed as though the Batman franchise was moving on from Jason for good. That is, until 2005 when writer, Judd Winick takes over Batman. And what is the first thing he wants to do? Bring back Jason Todd. To be continued…

The alternate panel if the poll had determined that Jason Live...

The alternate panel if the poll had determined that Jason Live…

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