DC Comics killed off Robin in a Batman contest, but had a backup plan

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The last years has actually been a renaissance for Jason Todd, the second character to fill the function of Robin, the world’s most popular superhero partner. He’s appeared in movies, TV shows, and video games, while even his comics self ended up being theleader of his own team of antiheroes It’ll be rather some time prior to Jason handles to eclipse the story he’s most popular for. Out of all the characters who have actually placed on the Robin fit, Jason is the one who passed away in it.

Yet he nearly lived.

In 1988, DC Comics left the decision to off the character in the four-issue story A Death in the Family approximately an exceptionally close-running reader survey. To fulfill the publishing schedule, the imaginative team ready for either scenario by composing, and partly highlighting, a comic which Jason made it through the Joker’s tried murder and one in which he passed away. The terrible ending was the one sculpted into comichistory


On the 80 th anniversary of Robin’s first look, Polygon is delighted to present a take a look at a few of that incomplete concern, consisting of a high-resolution scan of hardly ever seen work from author Jim Starlin, penciller Jim Aparo, and inker Mike DeCarlo directly from DC Comics’ archives.

‘ We didn’t eliminate the Kid Marvel. The readers did.’

A Death in the Family initially went through Batman #426-429 In the first line of his postscript in the first gathered edition of that story, Batman editor Denny O’Neil objected his own responsibility in Robin’s death with one quote, “We didn’t eliminate the Kid Marvel. The readers did.”

Why would DC editorial leave the decision to eliminate a significant character to readers? The response is a mix of brand-new technology and custom. Personnel at the business had been dabbling the concept of utilizing a then-cutting edge phone-polling system to enable DC readership real input on astory “In impact,” O’Neil stated in 1988, “extend our policy of following the viewpoints fans reveal in letters and discussions at conventions and comic stores.”

Image: DCComics

But the survey could not be simply any concern. It had to be one that DC editorial really desired reader input on, and– considering that each call would cost a reader all of 50 cents– it had to be one that fans really appreciated. Jason Todd was “the sensible prospect,” O’Neil stated.

This was not since O’Neil or any of the other Batman office personnel did not like the character, but since their readership appeared so divided on him. Jason was something really familiar in our existing age: The first restarted version of a concept backed by 40 years of fan fond memories.

The problem Robin

In the early 1980 s, * Grayson, having actually aged out of the Robin identity, ended up being Nightwing, leaving Batman without a partner for the first time considering that1940 Produced by Gerry Conway and Don Newton, Jason was presented in 1983 as as a carbon copy of Grayson, another circus kid with a heart of gold. a couple of years later on, when the Crisis on Infinite Earths used a chance to reimagine anything and whatever in the DC Universe, Jason was substantially reimagined.

Now he was a street urchin who met Batman for the first time when he tried to jack the tires from the Batmobile; a defiant and hard-hearted kid who Bruce motivated to be Robin in the hopes that it would keep him from a life of criminal activity. Where * Grayson quipped, Jason Todd sneered, and where * was the more compassionate side of the Dynamic Duo, now it was Batman who was ruling in careless impulses of his protege.

Fans were divided on Jason, a minimum of from what DC editorial might inform. Was he brand-new handle Robin that used pathos, drama, and a obstacle for Batman? Or was he a frustrating bug, unsuited to use the mantle that * Grayson had made so famous?

A democratic vote would address the concern.

A Death in the Family

Jim Starlin and artist Jim Aparo’s 1988 comic Batman #426 kicked off A Death in the Family, which saw Jason Todd finding that his biological mom may still live, then fleing on a globe-trotting journey to discover her identity. Batman found that a cash-poor Joker was recovering his funds in a worrying method: by selling a nuclear warhead to Lebanese terrorists.

Strangely enough, these 2 objectives led them to cross courses, foil the Joker, and discover Jason’s real mother– where they cross courses with the Joker as soon asmore In Batman #427, Batman bought Jason not to face the Joker up until he returned from stopping a convoy full of fatal gas, but, fearing for his mom’s life, Jason went in anyhow. Joker caught him, notoriously beat him with a crowbar, and after that caught him in a storage facility full of dynamites. The concern’s final pages are of Batman getting here simply in time to view the structure blow up.

Then, a home advertisement asked readers to call one number if they believed Jason must live, and another if they desired him to pass away.

Starlin composed 2 variations of Batman #428, and Jim Aparo and inker Mike DeCarlo dealt with both of them, drawing specific pages two times– but really in a different way. Housed in DC Comics’ archive in Burbank, California, are 4 of those incomplete pages, which I was fortunate adequate to see on a check out in the summer season of2019


Till then, the most I had ever seen of the legendary alternate timeline where Jason lived was a single panel, reprinted in Les Daniel’s shiny hardbound Batman: The Total History. In it, Batman nestled Jason’s damaged body, his face raised to the sky in a uncommon smile, the tonal reverse of the released image, in which he sorrowfully raised Jason’s remains. Rather of terrible silence, the Caped Crusader exclaimed, “He lives! Thank god!”

Here’s the total page that panel was from, the unused page 10 of Batman #428 On the right is the page as it ran.

Image: Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo/DCComics

Image: Jim Starlin, Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo, Adrienne Roy/DCComics

As I looked the pages over and attempted not to flip out too noticeably, DC archivist Ben LeClear informed me a story of O’Neil– who had elected Jason to live– and other DC personnel spending time the workplaces, biting their nails well into the final night of the survey. Every couple of minutes, they ‘d call the unique telephone number that enabled them to look at the vote tally, and nail-bite somemore


DC declined to launch a full scan of the second- most-complete alternate page in their archives, but did provide the below scan of its first panel, which exposes Jason steady but in a comatose state, back in the United States.

The full page exposes more, consisting of the arrival of * Grayson to Jason’s healthcare facility space– although a penciled note in the margins states to strike him, and redraw the panels in favor of having Alfred in the scene rather. * hurried over as soon as he heard, and used Bruce his aid in locating the Joker.

In the released version of Batman #428, the very same page portrays Jason’s funeral service, where Alfred asks Bruce if he ought to get in touch with * Grayson. In both pages, Batman states approximately the very same thing: “I’ll manage this by myself. No aid from now on … that’s the method I desire it.”

Duo no more?

In the 36 hours they were open, DC’s hotlines got 10,614 calls (at a overall expense of $5,307 to the readership), and the decision showed editorial’s presumption right: Fans were divided on Jason Todd– he was killed by a margin of just 72votes (In later years, O’Neil has said that while he has no hard evidence, he heard that “one person […] configured his computer to call the thumbs down number every 90 seconds for 8 hours.”)

But Jason’s death was not forgotten nor instantly reversed. Rather, it ended up being a main part of the mind of Batman stories for over twenty years. To anybody who asked why Batman was such a loner, such a disciplinarian to his partners, such a hardass about who got to play vigilante in Gotham City, readers indicated the glass case in the Batcave which contained a kid’s empty outfit.

Even when the superhero death/ resurrection cycle took off in the 1990 s and after, there was a time when Jason was counted amongst the most hallowed of comics deaths, together with Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy, and Batman’s moms and dads themselves. He wasn’t reanimated up until 2005, when he took his vengeance on the Joker and testified continue Batman’s mission versus criminal activity, but now as the homicidal Red Hood.

” Taking a Robin– any Robin– far from Batman was dangerous,” O’Neil stated in his 1988 postscript to A Death in the Family. “Some popular culture historians have actually argued that Robin was a crucial active ingredient in Batman’s half-century of appeal, a needed counter-balance to the important grimness of the Batman mythos, and I was not exactly sure they were incorrect.”

Tim Drake finds Jason Todd’s outfit in the Batcave.
Image: Marv Wolfman, George Pérez, Jim Aparo/DCComics

Batman wasn’t alone all that time. About 6 months after Jason’s death, O’Neil’s Batman office presented Tim Drake, produced by author Marv Wolfman and artist Pat Broderick. Tim, called for Tim Burton, director of the brand-new but not-yet-released Batman movie, was a bright kid who had actually been in the circus audience the night * Grayson’s moms and dads passed away. He ‘d deduced all on his own that Batman and Robin were Bruce Wayne and * Grayson, followed their professions with relish, and discovered when Batman started to lose himself in sorrow after Jason Todd’sdeath


In the context of Jason’s murder by reader input, it’s simple to check out Tim’s origin as a hedge versus the very same unfavorable fan response that identified his predecessor as a usurper of * Grayson’s tradition. Simply like readers, Tim had matured as a fan of Batman andRobin His preliminary goal was to encourage * Grayson to return to being Robin, not to take the function himself. He just put on the fit when Two-Face caught both senior vigilantes in a collapsed structure, and he declined to wear it once again without Batman and Nightwing’s consent.

Tim was Robin for 20 years, up until he himself was taken over by Bruce Wayne’s biological child, Damian. What if Jason Todd had lived?

With Jason in a coma and Batman still promising to work alone, who’s to state the Dark Knight might not have participated in a only wolf duration all the very same? O’Neil and his imaginative teams may have seized the day to have Jason remain for a while, let the audience cool off, and after that let him make his outfit back. Perhaps they would have done it less than a year later on, with Jason cautious and more loyal from that time he disobeyed Batman’s orders and almost got himkilled Perhaps he ‘d have attempted to get * Grayson to return, just to put on the Robin outfit himself to conserve his coaches’ lives.

These pages provide the smallest of peeks at the 30 years of Batman history that may have been, if not for 10,614 call, and, possibly, one person with a computer.

I work as the Content Writer for Gaming Ideology. I play Quake like professionally. I love to write about games and have been writing about them for two years.

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