Hey all DC has had a long history
And while a lot of that history has been really great, some ideas were…well, less so.
This is a thread I’d like to dedicate to DC’s entire history of…well, getting it wrong!.
Now I know many would like to use this as an arena to stick certain editors etc in the punching bag and go to town on them.
But that’s not really the intention here. Instead We’re here to look critically at how a situation was handled. (be it a character’s death/replacement/allegiance turn. And see why it was done who it was done to. and how could it have been done better.
Hopefully, we can all come up with some creative ways to get through the problems DC had over the last few decades and maybe inspire future writers and editors with some solutions to future problems that come up. (and maybe avoid some of the mistakes that were made from being repeated)
For Starters, I’m going to select the story that brought me into the DC Universe Full-time
A Death in the Family.
DC had decided to kill off Robin!
Not the original Robin, Dick Grayson, but Jason Todd the second Robin. Jason Todd had suffered the indignity of starting off as a carbon copy of Dick Grayson. a Circus kid who was orphaned when his parents were killed by a gangster. Jason was originally a Redhead but when he was given Dick’s Costume he colored his hair black.
Jason also had the bad habit of mangling expressions. (whether he was just getting them wrong constantly like Biff Tannen or doing it intentionally in a lame attempt to be funny, no one but the writers know for sure)
At any rate, Jason’s origin was revised after Crisis on Infinite Earths and he became a moody street thief who boosted the tires off the Batmobile. Had an unhealthy anger-management problem when it came to Two-Face. By this time, Jason’s expression mangling turned into a tendency to favor groan worthy puns.
The late 80s saw a Boom in the 1-900 phone number Polling and entertainment calls were the main uses. Many were for kids to phone in and listen to stories or soundbites from famous celebrities or fictional characters while others were used to allow audience participation.
(One such notable use was when Universal’s Television show The A-Team, used the service to determine whether Face Man (played on the show by Dirk Benedict) had actually found his father) DC had been trying to find a way to use the gimmick to affect a storyline. It was decided that killing off a not so popular character (or offering the fans the decision) would be the hook and Jason Todd was the unlucky character chosen.
Now. frankly, this was the worst decision DC could have made.
The 900 number was quickly becoming regarded as a stunt already. Also, the higher cost (over the toll free 800 numbers that were often used to sell products ) was a hit on family’s with children who wanted to hear the advertised characters and celebrities.
As to the Death of Jason Todd…
Well, that could have happened anyway. For one thing, a Major motion picture was looming on the horizon and Robin was not ultimately going to be shown or even referenced in it. (And DC even back then was given to keeping it’s characters in-line with their mass media market interpretations.) So Batman would find himself quickly without the laughing kid sidekick regardless of who was pulling the trigger. This of course would lead to Batman becoming Darker and grimmer which would tie into the mood of the upcoming film. (compared to the old TV series)
As to the story of Jason Todd’s death as it was actually ultimately presented, I really have no problem with the way it was set up or told. Jason’s downward spiral may have been a recent development with a writer on the book who didn’t care for the concept or character, but it at least led to what can at best be considered a logical conclusion. And the aftermath and following stories helped sell Batman as a Dark Loner figure with Alfred as his only real sounding board. (perfect for the time of the Movie.)
At the same time. seeds were already being planted for a newer and more improved Robin to hit the stage once the movie mania had run it’s course.
So what could have been done better?
Well, they could have just bitten the bullet and killed Robin off. That would have at least been an honest decision rather than a cop-out by saying…“We didn’t kill the kid! The fans did it!” And that leads to the second part of why they shouldn’t have bothered with the 900 number. The easy exploitation of the system. Ultimately one fan rigged an auto dial on the “to-kill” number and boosted the numbers way over what they would have been normally.
(I kind of wonder if there was a similar fan who wanted Face Man to find his father on the A-Team)
Well that’s all for now. What do you guys have to add? Is there something you would have done differently with a Death in the Family? Or is there a storyline or character shift/replacement that you’d like to point out as being handled badly?