It's 1988 and there's been a Death in the Family!

DC Daily is pouring one out for this classic and oh how we love this sad tale of one Jason Todd!

It’s Robin’s 80th Anniversary and we’re going all in later this month.

Join us in re-reading Batman: A Death in the Family, and let us know your takeaways from any of the issues in this series. Select comments written by 3/11 will be read on air!

RIP…for now.

DC Daily


As the head of the Jason Todd Book Club (one half of the Renegade Robins Club), I want to give my official denunciation of A Death in the Family. After five years of good soldiering by the Batman’s side, Jay deserved better than Death-By-900-Number.

And surely I’m not the only person who thinks that the Khomeini subplot was a little Islamophobic. Starlin loved embroiling Batman in international politics, but his corrupt South American ambassador was from an imaginary nation, and the KGBeast was a rogue Soviet agent. Joker as an Ayatollah-sanctioned Iranian terrorist is just a step too far.


That’s true. But it really did impact his story in a way that really is unique to the character. No one else has a story like Jason’s. It was so devastating to read the original writing. His own mother helped do that to him. It also inspired one of my favorite movies. It’s also my brothers’ favorite DC animated movie.


You really love Lady Shiva don’t you?


She’s probably my second-favorite DC character.


I can respect that, HCQ.


To be perfectly honest, I never fully understood the context of that subplot when I first read Death in the Family as a kid. When I got older though, that whole side of the story left more and more of a sour taste in my mouth, and I can’t help but think that this already iconic story arc would’ve been a thousand times better if Joker never got into politics.

Not to mention that Jason really shouldn’t have died to begin with, but that’s a whole other can of worms.


One of my all time favorite Batman arcs, especially 428 where we finally got rid of that snot Jadon Todd.

I only wish it could have been a 5 issue arc with an entire issue dedicated to Joker just beating the bleep out of Jason.


I am sure you are not alone, but let us not forget 2 things, it had only been 8 years since the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Iran-Iraq war had been going on for most of the 80’s. With the US, UK, USSR & many middle-eastern countries backing Iraq.

Having been around while that was all happening, the idea of Joker being hired as an Ayatollah-sanctioned Iranian terrorist wasn’t actually that big a stretch. If the Joker would have existed on our earth, I wouldn’t have put it past Khomeini. Especially in the last year or so, as Iran had lost a number of crucial battles and Iraq had been deploying chemical weapons and targeting civilians. So the use of terrorism as a strategy was not out of the question.

It’s easy to look back at it now as Islamophobic, but it also is a product of its time. Just as how certain depictions in comics during WWII look incredibly disturbing today as well. The world was a different place 32 years ago. As it was 40 years before. And will be 32-40 years from now.

Comics are always a product of their time.


I actually read it for the first time a year ago, you just can’t help feeling sorry for Jason Todd, all he wanted was to find his mother.


I would vote his death in this story every time. Only because without it, there’s no Red Hood. IMO no character has benefitted from death to resurrection as much as Jason Todd.


Well said


This was one of the first stories I remember really getting my attention. This was exactly the tale my 14 yr old brain was craving! Still one of my favorite Batman yarns to this day!


And those Golden Age comics now rightfully have a disclaimer on them.


I’m going to watch Growing Pains, Head of the Class and Akira (along with a bit of Star Trek: TNG) while re-reading this tale.

…maybe flip through a Kenner Action Guide too.

Viva la 1988!


Although, I don’t think those Golden Age comics should. They have the year they were issued clearly present.

For the record, I don’t find “A Death in the Family” Islamiphobic. I’d argue it is Iran-phobic. It represented real and valid concerns regarding a nation, led by a religious leader (who was Islamic) and its use of terrorism as a political and military weapon. The idea that Iran was trying to get or make a “dirty bomb” during this time was an actual threat and valid concern. Military intelligence knew that during the Iraq/Iran war, Iran had started a nuclear program to create fissionable materials.

There were plenty of Islamic nations that were supporters and partners with the Iraq/US/UK/USSR coalition. There wasn’t a lot of Islamiphobic rhetoric or action concerning those Islamic nations that were supporters and/or partners. it was very much specifically focused on Iran.


One point of interest in this story is Batman’s determination to kill the Joker at the end. Now, this could be just another attempt to ape The Dark Knight Returns (which, of course, was the first story to posit the death of Jason Todd and which depicted the final showdown between Batman and the Joker), but it does hearken back to the early Golden Age when Batman would seemingly kill the Joker at the end of every issue only for the Harlequin of Hate to pop up alive again a month or two later.

Judd Winick would later try to soften the end of this story by suggesting in Under the Hood that Batman held back from killing the Joker. However, in Starlin’s story, the Joker takes an apparently mortal gunshot wound, and Batman leaves him to die in a crashing helicopter. (Is it mere coincidence that the 1989 film quickly changed its scripted death for the Joker from a Year One-esque swarm of bats to a fall from a helicopter?) It takes some Batman Begins-style semantics to claim that Batman spared the Joker’s life in the end.

I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening?



Yes, the fictional country in the Middle East known for using terrorism. Created by Marv Wolfman and Rich Buckler in 1985 in Tales of the Teen Titans #51.

The Middle East version of… just one word. Are you listening?


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…Bogatago, the fake South American country that Starlin had made up for the story that directly preceded A Death in the Family. And that gets back to my point: Starlin could have made up an Iran analogue (or he could have used the already-existing “evil Middle Eastern country” that was common in DC stories of the time). He could have concocted a temporary coup in Iran that would allow “someone even worse than the Ayatollah” to appoint the Joker, just as he gave the Russkies an out with the “unsanctioned” KGBeast.

Instead of extending these small courtesies that he was willing to extend to other countries and ethnicities, he turned a major real-world Islamic religious leader into a supervillain. I’m not saying that Starlin’s bias was overt or conscious, but I argue that it was there, and it makes the story stand out in an era where DC stories were already highly political.