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

Mansons video & version of Tainted Love at the end of that movie is awesome!!!

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The change in Jason Todd was one of the most pointless things to happen post Crisis on Infinite Earths. Yes, many fans disliked Jason’s first, somewhat redundant origin story. These things are cyclical. In another year, echoing Dick Grayson’s origin story would have been more vogue-- not so much in 1983. Despite the dislike of the origin story, I’ve never heard much loathing of the character of the second Robin until hubcaps get stolen. Oh, then the grumbling begins! Suddenly, it was possible to find vitriol for the second Robin anywhere you looked. Jason was always a little edgier, a little more violent than Dick-- but now he’s a street kid and a street kid has to be darker and more devilish than a little boy who grew up in the circus! And… Jason being made more “interesting” also made him more annoying. And we get to a Death in the Family.

And… I’ve never liked it.

Mixing real-life politics into the world of Batman is a coin-toss. It’s not right or wrong, or good or bad. Like it or don’t. But the Joker always seemed the wrong villain for a political story. Wouldn’t the whole thing bore him? Why doesn’t he kill or betray his Iranian allies the way he kills and betrays just about everybody else? And, homicidal maniac or not, the crowbar sequence is actually out of character. Later Batman writers have been trying to deal with this for years, until finally Scott Snyder finally just has the Joker say out loud he’s jealous of the Batfam in Death of the Family. So the Joker got carried away with the crowbar. It doesn’t quite cover it–

The word melodrama is used incorrectly a lot. But A Death in the Family borders on it, heightened to an extent that it loses the power over the reader it should have had.


What might be surprising to some about that is that Frank Miller was actually very much against A Death in the Family, or rather specifically the phone call aspect of it. He called the most cynical thing DC has ever done.

I mean, it’s possible, but from what I understand, they were filming in the middle of the writer’s strike, they wanted to change things on set, and since nothing new can be written, they kind of just had to make it up as they went.


RETRACTION: I originally noted that this was the first meeting between Batman and Lady Shiva, but I forgot that the “Fables” crossover between Detective Comics, Green Arrow, and The Question actually came out before this. My bad.


Here’s an interesting implication made by Death in the Family: Lady Shiva is considered one of Jason Todd’s potential biological mothers. This seems to indicate that Jason may potentially have Asian ancestry.


I’ve heard DitF compared to TKJ, as a flawed story which ended up in a positive change for the involved character (Jason to Red Hood and Babs to Oracle.) As someone who loves both Jason Todd and Barbara Gordon, I think this is an unfair comparison, because while TKJ was deeply flawed in its fridging of Barbara Gordon, it was at least otherwise a good story.

I haaaate DitF. Hate hate hate. I love Red Hood Jason (Jason is my favorite character), but DitF was a disaster of a story and if it hadn’t had such an impact on Batman canon then it would have been rightly forgotten except in occasional “what were they thinking?” retrospectives.

I’d like to be clear on something: this isn’t a sour grapes thing. DitF happened before I was born. My first introduction to Jason happened when he was the Red Hood, and I only sought out his Robin stuff after I became intrigued enough to hunt down more. I went in to Death in the Family fully prepared to appreciate it as a difficult, hard-hitting and groundbreaking story that set my favorite character down the path that lead to Under the Hood.

But it sucked. It sucked when I read it and it kept sucking harder and harder the more I learned about it, until it coalesced into a giant black hole of suckiness that somehow manages to get billed as a classic Batman story without so much as a disclaimer about any of its suckery.

Every part of this story was a gross and cynical stunt. I loathe how Starlin decided he wanted to kill off Robin and then intentionally tried to make him more unlikable in preparation for the vote. I hate how Starlin wrote a storyline where an actual real leader of a real foreign country allied with an American child murderer in order to gas the UN. I hate how they decided Jason’s fate via a 900 number phone line so that the character’s primary fanbase of children were limited in their ability to call into the 900 line which charged money for each call, while a bunch of grown-ass men rigged their phone to vote multiple times and gleefully celebrated the violent and horrific death of a teenager because the child who grew up living on the streets was too ‘whiny’ and ‘rebellious’ because he lost his temper on… checks notes the man who killed his father, a pimp who was abusing one of the women who worked for him, a group of drug dealers and a group of child pornographers. Oh, and he may or may not have killed… checks notes again a serial rapist who, moments before being confronted by Jason, had checks notes gotten off scott free because of diplomatic immunity and then called the woman he brutalized in order to taunt her, provoking her into doing something I can’t actually even say without running afoul of the board’s automatic filters. (Anyone notice a pattern? Anyone put that into unfortunate context with the fact that Starlin was originally toying with the idea of Jason dying from AIDS? Okay.)

But you know what? Apart from ALL OF THAT, it was just a bad ■■■■■■■ story with plot holes big enough to drive an aircraft carrier through.

First of all, the entire thing with his mother is ridiculous. Bruce adopted him, or at the very least legally took him on as a ward. How did he not know that the name on Jason’s birth certificate wasn’t Catherine Todd? He knew her name; he specifically looked her up when he and Jason met. But even if Bruce somehow missed that, what kind of premise is “The mother’s name on this birth certificate starts with an S, but it’s too damaged to read the rest of the name! How will I ever find who it was? I guess I’ll just have to check my father’s old address book and find all the women whose names start with S, then go find their information in the Bat computer and ask each of them in person if they’re my real mom!” Like… because I guess Gotham has no vital records office or copies of birth certificates on record or anything? Even if we go with the idea that Jason just genuinely didn’t think of that, why didn’t Bruce suggest it when they met back up?

But okay. Let’s put a pin in that. It’s kind of dumb, but Jason and Bruce did run into a lead on Sharmin Rosen immediately after meeting back up and were both working more or less the same case after that. And, uh, I guess Bruce didn’t suggest just looking it up after they confirmed it wasn’t Rosen, when the next candidate on the list was Lady freaking Shiva, because… reasons. So let’s call it an oversight.

Let’s further gloss by the fact that this entire story is completely and utterly mired in extremely dated and Islamophobia-flavored international politics that somewhat prevent it from being the timeless classic that such a momentous storyline should really be, and pretend that the editor shouldn’t have thought better of approving this storyline as a result.

(Side note: Man remember that time in DitF when the Joker all but stated that Sheila Haywood had to flee the country because she performed a botched abortion? I honestly don’t even mind that part… I have no problem with comics getting dark, just with bad writing. But just like, wow, that happened.)

Jason’s actual death scene is… okay? I mean, it’s graphic and the context of it was unpleasant, but from a craft perspective, it’s the best written sequence in the arc, which is probably in large part why it’s the only part that really gets remembered and referenced anymore. Jason rushing in to save his mother is believable, his mother betraying him is heartbreaking, the Joker brutally beating him was difficult to read but well orchestrated, and Jason’s last ditch effort to save his mother at the cost of his own life was heartbreaking. For a moment, the writing is actually good, and I can’t fault its execution even if I complain about its context and content.

Then the Joker becomes the Ambassador for Iran.

Like. Let’s take a moment to reflect on this. The Joker becomes the U.N. ambassador for Iran. The Ayatollah himself shows up to talk to the Joker in person to ask him to do this. Jim Starlin wrote this plot, went “this is a great idea” and submitted it. Dennis O’Neil, editor of this comic, read this proposal and went “Sold! Let’s do this!” DC Comics published this.

Why, incidentally? Why, so that the Joker can gas the U.N., of course.

But you see, it means that Batman can’t bring the Joker to justice, because he has DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY! They are POWERLESS to stop him from walking into the U.N. unchallenged! (Is that how diplomatic immunity actually works? No.. Couldn’t the U.N. just vote to expel him? One might imagine, yes. Does anyone involved in this comic care? Apparently not. Wasn’t that a plot point in the last arc? In fact, isn’t this at least the third time in Starlin’s Batman run that diplomatic immunity has been a plot point? JIM STARLIN HAS NO TIME FOR CRITICISMS ABOUT REUSED PLOT POINTS, HE’S BUSY WRITING HARD-HITTING LAUGH LINES ABOUT THE AYATOLLAH AND THE JOKER BOTH LOVING FISH.)

And no, setting up an absolutely absurd situation where the U.S. just HAS to go along with this because of DELICATE NEGOTIATIONS WITH IRAN and then having Batman point out that it’s ridiculous doesn’t excuse it. Don’t lampshade how bad the plotline you are currently writing is, just write better plot.

Oh, and not to mention that now, SUPERMAN has to get involved! Because we haven’t already violated enough of the rules for timeless classic storylines by making Robin’s death completely subservient to a bad attempt to comment on issues with terrorism in the 80s via the hard-hitting approach of saying that it exists and it’s bad, we’re gonna bring Superman into this standalone Batman story! Great! Fantastic!

I don’t like DitF.

But hey, I gotta give it SOME credit, because at least it had Jason dying to save his mother and some acknowledgement that Bruce was in the wrong for bringing a child out to fight crime, unlike the several subsequent decades of comics which retconned Jason as being a ‘bad’ Robin, blamed him for his own death, and portrayed the results of an extremely close fan poll where most of the character’s biggest fans couldn’t vote as “everyone hating Jason.”

Look. My glibness aside? It’s bad enough that they decided to kill off a kid as a publicity stunt. They could have at least made a story that would stand the test of time, or even the test of the next six months. Jason Todd was a good Robin and he deserved a better sendoff than this.


1988 was a really dark year for Batman. First The Killing Joke and then A Death in the Family. Joker really went too far that year.

The way Jim Aparo draws Jason’s facial expressions in this book makes the story even more tragic. Whenever Jason thinks he’s getting closer to solving the mystery of his mother, he has this childlike sense of hope about him. When the tables turn and he’s seemingly reached another dead end, he looks so absolutely crushed and defeated. Poor Jason.


Imagine an alternate universe where Jason Todd and Cassandra Cain are siblings!


IMO, the complete opposite. As Lenin famously said “The point of terrorism is to terrify.” What was the most terrifying concept with a Cold War between the US & USSR. Being terrified. So terrified, you might actually launch a preemptive strike. For an agent of chaos like Joker, it’s nearly a utopian ideal. Eventually would he turn on those funding and sanctioning him, sure. We just never get that far a long a timeline for that to happen.

This story’s bad writing makes me angry to no end. But trying to justify the death of a 15 year old by saying his very rare and (at least in my eyes) very justified bouts of anger is probably the worst part. This kid grew up on the streets, his mother died of a drug overdose, his father was killed by Two-Face, and DC’s writing has implied a whole other can of worms happened to him that I cannot talk about.
But no, let’s just say that he’s a stereotypical 15 year old street kid with bad manners that is a pompous jerk to people around him so that we can feel justified about giving the option to kill him! (And then actually do it) Sounds good right? Totally not completely disrespectful to people who went through what Jason did, right? Totally not victim blaming, RIGHT?! TOTALLY NOT SAYING A KID JUST WANTING TO FIND LOVE FROM HIS LAST REMAINING RELATIVE IS A JERKY AND SELF CENTERED THING TO DO BECAUSE HIS ADOPTED FATHER PUSHED HIM AWAY WHEN HE WAS SUFFERING AND NEEDED HELP RIGHT???!!!


The Batman Joker helicopter showdown has to be my favorite meet up between them two. Too bad it got retconned with that whole Red Hood silliness.

I think Jason’s death is one of the (if not the) most heartbreaking sequences in comics. It was genuinely hard for me to read, and I did so already knowing that he comes back as Red Hood. 1988 was absolutely the worst year for the Bat-family.

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Boo hoo :cry: for poor Jason Todd.

Welcome to life ain’t fair and “you’re that character that at first had zero personality and the once you got one, it consisted of you being an asshat.” So guess what, it’s the 80’s, it really hard to directly engage with your fan base. Plenty of them have never used a computer and don’t even know what the net” is.

You know you are getting older readers. So “hey, we’ve got this character and maybe we sent him down a dark journey redemption arc and it just isn’t working and basically he’s an ass hat.” We could go through many additional issues of trying to figure out a way for this asshat to possibly stop being an asshat. Eh…let’s kill the bastardized off. Sounds reasonable.”

And they killed him, Jason Todd. A fictional character. this wasn’t a real kid.

He gets brought back to life years later as The Red Hood, and “sure he’s a psychotic serial killer, but that’s ok. He only kills ‘bad guys’ so that’s ok. Cuz it’s ok to kill if we think the people that are being killed are bad people. And…besides he slows his roll eventually and even stops killing people OK…see hes a good person…a good person with a couple dozens homicides…but we all have some baggage and he’s working through it.”

Stop apologizing for Jason Todd, he was an asshat when he went out, and he is a muderous psycho when he came back.

That’s what some folks like in their Superheroes, I mean anti-heroes,no wait…hoicidal psycho.

@DeSade-acolyte And that’s your opinion and argument on the matter, I have mine you have yours.
I and everyone else is aware Jason Todd is a fictional character.

But, your argument is not very strong. The only evidence you have is that fact that he’s committed murder. Basically every character DC has, has murdered someone at one point. Sure murder isn’t right, but this is a fictional world is it not? So I think it’s ok to play a bit loose with the fact that fictional Jason Todd has killed some fictional bad guys. I’m sure fictional Superman has accidentally killed a few **fictional ** civilians leveling buildings during fights, hell that was the whole plot of a Marvel movie.

So don’t tell me to “stop apologizing for Jason Todd” I can have my opinion and argue for it and you can keep being a 100 IQ genius who’s only argument is “but he murdered fictional people!” And “he had a bad attitude” and calling Jason an “asshat”. That’s your argument, and while it’s not strong at all it’s yours so you have a right to it.

Oh and if he’s such a bad guy for being a fictional character killing fictional bad guys, why can’t I use the fact that it’s pretty messed up to kill a fictional kid? Are fictional bad guys better than fictional kids? :thinking:

Yep. I’m entitled to my opinion as you are yours.
The term “asshat” falls within community guidelines.
But, I’ll now set aside pleasantries and sardonic humor.

Who has plastic man murdered?
Who has Superman murdered?
They may have taken a life because of a result of something usually out of their control and you still have gotta show the bodies. But let’s just say that lives have been lost as part of their crime fighting activities.

That is different than the calculated, premeditated killing of an individual with malice a fore thought. That is murder. Jason is a murder. And a murderer multiple times over. A murderous psychopath, with likely more murders under his belt than Riddler or Two-Face or Penguin. Hell, maybe more than all three of them combined. He is a psychotic murder and his butt should be rotting in Iron Height, Belle Reve or Arkham.

Before he died he had zero personality than after COIE, he got retconned a personality and just as Cisco remarked about Harrison Wells from earth-2, “He’s just a dick.”

Glad they killed him. Voted for them to kill him, He was a shite human being before DITF and he never should have been brought back because he is still a shite human being, and now has A string of murders to back that up.

Just my opinion.

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Just gonna point out that while pointing out these are just fictional characters, you generally give them just as much agency as everybody else around here.

It would be really interesting to see how differently each one of us would teach an acting class.

Veering back from my digression, Death in the Family is one of those stories where reader POV becomes the most blatant-- it IS powerful if you want it to be, and if, like me, you are less than thrilled with it, that sense of disappointment isn’t really with the storytelling of Starlin and especially Aparo, but with the publishing and editorial decisions that created the path that led to the story.

And the Joker, like Batman, is open to a thousand interpretations within a box-- but one without a lid.

@HubCityQuestion Have you ever read Richard Dragon Kung Fu Fighter #5?




The first appearance of Lady Shiva? Of course! I have it bagged in hopes that I can get Denny to sign it someday.


Okay, I had to look it up and found this.

“At one point, DC had this idea of giving one of their characters AIDS so they could do an AIDS booklet,” explained Starlin. “Strangely enough, they decided to put up a ballot box and let the people who worked in the company decide who was gonna get AIDS in the DC Universe. I tried to stuff the box with Robin’s name, and at the end it was Jimmy Olsen who was elected to get AIDS. The entire project was eventually abandoned.”

Sweet yeezus what a terrible idea.