The writer/artist team of Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo plunged Batman into one of his darkest adventures ever with 1988 -89's A Death in the Family. Whilst the tale itself was a fairly enjoyable globetrotting romp, the kernel of the story was that young Jason Todd, the second Robin and successor to Dick Grayson (who had grown up and was plying his super-trade as Nightwing at the time) was searching for his long-lost mother and, in the process, some stability in his troubled life.
To make Robin's life worse, the readers pretty much hated him. Jason Todd, ginger-haired circus acrobat turned orphan, was introduced to readers in 1983. He was annoying, he was a Dick Grayson clone, and he was ginger. It could be argued that his fate was sealed from the word go...
Despite super-writer Doug Moench doing some very good work with the character, the fans still weren't buying him. Following the massive DC event Crisis on Infinite Earths, Todd's backstory was retconned by Dick Tracey/Road To Perdition writer Max Allan Collins, who re-created Robin MK II as a street-smart orphan, who survived by his quick wits and faster fists. Despite being a compelling and fresh take on the character, the readership still queued up around the block to crap on the new Robin. So, in 1989, DC killed him off. In death, Jason Todd, the second Robin, proved to be a far greater sales boost than he ever had been in life.
DC put the death of Robin to a reader vote and readers voted to kill him. Oddly enough, as the fans celebrated Jason's demise (only to warmly embrace the arrival of Todd's successor, the more mature, considered and brainy Tim Drake, in 1989's A Lonely Place of Dying), the media were understandably upset that the comic book publishers had killed Robin off. The story garnered an enormous amount of column inches and anger-fuelled debates considering that it was, in fact, a comic book.
The major problem with the arguments of the moral majority, however, was not that DC was putting out comic books that depicted a teenage boy getting his skull smashed in by a grinning homicidal lunatic with a crowbar, it was that they were apparently outraged by the killing off of Batman's youthful ward, Dick Grayson. Yes, amidst all the chaos, almost none of the outraged media watchdogs had read a comic book in their lives - and even less of them had actually even heard of Jason Todd, the very character whose death they were so violently protesting.
I am a professional author and lifelong comic books/pro wrestling fan. I also work as a journalist as well as writing comic books (I also draw), screenplays, stage plays, songs and prose fiction.
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