New Images of What It Would Have Looked Like If Robin Jason Todd Had Survived 1988’s “A Death in the Family”
I’m a Jason Todd lover partly because of the story surrounding his death and how much he made (and still makes) some comic book fans angry. He’s the middle child of the Robins, and while I do think his story is more impactful to the Batman universe if he is dead, his role as Red Hood has made him a compelling (sometimes) foil to his father figure, Batman.
However, it is interesting to think what Jason’s storyline would have been if he had lived—especially since that was, at one point, a possibility left up to readers. With that in mind, Polygon has shared some of DC’s unpublished images of the alternate outcome that would have resulted had readers had voted to save Jason Todd.
Everything started when Jim Starlin and artist Jim Aparo’s 1988 comic, Batman #426, kicked off the storyline “A Death in the Family,” which dealt with Jason Todd’s biological mother, terrorists, and the Joker with a crowbar and a bomb. An ad asked readers to participate in a phone poll to decide whether Jason Todd should live or die after Joker’s attack on him. Because support f0r Jason was so split, Starlin wrote two versions of Batman #428, so that regardless of whatever readers ultimately decided, they would be prepared to go to print.
As Polygon’s Susana Polo (TMS’ founder) points out, the closest most people have seen of the alt-issue is an image from Les Daniel’s glossy hardcover Batman: The Complete History, which shows Batman smiling holding Jason’s brutalized body, saying, “He’s alive! Thank god!” DC allowed Polygon to share a scan of the first panel of its “second-most-complete alternate page,” which shows Jason in a coma with Bruce looking concerned.
Polo gives more context to the full page we don’t see, saying,
The full page reveals more, including the arrival of Dick Grayson to Jason’s hospital room — although a penciled note in the margins says to strike him, and redraw the panels in favor of having Alfred in the scene instead. Dick rushed over as soon as he heard, and offered Bruce his help in tracking down the Joker.
It’s interesting to think of what the future of Batman would have looked like with Jason Todd in a coma for a long time, versus being dead for decades. Would Tim Drake have been brought in so quickly as a replacement Robin, with a personality that was more in line with what Dick brought to the table than Jason? Would Jason have woken up quickly and had another retcon to his identity, like when Crisis happened? Or would it have just been one more thing that made him bitter and resentful towards the world?
Despite loving him, I think death was probably the most interesting thing they could have done with Jason Todd. Killing a Robin, even one as split in popularity as Jason, signaled something about the Batman universe: no one was safe. But it also showed that Batman’s allegiance to his code not to kill extended to even someone who killed his own son.
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