Episode 953


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Whether you know him as the dead Robin or The Red Hood, Jason Todd's impact on Batman lore will forever be felt. His murder helped shape Batman into the dark, brooding knight we still see today, while his resurrection opened old wounds. Today, we take a look at the death and life of Jason Todd! First, Dan and Mike discuss A Death in the Family, A Lonely Place of Dying, and Under the Hood. Then James returns as he and Mike breakdown the animated feature Batman: Under the Red Hood! [ 3:24:49 || 100.0 MB ]

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Just got done with the Death in the Family discussion, a coupe of thoughts to throw in because I can't help myself...

-I too love Jim Starlin's voice for Batman. His run on the title wasn't too long, but it's one of my favorites. He's got a lot of tough guy dialogue but doesn't feel out of character or anything he wouldn't say. With Aparo's artwork, I naturally hear Kevin Conroy in every line.

I would add that Starlin did nudge Batman's character a bit every now and then. He once had Robin distract oncoming policemen by firing a shotgun at them, then complimenting on his aiming saying that he taught him how to shoot. Chuck Dixon later expanded on the idea that even though Batman abhors guns, he knows how to use them and teaches his Robins for the purposes of not fearing them and knowing how to disarm them. While it's a little out of character it doesn't bother me too much personally.

-The Shiva thing with "not having any kids" is definitely a contradiction when it comes to Cassandra. At the end of Cass' solo title, she suspects Shiva might be her mother and asks Batman. He recalls the Sodium Penthol scene where Shiva denied ever having kids, but they don't go back to it later in the arc when it's confirmed that Cass would've been born around that time. So it's both addressed but not explained.

-This is one of my favorite stories as well, and I actually like the ending. Maybe it's because it's an ongoing narrative in the Batman title and not a miniseries or whatever, but Batman saying that things are, as always, unresolved, adds a realistic level of unsatisfaction to the situation. No matter what happens to the Joker, Jason is still dead and buried. He could never feel resolution from his death, same as his parents. It reminds me of what Gerry Conway said when writing Death of Gwen Stacy, where he knew while Spider-Man wanted to kill the Green Goblin, he would never have him do it, but felt the Goblin deserved karmic retribution. But Norman Osborn isn't the Joker, and the Joker was legitimately taken out of the Bat-Books for a few years. His next story was pretty intense, and involved Gordon, Batman and the Joker all at a loss as to how they were going to react upon seeing each other again. So while in the context of the story I can see it being unsatisfying, but in the larger context of the books at the time I feel it was done well.

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I would add that Starlin did nudge Batman's character a bit every now and then. He once had Robin distract oncoming policemen by firing a shotgun at them, then complimenting on his aiming saying that he taught him how to shoot. Chuck Dixon later expanded on the idea that even though Batman abhors guns, he knows how to use them and teaches his Robins for the purposes of not fearing them and knowing how to disarm them. While it's a little out of character it doesn't bother me too much personally.

Ah yes! I recall and issue of Nightwing, I believe, which depicts a flashback where Batman teaches Robin (Dick) how to shoot and / or disassemble guns.

-The Shiva thing with "not having any kids" is definitely a contradiction when it comes to Cassandra. At the end of Cass' solo title, she suspects Shiva might be her mother and asks Batman. He recalls the Sodium Penthol scene where Shiva denied ever having kids, but they don't go back to it later in the arc when it's confirmed that Cass would've been born around that time. So it's both addressed but not explained.

Sadly, the math doesn't work. Below is a timeline with the pertinent dates, issues, and events:

  • Jason dies.
    • January 1989
    • Batman #428
  • Within one in-continuity year of Jason's death, a 13 year old Tim Drake confronts Dick Grayson at the circus.
    • November 1989
    • The New Titans #60
  • Within another year, Tim officially becomes the third Robin.
    • December 1990
    • Batman #457
    • Tim is now 14.
  • After Cataclysm, Gotham City is declared a No Man's Land. During this time, the 14-16 year old Cassandra Cain is introduced and becomes Batgirl.
    • March 1999 - February 2000
    • Lots of issues
  • Tim Drake turns 16.
    • September 2003
    • Robin #116

Between November 1990 and September 2003, Tim ages three years. If we add on one year to allow for the gap between A Death in the Family and A Lonely Place of Dying, four years pass between Batman #427 (the Lady Shiva issue) and Robin #116 (Tim's 16th birthday). Unless Cassandra was artificially aged by a factor of four, there's no way she was born after A Death in the Family.

However, this can be explained away: either Shiva was immune to the truth serum, Batman's truth serum was faulty and Shiva faked her reaction to it, or Shiva is not Cassandra's mother. 

-This is one of my favorite stories as well, and I actually like the ending. Maybe it's because it's an ongoing narrative in the Batman title and not a miniseries or whatever, but Batman saying that things are, as always, unresolved, adds a realistic level of unsatisfaction to the situation. No matter what happens to the Joker, Jason is still dead and buried. He could never feel resolution from his death, same as his parents. It reminds me of what Gerry Conway said when writing Death of Gwen Stacy, where he knew while Spider-Man wanted to kill the Green Goblin, he would never have him do it, but felt the Goblin deserved karmic retribution. But Norman Osborn isn't the Joker, and the Joker was legitimately taken out of the Bat-Books for a few years. His next story was pretty intense, and involved Gordon, Batman and the Joker all at a loss as to how they were going to react upon seeing each other again. So while in the context of the story I can see it being unsatisfying, but in the larger context of the books at the time I feel it was done well.

 That makes a lot of sense, both in a real-world context and dramatically.

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My mind was blown on how long Damian has been around. When Dan said that I was like no way and went to wikipedia and sure enough Batman and Son was in 2006.

 

Speaking of Damian you mentioned that Jason was hated because he was a dick. Damian has always been a dick by design and he's a very popular character. Other than Death in the Family I've never read any Jason as Robin stories.do you think it was less the character's fault and more the writer's that he was so hated? For instance I've noticed that while Grant Morrison and Peter Tomasi have been really good at writing Damian there are a few writers over there that make him incredibly unlikable. I'm thinking the current incarnation of the Teen Titans for instance. Can't stand Damian there, but I am loving Super Sons so far.

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I think Damian was a different character when he became Robin officially. Before, he was simply a plot device, as stated by Morrison himself. If you read the early Morrison run, it's impossible to like him.

Jason, on the other hand, was several characters. He was the (literal) reheaded step-child in Pre-Crisis who was just the shy, new Robin. He was the Post-Crisis Burt Ward in Mike W. Barr's Detective Comics run, which was simultaneously running during Starlin's Batman run, where Starlin didn't like the idea of Robin in general, and made Jason angsty to make him interesting.

It should also be said that Max Allen Collins gave Jason the Post-Crisis street-urchin origin, where he was a real snot upon learning his Dad ran with Two-Face and Batman didn't tell him. He would, like, fucking pout about it and Batman was like "WTF's your problem, I didn't spend all that time training you to behave like a lil' fuckhead." (actual dialogue, I swearz).

But the difference between Jason and Damian is that A) Jason wasn't exactly intended to be obnoxious, whereas Damian totally was. The Batman and Robin title's gimmick was that Dick would be a lighter Batman and Damian would be a darker Robin. Jason never got traction as Robin because he was pulled in different directions by Gerry Conway, Max Allen Collins, Mike W. Barr and Jim Starlin.

  • Jason dies.
    • January 1989
    • Batman #428
  • Within one in-continuity year of Jason's death, a 13 year old Tim Drake confronts Dick Grayson at the circus.
    • November 1989
    • The New Titans #60
  • Within another year, Tim officially becomes the third Robin.
    • December 1990
    • Batman #457
    • Tim is now 14.
  • After Cataclysm, Gotham City is declared a No Man's Land. During this time, the 14-16 year old Cassandra Cain is introduced and becomes Batgirl.
    • March 1999 - February 2000
    • Lots of issues
  • Tim Drake turns 16.
    • September 2003
    • Robin #116

Between November 1990 and September 2003, Tim ages three years. If we add on one year to allow for the gap between A Death in the Family and A Lonely Place of Dying, four years pass between Batman #427 (the Lady Shiva issue) and Robin #116 (Tim's 16th birthday). Unless Cassandra was artificially aged by a factor of four, there's no way she was born after A Death in the Family.

However, this can be explained away: either Shiva was immune to the truth serum, Batman's truth serum was faulty and Shiva faked her reaction to it, or Shiva is not Cassandra's mother. 

Oh yeah, it doesn't work. It straight up is a plothole that she's Cass' mother, and because he didn't specifically ask if she was Robin's mother, there was no reason for her to hide the fact that she had a daughter. But I don't mind it. It's whateves, but before that was revealed, she was simply Cass' archenemy. She wasn't revealed to be her mom at the start, so it didn't have to brought up that she was her mom or that it contradicted the Truth Serum scene either way.

Additionally to add fire to the timeline, Jason was Robin for a couple of years, adding Dick's time being Nightwing which might contradict something. But whaddya gonna do

Edited by Donomark
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Speaking of Damian you mentioned that Jason was hated because he was a dick. Damian has always been a dick by design and he's a very popular character. Other than Death in the Family I've never read any Jason as Robin stories.do you think it was less the character's fault and more the writer's that he was so hated? For instance I've noticed that while Grant Morrison and Peter Tomasi have been really good at writing Damian there are a few writers over there that make him incredibly unlikable. I'm thinking the current incarnation of the Teen Titans for instance. Can't stand Damian there, but I am loving Super Sons so far.

Both Jason and Damian, as well as reactions to them, are products of their time. And my take on Damian is a complex, multivolume set of essays, but I will sum it up as:

  • Damian was co-created by Grant Morrison, who can do no wrong according to some comic book readers. As such, Damian's brash, dickish behavior is given a pass.
  • Jason was created before the grim and gritty era that was ushered in by The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. So when he went dark, people were still coming to terms with where comics were going. As Dan mentioned, Jason was a virtual clone of Dick Grayson until Crisis on Infinite Earths. After that, however, he became the bullheaded Robin that got himself exploded. So no one liked, wanted, or expected a Robin that was not shouting "Holy Houdini, Batman!" By the time Damian came along, though, the real world was darker; social media had provided us all with instantly heard voices; and years of DARK~! and GRIM~! characters had morphed our perception of what's acceptable in our heroes. One era's dick is another era's hero.
    • (Also, I think Grant Morrison learned from the many mistakes made with Superboy Prime just a year before.)
  • Combined with being co-created by Grant Morrison, Damian is still around because he's Bruce's son. In making the next Robin a Wayne, Morrison virtually ensured Damian would be around for years -- if not decades. Killing a Robin is one thing. (At this point, literally every in-continuity Robin has died or "died.") But, killing a Robin that's actually the biological child of Talia al Ghul and Batman is another story. His longevity is baked into his name and lineage. In that, Morrison was a genius.

All this said, I like Damian, but it took a very long time for me to come around on him. And much in the way very few writers get Jason Todd / The Red Hood, even fewer grasp Damian's voice and attitude. Those who don't get it see him as an excuse to make fun of other characters, superheroes, and comics as a whole. Those who do get it, however, understand his rude behavior is a combination of his murderous upbringing, age, lack of maturity, very little contact with the outside world, and, most of all, his insecurity. Recent issues of Nightwing have done a wonderful job demonstrating how worried Damian is about how he's viewed. He wasn't the first, second, third, or even fourth Robin. He's the fifth, and that fucks with his head. Much like Peter Parker's quips as Spider-Man mask his nerves, Damian's use of ~TT~, rolled eyes, and harsh words mask his want of approval (from his father, mother, peers, and former Robins) and his inability to properly express himself.

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I love that detail of the cape being half-classic Robin, half-Batman. I just love that costume in general, I think it's the best Robin's ever looked.

Wow! I never realized that, but you are absolutely right. Nice catch! And, oh yeah, that is the best Robin costume thus far.

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I read it. Honestly, I thought it was very good. Seriously, it's the best thing to come from the Miller Dark Knight world since the original. It's more about Batman feeling the call to retire than Jason himself, and the whole thing with him and the Joker is an afterthought, but I thought it was well written and well illustrated. It's definitely dark, but worth a pickup.

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OK, before I rant, let me say I absolutely love A Death in The Family.

Now on to my rant.

If I have a criticism of A Death in The Family, it's that it makes no sense that the Joker is working with Iran. Just because two people are bad people (Ayatollah Khomeini and the Joker) it doesn't mean they're going to get along.

Plus, It was unnecessarily political, representing a typically jingoistic attitude. I can almost hear the theme from Team America in the background. And let's be real: There is absolutely no way that a psychotic mass murderer like the Joker is going to be allowed into the U.N. building. It would be like Iran naming Ted Bundy as their ambassador, and then he gets diplomatic immunity. Absurd. (Which would have also been timely, because Bundy was executed around this time.)

No, the U.S. government is going to say "Well, we understand diplomatic immunity and all, but this ain't happening."

To use wrestling terminology, putting Khomeini into the book is the cheapest of cheap heat, at the height of our rivalry with Iran. They could have easily done that without Khomeini.

Finally, it ages the book and makes it less likely that today's readers will relate to it. People my age and a little younger are going to know who Khomeini is, but people who are much younger than I am won't know. Khomeini has been dead since June of 1989. (So much for being tied into current events. Maybe Khomeini was dropped into the Lazarus Pit.) This means, if this story still happened as it did in modern DC continuity, Batman in present day is an old man. He would have been about 30 or 35 then, which puts him between 58 and 63 years old.

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The Iran bit is so horrendously dated and ridiculously, it's actually campy and funny to me. But I like that, along with the whole mother subplot, it's easily ignored in future re-tellings. The Under the Hood animated movie I thought had it right. I kinda like the idea that Joker kills Robin on a seemingly random adventure.

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Yeah, but comics have always done this. Dukakis was in a WildCATS book (turns out he was a Daemonite all along!). Obama has been in a ton of in-continuity big two comics. I remember seeing Saddam Hussein in some books too. And Osama Bin Laden was a giant monster in Savage Dragon (a personal favorite). 

The only thing making it stick out is its lasting effect on continuity/its importance as a story.

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