We’ve been here before. Sort of.
Flashback: It’s the fall of 1988 and I, along with thousands of other Batman fans, excitedly pick up the double-sized Batman #426. The Mike Mignola cover (along with a wave of advertising) promises that the “A Death in the Family” four-part storyline, written by Jim Starlin ad illustrated by Jim Aparo, would prove absolutely epic. The final page, a preview of what was to come promised that “Someone will die because the Joker wants revenge. But you can prevent it.”
Me? How? I’m just a reader!
That fall, DC Comics made readers writers – and the unprecedented responsibility of a characters life – or death – was in fandom’s hands!
Written by: Scott Snyder
Illustrated by: Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion
Published by: DC Comics
That September, I, along with everyone else in the world remotely interested in anything Batman, anxiously read the double-sized issue #427, the second part of the “A Death in the Family” tale. My jaw dropped at the end of the comic book. A bloody Jason Todd, the second Robin, is savagely beaten by crowbar to within an inch of his life by crazed archenemy, the Joker. Todd’s body is left in a building set to be razed by a bomb blast. The digital clock ticks down :05, :02, :01 and there’s an abrupt, but inevitable, explosion – followed coldly by an advertisement offering readers a choice: “Robin will die because the Joker wants revenge. But you can prevent it with a telephone call.”
In that issue, DC Comics offered two 1-900 numbers for readers to call and make a choice. Call one number and cast your vote to save Robin. Call the other number and see him die.
Thousands of votes were tallied over a two-day period. I remember that everyone was talking about what might happen to the character at school, in the library, at the comic book shop, at the smoke shop and in the parking lot.
Who here remembers? Who here called one of the numbers? What did you vote?
Batman #428 revealed the tally. With a difference, it’s said, of only 72 votes, fandom stunned the world, and the Joker killed Robin.
Which brings us to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s acclaimed run on the New 52 Batman monthly series. Double-sized issue #17, published today, is the climatic chapter of the current “Death of the Family” storyline. Once again, the deranged Joker is out to break Batman and his supporting cast of characters. And although fandom is not making the choice this time, not one character is safe.
Under Snyder and Capullo, the Batman monthly series has, thus far, been adventurous, exciting, horrific and harrowing. The Joker is more a monster now than he ever has been before: more menacing, more conniving, more intimidating and possessing a colder and inherently more insane logic than in any other iteration of the villain. I completely expect the writer and artist to keep the promise made by the title of the storyline. The status quo of the Batman family will change irrevocably in this very issue. And like that fall of 1988, it will be a moment to remember.
So make the run and pick up Batman #17. Witness history in the making. For Robin’s sake, I can only hope that it’s not a case of deja vu.
Every Wednesday, JP makes the after-work run to his local downtown comic book shop. Comics arrive on Wednesdays you see and JP, fearful that the latest issue will sell out, rushes out to purchase his copy. This regular, weekly column will highlight a particularly interesting release, written in short order, of course, because JP has to get his – before someone else does!