CM Podcast 254 – Batman: Death in the Family (1988)

This week’s podcast was brought about by an answer to a twitter question: Without telling me exactly how old you are, tell me something about your youth?

Someone answered “I was alive when you had to call a 1-900 number to kill robin.”

Jon did not get the answer to the question. I immediately knew exactly what this person was saying. I started to tell Jon about the controversial Batman: Death in the Family story arc (Batman #426 – 429, 1988). The story was written by Jim Stalin (Infinity Gauntlet) with art by Jim Aparo (long time Batman artist) and inks by Mike DeCarlo.

Jon started to remember bits and pieces. I told him that this would be a great time to review that story on the podcast since I have the trade paperback of the story. So we both read it and here we are this week talking about a story that is about 28 years old.

I started to collect Batman comic just as this story was being published. I missed issue 426 but I was able to get the rest. About a month later, DC would collect all 4 issues in a trade paperback that had this cover:

Normally, collected trades for well known stories never came out shortly after they were published in issues in 1988. Some it is unusual that the trade came out as quick as it did and it was printed on regular paper stock, not the traditional high gloss stock.

It was a shocking event for 1988. There were very few deaths of heroes in comic up to this point. Killing Robin was as significant as killing Jean Grey and James “Bucky” Barnes. The other unique part of the death is that fans decided Robin’s fate. You would call one of 2 1-900 numbers: one to save Robin and the other to kill him. The media was all over this. When infamous issue #428 came out revealing Jason Todd (Robin) died, all the news channels were reporting it.

This story is an interesting time capsule. DC used the technology of the time (1-900 numbers) to get more interactive with fans and let them have a say in what happens. This type of event was never duplicated again (as far as I can remember).

We both read it again and had some good times remembering the good, the bad and the ugly regarding Batman: Death in the Family.

Jim

Comics Misremembered Podcast 254

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