Here’s an article from Newsarama/Games Radar from last May about Batman’s Death in the Family, one I don’t think I’d noticed before, where a guy running a store at the time this storyline came out in late 1988 tells his experiences with conversations about what customers thought of Jason Todd:
From a modern perspective it seems chilling, but what was it like in the heat of the moment?
“There was a lot of talk about the voting,” said Joe Field, owner of Flying Colors Comics & Other Stuff in Concord, California. “Some were super energetic about it either rooting for Jason Todd to die or wanting him to survive. I was part of a retailer group back then called the Northern California Comic Dealers Association and the call-in vote to kill Jason and the sales that went with it were definitely part of our lively discussion.”
Field’s Flying Colors opened on October 3, 1988 – halfway through the release of the ‘A Death in the Family’ arc of Batman.
“To be honest, I got tired of the ‘death wish’ talk many had for killing off Jason Todd,” Field continued. “Some fans thought that with Jason dead, Dick Grayson would become Robin again. Some just wanted him to die because it was a raw thing to do. Those people kinda creeped me out. I wasn’t prepared to have to deal with that so soon after opening my shop.”
When they say it seems chilling, they have no idea how right they are. This confirms there was – and doubtless still is – a segment of what I’ll decidedly call pseudo-fandom who clearly weren’t into the hobby for building it up, but rather, tearing it down. I don’t know if these were what you’d call “casual” readers, but they certainly don’t sound like somebody with a genuine interest or investment in the character creations in focus. Worst, naturally, is if they wanted an otherwise innocent kid who did recognize the differences between good and evil to die. If that’s what they thought of Jason Todd, how do we know they thought any differently about innocent people real life?
It’s almost funny how some thought, if Jason were sent to The Great Reward, Dick Grayson would actually return to his Robin role, even though he’d been given the Nightwing guise in 1984 by Marv Wolfman and George Perez as a way of moving him into adulthood, and seeking his own path as a costumed crimefighter while serving as leader of the Teen Titans. And in the end, a return didn’t happen anyway. Rather, Timothy Drake took up the Robin role at the dawn of the 90s, and Chuck Dixon subsequently built up a solo book that ungrateful editors and publishers later destroyed. I’ve sometimes wondered why Wolfman, as the creator of a few of those characters, never tried to defend them the same way he originally did with Dick Grayson, based on the Nightwing role he and Perez created for Dick to take up.
But for now, the main point has to be that polls of this sort shouldn’t have been done, as they’re a most corrupting influence due to the negative mindsets they can attract. The Jason Todd affair of 1988 should serve as a vital lesson and textbook example of how not to solve a problem that could very easily have been solved if the staffers had just learned how to stand up to selfish lemmings who couldn’t tell the difference between fiction and reality, and make improvements in whatever personality traits they applied to the fictional character.
Originally published here.