Back in 1988, DC Comics launched a very highly-publicized campaign that gave the readers a chance to decide how its ‘Batman’ storyline “A Death in the Family” would end. The ghoulish decision? Will Robin live or die? This was the second Robin, Jason Todd, not the more famous Dick Grayson, but try explaining that to the Average Joe on the street, or a member of the mainstream press. Readers were given two phone numbers they could call, both of which charged users. And by a margin of 72 votes, the decision was made to kill Robin off. In the story, The Joker savagely beat the Boy Wonder with a crowbar and then for good measure, blew up the structure he was in.
In the episode “Ghosts” Jason Todd (played by Curran Walters) was taken captive by Deathstroke. Then in the episode “Deathstroke,” the super sniper hurled Jason Todd off the side of a building. Would he live or would he die? DC Universe seemed to invite viewers to vote to decide on the forums.
Of course, this was just a ploy. The second season has already been shot, and we’re about half-way through. Sure, they could have shot two different versions of this one episode, but what about all the rest? Jason is either in them or he’s not, and losing a Titan so early would probably derail any plans that Dick Grayson had for his new young charges.
The whole “Death in the Family” phone-in campaign is a strange blip in comic history. It generated loads of publicity in the mainstream press, but it’s hard to ignore the blood-thirst associated with it. When Jason Todd was first introduced in 1983, he was basically a carbon copy of a young Dick Grayson– a wide-eyed, optimistic circus acrobat. But as the gritty ’80s wore on, it was decided to give him more edge, making him a streetwise thug who tried stealing the Batmobile’s hubcaps. He became cynical and sarcastic and readers hated him, leading to his elimination in the phone poll.
If DC Universe had actually left it in the hands of viewers to decide whether Jason Todd (or any character) would live or die, it would have been even more ghoulish as these are actors. This is their job. Asking viewers to decide whether someone has the means to make a living is pretty disturbing. And even though this poll really had no impact, it still seems in poor taste.
Are you enjoying ‘Titans’ Season 2? Are there any characters you think should be written out?