I woke up one morning and had a dream... Could I own every single issue of Detective Comics, Batman and all of the other subtitles in the Gotham universe?
Insane? Stupid? Inspired?
This can only end in obsession and financial chaos.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Big Event: Death in the Family

When Denny O'Neill took editorial control on the Batman books, he would become responsible for some of the most important story lines that have ever affected the Batman character. The bravest moment, of probably two that he made, was asking the Batman readership whether Jason Todd, the second Robin, should be killed off.

Yes, it was a publicity gimmick, described by O'Neill as 'The Great Robin Experiment', and it really, really worked. I'm old enough to remember it getting a segment on 'John Craven's Newsround' (a kid's news show on the advert-free BBC, for those who don't know), which meant that this event went mainstream all over the world. The 'experiment' was decided by a phone poll, and the results were 5271 to 5434. The result: a paltry 72 votes decided that a teenage boy (true, a brilliantly written fictional one) should be beaten to death and then blown up. The only people that treated this event as a wake, were the Batman editorial team, who ordered food so they could await the final result in the DC offices.

So, the main event of this Starlin/Aporo storyline (which had showed Batman and Robin fighting the evils of child pornography, atomic terrorism, African famine, crazed Islamic dictators and corrupt charities) was that Jason Todd had to Die.

It's the consequences of Jason Todd's death that are more interesting for me. It was how this death would be used as a narrative device for the next twenty years. As O'Neill noted in 'From The Den', part of the success of Batman was because there was also a Robin. And this formula had successfully worked for over fifty years. By pulling apart the Batman and Robin team it would allow writers to explore a 'back to basics', lone Dark Knight but by doing this it might alienate a section of the readership. Recognising this the many writers were clever enough to make Jason Todd's death as an additional emotional factor for Bruce Wayne journey into the dark night. So that Batman was now haunted by another ghost to avenge on the mean streets of Gotham City. In short, new emotions, new stories, new possibilities! Great decision!

However, decision doesn't reflect in the actual monetary value of the comic book. While I am quickly closing in on the completion of the Denny O'Neill era of Batman, this is one of a handful of books that I felt I had to pay a little more for (which, at this point in the Quest, is very rare). Fortunately, I picked it up for a paltry fee at a comic mart. This was surprising, as it proved to me that the market value of this story has not responded to this massive event in Batman folklore. Yet, I do think that in future years, as these books will become rarer to find on the open market in NM condition, I predict they will rise in value as the market corrects itself. Regardless, of the telephone gimmick, I truly believe that this storyline is still very, very important. So if you're a collector of Batman (like me) then snap this storyline up as soon as you can.

Don't worry though, Jason Todd may have died, he did recover. In the science of comic books it is possible to recover from being bludgeoned with a crowbar, and then blown to smithereens. It just takes a few decades to do it.