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I watched Batman: Under The Red Hood last night (it was surprisingly good, I’ll probably write an actual review soon) and it got me thinking about Jason Todd, the 2nd Robin, and why he had to die. Jason was famously killed off as the result of a telephone poll where readers could choose whether he survived being beaten with a crowbar by the Joker and then blown up. The fan poll has long been cited as an example of comic book fans wanting things to be more “grim and gritty” and part of ushering in a darker era for comics. This simply isn’t the case.
The scene above comes from Batman 423, 5 issues before Jason’s death. In that issue, Batman and Robin fight a rapist named Felipe who manages to get off because he has diplomatic immunity. (Jim Aparo used diplomatic immunity as a way for villains to get out of trouble WAY too much, but it works here) After being released by the cops, he calls the girl he raped to tell her he was coming after her again and she kills herself. Once Robin finds out about this, he goes to Felipe’s apartment, and you get the scene above. The readers never actually see what happened, but it’s pretty obvious that Jason killed him and also has no remorse for it. As such, it was completely unacceptable for him to continue being Robin.
One of the fundamental aspects of Batman’s character is that he doesn’t kill anyone, no matter what. (Aparo’s run stressed the difference between killing vs. not saving someone, as does Batman Begins, but I think that’s bullshit and a mischaracterization.) That gets pretty drilled into you if you’re a Batman fan, and most fans I’ve encountered have a pretty black-and-white view of “Killing/death penalty is always wrong”, as opposed to Wolverine/Punisher/etc. fans who view killing of criminals as occasionally necessary or right. Jason being Robin after this would have undermined a key component of the Bat-mythos, the overall morality of Batman, and his actions here make him into a villain under the moral code of the characters, so when fans had the option to vote to get rid of him as Robin, it was literally an easy call. There’s some irony in Batman fans voting to kill a character because he broke the rules and killed someone, violating the very rules they’re punishing the character for breaking, but not killing him would’ve been taken as a sign of support and he would’ve continued on as Robin for the foreseeable future, with the whole Jason Todd: Murderer story probably being swept under the rug. I actually really like Jason Todd as a character, but he could no longer be a core member of the Bat-family after this, and death was the only option presented to readers to remove him.
I take my comic books very seriously in case you can’t tell.