'A Death In the Family': Your trusty comics blogger? He's responsible for this outrage.
Now that the last balloons have dropped, we as a nation can take comfort in the knowledge that, one again, millions of us exercised our right to vote and so set in motion the peaceful transfer of power that is the hallmark of this, our American democracy.
And let me note one other thing: That this latest round of quadrennial participation in the Grand Experiment resulted in not even a single masked, pixie-booted young crimefighter getting beaten to a bloody pulp with a crowbar.
And then blown up.
By an evil clown.
Just moments after he'd been reunited with his long-lost mother.
All worth noting, because that's pretty much exactly what happened the first time I ever voted, just over 20 years ago. My vote — and those of my like-minded fellows — killed Robin, the Boy Wonder.
And we'd do it again.
After the jump: The day a surprisingly tiny number of geeks (and a 900 number) accomplished what even Gotham's greatest villains never dared to dream.
Granted, it was a telephone vote. And to clarify, we didn't off the original Robin, aka Dick Grayson — the laughing, punning, "Holy-Priceless-Collection-of-Etruscan-Snoods-Batman!" Boy Wonder.
No, this was his replacement, Jason Todd. (The original Robin had flown the nest years prior, adopting the hero codename Nightwing.)
And in our defense, Jason was kind of a punk. Cocky, insolent, hot-headed, impulsive, resentful.
So when DC Comics gave us the chance to off the li'l jerk, we leapt at it.
The time: September 1988. The issue: Batman 427, in which young Jason Todd travels to Ethiopia (never mind) and finds his mother, an aid worker. Jason reveals his identity to Mom, whereupon she turns him over to the Joker, who, as it happens, is hanging around Addis Abbaba in khaki shorts and a pith helmet. (Seriously: never mind).
Turns out the Joker's in cahoots with mom, who's embezzling medical supplies (NEVER MIND!). The Joker beats young Jason with a crowbar — off-panel, sorta — and blows up a warehouse, with Jason and Mom still inside.
End of issue; to be continued.
And that's when we saw the announcement: "Robin will die because the Joker wants revenge. But you can prevent it with a telephone call."
Editors had prepared two different versions of the next issue, Batman 428. In one, Robin survived the blast. In the other, not so much.
For a 36 hour period — from 9:00 am on September 15, 1988 to 8:00 pm on Sept. 16,1988, in point of fact — fans could call to register their vote, at the low low price of 50 cents per call.
I was one such fan. One out of a number that still strikes me as bafflingly small — just over 10,000 votes in all.
Note: Among comics readers, avowing that you participated in the Jason Todd Death Vote is akin to being of a certain age and swearing you were at Woodstock. Nevertheless, I do so hereby avow. I'm prepared to swear to it on a stack of 'Mazing Mans.
Jason lives! — 5,271 votes.
Jason Todd becomes Jason, Tod — 5,343 votes. Abyssinia, Boy Blunder.
Yep, it was 72 freakin' votes that did Robin 2.0 in.
And so it was that in Batman 428, the Darknight Detective found Jason Todd's lifeless form (the presence of a body being universal comic book shorthand for Not Only Merely Dead, But Really Most Sincerely Dead.)
The book, and the Batman, soldiered on. In the next issue, the Joker became ... Iran's ambassador to the UN.
No kidding. Took to wearing a gutrah and everything and LOOK, I'M REALLY SERIOUS ABOUT THE WHOLE 'NEVER MIND' THING.
Batman eventually found yet another Robin — the much cooler, much less make-ya-wanna-throttle-him Tim Drake. (Recently, Bruce Wayne actually adopted Tim Drake — none of that "youthful ward" jazz anymore.)
And Jason Todd, in a bold and refreshing break from longstanding comic book tradition, managed to actually stay dead for almost two decades straight.
Then, um, he got better.