Growing up in the 80’s was pretty awesome…not gonna lie. I was never into comics when I was younger but my oldest brother was an avid collector. These were his precious and he was an absolute Gollum, when it came to his comics. Even now in his 40’s, he has them all boxed away, safely sealed in plastic and there are some CLASSICS! Even though I wasn’t allowed to touch them, if he came across something totally radical (a bit of 80’s lingo there for ya) like Wolverine getting his adamantium claws in “Weapon X” or the first appearance of Spider-Man’s black suit in “The Amazing Spider-Man #252”, he would show me the artwork.
Sometimes, the content was a bit over my head, so I would just get the gist through the drawings. One day he came home very excited about a comic he had been eagerly anticipating and just purchased. I saw the brown paper bag and for some uncontrollable reason, I too became very giddy wondering what comic it was. My favorite super heroes in those days were Batman and Superman…maybe Batman a bit more…actually yes…a lot more, so when he slowly pulled out the first issue and I saw the cover of the morbidly dark Batman comic, I was confused and a disturbed.
“Why was Batman holding a bloodied Robin?” I asked.
My brother, a twisted individual, smiled and said with delight, “Reeeeaad the tiiiiitlllle…” (did I mention my brother talks reeeeeeeaaaaaallllll slow like gumshoe or sadistic mobster from the 30’s?)
I read the title:
“A DEATH IN THE FAMILY”
My first reaction was shock. How could Robin die? Batman would never let that happen! What the hell killed Robin? Apparently this was Jason Todd, the second Robin and Americans had the chance to vote on the outcome of the series by calling a 900 number. This was insane!!! It was like all of the US had become the jury to the trial of a super hero’s life that could end in his execution if the people saw it fit.
Sure that my bro was going to just fill me in as he read, I took a deep breath, exhaled, shook my head and began walking off when he said, “I’m getting a saaaaandwich, washing my hands, then coming back to reeeeead. If you want to read it with me…you’re moooooore than wellllcoooome.” I wasn’t going to pass on that once in a lifetime opportunity, Jack!
As I waited for him to finish eating (luckily he didn’t eat like he spoke), I felt butterflies in my stomach. I was afraid. Death, whether in real life or comics, was something unfamiliar to me. What I did understand was that there was no coming back from death once it happened so this meant we were all saying goodbye to a legendary sidekick.
We lay on our stomachs on the bottom bunk bed and took turns reading two pages at a time. He’d read first, then me. Every page I wondered when it was going to happen. By the last page, I was SUPER relieved…no one had died!!!! I thought the cover was a joke or something. HAHAHA!!! No way the Boy Wonder was gonna die! Silly comic book writers…
“Just wait…there are threeeeeee mooooooooore issues to go….hehehehheeeee”, my brother
had has sinister Joker laugh that would give Mark Hamil the tingles.
As the weeks went by, more issues were smuggled in brown paper bags. I soon stop reading and just looked at the panels so I wouldn’t slow down my brother who was becoming increasingly impatient, “Cccccc’mooooooon! Spppeeeeeed it d’up!”
I just wanted to get to the part where Robin died to get it over with already! Then…it finally came…without giving away any details (for those who might want to read it for the first time) the end was BRUTAL! Not just physically but emotionally too. The last issue was Batman hunting down the killer to exact revenge. I didn’t even want to continue.
It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I started getting back into comics heavily, I remembered that experience sitting there with my brother, having a one of those Kodak childhood moments and sharing a piece of DC comic history together (insert Wonder Years acoustic narration music) and decided to buy all four issues in one book.
The story gripped me the same way it did those days back in 1988 but this time, being able to see the story on a deeper level (Robin’s journey is sad and obviously tragic) and to actually read the damn thing, it had a deeper impact on me. This would make an amazing mini-series on Netflix. Live action and non-canon to the DC movie franchise.
There are a couple other out-the-box Batman comics that I will be digging into like:
ARKHAM ASYLUM (Grant Morrison)
THE KILLING JOKE (Alan Moore)