I've got rather alot of graphic novels, most of which sit on my bookshelves or in boxes in my closets from one year to the next, never being looked at. So, I've decided to go through them all, re-reading each one and deciding whether to keep it or to cull it. Culls will be donated to the local public library.
As I re-read each one, I'm going to try to present my impression of each one, and then announce the verdict: Cull or Keep?
There will be spoilers here, so beware. I most likely won't read one every day, but I 'm going to try to keep up a steady pace.
Next I read Fantastic Four: The Trial of Galactus, by John Byrne, which reprints Fantastic Four #242-244 and 257-262.
As always, the artwork is good on this - Byrne does the "cosmic" stuff pretty well. the story itself is pretty good, too, although Byrne's dialogue can be a little overblown at times. As with Roy Thomas, there are times when you just can't imagine people actually saying this stuff.
Cull or Keep?: Keep.
The Baron said:
.... it's all overshadowed by the memory of the big sales gimmick DC did whereby fans were encouraged to call in to determine Jason's fate. Did anyone here call in at the time? I know I didn't. It all seems so long ago now.
In 1988 I wasn't buying comics but I was following Comics Buyers Guide, so I was aware of the call-in gimmick.
It was a little hard to swallow. IIRC there was a fee associated with each call (today it would text messages) so somebody made some money. They must have had a pretty good idea the callers would vote to kill Jason Todd, since he appeared to be disliked by most people offering opinions. Since this was a monthly book the next issue must have been close to completed before the votes were tallied. If it had gone the other way would they have delayed the next issue or gone with a reprint or inventory story?
How did they bring him back? Throw his skeleton into a lazarus pit?
I think they really had two endings prepared.
Yes I saw the page where Jason lived.
There's a story in Batman #5 where Robin is nearly clubbed to death - "The Case of the Honest Crook!" Batman momentarily thinks he is dead and cradles him in his arms. It was reprinted in the 70s, so perhaps that was the actual inspiration.
The Brave and the Bold #131 (1976) had a story by Bob Haney and Jim Aparo where Catwoman becomes the ambassador of a Middle Eastern nation.
I've seen this panel/splash page(?) before. Was this all they did or did they really have an alternate story ready to go?
Philip Portelli said:
The Wikipedia article claims that DC had an "uncolored" version of the alternate part four issue ready to go. As far as I can tell no one has corroborated this.
From an interview with Jim Starlin in 2012:
JS: Well, they decided whether he lived or died. I had two different last pages—I mean, he got beat up and blown up by The Joker, and whether he lived or died depended on what the fans. And it was only like 72 votes difference out of ten thousand; statistically next to nothing.
I can't find a link, but I recall an interview where Starlin had said that even if the fans had voted for Jason to live, he wouldn't have used him, due to his injuries from the beating the Joker gave him. He disliked the idea of Robin and never wanted to use him at all. This is from the same interview:
JS: Well I always sort of felt that going out and fighting crime with a teenager that you dress in primary colors while you’re in the shadows wearing black and grey, well, that could only be termed child endangerment. So I was never big on using Robin. And when [my editor] Denny [O'Neil] came up with the phone-in gag about voting whether he lived or died, and they said, “Well, let’s do Robin” (because I had been pushing for it) it just sort of fell into place. And it worked out well. I never suspected, I never figured that the readers were going to want him to live, because I know what kind of ghouls you fans are, so we did the thing and it turned out they had all these pajamas and lunchboxes with Robin’s pictures on it, so within a couple months I was out of DC because I screwed up their merchandising department.
The ironic thing is that Jason Todd died in Batman #428 (D'88) only to have Tim Drake become Robin III in Batman #442 (D'89) in the finale for "A Lonely Place of Dying!".
As for merchandising, they changed the Robin outfit soon after and for the better.
One supposes the poll was closed as late as possible, since it was advertising for the story. According to the synopses I found Jason was beaten and blown up in #427, and Batman discovered his body in #428. DC could conceivably have closed the poll before #428 was drawn.
However, Bob Rozakis wrote in a column archived here that an alternative version of the key page was prepared and sent to the printer, and when the poll was decided he rang them up to tell them which to use. In the next column, archived here, he wrote that the scene was near the end of the issue and only that one page was different.
The second statement doesn't seem to be right: reportedly, Jason's funeral was in the same issue. But the alternative version of the discovery page has captions in which Batman thinks he doesn't have time to change Robin's costume, and he's thinking about how he can protect his secret identity. So my guess is if Jason had lived the funeral would have been a blind to prevent people realising the hospitalised Robin was Jason. If so, DC will have needed to send the printer two versions of the funeral page, but it could've prepared the second version from the same art by pasting on different dialogue.
The comics shop version of the cover of #428 had an extra sentence of copy. Neither version says Robin has died. The GCD has images of the two covers here.
If Jason had lived, the title "A Death in the Family" would still have been justified, by the death of Robin's mother and the faked funeral (if I'm right about the latter). The story would still have been a turning-point, particularly if it meant the end of Jason's time as Robin.
Rozakis says the prepared alternative page was coloured. Presumably Wikipedia's statement that the alternative issue was uncoloured is a mistake stemming from the "He's alive!" page's reproduction in B&W. But colourists didn't colour the original art. There's information on how comics were coloured here.