Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Does a Badass Really Wear Short Pants and Pointy Green Shoes?

So, I'm reading through the Jason Todd era of Batman.  For several issues, the approach seemed to be minimizing Robin's involvement.  For example, during the mulit-issue "Ten Nights of the Beast" storyline, Robin did naught but take down one suicidal bomber lackey.  And those issues, written by Jim Starlin, were actually pretty decent.

But you know how sometimes you find yourself doing something you know you shouldn't because you get away from the situation just long enough to convince yourself it wasn't as bad as you thought?  That's what happens here.  A little Jason Todd was an okay thing, but as human beings go, we just can't help but test the waters and see if we can't make things work if we just give it another go.

And there's nothing wrong with that kind of determination.  It's how we landed on the moon and perfected the seedless watermelon.  But there comes a time where we should let go of this notion of "never give up."  If I never gave up on some of my less-viable options, my life would not be nearly what is now.  I'd still be pursuing my high school crush and trying to make it as a rock musician.  But I let go of both of those things and I'm much better off for it.

But hubris is what it is, so they try and bring Jason Todd back to the forefront in Batman 422.  How?  Thusly:

Yes.  Jason Todd beats up an abusive pimp.  And if you complain about it, you must be an abusive pimp sympathizer.

Okay, that was totally Fun with Out-of-Context Dialogue (tm!), but that's not the point.  Unable to simply give us a tolerable Jason Todd, they have to give us a tormented, ticked-off, extreme Jason Todd.  Because everything back then had to be EXTREME!  Or if was really extreme, it was XTREME!

I'm not the World's Greatest Detective, but I think it's pretty obvious that Jason Todd has gone back to being all grumpy.

And then it gets dumber.  In Batman #424, we have the ultimate frustration plot device: A sadistic killer who is untouchable because of diplomatic immunity:

So what does Jason Todd do about it?

I'm not sure what they were thinking, but this is the problem: Robin is meant to bring a little light into Batman, not vice versa.  We have Batman, who is a combination of Zorro and Dracula, with a partner wearing a festive red vest and bright yellow cape.  Robin is supposed to reflect the wonder and optimism of youth.  But as such, readers were totally turned off by him.

And if he did murder Felipe, that's a line from which you don't return.  In the pages of X-Men, the character of Phoenix was killed off because the Powers that Be rightly decided that heroes don't murder folks.  So, even though Jason doesn't admit it and you certainly couldn't convict him on this evidence, did anyone think the readers wanted a Robin who we would even suspect might cross that line?  But at the time, Jason Todd was thought to be the permanent Robin so no one thought they were burning any bridges.

But, as we'll see in the days to come, them bridges be burned.

See you tomorrow!


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

I wasn't working at the comic shop when these issues came out. I can't wait for Todd to die and you thhen have to review Robin#1 that was poly-bagged with five different hologram designs on the covers. Please do that for me. It was pure torment the day those books came out.

Adam Barnett said...

Ha! I never bought multiple issues, but I was all about that Robin solo title and the mini-series that prefaced it. Tim Drake is one of my faves.