Jason Todd Deserves To Be More Than A Joker Victim | Screen Rant

One of the most shocking moments in DC Comics continues to be the death of Jason Todd at the hands of the Joker in Batman: A Death in the Family. As the second person to take on the Robin mantle, Jason Todd grew to be a vastly different character from his predecessor, Dick Grayson, with fans narrowly voting to kill him off in a poll run by DC ahead of Batman #428 by Jim Starlin, Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo, John Costanza, and Adrienne Roy. it would have been previously unimaginable for one of Batman's wards to be killed off for good and left unavenged by the Dark Knight. Though loss is a defining trait for scores of other characters besides Batman, Jason's death was impactful because he wasn't a parent or guardian figure to the hero, but his own adopted son. Based on the manner in which Jason was killed, the event is arguably the greatest example of the Joker's cruelty: he was beaten to death with a crowbar before the building he was held captive in was blown up. Coupled with the fact that Jason was still a child, the brutality of his death makes it even more upsetting to consider.

However, perhaps the only thing more upsetting than Jason Todd's initial death is the way that his character has been unable to escape this storyline more than three decades after its publication. Though he is far from the only Bat-Family member to experience something awful at the hands of the Joker, Jason's death has casted a long shadow over his already rocky publication history. Even after being resurrected as the vigilante Red Hood, Jason Todd has continuously been placed in plotlines and stories that revisit or even reenact his most traumatic moment with the Joker. With recent stories such as Batman: Three Jokers and Suicide Squad: Get Joker! focusing on Jason's anger towards the Joker, this problem has never been in greater focus.

Related: Three Jokers Forces Batman To Face His Two GREATEST Failures

By returning time and time again to the worst moment in his life, DC Comics fails to elevate Jason Todd beyond his own victimhood at the hands of the Joker. Considering that the character has struggled with carving out his own meaningful place in the DC Universe, this over-emphasis on his violent death is troubling for a number of reasons. Not only does it advance a limited characterization of him as the "dead angry Robin," but it also empowers an idea that victims are never able to truly grow beyond their trauma. It negates the more hopeful aspects of his character and his personal growth in other parts of the DC Universe in order to remind readers of something they already know: that the Joker is an awful human being who has done terrible things to people who didn't deserve it.

If superhero comics have shown fans anything over the course a century, it is that people are more than the worst thing that has ever happened to them. This is precisely why characters like Spider-Man and Superman have been so beloved by fans around the world: amidst the immense loss that they have experienced, they are also able to find the strength and motivation to help others. While they could not avoid their personal tragedies, they still exhibit the agency to forge their own path leading them away from their own darkness. While Jason Todd is an antihero, he is still a human being, and he should still be afforded the opportunity to be more than the victim of one man's actions.

Related: Batman Admits His Greatest Failure Isn't Jason Todd (Anymore)

By moving away from the Joker's sadism, Jason Todd has the opportunity to define himself on his own terms, just like Spider-Man and Superman have before him. It would be incredibly strange if every Spider-Man story depicted Uncle Ben's murder, or if every Superman comic opened with the destruction of Krypton, because fans know these two heroes beyond the saddest parts of their backstories. This is exactly why callously revisiting Jason Todd's death is so bewildering: surely there is more that can be found in imagining a future for the character than adding in even more gory details to an event that happened more than a quarter of a century ago?

On the surface, the reemergence of Jason Todd's death in DC Comics could be seen as a reflection of how little things have changed in American comics since 1988, but this obscures the progress that has already been made. Batman: Urban Legends gave Red Hood his best story yet, and it even contained an emotional flashback to his death that wisely avoided making a spectacle of the Joker's cruelty. Because of the serialized format of superhero comics, Jason Todd is poised in the future to move beyond the framework that was never in place to benefit his character. With his story being continuous, there is space for more stories to highlight the joy alongside the pain of being a vigilante, making Jason Todd's publication history a dynamic reflection of the genre's greatest strengths. It only requires stories that depart from the usual suspects that have haunted Jason's potential as a character.

There is no benefit to watching Jason Todd get beaten to death with a crowbar again and again by a cackling Joker. It reveals nothing substantial about either character, lessens the shocking effect that it had in A Death in the Family, and assigns a level of callousness that is incongruent with Jason Todd's emotional nature. Instead, it delves into a spectacle of helplessness for which it provides no meaningful analysis on.

More than any other member of the Bat-Family, Jason Todd has an acute understanding of how villains like the Joker thrive on their victims' helplessness. His decision to become Red Hood reflects his rejection of the Joker's actions. As such, circling back to Jason Todd's death without elevating it beyond the cruelty that A Death in the Family first portrayed ultimately makes him as helpless as he was in 1988, unable to escape the trauma that's haunted his character for decades. And this is perhaps an even worse fate for Jason Todd than the one he had originally experienced with the Joker.

Next: Even DC's Heroes Think Red Hood Was An Awful Robin


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