Jason Todd. There's a name that many Bat fans aren't too familiar with. You may have heard his name being mentioned on the Birds of Prey TV show or in a Batman comic or all you know is that he was the second Robin and nothing more. If any of the above applies to you (or if you don't have anything else to do) read on
Jason's history began in the 1980's when creators decided to shed Dick Grayson of his Robin persona and make him Nightwing. At that time, Dick was now a grown man and needed a look that reflected his age. However Fans missed seeing Robin by Batman's side and the writers knew that they couldn't make Dick Robin again, so they came up with a compromise; have someone else be Robin.
Under the editorial guidance of Len Wein, writer Gerry Conway, considered by many to be one of the premiere writers of the 80's, created Jason Todd. Jason Todd was an acrobat in the circus whose parents were killed by Killer Croc. Batman would again feel sympathy and take Jason in. Jason would later discover Bruce's secret and ask to be his partner. At first Bruce refused, but later relented. Despite the fact that the character was a Dick Grayson clone, Conway's characterization of the new Robin was well received and filled a hole for most fans. However it wouldn't last long
From 1985 -1986, DC restarted its timeline and many DC characters had their history's rewritten. In the Bat offices, new editor Dennis O'Neill used this opportunity to rewrite Jason Todd. Denny didn't think too highly of Jason's origin and had Max Allan Collins come up with a more original history. Collin's Jason Todd was a street kid who sold stolen tires for a living. To make things even more interesting, Jason's father worked for Two-Face and was later killed by him thus giving the new Jason Todd some emotional baggage. Batman would come across him one day while visiting crime alley and would take him home where he would later train him to be Robin. While Collin's origin was superior to Conway's, the subsequent characterization by the writers wasn't. The new writers portrayed Jason as a reckless disrespectful boy with a short temper. Fans tuned out to this new portrayal and turned on him. In very little time, Jason Todd was loathed by a great number of people. It was so bad that everyone in DC took notice and became concerned about his future. In 1988, Denny and his team would come up with a plan that would be unforgettable.
The plan was this: They would write a four part story "Death in the Family" where Robin would be caught in an explosion and his life would be decided by the fans. They had to call one of two 1-900 numbers. One to kill him, the other to save him. Unfortunately for Jason Todd, the fan hatred would win and Batman would forever be haunted by the death of his partner.
Jason Todd's death became big news in the mainstream media. Perhaps it was because so many people knew who Robin was. They knew him from the 60's TV series and the Superfriends show along with an animated show from the 70's. People were intrigued when they heard that a favourite character from their past was now dead. Magazines such as Time and Newsweek ran stories about the death of Robin. Denny O' Neill absolved himself and his writers of the death saying the decision was made by the fans and not him. However this didn't stop critics from blasting him and DC for resorting to a cheap "phone stunt" to decide the fate of one of their characters.
This brought an end to the sad and short life of Jason Todd. This is one comic character that will stay dead no matter what. However one can't help but wonder how the comics would have been had Jason lived or if fans didn't hate him. Perhaps Denny and the writers of the time should accept responsibility for his death. It was their portrayal of Jason that led to the events of "Death in the family". Why didn't people hate Conway's version? perhaps we'll never know.
A.J (March 5, 2003)
(Special Thanks to Frank D. for help on Jason's pre crisis history)