[Please Note: the above header image was randomly chosen out of a folder on my computer]
I’m not going to try and spoil this. I usually don’t write spoiler warnings, but the issue hit stands today. The New York Post ran an article on Monday and DC has a giant splash image pop up on their website, so they can spoil this for you. If you are happening to run in to a comics store though, one of the DC books on that shelf will have a character who will die. Sorry about that, but I have to title this article something.
We good? Okay read on as I go off on a tangent about death in comics.
Robin’s dead. Again. For some reason this seems to be an ongoing thing with DC Comics. It is sort of macabre that the state of the industry is relying so heavily on character death. Or maybe it’s because editorial needs to hammer a shocking point across every couple of years that bringing in children to super heroics isn’t safe. Maybe it’s a moral responsibility to push the point across that super heroics are meant for the big boys.
Of course, the big boys die just as much.
The case of Robin however is a bit more destructive. Robin was brought in to make Batman more relatable to youth in the 40s. It worked and started the trend of the young sidekick. Flash would now have Kid Flash, Green Arrow would have Speedy and Wonder Woman would have Wonder Girl. Dick Grayson was fantastic as a character and his run as Robin lasted 40 years until he redesigned himself as Nightwing. Robin proved to be a brilliant and successful formula and DC loves to beat a successful formula to death.
I guess this would be the segway to Jason Todd. Jason Todd’s death at the hands of the Joker in the controversial Death in the Family was brilliant. Sure, you could sit back all day and argue about how terrible it is to leave fanboys in charge of the life of a comic book character, but DC followed through with it. Jason Todd represented so much to Batman when he died. It was a reminder that after the success of raising Dick Grayson in to a full fledged super hero, that death is still the reason that Batman is Batman. Plus it made for a really awesome and iconic memorial for the Batcave.
Argue what you will for how annoying Jason was, there was hope behind the character. Jason’s death made Tim Drake a very compelling character. Tim was everything Jason wasn’t and there was a driving factor for him to do better than Jason. Then DC killed Spoiler (Tim’s girlfriend and the first female Robin) and brought her back. They brought Jason back as well for some reason some years ago and now we’re over cluttered with Robins (and we’re not even at Damian yet).
When Grant Morrison assumed the helm of Batman, he decided he would take one of DC’s most popular alternate takes on Batman and retool it for his collective use. Enter his sired child Damian from Son of the Demon. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t like Damian Wayne. He had some of the worst traits from Jason Todd, and to be honest, I’m a Tim fan. That being said, Grant Morrison writes very well so Damian has become a fascinating character under the Robin cowl.
Now he’s dead.
I’m not sure if Damian Wayne’s death is shocking from the writer, because Grant has made a habit of creating intriguing characters just to destroy them later. It’s not even shocking from a comics perspective as DC has done this so many times now that it is ridiculous. I get the why. As a reflection of divorce, this is a fabulous way to punch it home and I congratulate DC and Grant on digging to a deeper level.
But still, this just doesn’t sit well.
“He does his job as Robin” was what Grant said to the New York Post. “He dies an absolute hero.” This is what Robin and teen sidekicks have become; they are expendables. Superboy, Kid Flash (Impulse), Donna Troy and on and on; these are characters that serve potential purpose with their inspiration. These sidekicks are relatable, they are able to do things that the bigger boys can’t, and they are allowed to make the mistakes that can follow through with that. Kid sidekicks are interesting in the same way Spider-man used to be. They are able to have a real life outside of the costume because they are kids and all the ups and downs that have become mundane for Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to go through.
Sidekicks are part of the good side that balances all the horrible things that happen in comic books.
Now, this makes Damian the 3rd Robin to die. He’ll likely be resurrected after Grant’s moved off the title, but the impact is still here. Batman is running a deficit with his proteges. So far there are 2 Robins that lived and 3 that died. Not good numbers, even from a fan’s perspective. It’s kinda hard to think Batman is going to save the day if his failure rate is this big.
I get that death needs to be a motivating factor for Batman. His parents death is becoming a bit played out after 80 years. Damian aged Batman, but Batman is old — like 80 years old. I get that there has to be a give and take and comic readers are aging, and I guess Grant has a point with this.
“This master theme of damaged and ruined families was nowhere more in evidence than in the creation of Damian, the first “Son of Batman” to be acknowledged in the canon. In many ways this has been Damian’s story as much as it has been the story of Bruce Wayne and it’s a story that had its end planned a long time ago – for what son could ever hope to replace a father like Batman, who never dies?”
However, the killings are getting old and it’s negatively affecting comic books. Every few years we get a fresh batch of resets from DC. The reason for this is simple: when they’ve stretched their line too thin and alienated customers with too much drama, they have to reboot.
Good books suffer from this, but bad books get a new life. I get why, I just get tired of it. His corpse isn’t even cold yet and I’m wondering when he’ll be brought back. Death works as a selling point, to get readers back on the book, but that’s not really why Grant kills his characters. He does it because they are his to turn in to whatever he wants to make his point. He’s a writer whose built enough credibility to write what he wants to write. DC will clean up in the wake. Maybe it will be better than what Marvel did after New X-Men.
Honestly, I just wanted to see another Robin succeed, especially a young Robin. I like the idea of plucky young characters growing in to their own and becoming great heroes. Damian easily could have been retooled in to anything we wanted. He could play the heel just as well as he could the hero. There was a point where comics were written to showcase the growth of a character. We’re unfortunately no longer there.
Rest in peace Damian.