A Death in the Family was a four-part series written by Jim Starlin and illustrated by Jim Aparo. It tells the story of how Jason’s Todd demise came about.
Jason Todd’s death was different from that of typical death’s in comics. In this case, it wasn’t the executives at DC saying that a character had to be killed. Instead, it was left up to the fans to decide. They were able to call a number and decide if Jason Todd should live or die at the end of the issue.
In an act that proved just how hated he was, the fans voted that he needed to die. I suppose it’s true what they say when they say, “if your customers don’t like something, they will let you know.” All this and more was outbid on showcase in a death in the family.
Let me set the A Death in the Family story
Batman, unhappy with Jason Todd, decided it best to relieve him of his duty as Robin. He cited the reason that he was unfit to be his sidekick. Not happy with this decision, Jason walks away.
While taking time off he learns that Catherine Todd, whom he thought was his biological mother, was not his real mom. While walking on the street, he is recognized by an old neighbor. The neighbor proceeds to give him some old heirlooms from his family. He immediately takes them back to Wayne Manor and begins scrummaging through them.
He learns that his mother does share the same last name as he. Unfortunately, he cannot decipher what her name is because a water stain has wiped it out, leaving on the first letter, ‘S’ untouched. He proceeds to use his father’s address book and discovers that there are 3 women in it whose name starts with ‘S’. He then heads down to the Batcomputer to find out where the three women live. The hunt leads him to the Middle East.
While this was happening, the Clown Prince, The Joker had once again escaped Arkham Asylum. Batman quickly finds out that the Joker had planed to sell his deadly Cruise Missle to some terrorists in the Middle East. Alfred tells Batman that Jason has run away leaving Batman to decide he will pursue Jason or The Joker.
Batman tracks The Joker to Lebanon.
The first woman on the list takes Jason to a hotel in Berut, Lebanon. As he begins to walk into the hotel, Bruce Wayne conveniently grabs him. The two exchange their reasoning for being in Berut and conveniently, at this exact time, the two that they are in search of (Peter Brando and Jason Todd’s “Mother”) appear. This causes them to realize that they are actually following the same case.
The now reunited Batman and Jason Todd, quickly come on The Joker just as he is about to sell his missile. The dynamic duo begins to take out the terrorists, and just as they do this, Brando realizes that Jason Todd’s “Mother” is an Israeli Agent and threaten to kill her. In an act of desperation, Jason lunges at Peter in an attempt to stop him.
Before he could reach her, the Terrorist arms the Cruise Missile. Unfortunately, the missile malfunctions causing an explosion. Somehow, the two made it out alive and in all the chaos The Joker escapes.
Before Batman and Jason Todd leave, they question the Israeli Agent learning that she is, in fact, not his mother.
Terrorists Round 2
Batman learns that The Joker has bought a ticket to Addis Ababa Ethiopia but before he can leave, Jason confronts him and makes it clear that he wishes to continue his search.
The two then beat up some terrorists so they can steal their clothes to be used as a disguise. They make their way to the tent that the second potential mother could be only to find out that she isn’t there.
Batman quickly realizes that they have entered a terrorist training camp. Before he could blink, Jason is hit over the head by Lady Shiva. Batman turns to find her standing in front of him. The two battle in what would end up a more difficult than Batman had figured.
Jason wakes to see the two fighting and helps Batman finish her off. They then unsuccessfully question her. With not time to waste, Batman gives her a truth serum and she reveals that Jason is not her child.
The dynamic duo then travels to Ethiopia where they discover Jason’s real mother, Sheila Haywood.
Before they arrive, the new Dr. Sheila Haywood is accosted by The Joker. He immediately recognizes her from her troubled past in Gotham and plans to use her connections to sell medical supplies on the Black Market. nows he reunion is short-lived as The Joker blackmails Sheila into giving him medical supplies in a nearby warehouse.
By this time, Batman and Jason had made their way to the camps of Ethiopia. Eventually, the two find the tent of Dr. Haywood and ask her the question that has been burning in Jason’s mind…”Are you my mother?” Sheila immediately realizes that Jason is her son and Bruce leaves them to be.
The reunion is cut short as Sheila gets back to work serving food in the camp.
While his mother is out feeding children, Jason recognizes a very familiar face…The Joker. He hides as The Joker walks into Sheila’s tent. He listens and learns that he is blackmailing his mother so that he may profit from the medical supplies.
The two leave and Jason follows..without Batman.
Jason then learns that The Joker is planning to switch the medical creates with a venom that will poison and kill anyone within 4 miles.
Too little, too late
Jason rushes back to Batman and fills him in on the news. The two head back to the warehouse but arrive moments too late…the trucks are already leaving with the venom.
Realizing that he can help with the use of his mini-helicopter, he instructs Jason to stay behind while he handles the situation. He explicitly says, “Do not act while I’m gone.”
Unable to sit around, he goes into the warehouse and reveals to his mother that he is Robin. She tells him that The Joker has left ad takes him to a warehouse to show him something. Unbeknownst to Robin, The Joker was waiting for him.
Jason turns around to see that his mother now has a gun pointing in his direction. In this moment, he learns that she has been embezzling medical supplies so that she can make a buck on the side.
She hands over her son Jason to the Clown Prince of Crime, The Joker.
A Death in the Family
The Joker takes great pleasure in brutalizing Jason Todd with a crowbar. And all this, while his mother looks on.
While this was going on, Batman successfully stops the trucks with the venom. He tells the drivers to turn around. With his helicopter shot from the sky, Batman uses one of the trucks to race back to the warehouse.
With Jason near dead, The Joker ties up Sheila and arms the warehouse with explosives. As time ticks away on the explosions, Jason awakens from his beating, unties Sheila and the two make their way out of the warehouse. What they didn’t realize is that The Joker locked the door leaving them trapped.
Batman returns to the site of an exploded warehouse.
As Batman rushes to the explosion, his mind is filled with memories of Jason. He begins to have doubts about even having a sidekick and during this moment of weakness, he finds Sheila lying in the rubble, barely alive.
She tells him that The Joker trapped the two inside and in an act of heroism, Jason jumped in front of his mother so as to protect her. She tells him that he was a true hero and a good son and then dies in his arms. She was one of many to due during A Death in the Family.
Batman continues his quest to find Jason and eventually does. Without even thinking, he checks for a pulse and learns that there isn’t one.
In one of the most iconic panels in comic history, Jason Todd has died. Yes, Batman underwent a death in the family.
And The Joker?
The Joker was off selling his medical supplies. While out, he is greeted by two secret service men who are there to take him to The Grand Ayatollah and he is there to offer The Joker a government position.
While The Joker was being appointed to the Government, Batman was back removing any evidence of Jason’s Robin identity and explaining to the authorities what had happened. Once finished, Batman follows The Joker to his hideout in Ethiopia. He arrives at the sight of dead henchmen and a bloodstained note on the wall. The note instructed Batman to meet him at 42nd and 1st.
Bruce takes the bodies of Jason and Sheila back to Gotham where a small funeral is held. At its conclusion, Alfred tells Bruce that they can ask Nightwing for help.
Bruce, having trouble dealing with a death in the family, quickly responds by saying that there will be no more help.
The clue left by The Joker leads Batman to the United Nations building in NYC.
Interestingly, after arriving in New York, Batman is greeted by Superman. Superman tells Batman that he is here to stop him. There is a new Diplomat to Iran who has Diplomatic Immunity. Further to that, the Diplomat’s crimes have been removed from his record.
He tells Batman that this could start a war. Out of anger, Batman punches Superman in the jaw. Just as his frustration boils over, the new Diplomat steps out of a car.
Who is the Diplomat?
Superman inquires about the death of Jason Todd and Batman confirms that The Joker killed him. Superman begs Batman to put his hatred aside for the betterment of the United States.
Bruce Wayne begins to find a way to the United Nations meeting where the new Diplomat will be speaking. Batman then confronts and tells him to give himself up to Arkham.
In turn, The Joker begins to mock Batman and confesses to killing Jason Todd.
The next day at the meeting, The Joker proclaims that the U.N. will not hold Iran down and proceeds to unleash a gas on all members in attendance. Luckily, Superman was in attendance and breathes in all of the deadly gas.
As a backup plan, The Joker had placed bombs all over the building. Just as he is about to cause the explosion, Batman jumps out. Before Batman can catch him, The Joker runs to his nearby helicopter. In an act of desperation, Batman jumps out to the helicopter and pulls himself inside.
Afraid, the passengers on the helicopter begin to shot widely. The bullets injure The Joker and kill the pilot. This, of course, causes the helicopter to crash into a nearby building. Like so many times before, Batman escapes unharmed.
A Death in the Family is a quintessential Batman read and one you should pursue.