Friday, August 21, 2020


I forever stand by my position that Batman: A Death in the Family is a vile thing that should never have seen the light of a printing press. The coarse slaughter of a young hero to generate sales was not remotely worthy of the Batman legacy at that time. Though now, with the Batman having been callously twisted into one of the most toxic characters in comic books, it would fit right in and probably seem like a ray of freaking sunlight.

Even more disgusting was the way in which DC Comics promoted this blot on the DC Universe, launching a 900 line so readers could call in at the cost of fifty cents per call, to determine if Robin would live or die. Seventy-two sick minds proved to be the death of the young hero.

A Death in the Family begat the just as vile The Killing Joke and The Killing Joke begat a flood of vile comic books from DC Comics and other publishers. It also begat a series of stories wherein the Joker commits unspeakable atrocities and lives to commit even more atrocities. All while Batman refuses to do what needs to be done. As much as I admire and like Jim Starlin and Alan Moore, these two works tarnish their legacies.

Just after the telephone Romans had given their thumbs down so that Robin would be fed to the lions, I received information from a DC Comics source who had always provided me with accurate information on what was going on there.

This source told me that, when the phone calls were leaning toward Robin surviving, DC staffers would jump on their office phones to steer the vote towards slaughter. Because DC would only get major coverage in the mass media if Robin died. It’s not a story if the kid survives. Even if the kid in question isn’t Dick Grayson, the original Robin. Because that wasn’t a distinction that would make its way into a headline or even the first several paragraphs of a news story, print or otherwise.

I didn’t doubt my source. They had always proved reliable before. If you had my up and mostly down relationship with DC Comics, you would not doubt the company was capable of this.

I have believed this story for decades. I have repeated this story for decades. I wasn’t the original person to spread this story, but that makes my mistake no less weighty.

I was wrong.

Several people who were DC staffers at the time, people I know to be good and honest people have challenged this story. None of them are working for DC Comics currently. They have no reason to cover for DC Comics today.

They are all clear in stating the story is inaccurate. Though it’s certainly possible that a small group of staffers tried to fix the outcome of the phone vote, there is no evidence of that happening. A few staffers claim they called to spare Robin, but there’s no evidence there was widespread fraud in this sad promotional event. One way or the other. I was wrong.

I’ll not be repeating the story going forward. If I’m asked about it, I’ll correct my previous comments on the story. I apologize for misleading my readers all these years.

DC Comics murdered Robin fair and square.

I take no comfort in that.

Nor should they.

Nor should you.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2020 Tony Isabella


  1. I commend you for looking at the evidence objectively and concluding it supported a different version of events. It reinforces my already high opinion of your personal integrity.

  2. To be fair, we had Joker's mass-murders in Frank Miller's 'The Dark Knight Returns' well before the publication of 'The Killing Joke'. Miller was probably just as much an influence on later interpretations as the 'Death in the Family' story.

    1. DKR is SO overrated. I never got it and for the longest time I thought there was something wrong with me. I think that comics just wanted the MATURE READERS tag for so long that when it started getting applied to books like that they went with it. DKR is overrated in my humble opinion.

  3. Thanks for listening, buddy. You remain a good man!

  4. Much respect, Tony!

  5. You didn't mislead any fans intentionally! It doesnt change the fact that the death didnt matter as DC brought Jason back, big surprise! I wish there was a Cold Dead Hands II btw!

  6. I was a kid when this happened. I can attest to not being able to distinguish between Dick Grayson and Jason Todd. I wasn’t reading comics at the time. My Robin was syndicated reruns of Burt Ward. I sat there in 1989 and wondered why Robin wasn’t there alongside Michael Keaton, while every other kid had no idea what I was even talking about as they paraded in their black Batman costumes.

    I commend your contrary stance on Killing Joke. It was a vile and callous episode, and should never be considered anything else. As fun as it was to have Oracle around, that could’ve just as easily been an original character, and would have a bigger legacy if it had been. Batgirl didn’t d serve that, and the worst part is even though DC waited a hot minute to introduce Tim Drake, it took far longer to get a new Batgirl.

  7. I read, many years ago, that if Jason Todd had survived the outcome would have been that he'd been so badly beaten by the Joker that he could never be Robin again. Live or die, they were getting rid of him.

  8. ADDENDUM. I have the order of these various series all mixed up. It was THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS first and, as an alternate reality story, I thought that one was well done. THE KILLING JOKE followed that and A DEATH IN THE FAMILY followed that. Those two are horrible. And, of course, since then, Batman writers have just made the Joker more and more of a mass murderer who always managed to escape justice to mass murder again. They've also made Batman both impotent (because he can't pull the plug on the Joker) and toxic (because he can't be trusted).

  9. I'm wondering if AT&T will prefer merchandising characters that aren't killing and/or dying at regular intervals.

  10. I can tell you from personal experience that DC didn't know what the results of the poll were until just before the final issue of "Death in the Family" went to the printer. My late wife Adrienne Roy and I were originally given both endings to color. However, a ton of late books came in for us to color at the last minute, so production manager Bob Rozakis got permission to reveal the ending to us so that we wouldn't be wasting time coloring pages that weren't going to be printed, and could get on to other hot books.

  11. i didnt like killing joke either but that notwithstanding i was always mildly surprised more fans and pros and comic journalists never made the comparison to how Alan Moore struggled with DC after they went back on their word to him the same way they did with Tony Isabella.
    theres always like this lack of sympathy for comic pros but the truth of the matter is that the Big 2 did often lie or go back on their word and i was reading an interview with Moore who explicitly laid out how DC misled him and dave gibbons about the publishing rights to Watchmen and V for Vendetta. i wont go into all of that but the feeling you got from his words was that it was more that they'd mislead rather than not getting the rights back.

    i read this and immediately thought of how DC screwed Tony Isabella with Black Lightning. if they can do it to Tony Isabella and Alan Moore they can do it to anyone. whether or not people like Alan Moores stories or not, i support in solidarity both writers by only buying the work they write, which is why i dont buy batman and the outsiders but i do buy cold dead hands. which is why i dont buy these watchmen spin-offs.