Saturday, April 02, 2005

Bizarro Speaks Out on Jason Todd

I love Spoiler and I'm glad she's dead; I hated Jason and I'm glad he's alive.

I was entirely opposed to bringing Jason back to life, particularly as it stinks so much of that most malodorous of all Batman arcs, "Hush" (the ultimate monument to the vacuity of Loeb's writing...until Superman/Batman came along). But then War Games happened, in which, Stephanie Brown a.ka. Spoiler a.k.a Robin, was killed. Just as in a Greek tragedy, Stephanie's own actions, stemming naturally from her character, led inexorably to own destruction. In doing so, she became the ideal Tragic Robin.

That, of course, rendered Jason Todd irrelevant. Before Stephanie's death, Jason's death made him the great casuality in Batman's war. Because he was the only one of Batman's allies to have died, his death overshadowed that fact that he was a jerk and no one liked him.

But Jason's death wasn't tragic, merely horribly unpleasant. It had no irony, no bitter twists, or unintended circumstances. Jason was simply killed by the Joker (uncharacteristically brutally, I might add; I was embarrassed for the Joker). Well, lots of people are killed by the Joker: welcome to the DC Universe, bub.

But, Stephanie's death! There's irony and tragedy!
Batman fires Stephanie because she's overconfidence and doesn't seek the input of others (his own worst faults).
The plan to unite the underworld under Batman unites them against him.
Stephanie makes her own murderer in the king of the Gotham underworld.
The plan, designed to give Batman control of the underworld, results in his losing control of the police (and his own Bat allies).
The plan fails because Batman kept one of his identities secret from Stephanie yet results in his Batman identity being publicly seen on television.
Batman searches desperately for the cause of this attack on his city, not realizing that he caused it (wow, that's straight out of Sophocles!).
In trying to help Batman, Stephanie hurts him terribly.
In trying to replace her boyfriend as Robin, she ensures that he will replace her instead.
In trying prove how worthy she is, Stephanie proves how right Batman was to fire her.

While some of the writing on War Games was muddy, structurally it was a brilliant multi-pronged tragedy (no matter how many fan-boys didn't "get it"). We experienced pain because of the many tragic circumstances, rather than just watching Jason experience pain and get a crowbar all bloody. Then get blown up.

With Stephanie as the Ideal Tragic Dead Sidekick, Dead Jason is immediately superseded as Dead Sidekick and serves no function in the Batman mythos that she doesn't serve better. But Alive Jason becames Former Sidekick Who Crosses the Line. That's a new mythic idea, one that I can't remember ever really seeing in a DC story, one that adds enormously to the Batman mythos (and his personal tragedy). And having Jason adopt the identity (Red Hood) of the man who killed him? Bitter; good work, Judd!

And that is why I really liked Stephanie, and I'm glad she's dead, but I really despised Jason, and I'm glad he's alive.


Anonymous said...

Well said. I must admit I was completely excited about the Jason Todd coming back idea at the time he was "first seen" in the Hush storyline, but his current return has left me a bit ambivalent. Not against the idea in any way, but just not EXCITED. I think by not making JT Hush in the first place they REALLY missed out on someting that would have been special.


Bat-Mac said...

Always nice to see one's own thought articulated by otehrs. I also spotted the lift from Sophocles and... err... Homercles.

War Games was brilliant. Multi-part, multi-title cross-overs like this are brilliant. I hope the distilling of the DCU in One Year Later dones't mean that they will go out of fashion. Although, in Inifinte Crisis and all the build up we are seeing the ultiam multi-part cross-over since Moses played a part in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, interesting. Never thought of it that way...

Hated the idea of Jason coming back, but this does put a new light on it.

Anonymous said...

Yeah whatever...

Jason Todd's death is truly significant, probably even more so than Stephanie Brown. Why? Because Jason Todd is the one absolute blemish on Batman's record.

Batman is depicted as the ultiamte "Superman", pardon the pun. He can do no wrong, he's the ultimate in human perfection in all mind, body and spirit. There's nothing he can't do with a little effort or some author's Deux ex machina. He makes the right decisions, and he always comes out ahead. It is only the failing of others that there is tragedy in the Batman Universe.

Except for Jason Todd.

Sure, Stephanie Brown was a tragic character that befits a Greek Tragedy. Yeah, she brought down all of this upon herself, just as any perfect villain would. Oh such poetic karma...

But Jason Todd's death remain as the one black spot on the Batman mythos. Sure, Joker has killed a bunch of people. Sure, the Joker has hurt ol' Batsy in a number of ways. But all the dead people were faceless background people. All the people that were hurt by being with Batman have all overcome their individual defeats and became something even greater and/or important (Hello, Little Miss Oracle?). Jason Todd is the one character who had close relations with Batman but died not of his own faults, but by the bluntly dangerous environment he chose to follow Batman into. Batman could not do enough to save Jason Todd. Jason Todd, though was probably an ass, did not die through his own tragic character flaws. He died as simply another casualty of war, Batman's war.

Sure, the impact of Jason Todd's life on the Batman universe might be debated until the end of the world, whether his life or death meant anything in the end. However, to Batman, to Bruce Wayne, it must matter a great deal. Batman was the general, Todd's Robin a soldier. That soldier died. Whether that has an impact on Batman's soul or not determines just how close the Dark Knight is becoming a sociopath, whether he becomes more concerned over "law and order" than the lives of those around him.

Bringing Jason Todd alive just cheapens his death even more so, and is simply a cheap gimmick to make Batman even more so the ultimate tragic character in all of comic-bookdom.

Anonymous said...

Um, in all your flagwaving for Wargames and cries of 'fanboys' not 'getting it', I have to wonder if you get it.

Batman CAUSES the death of this girl. He lets her run around unsupervised in the batcave and gives her free access to the batcomputers where she stumples upon some secret plan of his to unite Gotham's underworld?

How in your mind is that good writing? The Batman I know would never let those things occur, and would never ended up having this girl's blood on his hands. The story makes Batman look like an idiot, and that simply isn't ok.

Aside from that glaring screwup, the crossover itself was poorly plotted, written and drawn.

The lowest the bat-titles have ever sunk. It deserved the trash reviews it got.

Anonymous said...

Mike, I thought she was a semi-skilled vigilante who hacked Batman's passwords to get his secret files.

And Scipio, Loeb has outdone himself in new lows with Ultimates 3. Be glad you don't read Marvel.

Interesting about that Sidekick Who Goes Too Far. I only remember something like that from Moon Knight, I think.