In 1988, the four-part Batman: A Death in the Family storyline by Jim Starlin, Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo, and Adrienne Roy, pitted Batman against The Joker, and saw the demise of then-Robin Jason Todd, an event that was decided by a reader call-in vote. For decades since fans have known that pages of alternate artwork by Aparo and DeCarlo for Batman #428 — pages that depicted the other outcome for Jason in which he survived — were locked away in the DC Comics archives, visible only to those lucky enough to tour the facility.
Until now, that is. Today’s DC Comics solicitations for February 2021 include a listing for a new deluxe edition hardcover of Batman: A Death in the Family, to be released in April, that promises to present the full alternate artwork for the first time in print (emphasis added below):
BATMAN: A DEATH IN THE FAMILY: THE DELUXE EDITION HC
written by JIM STARLIN and MARV WOLFMAN
art by JIM APARO, GEORGE PÉREZ, and others
cover by JIM APARO
The game-changing Batman epic returns in a new deluxe edition hardcover! As the second person to assume the role of Batman’s sidekick, Jason Todd had a completely different personality than the original Robin. Rash and prone to ignore Batman’s instructions, Jason was always quick to act without regard to consequences. This story put Jason’s fate in the readers’ hands—who voted whether or not Robin should live or die at the hands of The Joker. This tale of loss, guilt, and brutality stands as one of the most defining pieces of the Dark Knight’s mythology. Collects Batman #426-429 and #440-442, The New Teen Titans #60-61, plus several never-before-published pages that show what would have happened if Jason Todd had lived!
Only one page of the alternate artwork has ever been officially published by DC Comics. Batman Annual #25, which revealed the story of how Jason returned from the dead and became Red Hood, utilized perhaps the most famous of the alternate pages by Aparo & DeCarlo, in which a jubilant Batman exclaims “He’s alive!” after finding Jason in the rubble:
The additional artwork, which largely consists of patch panels for existing pages and one nearly-complete page, was shown to a wide audience for the first time on an episode of the DC Daily web show back in March. The most substantial piece of unpublished alternate artwork revealed during the show features Jason Todd in a coma following the explosion, and a visiting Dick Grayson offering help to Bruce, who rejects him.
The story of Jason Todd’s death by fan vote (which The Beat covered extensively in an oral history of the event), a stunt that saw over 10,000 votes cast by two separate 1-900 numbers and a margin of only 72 votes deciding Jason’s fate, is one of the most infamous Batman stories of all time, and these previously-unpublished pages, hidden away for over thirty years, are a true piece of comics history that are finally being revealed to fans.
Look for the Batman: A Death in the Family deluxe edition hardcover in stores on April 13, 2021.