When an interactive animated film adaptation of the classic Batman storyline “Death in the Family” was announced, it seemed like an obvious no-brainer. The original comic saw the much-maligned second Robin, Jason Todd, killed at the hands of the Joker on the decision of readers through a 900 number voting system. This being comics, Jason would eventually return under the moniker of the Red Hood. During DC FanDome, the cast/crew assembled for the DC Showcase – Batman: Death in the Family panel.
Moderated by DC Daily’s Hector Navarro, the Death in the Family panel included producer/writer/director Brandon Vietti and actors Vincent Martella (Jason Todd) and John DiMaggio (Joker).
As much as Vietti would like to take credit for conceiving the project, he conceded that to Bruce Timm who pointed out that the death of Robin was the most famous audience-choice story in DC Comics history. From there Vietti, already well versed with the saga of Jason Todd after directing the Batman: Under the Red Hood animated feature, was brought onto the project.
In terms of the different storyline branches, Vietti revealed that there is one large branch that is over 20 minutes long, while others can be as short as 7 minutes. In fact, there is one story branch that is only 30 seconds.
For Vincent Martella, it’s been over a decade since he last voiced Jason Todd in the aforementioned Under the Red Hood film. While his role in that film was relatively short, Death in the Family afforded him an opportunity to explore new places with the character.
Playing the iconic Clown Prince of Crime is a daunting task for any performer and John DiMaggio is no exception. DiMaggio is honored to be included among the ranks of actors who’ve lent their vocal talents to the Joker such as Mark Hamill, who actually applauded him for his performance in Under the Red Hood.
Vietti made sure to praise comic creator Judd Winick who wrote and adapted for animation Under the Red Hood storyline and helped define this world. It was imperative for Vietti to do right by both Winick and the fans. DiMaggio compared it to the Cirque du Soleil show Love that reimagines The Beatles’ original tracks.
The opening credits graphics sequence was then shown giving some backstory of the events that lead into Death in the Family.
Talia al Ghul who only briefly appears in a non-speaking role in Under the Red Hood appears in a larger capacity in Death in the Family voiced by the talented Zehra Fazal. Conversely, the villainous Two-Face wasn’t part of the original film or storyline but plays an important role in this project voiced by Gary Cole.
Although the actors recorded separately, DiMaggio described Bruce Greenwood’s performance as the Caped Crusader as phenomenal and his delivery as “pure Batman.” DiMaggio couldn’t help but launch into an impression of his Batman: Brave and the Bold co-star Diedrich Bader‘s voice as Batman.
A clip from the film was then shown featuring bloody and bandaged Jason Todd undergoing his transformation into Hush through his twisted internal monologue analyzing the Bat Family.
Despite the disparate storylines, the overarching theme of each is family and the guiding light for Vietti on the project. Martella and DiMaggio also cited revenge and redemption. The nature of the project allowed Vietti to lean into horror, best exemplified by another clip of Jason Todd (under the guise of Red Robin) confronting Two-Face.
As far as favorite story branches, Vietti simply teased “Jason Todd walks into a diner,” a sentiment shared by DiMaggio and Martella.
Fittingly, the Death in the Family panel concluded with the question if the filmmakers would vote to let Jason live or die. Surprisingly, they all voted to let him live. Nevertheless, Vietti argued letting Jason live was a less compassionate choice than having him die since he had to live with the trauma from the Joker.
Batman: Death in the Family arrives on Blu-ray and Digital starting October 13, 2020.