''A Death in the Family'' is a ''Franchise/{{Batman}}'' comic book story arc first published in the late 1980s, which gave fans the ability to influence the story through voting with a 900 number. "A Death in the Family" ran in ''Batman'' #426-429, published in 1988-1989. The story was credited to Jim Starlin (script), Jim Aparo (pencil), Mike [=DeCarlo=] (ink), Adrienne Roy (color), and John Costanza (lettering). Covers were illustrated by Mike Mignola. The story is also collected as a trade paperback under the title ''Batman: A Death in the Family'', which has gone through multiple printings and is still available today.

The story is divided up into four chapters, but all centre on the life and death of Jason Todd, the second Robin. Prior to this, Jason's backstory had been changed in the aftermath of ''ComicBook/CrisisOnInfiniteEarths''. No longer the redheaded child of circus acrobats slain by Killer Croc, Jason was re-imagined as a vagrant who first ran into Batman after stealing the tires off of the Batmobile. After rescuing him from a school dedicated to creating young criminals, Batman recruited the young boy to be the new Robin, as the original, Dick Grayson, had left and became his own man following being shot by the Joker. However, Jason was still full of rage and he would channel it during his beatdowns, culminating in an ambiguous ending where Jason chases down the son of a foreign diplomat in revenge for the girl he killed, only for the man to fall to his death, unknowing to both Batman and the readers if the man slipped and fell or if Jason [[MoralEventHorizon crossed the line and pushed him]]. Fans [[TheScrappy did not like]] the DarkerAndEdgier Robin and something had to be done.

In the beginning of the story, Jason and Bruce are in uniform hiding behind some crates while a mob plans. Then, out of the blue, an impatient Jason leaps out from behind the crates and attacks the criminals. When the struggle is over, Bruce asks him what the devil he was doing and said one of these times he is going to get killed. Bruce then asks him if he thinks this is a game, and Jason replies "Yes, life is a game." Bruce therefore relieves him from duty and asks him about his parents. Jason resents this and storms out, refusing to discuss the issue.

A short while later, Jason bumps into a person from his past, who gives him a box containing some evidence that the persons he knew as his parents aren't actually his biological mom and dad. Believing that his mother is alive somewhere, Jason takes off to find her and Batman is reluctantly forced to join him. Their initial efforts prove fruitless, but eventually they track his mother to a refugee aid camp in Ethiopia. Unfortunately for Jason, ComicBook/TheJoker has plans for him and his mother, and Chapter 1 ends with Jason dead, Batman mournfully holding his body in his arms [[PietaPlagiarism à la La Pietà]]. The fans [[BeCarefulWhatYouWishFor got what they wanted]], [[AlasPoorScrappy only to regret it as soon as they got it]].

Chapter 2 involves Batman's attempts to get even with the Joker for what he did, which are complicated by the Joker becoming Iran's representative at the United Nations, which grants him DiplomaticImpunity and leads the US Government to recruit Superman to prevent Bruce from doing anything that could cause a diplomatic incident. When the Joker tries to gas-bomb the UN Chambers, Superman and Batman team up to stop him. Unfortunately for Batman, though, Joker ends up going down in a helicopter that crashes into the ocean, and of course he comes back later. Batman laments that things between him and the Joker always end that way: unresolved.

The later chapters dealt with Batman falling into a HeroicBSOD that saw him becoming increasingly brutal and fatalistic because of his unresolved guilt over Jason's death, as well as the efforts of Tim Drake, a young boy who idolised Dick Grayson, to convince Dick to be Batman's Robin again, believing that only a sidekick could snap Bruce out of his funk. Ironically, these events paved the way for Tim himself to take the mantle of Robin.

The story was loosely adapted into the prologue of the WesternAnimation/DCUniverseAnimatedOriginalMovies film ''WesternAnimation/BatmanUnderTheRedHood'', which also featured the follow-up comic storyline "Under the Hood", but changed it to be a Ra's al Ghul distraction plot GoneHorriblyWrong and WordOfGod revealed that this event happened in the TimeSkip between seasons one and two of ''WesternAnimation/YoungJustice''.

NeedsWikiMagicLove. Not to be confused with James Agee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same title. Or with ''ComicBook/DeathOfTheFamily'', another Batman storyline published in 2012.


* ActionDad - PapaWolf: Batman, obviously. He is so '''impossibly''' pissed off at ComicBook/TheJoker for what he did to poor Jason that he comes this close to kill him, and only Superman's intervention stops him.
* AmbiguousSituation: When Joker spots Bruce Wayne at the UN, they stare at each other for several panels (with Bruce looking ''really'' angry), then Joker walks away laughing. It's ambiguous whether Joker is just laughing because he thought he recognized Batman, or because he actually recognized Batman.
* BadBoss: The Joker, who "pays" his {{Mooks}} in Ethiopia with a dose of his laughing gas when he doesn't need them anymore.
* BeigeProse: From the ads and cover of the fourth book, also serving as a LateArrivalSpoiler for those who thought StatusQuoIsGod: "Robin is dead, murdered by the Joker."
* BitchInSheepsClothing: [[spoiler:Sheila Haywood.]]
* ContinuityNod: Reference is made to the events of ''ComicBook/TheKillingJoke'', when it is noted the superhero community and especially Jason are furious with the Joker for what he did to Batgirl.
* ContrivedCoincidence: Even though Batman's hunt for the Joker and Jason's quest to find his true mother are separate and cross borders, the Joker manages to turn up exactly where Jason is going twice during the story, allowing Batman to team up with Jason again and ensuring that bruce will be there when [[spoiler: Jason is killed by the Joker]].
* CrowbarCombatant: The Joker uses one to deliver a NoHoldsBarredBeatdown to Jason.
* DiplomaticImpunity: [[spoiler:The Joker somehow becomes Iran's ambassador to the United Nations.]]
* DownerEnding: Oh sure, Joker has been stopped, but [[spoiler:Jason and his mother are dead, [[KarmaHoudini and the Joker escapes so he does not have to answer for his crimes]]]]. Batman also ends the story on the dismal note that the conflict between himself and Joker will never be resolved.
* FamilyUnfriendlyDeath: [[spoiler:Jason Todd is brutally beaten with a crowbar and dies in an explosion alongside his mother.]]
** Additionally, Robin's broken body is visible, as well as Batman's reactions to checking Robin's pulse and the realization of his sidekick's death. [[RealityEnsues He also has to strip Robin of his clothes to disguise his secret identity.]]
* ForgotAboutHisPowers: Somehow Superman is not able to find the Joker's body when he goes down in the flaming helicopter. There wasn't anything special about the helicopter or the ocean, his SuperSenses should have spotted Joker easily.
* HeelRealization: [[spoiler:Sheila's dying moments have her realize that Jason, whom she'd already betrayed, was desperately trying to save her life, and tries to help Jason escape with her.]]
* HeroAntagonist: The UN calls in Franchise/{{Superman}} because they correctly assume Batman is not going to like [[spoiler: Joker being made Iran's ambassador to the UN]] and don't want him to cause an international incident. To Superman's credit he doesn't like the job but recognizes it's importance, which is why he holds Batman back.
* HopeSpot: [[spoiler:Badly concussed but still alive, Robin frees both himself and his mother from their bondage. Knowing that he can't disarm the bomb, they go for the door instead, as Joker's goons have already fled to safety... only to find the door locked. Kaboom.]]
** Said Kaboom happens at the end of part 3, making readers wait until part 4 to see if Jason survives. Adding to the Hope Spot is Batman racing to the scene, only to arrive right when the bomb goes off.
* LateArrivalSpoiler: At the time, many people dismissed the voting as a publicity gimmick, and that Robin would naturally live. The ads for issue 4 stated otherwise: "Robin is dead, murdered by the Joker."
* LonelyFuneral: A total of five people attend Jason Todd's funeral: Bruce, Alfred, Jim and Barbara Gordon, and a priest. Though there are a number of reasons as to why. First, Jason was only in his mid-teens at the time, and as the narration states "Jason's life was too short for his passing to cause many ripples." Second, Dick Grayson, the first Robin and Jason's surrogate brother, had been on an adventure in space at the time, and didn't find out about Jason's death until he returned to Earth. Third, Jason was usually busy with his duties as Robin in Gotham, preventing him from forming friendships with civilians or other heroes.
* MissingMom: Jason is trying to find his. There are three women in this story who potentially fit in the profile. [[spoiler:And the third one is his mom. Her name is Sheila Haywood, she's an aid worker in Magdala, Ethiopia... and she turns out to have ''massive'' issues.]]
* MyGreatestFailure: [[spoiler:The death of Jason]] is and will always be this for Batman.
* NeverFoundTheBody: The Joker is shot and left in a helicopter that crashes into the ocean. However, [[JokerImmunity his body can't be found afterwards]]. Batman seems aware of this trope, since when Batman washes up he repeatedly tells Superman to find the body.
** Horrifyingly averted for Robin, showing the writes aware of this trope. Jason's body is clearly seen, clearly dead, and clearly identified.
* NothingIsTheSameAnymore: It took decades for the Batman to recover from this storyline.
* ParentalBetrayal: [[spoiler:Sheila Haywood pulls a gun on Jason to prevent him from foiling the Joker's plot since it would expose her own crimes as well.]]
** Bruce later admits he sees this in himself, as Robin was a child when he died.
* PietaPlagiarism: Included as the cover and the used in-story, [[spoiler:with Batman kindly holding Jason's lifeless body [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Death_of_Jason_Todd.jpg and sorrowfully carrying him away]] in his arms]]. [[spoiler:[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jason_Todd%27s_Death.jpg It's re-created]] in ''Batman: Under the Red Hood''.]]
** [[spoiler:This trope also showed up in the unused "Jason Lives" ending, though this time with a jubilant Batman exclaiming "He's alive!! Thank God!!" (though its variation would later be used in the ''Batman Annual #25 story'', "The Return of Jason Todd")]]
* PopularityPower: [[InvokedTrope Invoked by DC]] in regards to the ending of the story - Fans could phone one of two telephone numbers to decide if [[spoiler:Jason would live or die at the Joker's hands. He very nearly survived, in part to news outlets picking up the story but merely reporting that it was ''Robin'' who could die & not mentioning it wasn't the original Robin.]]
* SeeminglyWholesomeFiftiesGirl: Dr. Haywood looks just like Creator/DorisDay. Otherwise, she is ''nothing'' like Doris Day.
* SenselessSacrifice: [[spoiler:Batman finds Sheila terribly injured from the bomb blast, and she tells him that her son Jason tried shielding her from the full force of the blast and ended up dying. However, his sacrifice is in vain all too soon, as she [[DiedInYourArmsTonight dies in Batman's arms]] shortly afterward.]]
* ShootingSuperman: In this case, ''Punching'' Superman, as Batman slugs Superman in grief. Superman mentally notes that he had to roll with that punch because if he took it, Batman would have broke his entire hand.
* TakeThat: A rather unsubtle one to the Iranian government and the Ayatollah Khomeini specifically, who literally appoint a mass-murdering psychopath as their United Nations ambassador for the purpose of murdering the General Assembly. Given the state of U.S.-Iranian relations in TheEighties, it's not too far from what films and television shows were doing.
** And one to the United States government, especially those involved int he Iran-Contra Scandal of the period, since they allow the Joker -- the Joker! -- to speak to the General Assembly because of what are strongly implied to be secret dealings with Iran.
* TheUnreveal: While it had been played with before whether the Joker knew Batman's SecretIdentity, the final chapter has a [[ActionFilmQuietDramaScene Quiet Drama Scene]] where the Joker notices Bruce Wayne in the crowd, and they simply stare at each other. [[spoiler:Jason had publicly been Wayne's ward for some time, and had been unmasked and confessed his identity shortly before his death, which the Joker could have overheard.]]
* WhamEpisode: For years, DC had been trying to reinvent Batman the way they'd done Superman and Wonder Woman post-Crisis. For decades, they tried to get the Joker out from under the shadow of the 60s TV show. This arc, combined with ''ComicBook/TheKillingJoke'', did both.