Interviews Reviews Guest Stars Fanzine Misc

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Reviewing 1983's Batman #366 — the first pre-Crisis appearance of Jason Todd as Robin

Batman #366 was written by Doug Moench, and edited by Nicola Cuti and the legendary Len Wein. Don Newton, Adrienne Roy, and Alfredo Alcala rounded out the art team with John Costanza handling the lettering duties.

The year 1983 brought about young Jason Todd’s debut as Robin. In fact, it was Batman #366 that featured the first appearance of Jason Todd in the Robin suit. Let’s see how Jason does his first time out in the field.

cover of Batman #366 (1983). Property of DC comics.
cover art by Walt Simonson and Anthony Tollin

We open the issue with the ominous title of “The Joker Is Wild!” and right away I’m getting a vibe of things to come in the following years ahead. Jason’s at home alone at Wayne Manor and boredom’s starting to set in so he begins to explore his surroundings. Now I’ve seen two different copies of this issue over the years and for the life of me I’d bet that Jason’s hair color is blonde. There are other versions that feature him with red hair in some panels. Either way, there appears to have been a lack of consistency. (Then again, maybe I just got a bad copy.)

panel from Batman #366 (1983). Property of DC comics.
Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala art

Anyway, we cut to Central America where we see the Joker fuming over his recent altercation with Batman. It quickly comes to light that the Joker is planning an assassination of a General named Diaz. We then cut to Batman with Vicki Vale in tow in the middle of the jungle. They’re picked up by some locals who question the Dark Knight in regards to his identity. There’s much going on in this issue but to make things a little more concise, we learn that Batman’s in pursuit of the Joker to foil his assassination attempt of General Diaz. Alfred Pennyworth has a fateful meeting with his daughter Julia, and Commissioner Gordon’s been in a coma where he’s visited by his daughter, Barbara.

Batman is able to thwart the attempt on General Diaz’s life and pursues the Joker to a site of ancient ruins. Joker’s about to cut down the Batman with some machine gunfire. At this moment Jason Todd (as Robin) swoops in and kicks the Joker, causing the clown to drop his weapon. The Joker is incensed and screams in anger that he’ll kill Robin. I found this scene to foreshadow events that would occur quite a bit some years later. Robin fields the Joker to Batman who quickly incapacitates the criminal. The issue ends with Batman giving the new Robin a verbal chastising.

panel from Batman #366 (1983). Property of DC comics.

I wasn’t too keen on the dialogue in this issue, and the execution of Jason Todd’s debut as Robin was handled poorly at best. From the get-go, we find out that Jason dyed his hair black to look like his predecessor, Dick Grayson. Already, it feels like Jason’s being set up to fail in the long term. In fact, you could’ve just cued up the Joker right then and there and given him a crowbar to put Jason out of the reader’s misery. 

panel from Batman #366 (1983). Property of DC comics.

There wasn’t really a shred of originality to the Jason Todd character when he was initially presented. This issue pretty much sank any chances of the Jason Todd character getting over with the audience in a long-term setting. Even though Jason arguably saved Batman’s life, Jason’s efforts were immediately dismissed by his mentor. In a sense, Jason’s career as Robin was over before it could really begin, and the frustration and aggravation that he would be known for would come into play sooner rather than later. The decade of the 1980’s served as a time when more rebellious characters would come to light in comics. Jason Todd could be looked at as a forebearer in this regard, however he’d later but snuffed out for a time afterwards. This issue is important for its historical significance alone in the Robin franchise. It serves as a precursor of the events to follow in the Batman mythos.

-Deron Murphree

Deron Murphree is a sucker for the more forgotten heroes and villains of DC Comics. He is an advocate for Jason Todd and Earth's True Green Lantern, Guy Gardner. Deron's new website is currently still under construction but you can follow him on Twitter @DeronMurphree or you can message him care of this website.

No comments:

Post a Comment