Batman: A Death in the Family is one of the most consequential Batman comics arcs ever published, showing the second Robin Jason Todd having a famously nasty encounter with a crowbar-wielding Joker.
The guilt Batman felt went on to heavily inform his character across all media, with the events of the comic being obliquely referenced in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the backstory of the Arkham Knight video game. A Death in the Family also became the origin of the Red Hood, who is now a firm fixture in the Batman mythos and got his own animated feature in 2010’s Batman: Under the Red Hood.
Now that 1988 arc is being retold by DC Animation as Batman: Death in the Family, which appears to rework and update the original story. Key differences are that the Jason Todd we see in this clip is older than the comic book version and looks set to become the villainous Hush (who in the comics is Tommy Elliot, a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne).
But this isn’t your typical DC Animated feature. In a cool twist, this will be interactive in the same style as Black Mirror‘s ‘Bandersnatch’ special. According to the blurb we’ll get to decide the various ways the story can play out, with viewers being asked to make choices at key points. That’s also a homage to the comics, which left Jason Todd’s fate to a phone poll decided by readers.
Director and writer Brandon Vietti explains that:
“Batman: Death in the Family is essentially a comic book come to life. We’ve paid homage to the 1988 interactive experience of DC’s A Death in the Family comics release by giving fans a unique opportunity to craft their own story through a branching tool that can lead in multiple directions. The viewer gets to choose these characters’ paths, and each choice paves an alternate future for all of the characters and, ultimately, the story.
From the very first navigation card, we wanted to give the audience an impression of what they’re getting into, but then also give them something unexpected—maybe even something they’ll regret, so they have to think twice about every future choice they make. Branched storytelling has to be stronger than just the gimmick of the choices—it has to be rewarding and offer new and worthwhile insights into the characters. It needs to involve you, and keep you searching for the next twist. So, we sought to subvert expectations and do something very different.”
Sounds fun! After a strong run in the early 2010s I’ve been on the outs with DC Animation for a while. At some point, their budget was clearly slashed, resulting in a very noticeable downgrade in the quality of the animation. Let’s hope that the neat concept gets the visual treatment it deserves in this new release.
Batman: Death in the Family is released on Blu-ray and Digital on October 13th.