Sunday, February 10, 2013

Super Sunday III: Jay's Big Day

(I actually wrote this post some time ago and was holding on to it in order to post it last Sunday as part of my sort of annual--I skipped last year altogether--"Super Sunday" feature, in which I would talk about an old Superman story while the rest of the nation was pretending to be interested in a football game that most of them were probably only watching to see the commercials.  However, when the time came, it completely slipped my mind, so, rather than wait another year, here is the Gutter Talk kind of almost annual Super Sunday post one week late:)
The other day, I was rereading Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' classic Superman tale "For The Man Who Has Everything" and, when I got to the end, I realized something about this story.  Not only is it one of The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told (which just happens to be the name of the book I was reading it in), but it is also THE single greatest Jason Todd/Robin II story ever.
Let's face it, when you get right down to it, poor old Jason didn't really have a whole lot of shining moments in his brief career as Robin.  He was, and remains to this day, in my mind at least, a character most notable for having died.  Specifically, its the way he was killed off that made him noteworthy.  I am not, you realize, referring to the Joker savagely beating him with a crowbar then blowing him up, but to the infamous phone poll that left his fate up to the readers.  Given the way that the character was handled, or rather mishandled, in the Batman books, its perhaps fitting that his sole shining moment occurred in a Superman annual. 
Jason is the real hero of "For The Man Who Has Everything", after all.   Superman spends most of the story in a trance, and gets distracted at a crucial moment in the climactic battle with Mongul.  Wonder Woman just manages to get herself beat up.  Batman is pretty much useless.  He does manage to pry the Black Mercy off of Superman, but then ends up getting ensnared by it himself.  Therefore it is left to Jason to free Batman and face down Mongul, throwing the parasitic plant at the would be world conquerer, ensnaring him in his own trap.
Yet, after risking his life to save not just his friends but the whole damned world, Jason gets no credit or gratitude.  No "Good job, chum" from his mentor Batman; no "Uh...thanks for saving my life back there" from the guy he saved from getting pounded into pudding by an angry yellow alien. Even Dave Gibbons doesn't give the poor kid any respect.  Despite his major role in the story, Jason's barely even on the cover, mostly obscured by the UPC symbol. 

1 comment:

  1. Some great stories work like gifts that just keep on giving don't they? This is an aspect of "For the Man Who Has Everything" I hadn't before considered. Given the terrible treatment of Jason in the Batman comics, this really is Jason's finest moment. Thanks again Mr. Moore -- and thank you, Ray, for pointing this out.

    For further Jason abuse, I'd like to note that Jason was hedged out of not only Batman: The Animated Series, but also the episode of Justice League Unlimited that adapted this very comic story. In the animated version of "For the Man Who Has Everything", Batman figures out what needs to be done and Wonder Woman is the one who makes it happen.