In 1988, DC fans had the remarkable chance to choose Robin’s fate, as thousands of comic readers worldwide voted whether Jason Todd should live or die at the hands of the Joker. Famously, they chose for Jason to die, creating comic book history in the process and shaping the future of the character, who eventually was reborn as the vigilante Red Hood.
But if you had the chance to do it again, would you make the same choice?
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is about to give you that opportunity, only this time you won’t be making the choice by calling a 900-number (remember those?), but by clicking your Blu-ray remote. Produced by DC and Warner Bros. Animation, DC Showcase – Batman: Death in the Family is an anthology of 2019-2020 animated shorts anchored by a new, extended-length short that adapts the iconic Batman: A Death in the Family comic book storyline by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo. However, in a fitting twist, the Batman: Death in the Family short will take an interactive approach—a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment first—and offer viewers the opportunity to choose which direction the story goes by making choices using their remote control. As if that isn’t fascinating enough, this take on the classic storyline also boasts some intriguing connections to the popular 2010 DC Universe Movie, Batman: Under the Red Hood.
Produced, directed and written by Brandon Vietti, in Batman: Death in the Family, the infamous murder of Batman protégé Jason Todd will be undone, and the destinies of Batman, Robin and the Joker will play out in shocking new ways as viewers make multiple choices to control the story. And while Batman: Under the Red Hood may provide a baseline on which the story is draped, it also branches in new directions and features several characters previously unseen in the original film. Bruce Greenwood (The Resident, Star Trek, iRobot), Vincent Martella (Phineas and Ferb) and John DiMaggio (Futurama, Adventure Time) reprise their Batman: Under the Red Hood roles of Batman, young Jason Todd and the Joker, respectively. Other featured voices are Zehra Fazal (Young Justice) as Talia al Ghul and Gary Cole (Veep) as Two-Face and James Gordon.
Vietti, as many fans likely know, was the director of Batman: Under the Red Hood, as well as the co-director of Superman: Doomsday, the very first DC Universe Movie. He’s also the co-creator and co-executive producer of Young Justice, the mega-popular animated series which offers its own unique take on DC’s pantheon of superheroes. With an obvious closeness to the character of Jason Todd and an understanding of what fans respond to when it comes to DC heroes and villains, Vietti is the perfect director to shepherd such a unique adaptation of a groundbreaking story.
“Batman: Death in the Family is essentially a comic book come to life,” Vietti says. “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.”
In other words, you may think you know the tragic Batman tale that made pop culture waves over thirty years ago, but it’s time to toss those expectations out the window like one of Robin’s batarangs. The interactive Batman: Death in the Family short offers many different ways for viewers to tell the story, with numerous twists and turns in the middle, and several possible endings. Viewers can also choose to allow the story to tell itself, with an included option to let the Blu-ray decide its own path (but really, why would you do that?).
Batman: Death in the Family promises to be packed with Easter Eggs, and touches on a number of compelling themes, including fatherhood, mental health, death, rebirth, revenge and redemption. Along the route, viewers will encounter new, surprising looks at some classic DC characters.
“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,” Vietti explains. “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.”
Along with Batman: Death in the Family, the collection includes four additional DC Showcase shorts that were released over the past two years as bonus content for various DC Universe Movies:
- Originally attached to Batman: Hush, Sgt. Rock (below) is executive produced and directed by Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series) from a script by award-winning comics writers Louise Simonson, Walter Simonson and Tim Sheridan (Superman: Man of Tomorrow, Reign of the Supermen). The original tale finds battle-weary Sgt. Rock thinking he has seen everything that World War II can dish out. But he is in for the surprise of his life when he is assigned to lead a company consisting of legendary monsters into battle against an unstoppable platoon of Nazi zombies. Karl Urban (Star Trek and Lord of the Rings film franchises) provides the voice of Sgt. Rock. Also voicing characters in Sgt. Rock are Keith Ferguson, William Salyers and Audrey Wasilewski.
- Inspired by Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Death is produced and directed by Sam Liu (Superman: Red Son, The Death of Superman) and written by J.M. DeMatteis (Batman: Bad Blood). In the story, Vincent, an artist with unresolved inner demons, meets a mysterious girl who helps him come to terms with his creative legacy…and eventual death. Leonard Nam (Westworld) provides the voice of Vincent, and Jamie Chung (The Gifted, Big Hero 6) is the voice of Death. The cast includes Darin De Paul, Keith Szarabajka and Kari Wahlgren. Death was originally included with Wonder Woman: Bloodlines.
- Attached as a bonus feature on the release of Superman: Red Son, The Phantom Stranger has Bruce Timm (Batman: The Killing Joke) at the helm as executive producer and director, and the short is written by Ernie Altbacker (Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, Batman: Hush). Set in the 1970s, the short find the enigmatic DC mystery man simultaneously playing both omniscient narrator and active character in a story of supernatural comeuppance for evil doers. Peter Serafinowicz (The Tick) gives voice to the Phantom Stranger, and Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville, Impastor) provides the voice of Seth. The Phantom Stranger also features the voices of Natalie Lander, Grey Griffin and Roger Craig Smith.
- Adam Strange is produced and directed by Butch Lukic (Superman: Man of Tomorrow), who also conceived the original story, which is written by J.M. DeMatteis (Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons, Constantine: City of Demons). The short was initially attached to Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. On a rugged asteroid mining colony, few of the toiling workers are aware that their town drunk was ever anything but an interplanetary derelict. But when the miners open a fissure into the home of a horde of deadly alien insects, his true identity is exposed. He is space adventurer Adam Strange, whose heroic backstory is played out in flashbacks as he struggles to save the very people who have scorned him for so long. Charlie Weber (How To Get Away with Murder) provides the voice of Adam Strange, alongside with Roger R. Cross, Kimberly Brooks, Ray Chase and Fred Tatasciore.
Jim Krieg (Batman: Gotham by Gaslight) serves as co-producer on all five included shorts, while Amy McKenna (Wonder Woman: Bloodlines) is producer. Sam Register is executive producer.
Like most DC animated releases, DC Showcase – Batman: Death in the Family will be available on both Blu-ray and Digital starting on October 13, 2020. However, there are some key differences between the two versions in this case. If you’d like the interactive version of Batman: Death in the Family, you’ll need to buy the Blu-ray edition.
The Digital edition features the Batman: Death in the Family extended-length short in a non-interactive format (a pre-assembled version of the story, entitled Under the Red Hood: Reloaded), along with the other four 2019-2020 DC Showcase shorts, and three other non-interactive versions of the Batman: Death in the Family short (entitled Jason Todd’s Rebellion, Robin’s Revenge and Red Hood’s Reckoning) as bonus features. (Be aware that not all Digital retailers offer bonus features with purchase).
The Blu-ray offers the interactive version of Batman: Death in the Family along with the four other DC Showcase shorts and approximately five minutes of additional content within the Batman: Death in the Family story that is not included in the Digital version. It also features commentary tracks on Sgt. Rock, Adam Strange, Death and The Phantom Stranger, plus one of the linear “Death in the Family” shorts (Under the Red Hood: Reloaded), by DC Daily hosts Amy Dallen and Hector Navarro.
So, will Jason Todd live or die? What will become of Batman and the Joker? Will the truly be a death in the Bat-Family? The answer will once again soon be in your hands. Choose wisely.