Batman: A Death in the Family (partially lost unfinished "Jason Todd lives" version of comic; 1988)
In 1988, DC Comics made the controversial decision to kill off Batman's second Robin, Jason Todd, a character disliked by some fans as well as members of DC's creative staff.
To generate publicity and gauge fan sentiment, a 1-800 call-in line was established to decide Robin's fate. At the end of one of the issues, called A Death In The Family, callers were to whether or not the Joker managed to kill Jason Todd after a cliffhanger beating followed by an explosion. The fans allegedly decided that the Joker succeeded in killing Robin, but the legitimacy of the vote and the existence of an alternate outcome comic have been questioned.
Jason was a wilder, more rebellious Robin than Dick Grayson, which the fans and staff grew to dislike with time. In an infamous sequence in the A Death In The Family storyline, the Joker beat Jason near to death with a crowbar, then blew up the room he was in. Batman arrived in time to see the explosion, and the comic ended, leaving the cliffhanger ending. The vote in question followed, and in the next issue, Jason was dead.
It has been claimed (and denied by DC from the start) that the vote was pure theater, and that Jason Todd was to die no matter what. While the vote's outcome was close (no outside vetting has been done, and now seems unlikely), Batman veteran writer Denny O'Neil has posited that this was due to some readers thinking they were voting for the fate of Dick Grayson, and that the absent votes meant that this would have heavily favored killing off Jason Todd. Others say that wishing to nudge the outcome their way, DC staffers flooded the phone banks in favor of Jason's death. Whatever the truth of these rumors and speculation, DC may have ended up feeding this frenzy by how it has handled things since then.
The only evidence of an alternate comic is a page published in Batman Annual #25. This issue, which was related to Jason's 2000s return, shows Batman with Jason, who here is still alive. This page was included in a reprint of the Death in The Family story claiming to be:
"[...]an alternative final page for the lost chapter of A DEATH IN THE FAMILY in case the fans decided to save Robin[...] not see[ing] print until the release of Batman Annual #25".
However, some believe that this scene was crafted well after the fact to kill the endless rumors.
DC revealed there was just this completed page plus another incomplete one. Of the second one, only one clear panel has been released.
Website DC Universe's video series "Robin Week" showed the second page in one of their episodes, focusing on this cancelled comic storyline. It is shown at a slightly blurry angle, however.
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- Polygon news article on the unpublished pages. Retrieved 11 Mar '20
- Gizmodo article Retrieved 16 Mar '20
- The Beat article Retrieved 29 May '20