DC’s Robin Running wasn’t short of villains. If you’ve followed the events of Shadow War, you know that classic villains like Prometheus have chosen a side in the war between Deathstroke and League of Assassins, along with newly introduced good-for-nothings like Angelbreaker. And even though Shadow War has officially come to an end, the Robin series hasn’t stopped taking in some of DC’s worst supervillains and, in the latest chapter of the story, the weirdest.
Spoilers ahead for Robin #15
(opens in new tab)
Robin #15 was written by Joshua Williamson, drawn by Roger Cruz, colored by Norm Rapmund, colored by Luis Guerrero and lettered by Troy Peteri. The issue features Damian Wayne starting his own business to implement the lessons he learned in Shadow War. One of the goals he has in mind is the reform of Lazarus Island, a former territory of the League of Shadows. Along with DC Pride star Connor Hawke, Robin tries to turn the island into a sanctuary for people like him whose lives have been touched by super villains.
But just moments after Robin says this, a supervillain appears on the shores of Lazarus Island, though it doesn’t seem like he’s there to conquer. However, before we delve into his motivations, let’s answer the question – who is Lord Death Man?
(opens in new tab)
Originally introduced in 1966’s Batman #180, the villain known as “Death Man” was created by Robert Kanigher and Sheldon Moldoff. He was a powerful gangster with the ability to fall into a coma-like state and trick his enemies into thinking he was dead, only to revive himself. Despite his unique power, the character didn’t seem to have much sticking power in American comics. Luckily for him, a resurrection was imminent.
In 1967, manga publisher Shōnen King licensed his own Batman stories directly from DC. Creators Jiro Kuwata, Toshio Okazaki, and Takashi Minaomuru began writing Batman stories for Japan, and the antagonist they chose for him was Death Man, renamed “Lord Death Man” after the Japanese translation.
The manga lasted about a year and went largely unnoticed by American audiences until David Mazzucchelli (of Batman: Year One) rediscovered the stories at a Japanese comic convention in the early 1990s. Mazzucchelli told his friend and novelist Chip Kidd what he found, and after years of research and compilation, Kidd published Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan. Once again Lord Deathman had washed up on a distant shore – this time on the coast of the United States.
Since then, the character has appeared in comics and other Batman media. Most notably, Grant Morrison used it in their Batman Inc. saga, and the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold released an episode based on the original manga. Since the DCU’s rebirth, LDM has taken on the likes of Harley Quinn and the League of Assassins, trading its comatose trick death for real, supernatural healing abilities from Lazarus Pits.
Oh, and did we mention he picked up a mate?
In the pages of Robin Annual #1, it is revealed that the mysterious character Flatline, who can steal the abilities of dead people, was once Lord Death Man’s protégé. The mysterious character took part as a representative of LDM in the Lazarus Tournament, a Mortal Kombat-style competition that was central to the run-up to Shadow War, although we only got a glimpse of him in flashbacks.
Now Lord Death Man has ventured himself to Lazarus Isle, albeit in a far worse state than we last saw him. As Connor and Damian rushed to the side of the nearly drowned villain, he begged for their help, shouting:
“Flatline is out of control! She’s trying to kill me for good! You are my only hope!”
What happened between Lord Death Man and Flatline that the former sidekick wanted to murder their mentor? What secret has she discovered that could end Lord Death Man’s immortal life forever? And how will this affect the budding romance between Flatline and Robin himself, as we’ve seen in previous installments?
We’ll have to read on to find out. For now, Robin #15 will be available in comic book stores and digital platforms everywhere starting June 28th.
While we don’t know what’s next for Robin and Lord Death Man, we do know it will have something to do with it Batman vs Robinan event coming to DC this September.