In a shocking development for comic book lovers, Batman's young sidekick Robin will die battling a brutal enemy in the latest edition of the enterprise.
Robin the Boy Wonder, Batman's aide, will be killed in a comic book published Wednesday, the publisher has said.
The shocking demise of the Dark Knight's sidekick will first appear in issue No 8 of the offshoot title "Batman Incorporated", but the aftermath of his death will ripple throughout the DC Comics universe.
"He saves the world. He does his job as Robin" writer Grant Morrison was quoted by the New York Post as saying.
"He dies an absolute hero," he said.
Robin, also known as Damian Wayne, the 10-year-old son of Bruce Wayne, is slain fighting a hulking assassin who happens to be, in true comic-book form, a "brother" cloned from his genetic material.
Unlike all the times he has swooped in at the last minute, Batman arrives too late to save his protege.
A number of heroes have filled the role of Robin over the decades, including the first and best known, Dick Grayson, introduced in 1940.
The latest Robin, however, was the brilliant and caustic Damian, the illegitimate son of billionaire Bruce Wayne and Talia, the beautiful daughter of one of his deadliest enemies, Ra's al Ghul.
Morrison, who brought Damian to the forefront in 2006, said he had created a full arc for the character, who grew from a violent, fledgling assassin to a selfless leader.
"What we did was turn this little monster into a superhero," Morrison said.
"He's a little brat, but he's a super-brat," he added.
Damian isn't the first Robin to die, but he's the first to die at the height of his popularity with fans.
In 1988, a few years after Grayson moved on, the next Robin, the disliked, surly Jason Todd was slain by the Joker after an infamous phone poll let fans choose whether the teen should be killed off.
Todd was resurrected in 2005.
So who knows if Damian will stay dead, or if a new Boy (or perhaps Girl) Wonder will take his place.
"You can never say never in a comic book . . . Batman will ultimately always have a partner," Morrison said.