Jason Todd. Red Hood. Robin. Arkham Knight. The history of the DC character Jason Todd is a long, sad journey that every Batman fan should familiarize themselves with. That history begins with the Pre & Post-Crisis eras of DC Comics.
Jason Todd was created by writer Gerry Conway and artist Don Newton to fill the void Dick Grayson had created when he left Batman and Gotham city to fight crime with the Teen Titans as Nightwing.
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Since the very beginning, Jason has been intrinsically tied to Dick, who would become his big brother. In light of that, it is disappointing but perhaps unsurprising to learn that Jason’s earliest stories were incredibly derivative.
JASON TODD: PRE-CRISIS HISTORY
Jason Todd first appeared in Batman #357. In that issue, Jason is a young acrobat working at the Sloan circus in an act alongside his parents. When Killer Croc and his men try to extort the circus workers, and are pushed away by the strong-willed carnies, disaster begins to brew. Croc ends up murdering Jason’s parents, while Jason ends up stumbling into the batcave and donning a Robin costume.
When he meets up with Batman to help fight, Jason learns of his parents demise. After the battle, Dick tells Bruce that he wishes to adopt the young, newly orphaned Jason. Bruce decides to adopt Jason instead, eventually training him as the second Robin.
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This version of Jason usually sported natural red hair, and was far closer to Dick Grayson in terms of characterization than the more well-known iterations of Jason Todd. But worry not, for his anger, angst, and brooding badassery lie in wait just around the corner.
JASON TODD: POST-CRISIS HISTORY (CONTENT WARNING)
After 1985’s multiverse-shattering comic book event, Crisis On Infinite Earths, DC reset the status quo for almost all of their major characters. In other words, this continuity reset meant that the previous Jason Todd stories never happened, and would be more or less irrelevant to the character moving forward.
This opportunity gave DC the leeway needed to reframe Jason Todd as someone wholly separate from Dick Grayson. The post-crisis version of Jason Todd was an orphaned thief living in Crime Alley. His father was a crook who worked for Two-Face and had gone missing. His mother was a drug addict who overdosed. Jason smoked, fought with intense rage, and he now had naturally black hair. Jason met Batman when Bats caught him trying to steal the wheels from the batmobile.
Bruce needed a new partner, now that Dick Grayson was off as Nightwing, fighting crime with the Teen Titans. Upon meeting Jason, he immediately recognized a craftiness and an ability to weaponize his fury. Combine that with Bruce’s belief that, left to his own devices, Jason would become part of Gotham’s criminal underworld, and you have the ideal replacement for Robin, at least in the eyes of Master Wayne.
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Jason Todd struggled with Batman’s no killing rule, believing that some villains and criminals were beyond repair. When serial rapist Felipe Garzonas was released due to the failings of the justice system, the knowledge that he was free brought one of his victims to commit suicide.
Jason found her corpse hanging, and immediately dashed to the high-rise apartment of Garzonas. Batman arrived moments later, but Garzonas had already plummeted to his death off of the balcony. Whether or not Jason pushed him is ambiguous, leaving it up to the reader to decide what Jason did or didn’t do. In my opinion, this was Jason’s first intentional kill, and it seemed more than justified, in spite of Batman’s opposition to lethal justice.
JASON TODD WAS KILLED OFF BY THE JOKER & DC FANS
Unfortunately for Jason Todd, this grittier, rougher Robin was not working for many DC fans in the 1980’s. Realizing this, DC Comics set up a phone poll where readers could call in, and for just a quarter, could vote for Jason to live or die in Jim Starlin’s Death In The Family storyline. Readers chose death for Jason, and just a few short months later, Tim Drake (Robin #3, for those unfamiliar) was introduced to the Batman universe.
That would have been the end of that, if it wasn’t for the reality-altering antics of Superboy Prime. Superboy Prime was an incredibly powerful being, with the ability to warp reality, both intentionally and unintentionally.
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One unintended consequence of Superboy Prime’s exploits was the revival of Jason Todd in the 2000’s, who crawled out of the dirt, confused and damaged, until Talia al Ghul eventually found him. Against her father’s wishes, she placed Todd into the Lazarus Pit, which restored his memories and healed his body, though it may have left him with some unintended mental and emotional side-effects.
Jason Todd returned to Gotham using a new “Red Hood” costume, a mantle that was famously used by the Joker in the past. Todd took control of Gotham’s underworld, attempting to prove that he could be a better Batman. He beat Joker with a crowbar, kidnapped him, and set up a confrontation between himself, Joker, and The Batman.
JASON TODD GOES UNDER THE RED HOOD
Jason wanted Batman to kill Joker, to break his rule and finally avenge the murder of his second son. Bats refused to cross that line, chaos ensued, and our hero, villain and antihero went their separate ways.
Red Hood would return time and time again over the next few years, fighting both for and against the Bat-family. His characterization tends to be a bit all over the place in the final stories from this era, but there were some fantastic elements introduced here.
Take for example, Red Hood’s sidekick, Sasha, AKA Scarlet. Scarlet was disfigured and tortured by Professor Pyg, as was her father. She smothered her poor father with a pillow, before Red Hood approached her with an opportunity to channel her rage and make a real difference in Gotham. Tragically, Scarlet has been more or less forgotten since the end of the Post-Crisis era.
Jason Todd has been featured in many adaptations and comic book eras, such as The New 52, the Injustice timeline, and the live-action Titans TV series. But the heart-breaking saga of the Boy Wonder who lived starts here.
What do you think of the original Jason Todd storylines? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on our social media!
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