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Most people that are familiar with Batman know that he usually has a sidekick at his side, a Robin. Over the years there have been a number of Robins that have fought crime with Batman. In this post, we are going to talk about Batman's second Robin, Jason Todd. The character has gone through many changes throughout his publication history and has had many alter-egos in the past. We are going to go over all of the various personas that Jason Todd has used since his debut as Robin all the way up to the present day.
As we established, Jason Todd was the second Robin who was meant to replace Dick Grayson. Initially Jason Todd was a carbon copy of Dick Grayson from his appearance down to his origin story. In the character's original iteration he was a child of circus acrobats (The Flying Todds, a copy of The Flying Graysons). Todd's parents, like Dick's parents, were murdered by a criminal. This would lead Bruce Wayne to take in Jason and recruit him to be part of his crime-fighting crusade. However, after the Crisis on Infinite Earths Event, Jason was given a new origin story, and this origin was never elaborated on further. Not that that's a bad thing because this origin story is not necessarily a good one, especially because it had been done already.
After Crisis on Infinite Earths many characters' origin stories were reworked, including Jason Todd. In this reworking Jason Todd was a kid that did not have parents that were present during his childhood. His father was a criminal who was eventually sent to prison and never returned, and his mother was a drug addict who later died of an overdose. This would lead to Jason becoming an orphan at a young age and having to fend for himself. He would make a living by stealing car parts. One day, he comes across the Batmobile, and for whatever reason Jason decides to try and steal the tires. He doesn't do this successfully as he is later caught by Batman. After they meet, Batman takes Jason to a school for troubled youths, but it turns out that the owner was using this school to train these kids to be criminals (we will revisit this character later). After finding out about this, Batman decides to take the rash, angry, and impulsive Jason Todd under his wing and recruits him to be the new Robin. However, Robin was too out of control for the likes of Batman because Jason would be violent in combat and often showed a desire to kill the criminals he fought.
'Death In The Family'
Remember how I said that Jason's mother died of an overdose? Well it turns out that she wasn't actually dead (because comic books. Nobody ever stays dead in comic books). Jason, being trained by Batman, uses his detective skills to find his mother. However, his mom, Sheila, is being blackmailed by the Joker to provide him with medical supplies. Sheila then hands Jason over to the Joker, where the Joker beats him with a crowbar. After this, Joker leaves Robin and his mom in an abandoned warehouse with an active time-bomb. It goes off, killing Jason and his mother.
The Reality Breaking Punch
More often than not, the ways in which characters are brought back to life in comics are pretty wacky. However, the way that Jason Todd is brought back to life takes the lead for dumbest resurrection ever. This all begins with a character named Superboy Prime, a version of Superman from an Earth that is very similar to ours. This character is a villain, and is trapped in a place called the paradise dimension. In an attempt to escape, Superboy punches the walls of the dimension to break free. Doing so caused reality to break, which somehow leads to Jason Todd being revived. However, Jason, even though he is brought back to life, has amnesia, which leads to R'as Al-Ghul (a Batman villain and eco-terrorist) taking the boy in and using the Lazarus Pit to heal him after he clawed himself out of his grave from the reality punch. During this time, R'as and his daughter, Talia, tell Jason about his death at the hands of Joker and that Batman never killed the Joker after that. The idea that Batman didn't kill the Joker or didn't show remorse for not killing the Joker infuriates him and leads Jason to train the same way that Batman did so he could go to Gotham, and essentially become a "better" version of Batman, one that kills criminals. This leads Jason to take up the Joker's original alter-ego (Red Hood).
Jason spent/spends most of his time as a superhero under the Red Hood guise. When he first became Red Hood, Jason went to Gotham and began to terrorize the city. Some of the things he did include stealing an illegal shipment of Kryptonite from Black Mask, starts a war on that character's crime empire, and beats the crap out of Tim Drake (the third Robin) because Todd was pretty jealous. Jason didn't like that Tim was supposedly a better Robin than he was. Also, he was also angered by the fact that after he died as a boy Batman just went ahead and got himself another child sidekick to fight in his war on crime. Jason then takes the Joker hostage and lures Batman to his location near Crime Alley (where Batman's parents died, and where the two first met). Here Jason gives Batman an ultimatum, either kill Jason or let Jason kill the Joker. Batman throws a batarang at Jason, which cuts his neck but does not kill him. The Joker then sets off some explosives that Jason planted. The Joker survives, but Jason is nowhere to be seen.
One year later all the way to the Countdown to Final Crisis, Jason "borrows" not one, but two superhero alter-egos. He goes as Nightwing, Dick Grayson's long-established superhero moniker, and Red Robin, Tim Drake's current alter-ego. We should establish that Jason is not very good at coming up with original superhero names, which he himself says in Red Hood and The Outlaws (2016).
A year after his face-off with Batman, Jason is seen in Bludhaven pretending to be Nightwing. The difference between Dick and Jason's Nightwings is that Jason murders criminals, whereas Dick does not. Jason's brief stint as Nightwing does not last long at all. In fact, Jason gets captured by mobsters and is saved by Dick. After that, Jason decides to leave Dick with the Nightwing title and goes off to do his own thing.
During Countdown to Final Crisis, Jason is taken to Earth-51 where he meets the Batman of that Earth. On Earth-51 Jason Todd is murdered by the Joker which leads Batman to begin killing criminals. Initially this Batman does not trust him, but after they are attacked by beings called the monitor Batman gives Jason the Red Robin suit. However, after Final Crisis ends, Jason finds out that his version of Batman has died, which angers and saddens him to the point where he decides to stop fighting as a costumed hero. This does not last long because after a brief meeting with Tim Drake, Jason hears a recording from Batman that says that letting him die and failing to protect him was his greatest failure. Batman also says that he regrets not helping Jason deal with his emotional trauma and making the boy fight crime instead. This infuriates Jason, which later leads him to attempt to become the new Batman.
Battle for the Cowl is one of my favorite Batman stories. Essentially, after Bruce Wayne dies, there are multiple people that vie for the title of Batman. Jason is the first character that attempts to become Batman. I think Jason's version of Batman was pretty cool and looked really bad-ass. Jason's version of Batman carries guns and covers his mouth. He obviously doesn't work with the Gotham Police, and whenever he stops a crime he just leaves a piece of paper saying, "I am Batman." Jason does this because he wants Batman to be an urban legend, and not a public figure like he was when Bruce was Batman. However, the rest of the Bat-family is not a fan of Jason being Batman, or his methods. So they all attempt to stop him. Tim Drake is the first one to try and dress up as Batman to try and stop Jason, and to show the Bat-family what Bruce would have done. However, Jason kicks Tim's ass and stabs him in the chest with a batarang, thinking he killed him. Unbeknownst to Jason, Tim was still alive. Jason also shot Damian, almost killing him. This leaves Dick and Jason to face-off for the title of Batman. Long-story short: Dick wins and becomes Batman. Jason falls off a bridge into water, but survives.
Jason, however, did not die. In fact, he eventually becomes the Red Hood again and gets his own side-kick named Scarlet. Jason aims to replace Dick as Batman and Damian as Robin with his duo. This doesn't really go well because he eventually gets sent to Arkham Asylum and then Blackgate Prison. One weird and disturbing fact is that when he was in those institutions the number of suicides spiked, and prisoner deaths increased dramatically. Eventually Jason escapes prison, and goes on to form the Outlaws, a team that consisted or Arsenal (Green Arrow's sidekick), Starfire, and himself to make up for his past sins.
In Batman Incorporated, Batman gives Jason Todd the chance to be part of the Bat-family again. However, he must use the title of Wingman, and cannot tell any of the other members his true identity. Jason accepts and gets his own sidekick, Damian, who goes as Redbird. However, Damian eventually finds out and Jason is forced to stop being Wingman. This leads Jason to become Red Hood again.
Eventually Jason forms a new team of Outlaws consisting of himself, an Amazon-offshoot named Artemis, and Bizarro (a genetically imperfect clone of Superman).
There we have it. We'be gone through most of Jason Todd's publication history and the alter-egos that the character has had since his debut in 1983. For some good Red Hood reading recommendations I suggest:
- Red Hood: Lost Days
- Batman Eternal
- Batman and Robin Eternal
- Batman: Battle for the Cowl
- Red Hood and The Outlaws (2016)
- Batman: Under the Red Hood
- Batman and Robin by Grant Morrison (Jason isn't in this too much, but he does make appearances. The title itself is critically acclaimed so it's worth a read.)
There are other Red Hood titles, but I'll be honest they're not really some that I would recommend.
Note: I do not own the panels, text, and images shown in this post. All panels, texts, and images belong to their respective owners.