Jason Todd

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Jason Todd as the Red Robin, from Countdown to Final Crisis #14 (January 2008). Pencils by Pete Woods.
Jason Todd as the Red Robin, from Countdown to Final Crisis #14 (January 2008). Pencils by Pete Woods.


Jason Peter Todd is a fictional character published in stories by DC Comics. Jason Todd first appeared in Batman #357 (1983) and became the new Robin, sidekick to the superhero Batman, when the previous Robin Dick Grayson went on to star in The New Teen Titans under the moniker of Nightwing.

The Jason Todd Robin was not well-received by fans. For 1988's Batman: A Death in the Family storyline, DC Comics held a telephone poll to determine whether or not the character would die at hands of the Joker, Batman's archnemesis. The character was killed off by a slim margin of votes. Subsequent Batman stories dealt with Batman's guilt over Jason's death. However, in 2004 the character was resurrected as an enemy of Batman, eventually becoming the second Red Hood and assuming a new role as an anti-hero who resembles Batman in many ways, except with a willingness to use lethal force.Countdown #50 During DC's weekly Countdown to Final Crisis series, Jason Todd assumes the identity of Red Robin.

Contents

Publication history

Cover to Batman #368 (Feb. 1984), which features the first appearance of Jason Todd (as Robin) on the cover of the series.
Cover to Batman #368 (Feb. 1984), which features the first appearance of Jason Todd (as Robin) on the cover of the series.

By the time Len Wein took over as editor of DC Comics' Batman titles in 1982, the original Robin, Dick Grayson, had largely moved on to starring as the leader of the young superhero team the Teen Titans in DC's New Teen Titans title. However, with the character no longer featured in Batman comics, the disadvantages of telling Batman stories without the character to act as a sounding board for the protagonist became apparent.<ref name="daniels pg 147">Daniels, Les. Batman: The Complete History. Chronicle Books, 1999. ISBN 0-8118-4232-0, pg. 147 Jason Todd was created as Dick Grayson's replacement as Robin. Jason Todd debuted in Detective Comics #524 (March 1983), but the character did not appear in costume as Robin until Detective Comics #526 (May 1983). This version wasn't far removed from the original Dick Grayson character. He was an orphan, a former circus acrobat and pretty much the all american "Leave it to Beaver" kid.

Following the 1985 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC took the opportunity to reboot many of its properties. Jason Todd's character was completely revamped so that instead of just being a carbon copy of Dick Grayson he was now unique in that he was a troubled kid from the streets whom Batman took in after catching the child trying to steal the tires off the Batmobile. Nevertheless, the character was not well-received by fans. Dennis O'Neil, who took over as Batman editor in 1986, said, "They did hate him. I don't know if it was fan craziness--maybe they saw him as usurping Dick Grayson's position. Some of the mail response indicated that this was at least on some people's minds."Pearson, Roberta E.; Uricchio, William. "Notes from the Batcave: An Interview with Dennis O'Neil." The Many Lives of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and His Media. Routledge: London, 1991. ISBN 0-85170-276-7, pg. 21

"A Death in the Family"

In 1988, Dennis O'Neil suggested that an audience might be attracted to the comics by being afforded the opportunity to influence the creative process.Daniels, pg. 160 Settling on the idea of telephone poll via a 1-900 number, O'Neil had decided due to discussions with DC Comics president Jenette Kahn that the poll should not be wasted on something insignificant. O'Neil settled on using the poll to determine the fate of Jason Todd. O'Neil said, "The logical candidate was Jason because we had reason to believe that he wasn't that popular anyway. It was a big enough stunt that we couldn't do it with a minor character."Pearson; Uricchio. "Notes from the Batcave: An Interview with Dennis O'Neil." Pg. 22 Even though Jason Todd was unpopular with readers, O'Neil could not decide what to do with the character, so he opted to present the choice to the readership.

The vote was set up in the four-part story "A Death in the Family" that was published in Batman #426-429 in 1988. At the end of Batman #427, Jason Todd was beaten by the Joker and left to die in an explosion. The inside back cover of the issue listed two 1-900 numbers that readers could call to vote for the character's death or survival. Within the 36 hour period alloted for voting, the poll received 10,614 votes. The verdict in favor of the character's death won by a slim margin of 5,343 votes to 5,271.O'Neil, Dennis. "Postscript." Batman: A Death in the Family. DC Comics, 1988. ISBN 0-930289-44-7 The following issue of Batman, issue 428, was published featuring Jason Todd's death. Despite the poll results, O'Neil noted, "We did the deed, and we got a blast of hate mail and a blast of negative commentary in the press."Daniels, pg. 161 A few comics creators voiced their displeasure at the event. Writer/artist Frank Miller, who had worked on Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, said, "To me the whole killing of Robin thing was probably the ugliest thing I've seen in comics, and the most cynical."Sharrett, Christopher. "Batman and the Twilight of the Idols: An Interview with Frank Miller." The Many Lives of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and His Media. Routledge: London, 1991. ISBN 0-85170-276-7, pg. 41 However, DC stood behind the outcome of the poll. O'Neil was quoted on the back cover of A Death in the Family trade paperback collecting the story with Todd's death as saying, "It would be a really sleazy stunt to bring him back."A Death in the Family trade paperback However, O'Neil would later regret his decision."If I had to do it again, I would certainly have kept my mouth shut." -- Dennis O'Neil, Who Killed Robin? An Interactive Whodunit, from DC Comics: A Celebration of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes, by Les Daniels

"Hush" and return

Prior to the release of Batman #617 (cover dated September 2003), a page of art from the issue by artist Jim Lee circulated the Internet, apparently revealing the mystery villain Hush, who was the focus of Lee and writer Jeph Loeb's "Hush" storyline, as a resurrected Jason Todd. The following month's Batman #618 (October 2003) revealed that the appearance of Todd was in fact a ruse by the villain Clayface under the direction of the Riddler and Hush. Loeb explained, "I always liked Jason, liked the idea that Batman had a Robin who died in the line of duty and how that would motivate anyone to continue their quest. It would also be the most recent, most painful thing he had to endure. That's why Hush played the card -- to get inside Batman's head . . . But 'Hush' wasn't about Jason -- Jason was a pawn to be moved around the table . . . If someone else wanted to tell another Jason story or bring him back and we at least opened the door, that's great!"<ref name="newsarama redhood">Template:Cite web

In 2005, writer Judd Winick began a storyline that revolved around the mystery of the identity of the new Red Hood. The character's identity was revealed as Jason Todd in Batman #638. Winick explained that after his initial arc on the Batman title, he suggested doing "something big" to his editors. Specifically, he wanted to bring Jason Todd back from the dead. Winick said, "What it finally came down to – beyond the argument, which will be a reader argument about should any character return from the dead, and should this character come back from the dead? – was that I was less interested in the how and the why and the what of Jason Todd returning from the dead than I am about what Jason’s return will do to Batman. Now." The explanation for the character's return was revealed in Batman Annual #25 (2006). After a storyline in Nightwing as part of the One Year Later event where Todd took the mantle of Nightwing for himself, the character reappeared in his Red Hood persona as one of the focal characters of DC's year-long weekly Countdown series starting in May 2007.

Fictional character history

The initial version of Jason Todd had an origin that was "shamelessly reminiscent" of the 1940 origin of the first Robin, Dick Grayson. Originally, like Grayson, Jason is the son of circus acrobats killed by a criminal (Killer Croc) and is later adopted by Bruce Wayne.Detective Comics #534 (1983) Distinguished by blonde hair (as opposed to the black hair of Dick Grayson), Todd is unfailingly cheerful, wearing his circus costume to fight crime until Dick Grayson presents him with a Robin costume of his own. At that point, Jason dyes his hair black, and in later stories blossoms under Batman's tutelage.

Cover to Batman #408 (June 1987). Depicting the first Post-Crisis meeting of Batman and Jason Todd
Cover to Batman #408 (June 1987). Depicting the first Post-Crisis meeting of Batman and Jason Todd

Following the revamp of the Batman mythos due to Crisis on Infinite Earths, Jason Todd is recast as a young street orphan who first encounters the Dark Knight while attempting to steal the tires of the Batmobile. Bruce Wayne sees to it that Jason is placed in a school for troubled youths. Jason earns the mantle of Robin a short while later by helping Batman apprehend a gang of thieves. However, Todd does not wear the Robin costume (an improved version of the classic) until after six months of training.Batman #410 Batman realizes that while Jason doesn't possess Dick Grayson's natural athleticism & acrobatic skills, he can become a productive crimefighter by channeling his rage. He also believes that if he doesn't help the boy, Jason will eventually become part of the "criminal element." Jason also aided Batman while Gotham city was temporarily overrun by Deacon Blackfire as shown in Batman: The Cult.

Unlike Grayson or the pre-Crisis Jason, the post-Crisis Jason is impulsive, reckless, and full of rage. Even on missions in which Batman orders him to conduct surveillance, Jason attacks, ruining months of planning. Jason also uses excessive force to subdue criminals. In one story, asked to "hold off" villains, Jason instantly takes to firing at them with a gun,Batman #415 despite Batman's abhorrence for firearms. For the murder of his father, Jason attempts to choke Two-Face to death in one story.Batman #411. On his second encounter with Two-Face, Jason encourages Batman to abandon Harvey Dent in a lethal situation. In the Dumpster Killings story arc, Jason implies that he believes lethal force to be acceptable when dealing with criminals. Another story implies that Jason actually allows (or causes) the death of a rapist who evades criminal charges due to his father's status as a diplomat. What really happened is never revealed, although Jason later denies any wrongdoing, claiming (of the man's fall from a balcony), "I guess I spooked him. He slipped."Batman #424

"A Death in the Family"

In 1988's "A Death in the Family" storyline, Jason discovers his mother was not his biological mother, and runs away to find the woman who gave birth to him. After following a number of leads, Jason finally tracks his mother, Sheila, to Ethiopia, where she works as an aid worker. While Jason is overjoyed to be reunited with his real mother, he soon discovers that she is being blackmailed by the Joker, who is using her to provide him with medical supplies. Sheila herself has been embezzling from the aid agency and as part of the cover-up she hands her own son, who arrives as Robin, over to the Joker. The Joker beats the boy brutally with a crowbar, and then leaves him and Sheila in the warehouse with a time bomb. Sheila and Robin try desperately to get out of the warehouse but are still inside as the bomb goes off. Batman arrives too late to save them and is only able to hold Jason's lifeless body in his arms. The bodies are taken back to Gotham City for burial. For the next decade's worth of stories, Jason's death haunts Batman, who keeps Jason's costume on display in the Batcave. Batman considers this his greatest failure: not properly training Jason in his role as Robin and failing to protect him from the Joker.

Return from the grave

Years later, while trying to discover the identity of a mysterious figure plotting against him (which turns out to be Hush), Batman discovers that Robin (Tim Drake) has been kidnapped. When he confronts the kidnapper, he discovers much to his surprise that the kidnapper is apparently an adult Jason Todd. Batman subdues this mystery "Jason" and discovers that it is only Clayface impersonating Jason.Batman: Hush" 2001

It is later revealed that Jason indeed had died at the hands of the Joker. However, when Superboy-Prime alters reality from the paradise dimension in which he is trapped, Jason is restored to life, six months after his death. He breaks out of his coffin, but collapses thereafter and is hospitalized. After spending a year in a coma and subsequently as an amnesiac vagrant, he is recognized by Talia al Ghul, who restores his health and memory by immersing him in a Lazarus Pit in which her father is also bathing. It is suggested at that time that exposure to the Pit's energies together with Al Ghul might have affected Jason's personality. On Talia's advice, Jason determines his death was never avenged, and prepares to confront Batman by traveling across the globe in the same path of trainings as his mentor.Batman Annual #25 (March 2006)

Batman Annual #25 retcons the battle between Batman and Clayface. In this version, Jason Todd has entered into a pact with Hush; he initially confronts Batman, then switches places with Clayface in order to observe Batman from afar. When Batman expresses no remorse for sparing the Joker's life after Jason was killed, Jason is further angered and takes up the mantle of the Red Hood.

The Red Hood

Jason Todd battles Batman as the Red Hood, from the cover to Batman #641 (June 2005). Pencils by Matt Wagner.
Jason Todd battles Batman as the Red Hood, from the cover to Batman #641 (June 2005). Pencils by Matt Wagner.

Shortly after the events of War Games and War Crimes, Jason Todd reappears in Gotham City as the Red Hood,Batman #635 (December 2004) hijacking a shipment of Kryptonite from Black Mask. In the midst of a battle with Batman, Nightwing, and Mr. Freeze, the Red Hood gives them the Kryptonite back, and tells them he has gotten what he truly wanted: a "lay of the land." Shortly afterward, the Red Hood finds the Joker (driven out of Gotham by Hush) and beats him with a crowbar just as the Joker had beaten Jason. Despite the violence of the beating, Jason spares the Joker, intending to use him later against Batman.

The Red Hood assumes control over several gangs in Gotham City and starts a one-man-war against Black Mask's criminal empire. Over all, he strives to cleanse the city of its corruption, such as drug dealing and gang violence, and to kill the Joker in revenge for his own death. Because of his anti-heroic activities, he repeatedly comes to blows with Batman and several of his allies. A Robin mask was found in the Batmobile, which never belonged to Dick or Tim, but it was of the style that Jason wore as Robin.Batman #630 (July 2004) Around this time, Batman discovers that Jason's coffin has always been empty, and he begins to question whether or not Jason had actually died. Despite his return, Jason's Robin costume remains in its memorial display case in the Batcave; when Alfred asked if Bruce wanted the costume removed, Bruce replied that the return of Jason "doesn't change anything at all."Batman #641 (June 2005)

Knowing that Tim Drake has not only replaced him as Robin, but is reportedly a better Robin than he had been, Jason breaks into Titans Tower to confront Tim. Wearing an altered version of his own Robin costume, Jason quickly immobilizes the other Titans and strikes Tim down in the Tower's Hall of Fallen Titans. Furious that no memorial statue was made for him (despite his short tenure as a Titan), Jason demands that Tim tell him if he is really as good as Jason has been told. Tim says "Yes" and passes out. As he leaves, Jason tears the 'R' emblem from Tim's chest. In the Epilogue, Jason has apparently developed a grudging respect for his replacement as he states, "I'll admit. He's good". Jason is also left wondering if perhaps he would have been a better Robin and better person had he a life like Tim's and friends like the Titans.Teen Titans #29 (December 2005)

Jason's return crescendos when he kidnaps the Joker and holds him hostage, luring Batman to Crime Alley, the site of their first meeting. Jason asks Batman why he has not avenged his death by killing the Joker, and Batman tells Jason that he will never cross that line. An enraged Jason explains that Joker deserves it, because he has done evil in the past and, according to Jason, is "doing it because he took me away from you". Despite this, Batman explains that it is not too hard for him to kill the Joker, it would be too easy; he has never once not fantasized about taking the Joker somewhere private and torturing him for maybe weeks before finally killing him, but refuses to go to that place. Jason offers Batman an ultimatum: Jason will kill the Joker unless Batman kills Jason first. Holding the Joker at gunpoint, Jason throws a pistol to Batman and begins to count to three while standing behind the Joker, leaving Batman with only a headshot if he wants to stop Jason pulling the trigger. At the last moment, Batman throws a batarang that cuts down an object and slices Jason's neck. The Joker takes advantage of the situation, detonating nearby explosives that engulf the platform they are on and send them plunging into the bay.Batman Annual #25 (March 2006)

One Year Later and Countdown

Jason resurfaces following the One Year Later shift in Nightwing, patrolling the streets of New York City as a murderous version of Nightwing. Jason shows no intention of giving up the Nightwing persona, and continues to taunt Dick Grayson by wearing the costume and suggesting that the two become a crime-fighting team. Grayson refuses to join his side based on his methods of crimefighting. Not long after the two Nightwings meet up, Jason is captured and imprisoned by unknown mobsters. Rescued by a reluctant Grayson, the two join forces to defeat the Pierce brothers. Jason leaves New York City and the Nightwing mantle to Grayson, along with a telegram telling Grayson he has returned to normal and still considers them family.Nightwing #118-122 (2005)

Jason appears once more in several issues of "Green Arrow" alongside Brick as part of a gun-running organization, which brings Batman to Star City. Jason's true motives are shown in the third part as he kidnaps Mia Dearden (Speedy) in an effort to convert her to his side, feeling that they are kindred spirits, cast down by society and at odds with their mentors. The two fight while conversing but when Jason is unsuccessful in his bid to turn Mia he settles for blowing up her High School. Mia is deeply troubled by what transpired between her and Jason, but ultimately decides to stick with Green Arrow.

At the start of Countdown, Jason Todd resumes his persona as the Red Hood and rescues a woman from Duela Dent (a.k.a. the Joker's Daughter).Countdown #51 After a Monitor shoots and kills Duela, he attempts to kill Jason, but is stopped by a second Monitor. This second Monitor apologizes to Jason before they both disappear, leaving Jason alone with Duela's body. Later, at Duela's funeral, Jason hides until all of the Teen Titans have left except Donna Troy. Jason tells her what happened the night of Duela's death, and about the dueling Monitors. He knows that both he and Donna Troy have come back from the dead, and wonders which of them is next on the Monitor's hit list. The two are then attacked by the Forerunner, but before she can kill them, the apologetic Monitor stops her, and recruits Jason and Donna for a mission to the Palmerverse (a section of the Nanoverse discovered by Ray Palmer), in an attempt to find Palmer. During the trip, Jason takes it upon himself to name the Monitor "Bob". Jason seems to have a romantic interest in Donna, and is shown to be visibly disgruntled when her old boyfriend, Kyle Rayner, joins their group as they take their tour to the 52 Earths which comprise the Multiverse. A teaser image released to promote Countdown showed a figure resembling Red Robin among assembled heroes in poses symbolic of their roles in the series. After a series of contradictory statements about this figure, executive editor Dan DiDio firmly stated in the July 2007 DC Nation column that the figure is Jason Todd; Todd, a major player in Countdown, has gone under the aliases 'Red Hood' and 'Robin'.Template:Comic book reference The Red Robin costume, originally designed by Alex Ross for the 1996 Kingdom Come limited series, is seen in Countdown to Final Crisis #16 in the Earth-51 Batman's base of operations. In issue #14, Jason dons the Red Robin suit and goes into battle alongside Earth-51's Batman. During a battle with a group of Monarch's soldiers, Batman is killed by the Ultraman of Earth-3, deeply affecting Jason. In his grief, Jason murders an alternate version of the Joker who mocks his loss, vacating alongside Donna, Ray and Kyle to the planet Apokolips before Earth-51's destruction.

Skills and abilities

Jason Todd possesses the normal human strength of a 6-foot, 180-pound young man who regularly engages in intensive physical exercise. By matching his former mentor in combat, he has proven that he is physically superior to most Olympic athletes, just like Batman. His reflexes, stamina, and endurance are roughly comparable to that of Dick Grayson. In his training to become Robin, Batman instructed him in acrobatics and martial arts.

After his return, Jason expands on his training by learning from people of the same caliber as those who trained his ex-mentor, Batman. Through Talia al Ghul, Jason has access to high-level civilian and military-grade weaponry, including firearms, explosives, and even Shoulder-launched missile weapon. However, his dagger (which resembles a kris) still remains as his preferred weapon of choice for hand-to-hand combat. Although Jason does not possess the wealth of Bruce Wayne, his arsenal is nearly on par with Batman's.

The Dark Knight Returns

Prior to the character's death in the main Batman titles, the fate of Jason Todd is foreshadowed by his conspicuous absence in the 1986 limited series Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, a non-canon telling of the last years of Batman. In this series, Jason Todd has been dead for ten years; his death is hinted as the reason Batman retired years ago. This miniseries shows the first appearance of what would become an iconic part of the Batcave after Jason's death in "A Death in the Family": Jason's Robin uniform suspended in a glass case as a shrine for the fallen Robin.

In other media

Although Jason Todd has never appeared in any adaptations of the Batman comics, Tim Drake from The New Batman Adventures is depicted as a hybrid of these two characters' comic versions, with a background almost identical to the Post-Crisis Jason's. Tim Drake's father was killed by Two-Face and he turned to theft to keep from starvation. Tim is often far more responsive to Bruce's orders and showed he adhered to the code Batman established; in the episode "Never Fear", he stopped Batman from killing a thug after a shock interrogation, a move that mirrors the comic story where Jason let a thug fall to his death. In one case, Tim's personality was similar to Jason's impulsiveness; in the episode "Growing Pains", he didn't take Batman's orders and came close to crossing Batman's "no killing" rule after he found out that Clayface had "killed" his friend Annie (who turned out to be a part of Clayface with her own identity and emotions). However, in that case Tim acted out of sadness where as Jason acted in his belief in the criminal mind.

The Teen Titans animated series actually depicts the character onscreen. Beast Boy, in the episode "X", asserts that the person behind the mask of Robin's one-time persona Red X is a robotic monkey, but does so with the aid of a diagram illustrating numerous different possible identities, including Jason Todd.

References

  • Daniels, Les. Batman: The Complete History. Chronicle Books, 1999. ISBN 0-8118-4232-0
  • Pearson, Roberta E.; Uricchio, William (editors). The Many Lives of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and His Media. Routledge: London, 1991. ISBN 0-85170-276-7

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