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This article is about the DC comics character. For the protagonist of the Brothers Grimm's fable, see Little Red Riding Hood
The first Red Hood
The Red Hood first appeared in Detective Comics #168 "The Man Behind the Red Hood." In the original continuity, the man later known as the Joker was a master criminal going by the alias of the Red Hood. His costume consisted of a large domed red helmet and a red cape. While attempting to rob a chemical plant, his men were dispatched and then he was suddenly surrounded on a catwalk by Batman and Robin. Left with no alternatives, he dove into a catch basin for the chemicals and swam to freedom, surviving because of a special breathing apparatus built into the helmet. The toxins in the vat permanently and grotesquely disfigurement|disfigured him, turning his hair green, his skin white and his lips red. Upon discovering this, he went Insanity|insane and became the Joker.
In Batman: The Killing Joke, Alan Moore wrote an alternate origin of the Joker, and thus the Red Hood; the man who would become the Joker is portrayed as a former chemical engineer, now a struggling stand-up comedy|stand-up comedian with a pregnant wife. Approached by the Red Hood gang to lead a raid of his former workplace, the Ace Chemical plant, he accepts, in order to make enough money to start a better life for his family. The gang gives him the costume of the Red Hood, which has been worn by many men before - this way, the gang is able to falsely identify the Red Hood as their leader on all the crimes they perform, with the police unaware that a different dupe is behind the hood every time. The day of the proposed robbery, however, police inform him that his wife died in a freak accident. He attempts to back out of the robbery, but the gang strong-arms him into keeping his commitment to them. During the robbery, the plant's security men spot the intruders and shoot the other criminals dead. The engineer tries to flee, but Batman appears and corners him on the plant's catwalk. Terrified, he jumps off the catwalk into the chemical basin to escape. As in the previous origin story, he goes insane after discovering what the chemicals have done to his face, and becomes the Joker. Strangely enough, the Joker himself was reluctant to admit that this iteration of his story was definitive, stating: "Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another... if I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!"
A Retcon|retroactive continuity change appears between the Batman #450-451 story line The Return of the Joker and the graphic novel one-shot The Man Who Laughs. In The Return of the Joker, the Joker resurfaces after apparently being killed at the end of the Batman: A Death in the Family storyline. In this story, the Joker rummages through his belongings, finds the Red Hood costume and wears it for a robbery in order to regain his confidence and become the Joker again. The Man Who Laughs is a retelling of the first appearance of the Joker, a few months after the Red Hood's plunge into the chemicals, tying the story into both Batman: Year One and The Killing Joke. In this story, Batman is in possession of the Red Hood costume, presumably having discovered it on the banks where the Joker washed up after his swim in the chemical basin. Presumably, this difference is due to The Killing Joke origin having appeared after The Return of the Joker. The Man Who Laughs, however, remains ambiguous, able to be applied to either Joker origin.
A storyline that has yet to be concluded in Batman: Confidential portrays the pre-accident Joker as a man named "Jack", who is highly skilled at bypassing security systems, and hires out this skill to any criminals who wish his services. There has been no mention of the Red Hood yet, and it is unclear where this story stands in continuity, since the depiction of a freelance career criminal essentially retcons much of The Killing Joke origin. However, as noted above, the Joker himself implies that the origin story in The Killing Joke may not be the true version of events. Notably, the Joker's real name in the 1989 Tim Burton film Batman is Jack Napier (portrayed by Jack Nicholson).
The second Red Hood
A new Red Hood appears in the Batman: Under the Hood storyline running through Batman comics, written by Judd Winick. Jason Todd, the former Robin killed by The Joker in A Death in the Family, is revealed to be this new Red Hood. His debut culminates in a fateful confrontation with those he feels have wronged him. He beats the Joker with a crowbar (mirroring the way the Joker had tortured him before killing him with a bomb) and later kidnaps him. The new Red Hood assumes control over various gangs in Gotham City and starts a one-man war against Black Mask's criminal sectors. He actively tries to cleanse the city of corruption, such as the illegal drug trade and gang violence, but in a violent anti-heroic way. He eventually comes to blows against Batman and other heroes allies, including the new Robin, Onyx and Green Arrow.
Kingdom Come Red Hood
Unrelated to the Joker and Jason Todd incarnations of the Red Hood, is Red Hood from the limited series Kingdom Come. The Kingdom Come Red Hood is Lian Harper, daughter of super-hero Roy Harper and villainess Cheshire. A skilled archer much like her father, her costume and name are modeled after both the Little Red Riding Hood character and possibly Robin Hood. Lian's costume is also at least partially modeled after AC Comics' Arrow
Earth-Two Red Hood
In an interview for the Infinite Crisis hardcover, Jeanine Schaefer states that Geoff Johns had another plan for the Red Hood: to reintroduce him as the Jason Todd of the Earth-Two universe. Said Schaefer:
"Well, Geoff's idea was to have Red Hood be the Jason Todd of Earth-Two. So he'd be this kid, who wanted to be Batman's sidekick. He sneaks into the Batcave, and the first thing he sees as he boots up the bat-computers is... Batman murdered. And so he uses Bruce's stuff, training himself to take over for him. I think there was even talk of his possibly being Deathstroke's Robin."Interview with Jeanine Schaefer at 606studios.com
An animated version of the character appears at the end of Batman Adventures #8. It was meant to be a subplot to be resolved later, but the cancellation of the ongoing series prevented that. Though the creative team (Dan Slott and Ty Templeton) behind the story are hoping for a chance to resolve it, they have yet to do so. It has been stated that this Red Hood is someone crucial to the DC animated universe.Ty Templeton at DC's Animation Forum; toonzone.net; July 21, 2005.
Dan Slott mentioned that the background of the character would tie into a subplot concerning Lucius Fox, The Vellestra Gang (from Mask of the Phantasm) and The Powers Family (including an infant Derek Powers from Batman Beyond).Interview with Dan Slott at toonzone.net