When the first issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws went on sale a week and a half ago, it was met with mixed reviews. Many readers new to the post-Flashpoint DC Universe found it quite enjoyable, while several longtime fans – myself included – were appalled with the changes made to some of the main characters.
Though writer Scott Lobdell has gone on record stating “that the legacy of all the Teen Titans teams over the years will be respected”, some of the creative decisions he’s made thus far make the sincerity of this claim seem more than a little suspect. And what better way to illustrate this point than by providing a brief overview of the characters’ backgrounds, determining the degree to which their paths have crossed in the past, and determining whether or not working together as a scrappy team of antiheroes fits in with their established histories and personalities?
We’ll begin the first entry in this three-part series with the eponymous Red Hood.
Jason Peter Todd (Robin II/Red Hood II)
Jason Todd first met Starfire at some point after he was orphaned and taken in by Bruce Wayne but well before he became the second Robin. Needless to say, she made quite a first impression on the then 12-year-old boy during their first encounter way back in The New Teen Titans #33 (July 1983).
Since I’m pretty sure that at least some of you are probably wondering why he has red hair instead of his usual black right about now, we might as well kill two birds with one stone and delve deeper into his past. Or, more correctly said, pasts.
Back when he was first introduced and well before he became the metaphorical red-headed stepchild of the Batman Family, Jason was a literal red-headed child, namely the son of aerialists Joseph and Trina Todd. Together, the three of them were collectively known as “The Flying Todds”, a world-renowned trapeze act.
That strange sensation of déjà vu you’re getting right now is probably due to the fact that Jason’s past is essentially a carbon copy of Dick Grayson‘s, right down to the circus extortion scheme, acrobat parents being murdered by a criminal (in this case Killer Croc), being taken into stately Wayne Manor as Bruce Wayne’s ward, and trained to become Robin. When he first assumed the mantle of the Boy Wonder after six months of intensive training – and, it should be noted, without Batman’s prior consent – in Batman #366 (December 1983), he took a crucial step to ensure than the changeover would not be immediately apparent to the casual observer.
After Crisis on Infinite Earths, Jason Todd’s origin was retconned to the one most contemporary audiences are familiar with: that of the streetwise punk kid who had the cojones to steal the tires off the freakin’ Batmobile.
In keeping with his new hard luck lifestyle, his parents in this revised continuity were Willis and Catherine Todd, the former a henchmen of Two-Face‘s who ended up being killed by his employer, and the latter an addict who died of a drug overdose shortly before her (adopted) son’s encounter with the Dark Knight.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, editorial misplaced the memo about his natural haircolor and it became permanently black. Still, this little bit of trivia wasn’t completely forgotten, as Grant Morrison revived this idea in Batman and Robin #5 (December 2009) and Judd Winick took the ball and ran with it when he took over the reigns as writer.
As Robin, Jason only participated in two Teen Titans missions, the first being a botched covert operation to Zermatt, Switzerland to prevent American and Russian ambassadors engaged in peace talks from being assassinated by Cheshire. It also happened to be the first time he encountered Roy Harper, who was still using the superhero name of Speedy at the time.
His second and final outing had him and his teammates invading the small European country of Zandia to rescue Raven and, ironically, Nightwing from Brother Blood and his evil Church of Blood. This also marked the first (and only) time that he and Starfire ever worked together before their reunion in Red Hood and the Outlaws.
While he got along well with the Teen Titans, Jason’s relationship with Batman became increasingly strained due to the three rs – rage, rebeliousness, and recklessness – and his impulsive risk-taking culminated in a severe beating by the Joker with a crowbar…
…and being blown up in a warehouse explosion in Ethiopia during an ill-fated reunion with his biological mother, Dr. Sheila Haywood.
Needless to say, after being retcon punched back to life in his own coffin by Superboy-Prime six months after his death, digging himself out of his own grave with his bare hands, spending a year in a coma, another year wandering city streets as a brain-damaged amnesiac, and yet another year in the care of Talia al Ghul before being tossed into a Lazarus Pit and having his full health and memories restored (though this “cure” may have had the slight side effect of leaving him batshit insane if Ra’s al Ghul can be believed), Jason was understandably less than thrilled when he discovered that his murderer was still alive and terrorizing the streets of Gotham City.
That’s when he decided to go back and continue the job he’d started in his tweens: fucking with Batman and beating the crap out of him. And what better way to do that than going on a world tour to hone his martial arts abilities and learn some new practical skills, assuming the Joker’s original masked identity of the Red Hood, working out some repressed anger issues…
…instigating a gang war with Black Mask‘s underworld empire, cleansing Gotham City’s streets of its criminal element by using lethal force, playing psychological mind games with his former mentor by stalking him and dropping hints about his true identity, and forcing him into two separate confrontations that remained unresolved?
Eventually, he expanded his vendetta to include pretty much every member of the Batman Family, and the fact that the Dark Knight managed to diss Jason from beyond the grave following his “death” in Final Crisis in his holographic last will and testament…
…probably didn’t help his sunny disposition any.
The Continuity Verdict
Considering that Jason Todd once usurped Nightwing’s identity and ran around New York City killing criminals, his continuing to screw Dick Grayson over by continuously screwing Starfire is in keeping with his reputation as an unrepentant asshat.
The real problem here isn’t his personal feelings towards his teammates – he never had a beef with either one of them, after all – but the fact that they should be holding a grudge against him. Since Nightwing is one of Roy Harper’s best friends – if not his best friend – and the love of Starfire’s life, it’s extremely unlikely that they’d be willing to work with him at all. While the latter’s long-term memory lapse (as ridiculous as it is) at least acknowledges the issue, the former has no such excuse for his behavior since, by his own admission, he’s fully aware of the bad blood between Jason and Dick.
One additional loose end worth mentioning is the uncertain fate of Sasha, better known as Scarlet, the female sidekick he recruited during his second, well-publicized anti-crime campaign as the Red Hood. At the end of Batman and Robin #25 (July 2011), the two of them were seen flying off in a helicopter together, headed for parts unknown. What exactly became of her remains a mystery.
Well, that’s it for this installment. Join us next time when we take a closer look at just how badly Scott Lobdell fumbled the ball with Starfire’s character. Be warned: it’s not going to be pretty sight.