Most Underrated Heroes: Vol.2 – Red Hood

Time for volume 2 of the most underrated heroes! This months addition is none other than the anti-hero Red Hood.

For those unfamiliar with the Bat-family and the succession of Robins, Red Hood is the persona adopted by the second Robin, Jason Todd, after he was murdered by the Joker and subsequently resurrected. Red Hood is one of the title characters in Red Hood and the Outlaws and has held various titles throughout his comic publication.

HISTORY

The Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths origin for Jason Todd is that he was son of Acrobats Joseph and Trina Todd who were killed during their show by Killer Croc. Jason had strawberry blond hair and was a basic carbon copy of Dick Grayson; even going so far as to wear different pieces of Dick’s old disguises before being presented with a Robin costume by Dick himself. Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths event DC Comics took this opportunity to re-write and re-brand large portions of their continuity to coincide with their new direction for publication. This new direction is where we get the origin for Jason that has been dubbed the “official” origin.

After Dick had become a fully fledged member of the Teen Titans and left Bruce to pursue leadership of that team full time, Batman was on his own. One night while on patrol in Park Row (Crime Alley), Batman was returning to the Batmobile and he discovered the wheels had been removed by a young boy who was attempting to steal them. Bruce sees that he is enrolled in a school for troubled boys which falls through, Bruce eventually adopts the boy and trains him as Robin after Jason helps him stop a gang of thieves. After six months of training and tutelage Jason is given his own Robin costume and begins his nightly patrols with Batman.

During the revamp period Todd was painted the outcast/rebel Robin. He defied authority, smoked, swore, and used excessive violence. There have been several instances where he defied Batman specifically: going after Scarecrow alone and bringing him in, jumping the gun on a botched drug ring raid, and the death of serial rapist Felipe Garzonas. Leading up to the death of Garzonas, Todd had been using increasing levels of force to one point where he breaks the arm of a pimp about to slash one of his working girls.

The death of Felipe Garzonas marks the point where Batman began to realize the mistake he had made with  Jason. Garzonas was a serial rapist who was protected legally by his father’s diplomatic immunity. When a young girl named Gloria hangs herself to avoid being raped a third time by Garzonas, Todd finds her body before Batman and makes a beeline for Garzonas. Todd chases Garzonas up onto the 22nd story of a building and Batman arrives in time to see Garzonas fall the 22 stories to his death, with Robin standing at the ledge. When confronted about it Todd says that he “…didn’t push him and that he must’ve spooked him and Garzonas slipped”, before Todd could catch him, he fell to his death.

 

DEATH

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The death of Jason Todd is one of the biggest events in all of Batman comics. Titled A Death in the Family the story follows Todd’s quest for the truth and his subsequent end at the hands of the Joker.  When Todd his side lined for excessive force and disobeying orders he leaves the Batcave to walk around his old neighbourhood. While on his walk he is flagged down by a woman who used to live beside him and his parents, she hands him a box of things and among them is his birth certificate. The certificate is badly damaged by the name of his mother begins with an “S” proving the woman he grew up calling mother was not his biological mother. Todd utilizes the Batcomputer along with an old address book of his father’s that was also in the box to narrow down the number of potential women to three. Jason then runs away to try and find his birth mother. After striking out with the first 2 women Batman finds Jason in Israel where they encounter the Joker who has been named a member of the Israeli government and now has diplomatic immunity. Jason then tracks the final woman, Shelia, to Ethiopia where she runs a clinic. Todd is overjoyed to have finally found his mother but his mother is being blackmailed by the Joker to provide him with medical supplies. It is later revealed that Todd’s mother was responsible for an illegal clinic and experimentation on young women in Gotham and fled to Ethiopia to avoid charges. She hands her son over to the Joker, in hopes of getting out from under his thumb. Joker ties up Shelia and forces her to watch as he beats Todd with a crowbar and leaves him within an inch of his life. Joker then ties up Todd and leaves him and his mother locked in a warehouse with a time bomb. They try to get out of the warehouse but remain trapped as the timer ticks down, in a final effort to save his mother, Jason leaps on the bomb to try and shield some of the blast with his body. Batman arrives too late to save them and Shelia dies in Batman’s arms after confessing what she had done. Batman buries Jason and keeps his uniform in a glass display case in the Batcave with an epitaph that reads “A Good Soldier”.

 

RESURRECTION

Jason remained dead for quite a few years, long enough for Tim Drake to assume the mantle of Robin. In main comic continuity his resurrection is a little odd. Basically, Superboy Prime was trapped in the paradise dimension (a dimension that borders our own). In an attempt to break through to our own dimension he repeatedly punched on the barrier blocking his way, this in turn created temporal ripples. One of these such ripples was responsible for the resurrection of Jason Todd. Todd breaks out of his coffin and wanders away from the site, he is taken to a hospital when he is discovered wandering the streets, but no connection was made that he was Jason Todd. He spent the better part of a year as a wandering amnesiac vagrant on the streets of Gotham, he was recognized for his fighting style by a street crook and the information made it’s way to Talia Al’Ghul and she swept him up and took him away. She further trained him while the League of Assassins swiftly eliminated anyone in Gotham who knew of his resurrection. Talia put him in the Lazarus pit to attempt to restore his memories, but he emerged broken and mentally unstable. He fled the League and used what funds he had secured from Talia to hook up with a Mercenary group on their way to Gotham.

In the Under the Red Hood movie the resurrection story is slightly different with Ra’as Al Ghul hiring Joker to help him in a plot. Joker goes off book and kidnaps Robin and murders him by beating him with a crowbar and them blowing him up. Ra’as then swaps out Jason’s real body at the Sarajevo morgue for a mannequin and revives Todd using the Lazarus pit. Todd kills 2 members of the League before fleeing into the night not to be seen again until he emerged in Gotham as the Red Hood.

RETURN TO GOTHAM

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After having trained for several years in various deathly arts, Red Hood plans his return to Gotham. During Hush Todd collaborates with Riddler and Hush to battle Batman. He confirms for Riddler that Bruce Wayne is indeed Batman and initially confronts Batman at his grave site during the climatic final battle of the run. He swaps out with Clayface and observes Batman from afar, when Bruce shows no regret with him sparing Joker’s life after he killed Jason, Todd is severely angered and resolves to kill Bruce. Talia then gifts him with a flame knife and his iconic red helmet.

In the Under the Red Hood story line, Jason returns under the persona of Red Hood and begins taking control over the gangs of Gotham and going to War with Black Mask. In an effort to even the odds, Mask unleashes the Joker from Arkham. Todd kidnaps the Joker and proceeds to beat him with a crowbar mirroring the way Joker had tortured him before he was murdered. In the climatic showdown with Batman and the Joker, Jason confesses to Bruce that he forgives him for not saving him, but doesn’t understand why Bruce let the Joker live. Jason tries to force Bruce to either kill him or the Joker, but Bruce saves them all and Jason disappears after that, again.

Since  his return to Gotham Jason has gone on the hold every title of the Bat-family, including Nightwing, Red Robin and Batman.

Battle for the Cowl pitted Jason Todd Batman against Tim Drake Batman and Dick Grayson Batman for the title of the one true Batman.

POWERS AND ABILITIES

Jason was trained at a young age to become Robin; as such he is an Olympic level athlete with stealth training and extensive combat training.

He was further trained by the League of Assassins as well as the All-Caste which is an organization older than the League of Assassins which trained Ra’as Al Ghul.

He is proficient with all firearms as well as most high tech weaponry and gadgets.

For all of his training Jason Todd is still just a man, a slightly unhinged and deranged man, but a man just the same.

REASONS HE IS UNDERRATED

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Red Hood is one of the few examples of characters who are too human to the point they’re no longer fictitious. If presented with the same situation most people would do the exact same thing, try and get revenge on the person who killed them and the person who they trusted to save them. I don’t mean that everyone is a vengeful, angry sociopath; but there is no denying that it is human nature to want revenge on someone that has wronged you.  As a character Jason tends to be lumped in as one of the failed sidekicks who never really amounted to anything like Garth or Speedy. I think he has a lot to offer and in the New 52 and Rebirth they have done some great arcs involving him and the rest of the Outlaws. I mean he was the Leader of the League of Assassins at one point, that takes some serious skill! Not only has he also battle Batman to a stalemate but he has done the same with Deathstroke and Ra’as Al Ghul!

Also Jason is the perfect example of a redemption story, they’ve already toyed with him and Bruce reconciling their differences for that only to have been a ruse so Bruce could bring back Damian… I like most of the Robins even the ones that are a little different, but Damian is just annoying. He needs to be taken down a peg… again. I think that Jason should be used more as someone trying to do the right thing but always having this voice in the back of their head saying it’s not enough, that he wants to be a good person but he keeps falling back into his old ways. The sad thing about Jason is that most of the rest of the Bat-Family forgive him and understand why he does what he does; but Bruce can’t seem to see it, or even if he does, he doesn’t want to deal with it.

Jason Todd is one of the characters that I think make for a very compelling story, no matter what he does, he always adds his own touch to it and that makes it awesome. I want to see him take a more active role in Rebirth and the Bat-Family as a whole!

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Author: tristanmathieson

Law Clerk at a firm in Ontario. Gamer, musician and self-proclaimed comic aficionado.

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