Jason Todd (aka Robin II and Red Hood II) is one of DC Comics’ most famous characters, and also one of the most important characters in the history of comics and popular fiction. Despite his iconic tenures as the second Robin and the violent vigilante The Red Hood, Jason left a permanent mark on the superhero genre when he died in 1988.
Jason’s death had a huge effect on Batman and long-lasting consequences for the wider DC Universe that are still felt today. Jason wasn’t the first superhero to die during the Dark Age of Comics, but the circumstances that led to his demise and the way it changed both DC and comics are second to none. Some Bat-fans even argued that dying was Jason’s only worthwhile contribution to DC’s mythos and the superhero genre. While this claim wasn’t wholly unfounded, it unfairly dismissed his rich, if tumultuous, life before and during his time as Robin, and his resurgence as the iconic anti-hero Red Hood.RELATED: 15 DC Heroes Who Should Never Join The Justice League
Who Created Jason Todd?
Jason was created by writer Gerry Conway and artist Don Newton. By the early ’80s, Dick Grayson (the original Robin) had mostly outgrown his role as Batman’s sidekick. More importantly, Dick was settling into his new identity as Nightwing, and relocating to Bludhaven. However, it became apparent that Batman still needed a Robin to act as the readers’ avatar and humanize the Dark Knight. Jason was made specifically to fill the void Dick left.
Jason was a unique member of the Bat-Family. If most of Batman’s allies and sidekicks were loyal followers, Jason was the team’s designated rebel. Jason was just as skilled or even better than his allies when it came to fighting crime. However, he also used lethal methods, especially guns and other deadly weapons.
While not the first anti-hero in comics to kill his enemies, Jason was arguably the first and most influential lethal protector in Batman’s modern era. Jason’s mere presence in the Bat Family was enough to cause a schism in Gotham. Depending on how grim the situation was, some of Batman’s allies inevitably sided with Jason, while others stood their ground with the Caped Crusader. While this may be Jason’s most well-known characterization, he wasn’t always one of DC’s most merciless anti-heroes. Jason started out as just another wholesome teenage hero and sidekick, but he changed so much over the decades.
The Original Jason Todd’s First Appearance
Jason “Jay” Todd first appeared in Batman #357 (March 1983). What many fans may not know was that this Jason was basically a clone of Dick Grayson at his inception. DC took Jason’s purpose as a legacy character very literally and made him an exact copy of Dick. Like Dick, Jason came from a family of circus performers. They were killed by Killer Croc, and he swore revenge. Jason made a costume from Dick’s old Robin outfits before Bruce Wayne took him in and raised him as Batman’s new sidekick.
Other similarities between Robin I and II included the fact that they were exactly the same in terms of age, appearance, and personality. Their biggest difference was that Jason was blonde, but he dyed his hair black to preserve the classic Robin look. For a while, Jason didn’t have much of an identity beyond being Dick’s placeholder. Like Dick, Jason was also Batman’s adopted son and lashed out whenever Batman paid too much attention to potential lovers like Catwoman. For a time, Nocturna adopted Jason, and they shared a genuine bond. However, everything changed after Crisis on Infinite Earths (written by Marv Wolfman, illustrated by George Perez).RELATED: Every Time Batman & Robin Have Fought In The Comics
The Post-Crisis Jason Todd’s First Appearance
The Jason “Peter” Todd fans are most familiar with was a reboot. The post-Crisis Jason debuted in Batman #408 (June 1987). In DC’s new reality, Jason was now a 12-year-old delinquent Batman caught stealing the Batmobile’s tires. Instead of turning him over to the police, Batman enrolled Jason in Ma Gunn’s orphanage for wayward boys. Batman didn’t know it was a training ground for her youth gang. Jason helped stop Ma Gunn, and then Batman adopted him.
DC differentiated the new Jason from Dick by giving him deep-seated anger issues. This change was implemented by writer Max Allan Collins and artist Chris Warner. If Dick was Bruce’s grateful son and Batman’s loyal sidekick, Jason was a rebellious teenager and aggressive superhero. Although he loved his father, Jason disobeyed Bruce many times and rejected Batman’s rule against killing. This came to a controversial head with the death of the sex offender Felipe Garzonas. DC never clarified if Jason killed Filipe in an accident, but Jason’s involvement was indisputable and his lack of remorse didn’t help his case.
Why Fans Hated Jason Todd And His Death
Before Crisis on Infinite Earths, Jason was Dick’s inoffensive if forgettable replacement. His rebooted self, conversely, was Dick’s controversial but more well-known successor. At the time, most readers hated Jason. They felt he was unworthy of Robin’s mantle, and he was even accused of tarnishing Batman’s legacy. Jason being a bratty and violent anti-hero fueled fans’ and even some creators’ rejection of him. Writer Jim Starlin, in particular, wanted to kill Jason off.
In the late ’80s, DC decided it was time to reboot Robin again. Either Jason would be written out, or he would be killed. Inspired by a segment on Saturday Live Night where audiences voted by phone poll whether Eddie Murphy would spare Larry the Lobster or boil him, Batman editor Dennis O’Neil proposed to then-DC president Jenette Kahn that Jason’s fate be decided by readers. O’Neil reasoned that this would give fans a seat at the table and that it would avoid making Jason’s fate feel like a forced editorial mandate. Kahn liked the idea and turned O’Neil’s pitch into an event. The end result was the now-infamous yet iconic A Death in the Family (written by Jim Starlin, illustrated by Jim Aparo).
In this tale, Jason was captured by The Joker who beat him bloody with a crowbar. Batman found Jason too late, and the second Robin died when the warehouse Joker trapped him in exploded. DC prepared two different finales for the arc, one where Jason died, and the other where he survived. By a very slim margin of 72 votes, the choice to kill Jason won out. Much to DC’s surprise, there were many readers who actually liked Jason and mourned him and some grieving fans took out their anger on DC. Conversely, there was an equally large group who praised Jason’s death. Jason’s death and what led up to it became national news and attracted intense analysis. Many critics–including Frank Miller, the definitive Batman artist/writer of the Dark Age of Comics–derided it as a cynical and mean-spirited stunt. Although Jason’s death proved to be the more interesting and daring narrative choice, it’s hard to deny that it was born from excessive animus toward the character.
Red Hood’s Villainous Beginnings
Jason stayed dead for the next decade or so before his resurrection was teased in Batman: Hush (written by Jeph Loeb, illustrated by Jim Lee). Jason came back from the dead when Superboy-Prime punched reality and unknowingly undid parts of DC’s history during the build-up to Infinite Crisis (written by Geoff Johns, illustrated by Phil Jimenez) where Jason’s death was retconned and he woke up inside his coffin. Jason escaped his grave, was taken in by The League of Assassins, and was properly rejuvenated by Talia al Ghul when she threw him into a Lazarus Pit.
With Talia’s resources and support, Jason trained himself to become a deadly vigilante. He returned to Gotham City as The Red Hood, and plotted his very personal revenge against Batman and The Joker.“Red Hood” was Jason’s new identity that separated him from his past as Robin. It was also a way for him to deny and mock The Joker’s power. Before the Clown Prince of Crime fell into the fateful vat of acid and when he was still nothing more than a patsy, the financially desperate Joker took up Red Hood’s identity, a local gang’s costumed scapegoat. As the second Red Hood, Jason spent his first few years back in Gotham City destabilizing Black Mask’s empire, tormenting The Joker and Batman, and antagonizing the Bat-Family.
Red Hood’s Turn As An Anti-Hero
After a brief disappearance, Jason resurfaced in Gotham as a somewhat reformed anti-hero. Although he still bore a grudge against Bruce Wayne and rejected Batman’s pacifism, Jason fought alongside the Bat-Family more often than he fought against them. Rather than permanently settle down in Gotham, Jason drifted from city to city. He also assisted other DC heroes like Green Arrow and the Teen Titans.
Unlike before, Jason’s fights with fellow heroes were born from misunderstandings rather than his vengeful intentions. Before The New 52 reset DC’s reality, he found his own sidekick and potential lover in the vigilante Scarlet. Jason matured into an anti-hero and improved his reputation during The New 52 and DC Rebirth. This was made evident when he led his own superhero teams. Jason’s most notable group was The Outlaws, comprised of edgy anti-heroes and reforming villains he considered to be kindred souls. By the time of DC Infinite Frontier, Jason was conscripted by the government to lead Task Force Z, a group of dead supervillains who were forcibly resurrected to take on black ops missions. Even if he sometimes loses himself to his rage, Jason is in a better place now and is more open to working with the heroes than he used to be.
Jason Todd’s Other Superhero Identities
Jason impersonated Nightwing and started a brutal war on crime in New York City.
Nightwing #118 (May 2006)
Jason met Earth-51 Batman and briefly became his Robin.
Countdown to Final Crisis #14 (January 2008)
Shortly after Batman “died,” Jason joined the fight for Batman’s legacy by becoming a deadly, gun-slinging Dark Knight.
Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1 (March 2009)
Jason is best known for being Robin and Red Hood, but he briefly took up different superhero mantles in DC’s prime continuity. These tenures never lasted long, and Jason always went back to being Red Hood. Some readers theorized that these were DC’s failed attempts to revamp Jason and help him leave the Red Hood persona behind.
During the aftermath of Infinite Crisis, Jason assumed the mantle of Nightwing without Dick’s blessing. The two fought over the mantle, with Jason conceding that Dick deserved to be Nightwing. Later, during the lead-up to Final Crisis (written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by J.G. Jones), Jason met Earth-51’s Batman, who gave Jason the title and costume of “Red Robin” — a gift Earth-51 Batman would’ve given his Jason if the boy hadn’t died.
Jason abandoned Red Robin’s mantle shortly after this and became his own Batman during Battle for the Cowl (written and illustrated by Tony Daniel), where Jason got drunk on power and became a monstrous Batman. He used guns, ignored Batman’s rule against killing, and frequently fought the Bat Family. Dick defeated Jason and became the new Batman before Bruce returned to DC’s prime timeline. Jason went back to being Red Hood but worked on improving and redeeming himself after hitting rock bottom here.
Jason Todd’s Variants
The Dark Knight Returns Robin II
Jason became the new Robin after Dick was fired. Was beaten to death by The Joker’s gang.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1 (June 1986).
Deathlok Jason Todd
A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who was presumed dead. Turned into Deathlok by Hydra.
Bruce Wayne, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 (April 1996)
Explorer Jason Todd
An explorer who worked for Bruce Wayne.
Batman: The Doom that Came To Gotham (2000)
Jason “Jay” Todd
An alternate version of the pre-Crisis Jason. Died before ever becoming Robin.
Young Justice #44 (June 2002)
Jason succeeded Bruce Wayne as Batman on Earth-15.
Countdown #30 (October 2007)
A child-friendly version of Jason. Becomes Red Hood by wearing a bucket over his head.
Tiny Titans #23 (February 2010)
Fr. Jason Todd
A former juvenile delinquent. Became a priest and swore off violence when he came back from the dead.
Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint #2 (September 2011)
New 52 Jason Todd
A lifelong victim of The Joker. The villain masterminded everything in Jason’s life, from his parents’ deaths to his becoming Robin.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 (November 2011)
DCAU Red Hood
The Jason Todd and Red Hood of the DC Animated Universe.
Batman Beyond #11 (Digital; September 2012)
Lil’ Jason Todd
A child-friendly version of Jason and Red Hood.
Batman: Lil’ Gotham #1 (June 2013)
The second Robin, kidnapped and brainwashed by The Joker. Became Arkham Knight to exact revenge on Batman for “abandoning” him.
Batman: Arkham Knight #1 (May 2015)
The Bombshells’ mascot, and a Republican child soldier who died in the Spanish Civil War.
DC Comics Bombshells #46 (June 2016)
DC Rebirth Jason Todd
A soft reboot of the post-Crisis Jason. Notably not resurrected by Superboy-Prime’s punches.
Red Hood and the Outlaws: Rebirth #1 (September 2016)
Injustice Red Hood
The Red Hood of the Injustice Universe, he infiltrated ARGUS and founded the Red Hood Revival gang and impersonated Batman.
Injustice 2 (video game, May 2017)
Jason Todd, Leader of the Red Hoods
The leader of the Red Hoods wasteland biker gang.
Gotham City Garage #3 (September 2017)
Titans Tomorrow Jason Todd
An older Jason who sided with Kate Kane’s rebellion against Tim Drake’s future police state.
Batwoman #6 (October 2017)
Earth-52 Red Hood
The Jason of The Red Death’s world. His death pushed Batman to become The Red Death.
Batman: The Red Death #1 (November 2017)
White Knight Jason Todd
The second Robin of the White Knight universe. He never died, and was only presumed to have been killed by The Joker.
Batman: White Knight #2 (January 2018)
Earth-22 Red Hood
The Jason of The Batman Who Laughs’ world. His death pushed Batman to become The Batman Who Laughs.
The Batman Who Laughs #1 (January 2018)
Jason Todd, CEO
The arrogant owner of the security provider Todd-Tire-Taze in an alternate future.
Batman #46 (June 2018)
The leader of a rebel group that seeks to overthrow The Collective’s police state.
Mother Panic: Gotham A.D. #3 (July 2018)
Zombie Hunter Red Hood
Jason becomes Red Hood but finds himself in the middle of DC’s zombie apocalypse.
DCeased: Unkillables #1 (December 2020)
Dark Multiverse Jason Todd
A deadly assassin masquerading as an aloof CEO bachelor.
Tales From the Dark Multiverse: Batman: Hush (January 2021)
Webtoon Jason Todd
A more comedic and lighthearted version of the mainline Jason.
Batman: Wayne Family Adventures #2 (Digital; September 2021)
One of the Robins who serves the Bat-Prince.
Dark Knights of Steel #1 (January 2022)
Vampire Red Hood
Red Hood in a DC Universe that gets overrun by vampires. Becomes a vampire halfway through.
DC vs Vampires #2 (January 2022)
Green Lantern Red Hood
Red Hood, but with a Green Lantern Ring. Operates on New Earth: Sector-John Stewart.
Dark Crisis #3 (October 2022)
Mask Hunter Red Hood
Red Hood retired from being a vigilante to work as a Mask Hunter for the Magistrate.
DC Nation Presents DC: Future State #1 (November 2022)
The meek servant of Mr. Wax on Earth-Batman.
Dark Crisis: World Without a Justice League – Batman #1 (January 2023)
Like all major DC characters, Jason has multiversal variants. However, most of Jason’s variants were little more than cameos in alternate universes like Amalgam Comics, Elseworlds, or Flashpoint. The few variants who were fleshed-out supporting characters or the protagonists of their respective stories had few if any discernable differences from the prime Jason. More often than not, the only differences they had were mild tweaks to their backstories.
These deviations included The New 52 Jason’s personal tragedies being retconned as part of The Joker’s machinations and the DC Rebirth Jason not being resurrected by Superboy-Prime’s punches. These changes did little to alter his transformation from the immature Robin to the ruthless Red Hood. More often than not, Jason’s variants were really just Red Hood reimagined for a different reality.
Where To Start Jason Todd Comics
Whether he was Batman’s sidekick at the time or headlining his own comic, Jason Todd has been in DC Comics since the ’80s. The mere thought of reading Jason’s comics from the start is understandably daunting. Fortunately for curious readers, there are some key runs and milestone issues that are more than enough to catch up on Jason’s history.
Max Allan Collins’ Batman Run – Max Allan Collins and artist Chris Warner reintroduced Jason as a street-smart delinquent in their short but impactful Batman run. Batman #408-411 (1987) showed off Jason’s grittier origins and his first mission as Robin. Jim Starlin’s Batman Run – Jason’s definitive characterization came into being over the course of Jim Starlin’s and Jim Aparo’s run on Batman. Although Jason didn’t appear in all the issues Starlin and Aparo worked on, they codified Jason’s rebellious streak and lack of moral restraint. A Death in the Family – Jim Starlin’s and Jim Aparo’s run climaxed with the now-seminal event where Jason died horribly at The Joker’s hands. Besides killing Robin, A Death in the Family became (in)famous for letting readers decide the fate of the most influential superhero sidekick in history. Batman: Under the Hood – After years of staying dead, Jason was brought back to life by writer Judd Winick and artist Doug Mahnke. Jason’s definitive second origin saw the birth of the ruthless vigilante Red Hood, who would become a thorn in Batman’s side for years. Red Hood: The Lost Days – Judd Winick returned to Red Hood’s beginnings with this belated prequel that showed what Jason did in between his resurrection and return to Gotham City. It also expanded on Jason’s burning grudge against Bruce and Joker. Batman and Robin (2009) – Jason’s arc in Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly’s series may have been a subplot, but it showed his growth as a person. Here, Jason reformed Red Hood into a more acceptable superhero and fell in love with his sidekick, Scarlet. Red Hood and the Outlaws (2011-2015) – In The New 52, Jason found a new purpose by leading a group of outcast superheroes called The Outlaws. Scott Lobdell’s and Kenneth Rocafort’s run explored this new side of Jason while giving some of DC’s most underrated heroes their shots at redemption. Red Hood: Outlaw (2018-2021) – Halfway through Red Hood and the Outlaws’ DC Rebirth run, Jason split from the team to forge his own path. This soft reboot let Jason’s more brutal instincts shine and emphasized his characterization as an anti-hero. Batman: Three Jokers – While Geoff Johns’ and Jason Fabok’s miniseries focused on The Joker’s legacy, it also showed Jason grappling with the horrors that the villain inflicted on him. Three Jokers offered one of the most in-depth examinations of Jason’s trauma in DC Comics. Task Force Z (2021-2022) – Matthew Rosenberg’s and Eddy Barrows’ undead take on The Suicide Squad gave Jason another team to lead. By spending time with the zombies of Task Force Z, Jason reflected on his mortality or lack thereof.
Important Events and Milestones
Batman #357-358, Detective Comics #525-526 (March-May 1983) – Jason Todd’s pre-Crisis debut. Writer Gery Conway’s and artist Dan Newton’s original take on Jason didn’t age well, but it laid the groundwork for the modern Jason readers know and love. Batman #366 (December 1983) – The pre-Crisis Jason officially inherited the title of Robin when he took up Dick’s old costume. Written by Doug Moench, and illustrated by Don Newton. Batman #424-425 (October — November 1988) – Jason cemented his violent impulses and unpopularity among fans when he may or may not have killed a diplomat’s son. Illustrated by Mark Bright, the two-issue story was one of the most defining and controversial events of Jim Starlin’s Batman run. Batman Annual #25 – Judd Winick’s and Shane Davis’ annual showed what Jason was like after he was brought back to life. More importantly, the issue showed how Jason followed the dark path that turned him into Red Hood.
Jason Todd changed a lot over the decades. After starting as Robin before becoming Red Hood, Jason never stopped evolving as DC’s premier anti-hero. Read More