For those of you who’ve been reading The Comic Vault regularly, you’ll have probably realised by now Jason Todd is my favourite comic character. His background, personality and lifestyle make him one of the most interesting characters in the Batman universe. As Red Hood, Jason has a dedicated following, but that wasn’t always the case. During his early years as Robin, Jason was so unpopular that fans decided to kill him off.
I disagree with the backlash Jason received, though the story of how he became Robin is worth knowing about. I’m looking into Jason’s tenure as Robin to show how he was a better Boy Wonder than people gave him credit for.
Two different backstories
When Jason was introduced in 1983’s Batman #387, he had a different backstory to his modern counterpart. Jason’s origins were identical to that of Dick Grayson. His parents were circus acrobats called Joseph and Trina Todd, who were murdered by Killer Croc.
The original Jason was recognised by his red/strawberry blonde hair. He chose to wear different variations of the original Robin costume until Dick Grayson gave him a Robin costume of his own. When Jason became Robin, Batman urged him to dye his hair black so he’d look like the original Robin.
After the Crisis on Infinite Earths event, Jason’s background was revamped. He came from a dysfunctional family, with his mum being a drug addict and his dad being a criminal. He ended up on the streets and met Batman when he boosted the tyres off the Batmobile in Crime Alley. Batman took Jason in and trained him. After infiltrating and breaking up Ma Gunn’s School for Criminal Youths, Jason earned his Robin costume.
The unpopular Robin
Writers decided to make Jason a different kind of Robin to Dick Grayson. He became rougher around the edges, smoking, swearing and beating up criminals. Readers rejected Jason’s revised origins and his new attitude, which I find strange. Initially, fans thought he was a clone of Grayson. When his story was changed to make him stand out, he became even more unpopular. This could have happened because fans thought Grayson was so iconic that they didn’t want to see him replaced.
Eventually, DC introduced a 1-900 telephone poll that gave fans the chance to off Robin. 10,614 votes were cast and a 72 vote margin led to Jason being killed in 1988’s Death In The Family. Jason tracked down his biological mother, Sheila Heywood in Ethiopia, only to have her betray him to The Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime brutally beat Robin with a crowbar and blew up the warehouse with Jason and Sheila inside. Robin’s death haunted Batman for many years.
A worthy Boy Wonder
In my opinion, Jason didn’t deserve the amount of hate he received. His life on the streets gave him a different view of the world, so he could empathise with other people who had been mistreated by the system. For example, he chose to use excessive force on a pimp for abusing a woman forced into prostitution.
Despite his anger issues, Jason never lost his compassion. This could be seen through trying to look after Catherine Todd after his father went to jail. Jason stayed with Catherine and helped her through her drug addiction. When his biological mother betrayed him, Jason still tried to save her. These are the actions of someone who is worthy of being Robin.
On my Comic Curators video channel, I’m running a three-part series called The Life And Times Of Jason Todd. The series charts Jason’s evolution into Red Hood and why he’s my favourite character. In this first video, I talk about Jason’s beginnings as Robin.
If you’ve enjoyed watching, like, comment and subscribe to the channel to see the next two videos in the series!