The History Of Jason Todd and His Place in Batman Lore – Comic Basics


Welcome to Comic Basics. Today’s Episode
… The Undeniable Importance of Jason Todd’s Robin To Batman’s History. But before we get to that, if after watching
the video, you liked what you saw, please, hit that Subscribe Button. From one-time hated Boy Wonder to arguably
the second most popular DC anti-hero (Batman, of course, being the first), Jason Todd’s
rise through DC Comics is both unprecedented and important. Over the years, Jason Todd’s history and
origin have read like an out of date textbook. As new writers and creators draw up stories
that include him, his past is changed to whichever way suits the story. When we first met Jason, his story is eerily
similar to Dick Grayson’s. Like Grayson, Todd belonged to a family of circus acrobats
called the Flying Todd’s. Like Grayson, his parents were tragically killed by a criminal.
And like Grayson, he was adopted by Bruce Wayne. Unfortunately, this similarity immediately
set him down a path of hatred and distain by Batman’s readers. And why? They argued that his story was too similar
and he could never live up to the standard that Dick had set. Probably fair. After all,
Dick was the original Robin and the literal definition of a Boy Sidekick. So what did DC do? They changed his story. In his new story, Jason is a street orphan
who is caught by Batman attempting to steal the tires off the Batmobile. Bruce, seeing
potential in the boy, takes him in and sends him to a school for troubled youth. Shortly
after, Jason gives aid to Batman in catching a group of thieves. From this point forward,
he is the new Robin. As Robin, Bruce quickly realizes that he isn’t as good as Dick but
knows that he must help him or Jason will turn to crime. Again, as Robin, Jason fell out of favor with
readers. This was primarily because he was constantly compared to Dick. Dick’s Robin
had been around for decades and became the gold standard for what a Robin was. He was
the perfect acrobat. He was a brilliant detective. And worse yet, he was the original. Jason,
while no one could argue that he had two of these qualities, wasn’t on Dick’s level. But it wasn’t just that that did him in. Ultimately, Jason Todd’s Robin fell out
of favor because readers saw him as impetuous, angry, reckless, and an uncontrollable teenager.
Jason was that teenager you wanted to see beat up but never was. At the end of the day,
readers were used to Dick and Dick was none of these. The ironic thing was that Jason was everything
that Batman should be but wasn’t. Batman possesses a code of honor by which he lives
and Jason violated everything about that code. This meant that Jason had a sliding scale
of what was right and wrong…a scale that would show up time and again. He wasn’t
afraid to do whatever was necessary to protect the world around him. He’d even kill if
he had to. The outrage was so strong that, during the
four-part story A Death in The Family, DC created a poll that allowed readers to decide
if Jason should live or die. The poll, which generated 1,000’s of phone calls, was a
monumental success. As much as it was about Jason Todd’s Robin, it instantly put the
eyes of the comic world on DC. And how did it work? You called in to cast your vote. Never had
readers had so much control over the fate of a character. • 1-900-720-2660 and he lives
• 1-900-729-2666 and he dies It was that simple. Over the course of 36
hours, 10,614 people called in. • 5,343 for his death
• 5,271 against his death When it was all said and done, Jason Todd’s
Robin was dead and his similar origin, terrible attitude, and the Joker were to blame. Batman has, on more than one occasion, said
that Jason’s death is his greatest failure. A Death In The Family has gone down in infamy
as the story that killed Jason Todd. A Death in the Family showed exactly how much readers
hated him. Of course, anyone at the time knew it wouldn’t
last. And it didn’t. There was a period in DC that Superboy Prime
spent his time altering reality. In one such moment, Jason is brought back to life. Shortly
after he awakens, he breaks free of his coffin and begins walking. Of course, his wounds
hadn’t healed so he ends up collapsing to the ground and is taken to a hospital. A year
passed before Jason is recognized by Talia al Ghul. Realizing who he is, Talia brings
him to the Lazarus Pit where he baths alongside her father, Ra’s al Ghul. The waters, coupled
with Ghul’s presence in them not only heal Jason, but they also affect his personality. Talia convinces Jason that his death was not
avenged and because of this, Jason makes his return to Gotham to confront Batman. He does
so not as Jason Todd but as Red Hood…ironically the name the Joker once went by. Batman explains
to him that he has a “no kill” code of ethics and therefore he couldn’t avenge
his death. He then tells him that the Joker is still alive…a moment that would define
his life for years to come. The Red Hood, for all intents and purposes,
is the true definition of an anti-hero. While he protects the innocent from evil, he does
so with extreme measures. Like Marvel’s Punisher, Jason is not afraid to use violence
and death as a means to get his point across. The widely popular Under the Red Hood comic
and animated movie perfectly demonstrates this. So why is he so important? What is it about
Jason Todd that makes him so important to Batman? Simple. Jason does what readers wished Batman would
do…kill. The problem is that prior to his death, he couldn’t do it. Not only did Batman
forbid it, his readers didn’t want to see it. They felt that killing should be reserved
for Batman and Batman alone. Jason Todd, for all his flaws, asks the same
question readers have been asking for decades. Why doesn’t Batman do whatever it takes
to clean up Gotham? Why doesn’t go to the extreme to rid his city of the villainy that
lives in it? Think about it. The cycle of violence is repeating and never-ending.
The Joker, The Penguin, Bane, Mr. Freeze, and every other enemy of Batman commits crimes
that usually include murder. After said crime is committed, Batman catches and throws them
into Arkham only to have them escape and do it again. Lather, rinse, repeat. The chain of events
is as predictable as a clock. Jason questions exactly this. He questions why Batman doesn’t kill them
thereby bringing an end to the endless cycle. Of course, we all know the answer to this.
Batman, for as much fear as his strikes into his opponents, is fearful of stepping over
the line. He doesn’t kill because he fears that he may never be able to return from it.
This is why the Joker still lives. While this somewhat makes sense, Jason Todd doesn’t
see it that way. He sees it as yet another reason that he wasn’t a good enough Robin.
That is, he was so poor at the job that Batman wouldn’t kill Joker and avenge his death. Jason Todd’s Robin is important to Batman’s
mythos because he allows the reader to see exactly what’s wrong with Batman. He forces
the reader, and possibly Batman, to understand that Batman needs his enemies as much as they
need him. Without his enemies, there is no need for his existence and as such, Batman
becomes unnecessary. This may seem like an “out there” statement
but don’t underestimate its truth. Batman and his enemies have a symbiotic relationship.
One cannot live without the other. With Batman, there would be no Joker. Without Joker there
would be no Batman. With Batman, there would be no Ra’s al Ghul. Without Ra’s al Ghul
there would be no Batman. With Batman, there would be no Poison Ivy. Without…you get
the point. He and his enemies are like a circus in the sense that they need one another to
have a full act. But that isn’t the only reason he’s so
important. Jason Todd’s death, more than his life became
a sticking point for Batman. After the fallout of A Death In The Family, readers from around
the world fantasized about how Batman would cope with his loss. As a stereotypically brooding
character, would Jason’s death plunge Batman further into the depths of sorrow? Would it
change Batman in a way that he hadn’t before? And would it force him to change how he operates? All good questions. Sadly, the way that DC
chose to handle Batman with Jason’s death left something to he desired. For everything that comic books do, they haven’t
dealt with death particularly well. Jason’s death perfectly exemplifies this. Anger is
a natural reaction to loss. However, anger lashed out as violence, is not the way. Case
in point, in The New Titans #55 the former Robin returns after being off-planet only
to discover that Jason is gone. He confronts Bruce Wayne and asks him why he let Jason
become Robin before he was ready. Batman retaliates with a punch across his chin and tells Dick
to return his key on the way out. As opposed to using the opportunity as a way
to develop the Batman character, DC squandered it by keeping Batman status quo. By doing
this, they drove the fact that he was and forever will be a stereotypical brooder unable
to come to terms with life. It happened with his parents and it happened with Jason Todd. Eventually, however, DC started to get it
right. In 1989, during Batman #436, we see Bruce
Wayne realizing that his house has done everything it could to forget that Jason even existed.
This is interesting because Bruce never did too much to wipe the memory of Thomas and
Martha Wayne from his home. He still had pictures, decorations, and memories everywhere. But
with Jason it was different. It was as though he never lived there. By wiping Jason’s memory, DC began to realize
that Bruce Wayne needs character development. Remember, both anger and acceptance are mechanisms
of recovery. We all know that Bruce Wayne was plenty angry. Showing acceptance, however,
was a side of the character we hadn’t seen before. By showing acceptance, DC had smartly
found a way to humanize him. Before you get up in arms about what I just
said, I know that he keeps a Jason Robin costume in the Batcave. He didn’t get rid of everything… So know this. The costume may seem like a step backward
but I assure you it isn’t. The costume became a symbol for Batman. It was the object that
tied him to the reality of being a superhero…and superheroes aren’t invincible. More than
that, it became a memory and reminder of his greatest failure. If this seems strange, remember
that Batman is a perfectionist at heart. The costume was a way to remind him that even
he makes mistakes. Perhaps subtly, it was a way to remind the reader that our own choices
have consequences, and we must live with them. For Jason Todd, his death was more important
than his life. His death symbolized a new age of comics and readers, all-the-while forcing
questions about the most basic aspect of Batman. Jason Todd is responsible for the biggest
change in both Batman and DC Comics since the Daughter of the Demon story. Jason Todd’s
Robin endured prejudice, discrimination, hate, and abuse and stood tall. He died a fiery
death, yet came from the ashes and became one of, if not the most important character
in Batman’s history. He is the medicine that Batman didn’t know he needed. Although nobody could’ve predicted what
would happen after introducing a second Robin, the world is better off because of it. And
now that he stands not against, but beside Batman as the Red Hood, his legacy only grows
stronger. As the Red Hood, he has been given the opportunity to change Gotham in the way
that we’ve all wanted it to be changed…through violence and death. Jason Todd does kill and
has no remorse in doing it. Whether or not DC continues to explore the
dynamic Jason Todd’s Robin brings to Batman remains to be seen. No matter what they do,
however, one thing is certain. His transformation from hated Boy Wonder to respected and loved
vigilante is remarkable. This may never happen again in the medium so if it doesn’t, let’s
sit back and enjoy the ride. And I’m going to leave you with one final
thing many times over. Comic books are the gateway to understanding
the world just a little bit better. So may they be around forever. I hope you enjoyed that and if you did, please,
hit that Subscribe Button. Look, I know there’s a million YouTube channels
out there and for you to take a few minutes of your precious time to watch one of my videos,
means so much to me. I hope you’ll be back and until then, I’ll
catch you next time.

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