I Saw Under the Red Hood

The adaptation of Under the Red Hood is one of the greater DC animated endeavors for many reasons: first, Judd Winick the writer of the original story produced the script for the film; second, the film cut a lot of references and side plots that were unnecessary to the main story; third, Joker was not the ambassador for Iran, which is an actual element in the original Death of the Family story arch. However, even with one really well-crafted story to his name and a better film centered on his journey, Jason Todd as Red Hood the anti-hero is a mistake, embarrassing most of the time and, ultimately, a dead end pitch.

As comic book readers, it’s a shame when a character becomes lost in obscurity because then the beloved diversity and range disappears from the universe, but, on the other hand, when a company over-hypes a character that does not have enough pathos to support the company’s push, it’s annoying and awkward for readers. As he stands right now, Jason Todd as the anti-hero Red Hood is in a weird flux of being irrelevant, annoying, and conceptually frustrating because DC comics either mishandles him in advertising or in execution. As a former robin and a core member of the bat family, Jason Todd should have greater stories to his name, but he doesn’t, so readers should not be fooled into thinking he is a great character when he just isn’t.

Art by Paul Pelletier. Image from Batman and Robin Eternal #3. Jason Todd, armed to the teeth, tossed by a 13 year old

The ‘Red Hood’ Ruins the Reputation of DC

Not only is he another dash against the longevity of death in comics, but he is also a stain on Batman’s reputation, in more ways than just being someone who died on his watch. When mentioning Jason Todd in proximity to Batman’s track record as a crime fighter, the obvious conclusion is that he represents one of Batman’s failures, but, as the Red Hood, Jason is no longer a failure but a crack in his moral code.

Needless to say, Batman will always try to stop a murder active in his territory, Gotham, but, with Jason Todd a former Robin, he conveniently turns a blind eye to his activities. Why? Why would Batman let Red Hood go on a killing spree period? Even if Red Hood is not in Gotham ‘fighting’ crime, a well-written and consistent Batman would not let of his pupils murder ‘criminals’, especially when that former robin wears the bat logo on his chest while killing!

When Jason was a dead robin, he was Batman’s greatest failure, but as the Red Hood, his existence makes Batman a gigantic hypocrite because then he selectively cares about the harm of crime and the offenders responsible for it. With Selina Kyle, it is more understandable for readers to accept Batman’s blind eye because Selina commits minor property crimes, but Jason always carries the intention to commit serious bodily harm to his targets. Batman should not be okay with Jason’s activities, let alone ignore them all together because the confrontation would be difficult.

Perhaps the reason why Jason gets the get-out-of-Arkham pass, is because secretly Batman is an enormous narcissist? Confused. Don’t worry.

Art by Matt Wagner. Imaged owned by DC Comics

A rational reader might come to the logical conclusion and ask themselves: Why does Batman never capture the Red Hood, or Why doesn’t Batman throw Jason in or Arkham to get help he needs? The reason as to why writers never come to that conclusion in main continuity comics is because, if Batman did that, then a sequence of events would lead to him no longer able to be Batman, and conclusively they would no longer be able to print a Batman comic.

Steps in the Slippery Red Slope:

  1. Batman locks Jason Todd in Arkham intensive care for treatment.
  2. Jason, feeling furious and betrayed by Batman, will go to his handlers and bargain for his release with the most valuable piece of information in Gotham: the identity of Batman!
  3. Jason gets out of Arkham. The world knows that Batman and Bruce Wayne are one in the same.

The Red Hood has the ultimate immunity from Batman because he knows his secret identity. He can use it at leverage whenever the mood strikes him, and if the idea that Batman cares more about his own personal adventures than stopping crime confuses or maybe angers a long time fans of the character, then the presence of Red Hood gives a reader every single right to feel that way.

Image owned by DC Comics.

Jason is a Try Hard

Another problem with the Red Hood character, which stems from the field of execution rather than concept, is that Red Hood has no memorable internal voice attached to his character. To compensate for the fact that traditional anti-heroes are characters of very little words, comic book writers choose to focus their creative talent to deliver a compelling internal dialogue. Perfect examples of anti-heroes who have gripping internal monologues are Jonah Hex when written by Jimmy Pa and Justin Grey and The Punisher when written by Garth Ennis. For Jonah and Frank, their voices are unique to them, and it’s fascinating to read their fragmented minds rationalize the conclusion to take up violence as natural, necessary, or heroic.

Art by Leandro Fernadez. Image owned by DC Comics.

After Judd Winnick’s run of the character, Jason Todd’s voice became interchangeable with any generic 90s hero, which either makes him a misogynistic pig or agnsty teenager rebelling against his ‘bat-dad’.  The science is still out on this idea, but, nevertheless, a widely accepted hypothesis in culture is that trying hard to be cool only makes one lamer, which is exactly Jason’s problem. In his own comics, lesser writers fill the pages with Jason describing himself as a “stud”, “agent of vengeance” “a real crime fighter”, “a true loner”, and a “dark” man while wearing a silly impractical brown leather jacket everywhere he goes. Its embarrassing once a reader realizes that Jason is meant to be in his mid 20s early 30s.

Art owned by DC Comics. Jason, the classy Robin

Red Hood Doesn’t Sell.

Image owned by DC Comics. Art from Red Hood and the Outlaws Rebirth Series.

Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Damian Wayne, Barbara Gordon, Lucas Fox, and can hold their own titles by themselves because many passionate writers brought complexities into the characters’ lives and played with the core traits of members of the bat family. Meanwhile, with his history of being mishandled and misplaced by DC editorial and lesser writers, Red Hood has to be on a team to sell a book.

One Story Doesn’t Earn Character Greatness

To put it short and bluntly, Red Hood as an anti-hero is a pitch that has nowhere to go. Much like with Gwen Stacy until Jeff Loeb wrote Spider-man Blue which made long time Spider-man fans understand Peter’s love for Gwen comic book readers know Jason Todd only from the fact that he died, once.

Tips for DC:

Attention all Comic Book Writers: Jason Todd desperately needs another story arch to his name or else he is entirely worthless as an ex-robin, member of the bat family, and a character.

  • Don’t kill him; the death will have no impact.
  • Separate him from the bat family (remove the bat crest) and give him his own city.
  • Make him a Villain. He’s a greater force as an antagonist for the DC Universe.
  • Let him kill a Joker.
  • Possible Option: Put him on an incarnation of the Suicide Squad.
  • Put him in the suit below. Not only does the white work well, but it exactly looks like a proper costume instead of a leather jacket.  However, get rid of the skull (there’s another character that has a greater claim to that image).
Image owned by DC Comics. Art from Revenge of the Red Hood.