[SPOILERS for the Under the Hood comic book, Under the Red Hood animated movie, and the Batman: Arkham Knight video game ahead.]
Jason Todd – who was the second Robin – was violently killed by the Joker in writer Jim Starlin and artist Jim Aparo’s comic Batman: A Death in the Family. The storyline was published in the late ’80s and Robin’s fate was determined by fan votes. The second Boy Wonder – Dick Grayson was the first – remained deceased for decades; however, in 2005, writer Judd Winick and artists Doug Mahnke, Eric Battle, and Shane Davis revealed how Jason Todd would not only return from the grave, but also take on a new identity: the Red Hood.
The alias was originally used by the Joker, but Todd’s version of Red Hood was basically an anti-villain – he was killing bad guys and attempting to take control of the criminal element because he believed it was the best way to keep the city safe. He aimed to repair Gotham City, and one thing couldn’t escape his mind: how could Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman, let the Joker live, especially after the villain killed him? How many lives did the Clown Prince of Crime take after the murderous villain viciously beat him with a crowbar? To Todd, Batman’s no-kill code is foolish, and he wanted to prove it to the Dark Knight.
The Under the Hood arc – which has since been changed to Under The Red Hood – has been adapted outside of comics at least twice. Brandon Vietti directed the excellent animated movie – which was titled Batman: Under the Red Hood, and it was also written by Winick – and the video game Batman: Arkham Knight pulled a lot of inspiration from the 2005 story arc.
Now, a new rumor is claiming that a Batman solo movie inspired by Red Hood’s return to Gotham City may be heading to the big screen. The Dark Knight himself, Ben Affleck, has expressed interest in directing a Batman solo movie, and he’s allegedly co-writing it with DC’s Geoff Johns, but there’s no official word yet on when Batman’s film is expected to open in theaters. As for the possible story, the big rumor is that Jason Todd is back in Gotham, and he’s making people believe Batman’s become a villain. He’ll set his sights on Gotham’s criminal element in an attempt to pull the Dark Knight and Joker (Jared Leto) into a conflict. Additionally, word is that Dick Grayson – the first Robin – will exist as Nightwing and appear in the movie.
The Under the Hood source material does involve a large cast of characters and it incorporates the DC Comics publisher’s bigger events, while also pulling from a ton of comics history. As such, there are key elements in the story of Red Hood’s return which give it a lot of potential on the big screen – if handled properly, of course! Obviously, what follows is speculation that is based on the events in the comics, but here’s the breakdown of Why Red Hood Has Potential for a Batman Solo Movie.
Predictable Yet Powerful Reveal
Just like with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, many moviegoers would walk into the theater already knowing the identity of the “mysterious” villain in Batman’s solo movie. Will that take away from the overall quality of the story, though? To many, the answer was clearly “no” for Captain America’s sequel, and the same could definitely hold true for Jason Todd – it certainly already has in the Under the Red Hood animated movie! What truly matters in the story isn’t answering the question of who is wearing the red helmet, but instead making audiences understand why he’s wearing it and what that means to Batman. It’s not about a twist that aims to shock; it’s about telling an emotional tale.
Jason Todd is someone who wanted to be good, but a terrible event changed everything for him. Joker did something horrifying and savage to Batman’s former sidekick, and the Caped Crusader didn’t make the deranged villain pay the ultimate price for it. Todd can forgive Batman being unable to save him from Joker, but why didn’t the terrible tragedy motivate the hero to break his rule and take the Joker’s life? Batman not being driven to the point of killing Joker devastates Todd and hurts him far more than a crowbar-wielding Joker could ever hope to.
Even if a fan hated Todd as Robin, it’s difficult not to feel for the guy or appreciate just how significantly this story impacts Bruce Wayne. What is arguably one of Bruce’s biggest failures has now quite literally come back to haunt him. Can he save Todd from himself this time around, or is their dynamic destined to full be of disaster? Todd’s not completely lost and he isn’t a “true” villain, and his desire for revenge is understandable. You may not agree with his mission, but it’s not something cliche like wanting to destroy Gotham or simply kill Batman (which is another point we’ll get to).
If Jason Todd comes back from the dead in the DC Extended Universe, one big question remains: how can his return be handled? In the comic, Superboy-Prime plays a key part in this, and obviously, that’s something that wouldn’t happen in the movie – it relies on a big, cosmic event which hasn’t occurred and it would risk making the movie way too convoluted. However, the animated movie proved that Todd’s return can be simplified well by focusing on just the Lazarus Pit (which was also used in the comic) – a pool of liquid which rejuvenates a person and is regularly used by Batman’s villain Ra’s al Ghul.
Given the fact Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins played a pivotal role in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy (in which they’re called the League of Shadows) and that organization – as well as Ra’s al Ghul himself – played a big part in The CW show Arrow as well, odds are that WB/DC wouldn’t want to make Ra’s al Ghul and his followers the focal point again for viewers in the DCEU just yet. However, including him doesn’t automatically mean he’s an enormous player in the DCEU, or that the film needs to explore the origin of the League of Assassins. Just like the animated Under the Red Hood movie, his incorporation could be minimal, primarily existing as the device to restore Todd’s life. Through some well-written exposition, this could offer a huge amount of fan service as it hints at a past between Talia al Ghul (therefore making fans speculate about the existence of Damian Wayne) and reveals that yes, Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins are yet another part of the evergrowing DCEU.
Their inclusion doesn’t mean there are big plans for Ra’s and Talia in the near future, but it does it does open the door to them potentially being featured – or at least included – eventually. After all, in Arkham Knight, Joker doesn’t kill Todd – he just makes Batman think he did. Enduring such extreme torture for so long at the hands of the Joker puts Todd on the path to becoming Red Hood. If the studio doesn’t want to delve too deep into Batman’s mythos in the film by using the Lazarus Pit, something more along the lines of this story would be a suitable alternative.
The Red Hood comic book is full of exciting battles – battles which highlight what makes Batman so formidable. Want to see Wayne unleash in an intense hand-to-hand encounter? Winick’s story has that. Want to see Batman using his brilliant tactics and equipment to take down more physically powerful threats? The comic has that, too. What about watching the Red Hood flip around and blast two pistols at his enemies? The comic’s got you covered. And do you want to see Batman and Nightwing working side by side, using stunning teamwork to defeat a big challenge? The comic absolutely has that, and that has the chance to be brilliant on the big screen!
Even if the studio doesn’t want to use some of the characters in the Red Hood comic (we’ll discuss possible substitutes shortly), that doesn’t take away from the fact that this story includes plenty of gripping and fun action sequences, and that’s something that – if properly choreographed and filmed – could really help make the movie more entertaining. Not only will this mystery highlight Batman’s strengths as a detective while he works to discover whether or not it truly is Jason he’s facing, but it will also showcase why he’s such an imposing combatant. Not many can go toe-to-toe with Batman, and this movie has the chance to make the general public fully understand that.
Expanding the DCEU
Nightwing. Black Mask. Deathstroke. Mr. Freeze. Zatanna. Amazo. Those are just a few of the possible heroes and villains that could be seen in this movie. We know that brings up concerns about Batman’s solo film being too crowded, but some of these individuals would be nothing more than cameos or have limited roles – and, with a strong script hinting at their stories without feeling the need to blatantly spell them out for everyone, there’s no need to make a number of them serve as primary characters. Some of these players are even just there for action scenes, and this could leave moviegoers wondering what the DCEU might have in store for them down the road.
Nightwing and Black Mask could be key players, and they, of course, have a lot of possibilities when it comes to long term plans in the DCEU. Nightwing has spin-off potential and this movie could do a serviceable job revealing what makes him and Jason Todd so very different without needing to fully leap into Grayson’s origin story and journey. Because of the tone the DCEU is going for (so far, that is), Black Mask could be a frightening criminal mastermind who focuses on order and the financial success of his territory – the polar opposite of the other villain in the film, Joker. Even if he doesn’t get as much screen time as the other primary characters (and he more than likely wouldn’t), the source material has quite a few villainous and amusing moments with him that could work well on the big screen while he’s also there to advance the plot.
At the time of writing this, there’s nothing but rumors about Slade Wilson, a.k.a. Deathstroke, potentially appearing in the DCEU. If he isn’t already presented by the time Batman’s solo movie opens, this story would be an appropriate way to get Deathstroke fans pumped for the character’s role in the universe’s future. In the comic, Deathstroke is there as a representative of the Society – a group of villains, and that alone hints at so many other possibilities – and seeing Slade Wilson, in costume, is something many people would love to see in theaters. It would be a great teaser of what’s hopefully to come with the mercenary.
Alternatively, WB/DC could surprise audiences by having Deathstroke go after Red Hood (at Black Mask’s request) – and once he gets the advantage over Todd, Batman swoops in and then the duo eventually defeat Deathstroke by using their natural teamwork. Needing Batman and Red Hood to work together to overcome Deathstroke would establish Deathstroke as the formidable threat that he truly is. In the comic, Red Hood and Batman’s team-up results in Red Hood killing their enemy, so obviously that part would need to be changed so Deathstroke remains alive – unless they want to severely disappoint fans, that is. Deathstroke does have an extensive history with Nightwing, so if audiences react positively to both characters, a Nightwing spin-off featuring Deathstroke wouldn’t be entirely far-fetched…
Amazo could be included the same way the powerful foe is in the comic: an android being sent to Black Mask and is intercepted by Batman and Nightwing. This would show that villains are attempting to step up their technology to combat heroes, and the ensuing action scene – which displays Batman and Nightwing’s phenomenal teamwork and talent – could be a blast that’s packed with spectacle. The writers could even go the extra mile and make fans very happy by including something small like Black Mask saying he’s annoyed the deal with Professor Ivo didn’t go as planned.
Wonder Woman proves Gods exist. Aquaman proves Atlantis exists. Superman proves aliens exist. But Zatanna? She could tease magic. In the movie, Batman could seek Zatanna out (if he knows who and what Wonder Woman is, knowing of someone powerful like Zatanna is believable) in an attempt to understand how Todd could have potentially been resurrected. Just like Amazo, she could be limited to one scene, but her being involved could tease the existence of so many other characters in the DCEU. Similarly, the Red Hood comic has numerous villains. Mr. Freeze, Hyena, Captain Nazi, and Count Vertigo all encounter Red Hood. If the studio doesn’t want to use any of them, there are more than a few fiends at their disposal. Brutale? Cheshire? Rag Doll (who could be very creepy)? Copperhead? KGBeast? The DC universe has dozens and dozens of villains to choose from.
Another option: how about using already established characters? Assuming they survive the events in Suicide Squad, what’s stopping Black Mask from hiring someone like Will Smith’s Deadshot or Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc? Or Common’s character, who is possibly Tattooed Man? At the end of the day, Black Mask simply needs to bring in some extra combatants to go after the very dangerous Red Hood, and there’s countless options to use for action scenes and a way to give them a little more depth through their dialogue. (If Deadshot is used, they could pull from the interesting relationship the marksman has with Batman in the pre-New 52 comics.) Choosing to introduce a new and intimidating Mr. Freeze for an early encounter with Red Hood, just like he has in the comic, would also be *ahem* cool. (Sorry.)
An Organic Way to Explore Ben Affleck’s Batman’s Past
Many would agree that Batman doesn’t need another origin story. His parents were gunned down by a criminal, and he vowed to fight crime while dressing as a bat. You all know the story by now, and if you’ve somehow managed to avoid learning about Batman’s origin, a simple line or two of exposition can fix that. Besides, the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice San Diego Comic-Con 2015 trailer showed there will be a flashback to Batman’s origin.
Yet another origin story isn’t something a noticeable amount of fans would want, but a narrative inspired by Under the Red Hood is a great way to look into his past without making it feel forced and it avoids going over Batman’s origin for the gazillionth time in a live-action project. No longer is the focus on where Bruce came from – it’s now placed on his earlier years with Jason Todd, and how he tried to teach someone who tested his patience more than Dick Grayson did. The Batman being established is older and tougher, but this could show a slightly different take on Affleck’s Batman – one who hasn’t been destroyed by the loss of an ally just yet. It builds the emotional connection to Todd’s journey while it helps us better comprehend Batman’s struggle to teach Todd, and then see how drastically the loss changed him. Flashbacks here benefit the overall plot and the development of the two main leads – they’re not just for exposition.
The chance to see the Dynamic Duo in action would be a joy for many fans (again, if executed well) and showing Joker brutally attack the young hero would prove this villain is truly a terrifying monster. Given Jared Leto’s talent as an actor, we’re sure he could make the scene chilling. The BvS trailer hints at Batman’s tragic past by quickly showing the Robin costume on display and vandalized by the Joker (or at least we – and everyone else – assume it’s the Joker), and the new Batman solo film would have the chance to delve into this dramatic and unforgettable part of the Dark Knight’s life.
It’ll bypass his origin and go straight to another watershed moment in his life… one which generates a whole lot of action, a solid insight into Batman’s methods, and plenty of engaging – and emotional – material. And with Joker already earning the spotlight in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, there’s no need to cover establishing the popular rogue in great detail – they can move straight to using him for this story instead of feeling the need to explain who he is and treat his appearance in the new Batman solo movie like it’s his big debut.
Exploring the New Gotham
Zack Snyder has explained that Gotham City is Metropolis’ sister city – it’s located on the other side of the bay. If Man of Steel showcased a big, thriving city, and Suicide Squad aims to show the dark corner of the U.S. Government, The Batman – or whatever it will be called – could display just how much criminals thrive in Gotham.
Seeing Batman’s city overflowing with corruption and violence has been witnessed in movies before, but this new Caped Crusader solo film offers the chance to focus on how one man holds a majority the power (Black Mask), especially since the Dark Knight has been absent for so long. The film can also fill Gotham with whole new variety of threats (e.g. metahumans and tech-savvy foes) and, hopefully, sprinkle in a number of promising easter eggs, too.
Personal Stakes & Batman’s Moral Code
The stakes are often ridiculously high in comic book movies, and this is something Suicide Squad director/writer David Ayer has criticized. If inspired by Jason Todd’s reemergence, the story would be all about morality and taking a good look at Batman’s psyche. Batman isn’t saving the city from being destroyed; he’s facing his past and being forced to question how he operates. Batman is almost always able to save the day and he’s a man with very few flaws, but having to deal with one of his greatest failures – one which could be the reason he decided to hang up his cape and cowl in the DCEU – offers a humanizing approach to the immensely talented hero.
Batman refusing to kill his extremely dangerous enemies can seem impractical to some, so why does he stand so confidently by his belief that he can’t kill his villains? After all of his years of fighting crime, what has he really accomplished? Could Red Hood, a character willing to slaughter his opponents, do a better job protecting Gotham’s citizens from the twisted scum that populates the city? These questions are front and center in the story, and it explains that Batman doesn’t think killing is the hard choice… he thinks it would be too easy to do, and it’s a method that he wouldn’t be able to stop using. If he can justify killing Joker, who could he justify killing next? How much damage must someone do before Batman thinks it’s okay for him to put the criminal down, once and for all?
Does Batman still hold onto this belief in the DCEU, though? The trailer shows Ben Affleck’s Batman, in desert garb, snapping a soldier’s neck, but an action figure hints at that scene being a nightmare. There also appears to be a scene, in the Batman V Superman teaser, of Batman’s plane shooting at and in the process potentially killing gunmen – but if Lex Luthor is manipulating the two heroes, could he be using a drone to make Superman believe Batman’s a killer?
In short, WB/DC making their version of Batman one who isn’t strongly against killing can’t be ruled out just yet. Still, making Affleck’s Batman a man who is willing to severely hurt but not kill his enemies would bring about a conflict with Jason Todd that’s far more compelling and remains truer to the comics.
Keep in mind, Batman’s solo movie being inspired by Red Hood’s story is just a rumor at this point. If it does happen, it may be loosely based on Winick’s story from 2005, or it may show it a lot of love, like how Batman v Superman is including a lot of nods to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns limited series.
Comic book movies almost always make significant changes from the source material, but Winick’s story is able to successfully look forward and backwards – while also being full of engrossing drama, interesting character insight, exciting fights, and plenty of nods to a much, much larger world. If DC and WB can deliver those key elements, Batman’s solo movie is sure to be memorable. If you don’t believe us, do yourself a favor and watch the animated movie.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25, 2016, followed by Suicide Squad on August 5, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 23, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern on June 19, 2020. The Superman and Batman solo films have release dates TBD.