If there is one superhero known for having the most diverse rogues gallery in comics, it’s Batman. From the Penguin to Bane, Ra’s al Ghul to Catwoman, Gotham’s bizarre collection of criminals are recognized worldwide, whether it be in movies, cartoons, comics, or videogames. With such an iconic array of characters, it’s hard for a new face to stand out from the crowd.
But in the last decade, a murderous vigilante calling himself the Red Hood has made waves across the Batman universe, challenging the dark knight’s ethics, and even bringing a much needed third perspective to the eternal battle between Batman and the Joker. While it could be argued that this new player on the scene is a blast from the past — in more ways than one — what can’t be argued is the impact that the Red Hood has had on Bruce Wayne’s life.
With the Red Hood likely to be play a huge role in the future of Batman comics, and with Warner Brothers potentially considering the notion of bringing his story to the big screen soon, it’s time to learn the basics of Batman’s former sidekick turned enemy. Here are 12 Things You Need To Know About Red Hood.
12. The Mantle of The “Red Hood” Has Been Around for a Long Time
While the Red Hood’s current role in the DC universe is relatively new, the moniker itself is almost as old as Batman, having first appeared in a 1951 issue of Detective Comics. Even more importantly, the Red Hood identity was instrumental in the creation of Gotham’s most infamous psychopath, the Joker.
While DC’s many reboots have led to a few different retellings of the Red Hood’s origins, the most famous is still the version written by Alan Moore in The Killing Joke. In this graphic novel, the man who would someday become the Joker is portrayed as a broke stand-up comedian struggling to pay the bills for his pregnant wife, until he is offered money by the so-called “Red Hood gang,” to lead them into the chemical factory he once worked in. Desperate to build a better life for his family, the comedian accepts the job, and is given the Red Hood mask to disguise his identity. What he doesn’t realize is that the “Red Hood” role is that of a patsy for the police to shoot at, while the gang escapes unharmed.
11. The Current Red Hood is Jason Todd… Who Used to be Robin
The Red Hood gang died out, but their symbol remained potent — especially in light of the role that the gang played in creating the Joker. Today’s Red Hood is a man named Jason Todd, who uses the iconic red mask as a symbol to wage war against the same criminal underworld that spawned the original gang.
Jason Todd was once Robin, taking over as Batman’s partner after Dick Grayson went away to become Nightwing. Jason proudly wore the cape and domino mask until the Joker came around to tear apart the life that he’d rebuilt with Bruce Wayne. Years after his apparent death at the hands of the killer clown, he has now returned as the Red Hood, a vigilante whose brutal methods put him into conflict with his former mentor. Even as Robin, however, Jason exhibited darker tendencies than Dick Grayson ever did.
10. Jason Met Batman When He Tried to Steal the Batmobile’s Tires
Jason Todd was the adopted son of a deadbeat criminal father and a drug addicted mother, the latter of whom he tried to take care of with petty thefts until she died of an overdose. After her death, Jason continued supporting himself through small criminal activities, until one day he stumbled into the Batmobile in an alleyway, and tried to steal its tires. Bruce Wayne took interest in the boy, first trying to pay for his entrance into a boarding school, and then taking him in as Robin. Batman’s plan was to channel the boy’s rage into his battle against criminals, so that Jason wouldn’t one day become a criminal himself.
While Jason jumped at the chance to be Robin, the tragedies of his life had left their scars, and his moral code showed itself to be more flexible than Batman’s rigid policy of no guns/no killing. Jason exhibited an inner bloodlust, and was not averse to firearms or brutal force. On at least one occasion, a rapist “fell” from his apartment balcony only moments after Jason arrived, raising clear implications about Robin’s actions.
9. Then Jason Got Killed by the Joker
However, before Jason’s potentially more homicidal tendencies have a chance to make themselves fully known, the Joker takes everything away — in a story aptly titled A Death in the Family.
After reuniting with his biological mother Sheila, Jason is shocked to discover that she’s been blackmailed by Batman’s archenemy, in an attempt to get to Robin himself. Betrayed by the mother he never knew, Robin is then at the Joker’s mercy, whereupon the psychotic clown proceeds to beat him nearly to death with a crowbar. As a final act of malice, Joker traps Jason and his mother in a warehouse with a time bomb, and the bomb detonates before Batman can arrive to save them. Jason’s death is one of Batman’s greatest failures, and continues to be one of the caped crusader’s most painful memories.
8. …And He Was Killed By the Fans, Too
Behind the scenes, one of the more unique aspects of Jason’s death is that it wasn’t decided by a writer or editor: it was decided by phone calls. Batman writer Dennis O’Neil reportedly wasn’t sure which way to go with the story, so he allowed the readers to decide. The issue before Jason’s death ended in a cliffhanger, and DC gave readers the opportunity to dial a 1-900 number and select whether or not Jason should survive the explosion. The results were close, but in the end Jason lost, with 5,343 death votes overcoming the 5,271 votes to keep him alive.
In later years, there has been some question about whether or not the voting process was cheated. According to O’Neil, it turns out that hundreds of votes came from a single person who may have programmed their computer to dial the phone number every 90 seconds for 8 hours, thus skewing the vote — and meaning that this one unknown person may be Robin’s true killer.
7. Jason’s Return Was Teased (Falsely) Two Years Before It Happened
The impact of Jason’s death has had on Batman comics cannot be understated, and the fact that Joker has actually murdered a Robin amplified their rivalry to stakes that have never lessened in the years since. For over a decade, Jason was presumed to be as dead as Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben and Gwen Stacy, with the assumption being that his death was too important to Batman’s storyline for it to be undone for the sake of a shocking twist.
But then Jason’s return was teased two years before it actually happened, in the middle of Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s Hush story arc, which ran from 2002-2003. At one point during the story, Tim Drake — the third Robin, for anyone keeping count — is taken hostage, and the kidnapper is revealed to be none other than Jason, back from the dead. However, Jason is soon revealed to actually be the amorphous Clayface, who is merely mimicking Jason’s likeness.
6. Jason was brought back by Talia al Ghul
Comic book resurrections are complicated, messy occurrences, and Jason’s resurrection is no exception. The original reason for Jason’s return involves another universe shattering event called Infinite Crisis, wherein a character named Superboy-Prime is revealed to have been punching the barriers of reality, the ripples causing numerous retcons and resurrections, including Jason’s return. Retellings have simplified Jason’s return by centering it around a concept closer in spirit to the primary Batman mythos: the Lazarus Pits.
Talia, whom movie fans will know from The Dark Knight Rises as the daughter of immortal terrorist Ra’s al Ghul, is the force behind Jason’s return from the grave. Talia bathes Jason’s corpse in the Lazarus Pits, a natural phenomena that has kept her father Ra’s alive for centuries, bringing him back to life. However, the Lazarus Pits also have the dangerous side effect of changing the user’s personality in unpredictable ways, and the Jason that emerges is even more disturbed than the one who died.
5. Like Batman, He Trained Across the World
Jason is understandably both confused and enraged by everything that has occurred to him, and his anger only deepens when he is told by Talia that his death has gone “unavenged” by the dark knight. Funded by Talia’s money, Jason goes on to travel across the world, training in the same manner as Bruce Wayne did years ago, learning from many masters. In addition to improving his martial arts abilities, Jason picks up skills such as bomb-making, firearms, and poisons.
Throughout his journey, as he is trained by an array of dangerous and terrible men, Jason’s anger continues to be focused on both Bruce and the Joker. When Jason finally returns to Gotham, he is a new man. He becomes the Red Hood, thereby recreating the original identity of the man who destroyed his life.
4. The Red Hood is a Murderous Antihero Who Hates Batman
Unlike most Batman villains, who are largely motivated by personal gain, the Red Hood is out for what he believes to be justice. Employing militaristic tactics such as bombs, rocket launchers, and firearms, the Red Hood takes control of multiple criminal gangs, and uses these gangs to wage war against the crime lord Black Mask. He takes his vengeance on the Joker, and beats him nearly to death just as the Joker did to him years ago — only sparing the villain’s life for the sake of using him against Batman later on.
It is in his handling of the Joker that the deeply personal nature of Jason’s hatred of Batman is truly unveiled: Jason feels betrayed because Batman never killed the Joker. The former Robin can’t believe that Batman allowed the killer to go on living. To make his point, Jason kidnaps the Joker, holds him at gunpoint, and forces Batman to choose between either killing his former partner, or allowing that partner to kill his archenemy. Batman escapes from this choice through the use of his batarang (and the Joker’s use of nearby explosives), and Jason disappears.
3. He Had a Couple of Identity Crises
The next time that Jason reemerges, he has tauntingly assumed Dick Grayson’s Nightwing identity, and begun prowling the back alleys of New York City. His career as Nightwing is short lived after a run-in with the real Nightwing, at which point Jason disappears again. But as it turns out, Jason isn’t done taking other people’s identities.
Later on, when Bruce Wayne is seemingly killed in action, his absence leaves a vacuum in Gotham. Jason Todd jumps at the chance to recreate the Batman identity in his image, stepping over anyone who gets in his way, and not backing down from the same murderous tactics he employed as the Red Hood. Jason is confronted by Nightwing, Tim Drake, and Damian Wayne, all of whom disapprove of his illicit attempt to hijack the Batman mantle. The battle culminates in a fight between Jason and Nightwing, which Dick Grayson wins. Dick then returns to the Batcave to don the cowl until Bruce returns, and Jason goes on to resume his role as the Red Hood.
2. DC Has Big Plans for Him
Currently, after the lukewarm response to the New 52 line, DC is rebooting its universe once again, attempting to streamline its many continuities and paint a brighter picture for the future. While many of the details of DC’s Rebirth are still yet to be revealed, one thing that is clear is that Jason Todd is going to be playing a big part as the leader of the Outlaws, a team of troubled vigilantes.
While Red Hood previously led a version of the team that included Starfire and Arsenal, the new Outlaws will be comprised of Red Hood, Superman’s clone Bizarro, and the fallen Amazon, Artemis. United, these three will form a dark counterpoint to the iconic DC trinity of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Early reports state that Jason will once again be donning his Red Hood identity as a way to sneak inside the Gotham underworld and tear it up from the bottom. In recent years, Jason has been on a redemptive path, but only time will tell if leading the new Outlaws will bring him back to the light, or send him further into the darkness.
1. The Red Hood May be the Focus of the Next Batman Movie
While Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice received mixed reviews, one part of the movie that received immense praise was Ben Affleck’s turn as the dark knight. With Affleck set to write, star in, and direct the next solo Batman movie, predictions have been flying in regard to the movie’s plot, and one of the most persistent rumors is that it will tackle the Red Hood storyline. In many ways, this seems like the clear route to take, since Batman V Superman already hinted at a preexisting Batman/Joker rivalry, and revealed a damaged Robin suit spraypainted by the Joker. As far as setup goes, it doesn’t get much better.
To get an idea of what the next Batman movie might be like, check out the animated feature Batman: Under the Red Hood, which tells the story of Jason Todd’s rise, fall, and resurgence in a deeply compelling hour and fifteen minutes, culminating in an intense three way standoff between Red Hood, Batman, and the Joker. While we shouldn’t expect a direct adaptation of the Red Hood’s comic book storyline in light of Ben Affleck’s recent comments that his movie will have an original story, the animated film should be one of the first things WB looks at when figuring how to bring the Red Hood to the big screen.