The Fate of Robin, The Boy Wonder fell to the whims of a generation, and since then the landmark storyline has played out in multiple mediums. DC Animated Universe revisits the story this fall, but before that BATMAN: Under the Red Hood narrated the tale to film.
He was the second young person to step into the role of the Dark Knight Detective’s sidekick, but when Jason Todd was first introduced, he had some very big shoes to fill, and it always felt as if the cards were stacked against him. In the late 1980s a campaign to leave the fate of the new Robin in the hands of the fans, overwhelmingly lead to the hero’s demise at the hands of The Joker, in “A Death in the Family” storyline, which ultimately opened the door for Todd’s resurrection as animated in Batman: Under the Red Hood.
This fall DC Universe Animated Films revisits the events leading up to that story in DC Showcase Batman: Death in the Family a “choose your own adventure” animated film, that again puts Jason Todd’s fate in the hands of fans. Available on Blu-ray, the film will give its audience up to 3 alternative endings, each depicting a different outcome for Todd’s Robin as it similarly played out in the comic books. The Blu-ray release will also include additional DC Showcase “shorts” starring Sgt. Rock, Phantom Stranger, Death, and Adam Strange.
Published by DC Comics in 1988 “A Death in the Family” was written by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo and featured cover art by Mike Mignola. The story spanned 4-issues and was chronicled in Batman #426-429. The readership had apparently become exhausted with Jason Todd, the “new” Robin was introduced in 1983 and was decidedly very different from Bruce Wayne’s first ward. Todd was impulsive, often reckless; choosing to inflict his own brand of justice on the criminal element of Gotham City’s underworld, much to the disappointment of The Batman.
The original Robin, Dick Grayson, had long since stepped out from under the shadow of his mentor and embodied the best of his inspirations, including the Caped Crusader and even Superman and Wonder Woman. When Dick assumed the role of Nightwing and returned to rescue his teammates the Teen Titans from the clutches of their most nefarious adversary, Deathstroke (see The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract) he had emerged fully evolved and independent, much to the full pride of Bruce Wayne
The Batman operated for a short period of time without a sidekick until he encountered a young waif who was vandalizing the Batmobile; living on the streets and fending for himself, Jason Todd was hoping to steal the vehicle’s tires and sell them to make some money. Batman stops young Todd in his tracks and turns him over to Leslie Thompkins. On several occasions, the insufferable young man makes every attempt to escape from under the care of Thompkins, who insists that it might not be a bad idea for Bruce Wayne to take him under his wing and temper his tantrums.
Ultimately Wayne makes Todd his new ward and eventually turns him into his new sidekick, given the vacancy left after Dick Grayson’s “graduation”. It’s important to historically note, that after the earth-shattering events of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths the reboot of the legacy multiverse gave the publishers the opportunity to really make a distinction between Grayson’s Robin and Todd, unfortunately, the new origin story and much of Jason’s own bad behavior did not sit well with fans. Robin’s behavior became increasingly unpopular with fans!
A campaign went into the full effort to leave his fate in the hands of the audience and unfortunately, Jason was voted “out”! The character is brutalized by The Joker and then left inside a warehouse loaded with explosives. The Batman is unable to get there in time and Jason is murdered in the blast. “A Death in the Family” would lead to a series of darker turns for The Batman narratively and it isn’t long before the villain claims another victim in the Bat-Family when he cripples Barbara Gordan/The Batman in the classic graphic novel “The Killing Joke”.
Jason’s fate is revisited years later when a menacing new adversary turns up in Gotham City named the Red Hood, who is systematically taking out the heads of the major underworld crime families. Ironically the “Red Hood” is an alias once used by the petty thief that would become The Joker, and by the time it is revealed to be the resurrected Jason Todd, The Batman has followed the vigilante’s trail of blood in an attempt to redeem his one-time ally. Eventually, the Red Hood becomes an able-ally of the Bat-Family but follows his own code.
Now as an anti-hero Jason Todd as The Red Hood dispenses his own brand of justice on the villains of Gotham City. He doesn’t hesitate to use firearms in his tactics and often counted upon to come to the defense of his extended family; Todd manages deep respect and reverence toward Dick Grayson, although he did challenge him to the mantle of Dark Knight when it was assumed that The Batman had met his end. Grayson proved he was the rightful heir, and his since remained the heir apparent of The Batman’s legacy, even by Wayne’s biological son, Damian.
Jason’s own story continues to evolve and although he didn’t have much success winning hearts and minds as The Robin, in his new crime-fighting identity as The Red Hood he has an astute group of followers and acolytes even though he operates outside the law. Follow the character’s rise and fall in Batman: Under the Red Hood available now and the upcoming new animated adventure DC Showcase Batman: Death in the Family from Warner Animation and DC.
BATMAN: Under the Red Hood is available now on Blu-ray & Digital formats and is directed by Brandon Vietti from a screenplay by Judd Winick.
DC Showcase BATMAN: Death in the Family will be available on Blu-ray & Digital formats in October.