Robin, Too! [Jason Todd] Week 1: Batman #357-9, 'Tec #523-6


Jason Todd’s First Appearance

Welcome, readers! The Renegade Robins Club is your chance to experience the complete story of the second Robin (and the second Red Hood) from the beginning! Our club is meant to be a complement to World of Bats: The Batman Book Club!, not a competitor, so we will be taking two weeks to read every storyline in Jason Todd’s journey. (For those looking to hit the high points of the character, be sure to check out the Characters of DC Club, which is currently spotlighting the post-Crisis version of the character!)

Join the Jason Todd Book Club: https://community.dcuniverse.com/g/JasonToddBookClub

Background

By 1983, Dick Grayson was firmly established as a key member of the New Teen Titans–so much so that there was little room for Batman (or even the Batman Family) in his schedule. Despite some occasional Robin appearances in Gerry Conway’s early 80s run, Batman was generally flying solo in his main titles. Granted, this status quo had been largely in place since Dick left for college in 1969, but with the success of the Titans series, it was finally clear that Grayson was pretty much off the table for any Bat-writers who wanted to use him regularly.

As the DC creative and editorial teams began to wax nostalgic for the good old days of the Dynamic Duo (and with enough distance from the camptastic Adam West/Burt Ward adventures to dare attempt it again), the question became, “How do we bring back Robin?” Snagging Dick back from the Titans wasn’t gonna fly: he had grown and developed past the point of his youthful Golden/Silver Age persona, and proposals to de-age him were rightfully shot down. Hence the need for a new Robin, but one who didn’t break too far from the original mold. As originally envisioned, Jason Todd would be less a completely unique character and more a soft reboot of the classic Boy Wonder. (Hence the club’s current moniker of Robin, Too, a nod to other such 80s efforts to repackage the same story.)

We are starting off with the final arc of Gerry Conway’s run on Batman/'Tec, which essentially functioned as a single series throughout the early 1980s. Hence we will be jumping back and forth between the two titles during his run and Doug Moench’s subsequent time on the books. This first story arc brings back a previously-established rogue, the Squid, so if you want a bit of background on him, here’s a bit of bonus reading!

The Squid First Appearance: Detective Comics #497

DC Universe

But onto the main event: 2019-10-28T05:00:00Z2019-11-10T06:00:00Z

Week 1 Reading (Seven Issues)
  1. Detective Comics 523:
    DC Universe

  2. Batman #357:
    DC Universe

  3. Detective Comics #524:
    DC Universe

  4. Batman #358:
    DC Universe

  5. Detective Comics #525:
    DC Universe

  6. Batman #359:
    DC Universe

  7. Detective Comics #526:
    DC Universe

Discussion Questions

Feel free to offer your own discussion and insight, but for those of you who like discussion questions, I will oblige:

  1. Gerry Conway consciously “didn’t go all unique” with his new Robin (see the video below). Is Jason’s origin too much of an echo of Dick’s, or does it work for you? Do you prefer the fate of the Graysons at the hands of Tony Zucco or the death of the Todds by Killer Croc as a tragic origin for the Boy Wonder?

  2. We also get the introduction of a major new rogue, Killer Croc. If you’ve never read this story before but were familiar with Croc elsewhere, were you surprised by this first incarnation of the character? Do you prefer this version, or do you favor the more monstrous portrayal that came later?

  3. Perhaps the most significant change that would come with the post-Crisis revision of Jason Todd’s origin is the removal of Dick Grayson from it. How do you feel about Conway giving Grayson some reason to blame himself for the tragedy that befalls his replacement?

  4. The final issue pulls out all the stops and gives us not only Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, but a huge lineup of Batman’s rogues gallery! What is your favorite moment in this story featuring one of the characters other than Batman, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, or Killer Croc?

  5. And because Thanksgiving is coming early with this reading, we also get “Mob Rule”, a Green Arrow story from Joey Cavalieri as a backup in the 'Tec issues! What did you think of the story?

Bonus: Here’s an interview with Gerry Conway about Jason Todd! Feel free to discuss it, too!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guiyZZO-yeQ

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SUPER stoked!!! Not only about a Jason Todd Book Club, but also getting in on it from Week One!

Red Hood is my favourite DC character with their own book. This is going to be RAD!!!

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I can wait to get started. It’s been a long time since I’ve read about Jason from the beginning. Should be fun.

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Just making sure I got the right books ready…

?

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I love this era of Batman. It was a fun time! Can’t wait to revisit this. It’s funny, but this version of Jason was around longer than the Post Crisis Jason was, yet that version is the one most often remembered.

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Yes. Just make sure you read them in the order I posted if you want them to make any sense.

I’ve actually never read the original origin of Jason, but I’ve heard briefly what happens, that Jason was a circus boy just like Dick. My guess is that the writers want to recapture that same feel that Dick brought to the DC Universe by making almost an identical origin story for Jason

Yes, you can certainly feel that they were thinking, “I want Dick Grayson, but not that angsty young adult Dick Grayson in New Teen Titans. I want MY Dick Grayson, the fun-loving youth I read about when I was a kid.” (Ironic then that Jason Todd would eventually get a reputation for being the angsty one.)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this story once you read it! The links are in the first post.

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Im new to the book club thing so i was wondering. when you join one does a notice go out to the members that a new post was made for us to find the new set of books? is their a tag that will be used that we can search for?

The posts will be tagged with #jason-todd. If you look in my first post, you can see that this session will end on November 10, so we will start the next one on November 11 and spend two weeks on it as well. The issue links are below the date range.

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Just in case some of you are unfamiliar with the new formatting options on the site, I will point out that the links to every individual issue are in my initial post. They are hidden in a drop-down box labeled “Week 1 Reading (Seven Issues)”. Just click the triangle beside those words to make the hidden information appear.

Click Here

Like this!

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Still haven’t read them all

Just finished these issues up – I’ll do the discussion questions later today, when I get off work, but I will say right now that this arc was definitely a pleasant surprise. Either I never knew or forgot, but I didn’t realise going in that Gerry Conway wrote this – I always saw him more as a Marvel guy. I also didn’t expect to see artwork from the likes of early Dan Jurgens and Curt freaking Swan. Very cool stuff!

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"Gerry Conway consciously “didn’t go all unique” with his new Robin (see the video below). Is Jason’s origin too much of an echo of Dick’s, or does it work for you? Do you prefer the fate of the Graysons at the hands of Tony Zucco or the death of the Todds by Killer Croc as a tragic origin for the Boy Wonder?"

Ultimately I think making them echos of Dick’s parents was a bad call. I think whenever you get a legacy character, they have something in common with the original, but they tend to have something different. For example, Supergirl’s origin is similar to Superman in that they were both whisked away from Krypton as it exploded by their scientist parents. What makes Kara different from Clark is that she came to Earth as a teenager instead of a baby.

With the Todds here, while the fact that we get to actually see them as characters for several issues before dying, which I think is pretty good storytelling and makes it more tragic when they do die, their being acrobats literally brings nothing to the story other than maybe making it more understandable how this twelve year-old will soon be fighting crime.

"We also get the introduction of a major new rogue, Killer Croc. If you’ve never read this story before but were familiar with Croc elsewhere, were you surprised by this first incarnation of the character? Do you prefer this version, or do you favor the more monstrous portrayal that came later?"

I was more surprised that Curt Swan of all artists was the first to draw him fully. Not a bad take, though I personally tend to prefer takes that are more in the middle of monster vs. skin condition.

"Perhaps the most significant change that would come with the post-Crisis revision of Jason Todd’s origin is the removal of Dick Grayson from it. How do you feel about Conway giving Grayson some reason to blame himself for the tragedy that befalls his replacement?"

I think that’s one I can go either way on. Both do interesting things for Dick as a character, showing him growing up and out of the Robin role.

"The final issue pulls out all the stops and gives us not only Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, but a huge lineup of Batman’s rogues gallery! What is your favorite moment in this story featuring one of the characters other than Batman, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, or Killer Croc?"

I think my favorite part outside of that was Barbara just casually coming up to Wayne Manor as Batgirl, and Dick sputtering about how they thought they were able to keep their identities secret from her and she’s like “Nah, not even close, but you guys seem to care so I decided to let it be.” The glibness of it reminded me a bit of Elle from Legally Blonde. You figured out Batman and Robin’s secret identity?! “What, like it’s hard?” :joy:

Also, I liked the weird “best frenemies” banter that Catwoman and Talia had.

And because Thanksgiving is coming early with this reading, we also get “Mob Rule”, a Green Arrow story from Joey Cavalieri as a backup in the 'Tec issues! What did you think of the story?

It was okay – I was initially surprised to see Oliver Queen as a reporter, I had never seen him do that before. I’m also pretty sure that Cavalieri has never actually read any of Machiavelli, because it seems like the version seen here is more of a “survival of the fittest” sort of thing than anything actually from The Prince.

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Yeah, not to tip my hand too much, but I sorta prefer this origin for Jason except for the whole acrobat thing (though I do like me some Batmobile tire theft, too). Oddly enough, it more closely resembles Tim Drake’s eventual origin/debut in “A Lonely Place of Dying” than it does the post-Crisis Jason origin that Max Allan Collins offers in Batman: The New Adventures. I can’t help but think that some of the writers and editors at DC saw Tim as a third (post-post Crisis?) draft of Robin II rather than as Robin III. (And then the DCAU just conflated them into one character, so there you go.)

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I literally just finished the reading so I’ll have my full answers up tomorrow. I will, however, post my answer to the first questions now.

  1. Gerry Conway consciously “didn’t go all unique” with his new Robin (see the video below). Is Jason’s origin too much of an echo of Dick’s, or does it work for you?

At the time I first read it back in the day it was far too similar to Dick’s origin for my tastes, even with the differences there. I felt at the time (and still feel to this day) that a brand new kid taking up the mantle of Robin, the most important kid sidekick in the DCU, should have his or her own unique origin so they don’t just become a carbon copy of whoever their predecessor was. I honestly think Conway made a mistake here because instead of treating this introduction of a new Robin like it was something new and different he treated it like it was just a direct continuation of Dick’s Robin. Jason was already going to be handicapped going in as the new Robin and was already going to be compared to Dick but I think Conway’s choice to give him a similar origin really made those comparisons worse. This would be something that carried over post Crisis in very direct way when the writers of the time had Bruce constantly comparing Jason to Dick. I understand what Conway was trying to accomplish with this I just don’t think he managed to convert the fans to Jason’s Robin though it. I actually think he may have had a hand in adding to the fans “hatred” of the character by basically lifting the previous Robin’s origin and changing it “just enough”.

Do you prefer the fate of the Graysons at the hands of Tony Zucco or the death of the Todds by Killer Croc as a tragic origin for the Boy Wonder?

Having said all that though I do like the death of the Todd’s better than the deaths of the Grayson’s . I think it was more tragic because we actually got to know them a bit more and Dick taking them under his wing so to speak added a bit more emotion to the tragedy.

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I can definitely see what you mean about the similarities with Tim, though I think with that a lot of the reason for that is the writers going “The readers just voted to kill the last one off, we need to make the new kid as vaguely likable and inoffensive as possible.”

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2. We also get the introduction of a major new rogue, Killer Croc. If you’ve never read this story before but were familiar with Croc elsewhere, were you surprised by this first incarnation of the character?

I’ve already read this story before but given the time period I’m not at all surprised that this version of Croc is more mobster and bit less monster. I can see a connection between this portrayal of the character and the portrayal of him in RHATO as Roy’s sponsor who helps him keep his head on straight.

Do you prefer this version, or do you favor the more monstrous portrayal that came later?

I prefer this version more so than the latter more monstrous version. Seems like some writers have this tendency to write Croc as dumb muscle because of how he looks or like a monster without intelligence.

3. Perhaps the most significant change that would come with the post-Crisis revision of Jason Todd’s origin is the removal of Dick Grayson from it. How do you feel about Conway giving Grayson some reason to blame himself for the tragedy that befalls his replacement?

Much like Jason’s origin was an echo of Dick’s, Dick’s blaming himself for the tragedy was an echo of Bruce blaming himself for his own and later for Dick’s. There are a lot of call backs in this story to both Bruce’s and Dick’s origins and I do like that. It makes it feel like there is some really continuity there. I also liked how Dick was the one who wanted to step up and adopt Jason because of what he sees as his involvement in the Todd’s death. I also think something was lost here when Jason’s origin was revised after Crisis and Dick disappeared from his origin. I think I would have liked to see them try to rework it somehow so that Jason had a less antagonistic relationship with Dick post-Crisis.

4. The final issue pulls out all the stops and gives us not only Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, but a huge lineup of Batman’s rogues gallery! What is your favorite moment in this story featuring one of the characters other than Batman, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, or Killer Croc?

My favorite moments were the Catwoman and Talia ones. I especially liked the line from Catwoman “This idiot, spider, though he had me trapped on a patch of ice. He should have remembered…Cat’s never lose their footing. Never.”

5. And because Thanksgiving is coming early with this reading, we also get “Mob Rule”, a Green Arrow story from Joey Cavalieri as a backup in the 'Tec issues! What did you think of the story?

I enjoyed revisiting the story after so long. I’m not the biggest GA fan but I loved the story back in the day and I still love it now.

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Especially agree about Killer Croc – love the take on him where he can be a villain, but has his own moral code and such, like in the aforementioned Red Hood & The Outlaws and in Gotham Academy.

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