[RR: Jason Todd] Robin Revised: Mar. 30-Apr. 12

Batman 408 Jason
"I dunno. Sidekick or street urchin?"

The Renegade Robins Club gives you what you’ve been waiting for: the post-Crisis revison of Jason Todd’s origin! Gone is the orphaned circus acrobat! In his place…well, you’ll just have to read the story to find out! But could his beginning also be his probable end?

Batman Annual 11 Jason
(From Batman Annual #11, missing from DCU.)

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Bird Sightings

  • Jason meets Superman for the first time (again) in Action Comics #594, so any earlier meetups between them are either non-canonical or revised in light of this issue.
Background
  • In pre-Crisis continuity, Dick Grayson was the one who chose to retire from his role as Batman’s sidekick, as seen in The New Teen Titans #39.

  • Killer Croc is no longer part of Jason Todd’s origin story, but other details from Croc’s first appearance remain canonical in the new timeline.

  • I’ve already discussed the Mad Hatter’s history in a previous session, but it’s worth noting that the Hatter’s design here is from his Silver Age appearances, so the Golden Age Hatter may have been lying when he said that he killed off his “impostor.” Of course, it’s likely that Barr and Davis are using the reboot to gloss over the distinction between the two Hatters, since no reference is made to an alternate Jervis Tetch. Grant Morrison restores the distinction in Batman #700, dubbing the mustachioed Tetch “Hatman” in the present-day portion of the story.

  • The Detective Comics arc this week leads directly into Batman: Year Two. Barr’s sequel story from 2011 has been included to round out the story since Y2 doesn’t include Jason.

  • Leslie Thompkins was introduced in Detective Comics #457 by Dennis O’Neil. She was a social worker who comforted Bruce Wayne on the night of his parents’ death. The line “my beginning and my probable end” comes from that issue. O’Neil used the character again in Detective Comics #483, and Barr included the character in his pre-Crisis story Batman Special #1. In this week’s story, Barr makes two major revisions to the character: he changes her profession and declares her to be Bruce’s legal guardian during his orphaned years. He further expands her story in Year Two and in the Legends of the Dark Knight arc Faith.

  • Further discussion of Jason’s post-Crisis origin can be found in the Characters of DC Club session on Jason Todd.

Here’s our schedule: 2020-03-30T05:00:00Z2020-04-12T05:00:00Z

Week 12 Reading (Nine Issues)

Note: One story from the Max Collins run, “Love Bird” in Batman Annual #11, is missing from DC Universe. You can read a summary of the story here.

I. My Probable End

  1. Detective Comics #573
  2. Detective Comics #574
  3. DC Retroactive: Batman – The 80s

II. Second Chances

  1. Batman #408
  2. Batman #409
  3. Batman #410
  4. Batman #411

III. Stand-Alone Stories

  1. Batman #412
  2. Batman #413
Discussion Questions
  1. What improvements, if any, do you see in Jason’s new origin?
  2. What details, if any, do you think worked better in his first origin?
  3. What did you think of Jay’s brush with death and Bruce’s reaction?
  4. What did you think of the Mad Hatter, Reaper, and Two-Face stories?
  5. What did you think of the new villains (Ma Gunn, Mime, and Tahara)?

DC Retro Jason
"The Crisis didn’t take my puns away!"

Bonus: Be sure to read this retrospective on Jason Todd, which discusses his first and second genesis! It offers a number of interviews with key players from Jason’s time as Robin. And here is an interview with Max Collins about his experiences working on the book. (Thanks to Jay_Kay for the latter link.)

Poll Question: Jay’s Hair Color–Dye Job or Naturally Dark?

  • Strawberry blonde, baby!
  • Dark as the night, son!

0 voters

Jason Todd will return in two weeks! Next week, the Dynamic Duo of Dick and Damian will have to face the Blackest Night!

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  1. What improvements, if any, do you see in Jason’s new origin?

Honestly, I vastly prefer it. I used to see pre-Crisis Jason as another character entirely, and consider the Jason I liked to have started post-Crisis. I now know that the transition was more complicated than that, but I still really prefer the street kid origin.

I understand why they did the original Jason origin, and I can see the logic of it. They wanted someone with connections to the original Robin, and who could fill that same role as seamlessly as possible. But the fact is, it felt kind of silly to me, and like somewhat of a waste. It’s more interesting to me to have the new Robin distinguish himself from his predecessor in terms of personality and origin.

Beyond that, though, I just really like Jason’s origin. The '80s were a rough time, one of great social issues and upheaval. The genesis of punk culture, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, growing social awareness in comics, etc., etc. The Crisis had just happened, and comics were being shaken up. And the thing is… Bruce Wayne is rich. Like… Bruce Wayne is really rich. Sure, he tries to use that money for good, but there was a lot of “protecting other rich people from getting their stuff stolen” in earlier Batman stuff. Giving him a Robin from a polar opposite background, one who stole to survive and lost his parents to drugs and crime, is just a great idea to me. It really sets up this contrasting dynamic and this tension with Bruce “silver spoon” Wayne. It provides a window into exploring Bruce’s perspective and ways in which he might be blinded by his wealth… but also the ways in which he has compassion and concern for people in desperate circumstances like Jason’s, as a way to soften his Mr. Moneybags deal. I really wish they’d done more with it, because there was so much room to explore there, and it saddens me that they didn’t, but that doesn’t stop me from considering it a great conceit.

I also just really love their actual meeting. Jason stealing the tires off the Batmobile is just great. Like, what guts that kid has. He steals the tires off the Batmobile and socks Batman in the stomach with a tire iron and runs away while calling him a big boob. What an icon.

But one really important and often underlooked dynamic to me is that he made Bruce laugh. He made Bruce laugh, in Crime Alley, at the site of his parents’ murder, on the anniversary of their deaths.

I also really like that him becoming Robin was gradual. He didn’t just instantly slap on the short pants and call himself Robin. Bruce tried to find him a good home first, and Jason in turn tried to foil Ma Gunn’s bank robbery on his own. He showed that he already had both the potential to be Robin and, more importantly, the heart to be. He didn’t want to be no crook, after all; he just boosted what he needed to survive.

I also like the change of having Two-Face murder his father rather than having it be Killer Croc. This wasn’t a change that they needed to make by any means… they could have just had Willis Todd be a henchman for Killer Croc and be killed by him. But this way let them play with the two theme, Jason being the second Robin and Two-Face being the second villain he helped Batman take down, so there’s just a lot of thematic fun there.

  1. What details, if any, do you think worked better in his first origin?

I liked Dick quitting vs. being fired and him being a part of passing down the mantle of Robin. It was a shame to lose that, I think.

  1. What did you think of Jay’s brush with death and Bruce’s reaction?

Man, I loved it. Barr’s Jason is underrated, and this was a really good Barr issue. You could really tell that Barr was gearing up to write Batman Year Two.

  1. What did you think of the Mad Hatter, Reaper, and Two-Face stories?

Loved them all! It was weird seeing this incarnation of Hatter, but I loved the issue where Jason was shot and Bruce was just rethinking his entire mission. I loved the stuff with Two-Face and with Jason being justifiably angry but managing to put it aside, but still struggling with it. And the stuff with the Reaper was great. I loved the Reaper storyline in Year Two (Batman: Year Two is another underrated story), and it’s no small part inspiring my first Red Hood arc in DCW. I’d love to see the Reaper get revisited for a compare and contrast situation with Red Hood someday.

  1. What did you think of the new villains (Ma Gunn, Mime, and Tahara)?

Ma Gunn was a fun concept but a bit silly in execution. I don’t mind a bit of silliness but I actually think Rebirth RHATO managed to do her better (in the early parts, anyway… the stuff with her maybe being Jason’s grandmother was too much for me) by keeping her as using kids for a crime ring but toning down the “it’s like a regular school except I’m teaching you crime lessons” deal. Tahara was a fun enough one-off villain… not sure there’s a lot of callback potential, but I loved seeing Jason be adorable about history. And Mime is just someone I can sympathize with, all noise I do not control is the enemy. (Plus, Jason’s terrible bell puns were hilarious, and I loved getting to see his taste for rock music… despite Batman’s disapproval.)

As for the hair: prefer it naturally black. He’s going to have black hair for all the merchandising anyway, don’t make it unnecessarily confusing.

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@AlexanderKnox- Just so you know I like both the strawberry blond and the dark as night options on the poll. I’m weird that way. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Also in case anyone is interested Batman Annual #11 is in the Batman: Second Chances trade.

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Yes, the post-Crisis stories are collected, thankfully:

  1. Batman: Second Chances
  2. Batman: The Dark Knight Detective Vol. 1
  3. Batman: The Caped Crusader Vol. 1
  4. Batman: A Death in the Family
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Took them long enough to collect them. Funny thing is every one of those is available through Hoopla in both library systems here except Second Chances.

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I think @mysterious_stranger’s points in the New origin nail it. I also like the new, more unique origin far better than the original.

I really liked the time of all these issues, especially with the silliness of the Mime. That light-hearted take was about to disappear, seemingly forever.

It was weird seeing Batman use a secretary and Gordon for research, I wondered for a minute why he didn’t just fire up the ol’ Bat-putor, but then I remembered these were the days before the internets.

I liked that in both the Two-Face and museum takes that it was Jason’s detective skills that led to their resolutions.

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This is one of my major gripes with the new origin, actually. I get what you’re saying, but I would argue that Croc, who himself is an orphan and who also comes from a life of poverty, offered more storytelling potential for Jason going forward than Two-Face did.

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That’s fair! It certainly would have had a lot of potential story-wise… it might be fun to see that as an alternate take someday.

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I have to agree with you there @AlexanderKnox. I do wonder what those stories would have been like.

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It can go into the same “potential fan fiction prompts” box as my pitch for a modified pre-Crisis Jason origin, where the Todds aren’t circus acrobats, but rather teach an aerobics class at the local YMCA. :stuck_out_tongue:

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I just finished Conway’s pre-crisis run and am moving to Doug Moench’s. A few of the things I liked about the pre-crisis Jason are that he was a very cunning detective. He discovers Batman’s identity, when Batman doesn’t let him become Robin right away he runs away to the circus and works on solving crimes. Pre-Crisis Jason felt very much like Tim Drake’s origin. Which to me is funny, since Pre-Crisis Jason is a knock off of Dick’s origin.

I also liked Pre-Crisis Croc. He was a ruthless, cunning, mastermind with some cool superpowers that ran the gotham underworld. He felt very much like Bane to me. Calculating, methodical, and a stone cold killer. I think Croc is much more interesting in the Pre-Crisis universe.

The other thing I enjoy about Pre-Crisis Batman is that he’s still very human and fallible. We see him attempt relationships with Vikki Vale, Catwoman, Talia and they all fail because he can’t disconnect from Batman but yet he still puts a premium on his life as Bruce Wayne and seems to strive for human connections with Robins, Alfred, Gordon etc. He also gets hurt. He gets beat up. People sneak up on him. He can’t just kung fu fight an army. Four thugs are a challenge. He takes time to heal and eat and train. It feels more real.

Which was another thing I like. The older more Wastson-esc Gordon. It was fun to read them make deductions together whereas a lot of Gordon I read now just passes off problems to Batman to solve. Gordon seemed more involved in the Batman mission and is enmeshed in the politics of Gotham in a way that complements Batman’s ability to work outside the system.

I dunno. I guess that’s my rant. I’m basically reading a lot of the Pre-Crisis universe and really enjoying it.

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  1. The major improvement for me was that it was more unique to the character than the previous one, which was basically just Dick’s with the players changed. I found the new origin a lot more appealing to me and more realistic too. I wanted to see how this kid from the wrong side of town would learn to become something more than his background suggested he could be. It was very inspiring to me as a teen because I also grew up with nothing and lived on the wrong side of the tracks. Jason Todd becoming Robin drove home to me that I didn’t have to settle for where and who I was at the time.

  2. I really liked his connection to Dick from the first origin and I wish they had found a way to somehow keep that connection intact.

  3. I thought it was a reasonable reaction given Bruce’s own past. He has never done well when any of the Robin’s get hurt and he always blames himself for it.

  4. I loved all of them. I think the Mad Hatter story was my favorite. It was just so zany and fun. A bit like an episode of Batamn '66.

  5. I liked them all but I have to say Ma Gunn was my favourite.

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My personal favorite of the stories was 'Tec #574. It’s our first post-Crisis look at who Bruce was before he returned to Gotham at the beginning of Year One (the last issue of which came out the same month as this issue). The pre-Crisis Bruce Wayne graduated college–and was none-too-thrilled when Dick dropped out. This new version of Bruce would prove far less well-adjusted, which I suppose is an unsurprising take from the author who had Batman quit the Justice League in a fit of anger just a few years earlier.

Apparently, some people at DC love it, too. It has shown up in at least two “best Batman stories” compilations in the last 15 years.

Hope you don’t mind the bumping, just finished the last couple issues for this reading.

What improvements, if any, do you see in Jason’s new origin?

Like others have said, I like that Jason now has his own unique origin and isn’t just “Dick Grayson 2.0.” Not only that, but his new background and the perspectives that can come from that can also yield interesting stories that you couldn’t tell with Dick.

What details, if any, do you think worked better in his first origin?

I’ll agree that I prefer Dick choosing to retire as Robin as seen in New Teen Titans rather than being fired by proto-a-hole Batman.

What did you think of Jay’s brush with death and Bruce’s reaction?

I liked how sudden and surprising it was, in what previously just felt like a standard Batman story. Like, you would expect something like that to happen with an encounter with Joker, or Two-Face, or Killer Croc, but Mad Hatter? It kind of reminds me of Batman’s monologue in BTAS’ “I Am The Night,” about how he knows he can die in his crusade, and how it could even be some “no-name punk who gets lucky.” Of course, Hatter isn’t a no-name punk, but still not what you would expect, and from my own experience, those kinds of brushes hit like a sudden freight train.

What did you think of the Mad Hatter, Reaper, and Two-Face stories?

Like a lot of Barr’s work with Batman in this title, it feels like a then-modern version of the '66 series. So goofy it almost comes across as creepy. I tend to prefer the more straight-up creepy Louis Carrol version of Hatter over the kleptomaniac hat obsessive, though.

Reaper…he has a cool look, but much like fetch, Barr keeps trying to make Reaper happen, and it’s just not going to happen. Funnily enough, I feel like Jason as the Red Hood does that role better than Reaper.

Two-Face’s story was also solid. Kind of standard “two based” crime stuff, but well told.

What did you think of the new villains (Ma Gunn, Mime, and Tahara)?

Ma Gunn was funny in her warped teachings to the kids, but in this story alone she doesn’t do a terrible lot. Same with Tahara and The Mime, though at least Mime has potential to be a fun action scene once in a while if Batman needs to face down a whole bunch of rogues.