The History of Jason Todd: Origins (Part 1)
So, with The Old Place gone, so went with it my History of Jason Todd. Well, after much debating I decided to repost it, with up-to-date info.
I still feel that Jason is one of the most polarizing characters in the DCU, from his shift from pre to post-Crisis, his 900 number death, and his return and (mis)use in Countdown... you either love him, hate him, or don't see what the fuss is about.
So, here is Part 1 of my "History of Jason Todd series," giving a quick pre-Crisis background and the post-Crisis origin.
(12 large, non-dial-up-friendly images after the cut)
So, after Dick Grayson made the shift to Nightwing and was very clearly not a "kid" sidekick anymore, DC decided to bring in a new Robin. Note the emphasis on the fact that he is a "boy"
This was the first Jason Todd. His background is that he was part of a circus family who worked on the trapeze, and Batman takes him in after they die. Hmmm, sounds strangely familiar, no? Jason also had a similar personality to Dick-- he was energetic and sweet. And Batman seemed to naturally dote on him-- if you ever see a tender moment between Batman and Robin and Batman calls his sidekick "Jay"... chances are that scene is from this run.
In fact, the only real distinguishing difference between this Robin and the original is that this one had naturally blond hair. At first Robin dyes his hair and takes on the original costume, but after being encouraged to make his own identity and not stand in the shadow of the old Robin, Jason gets a new look:
So, you'll notice that this Jason was introduced in 1984. Crisis on Infinite Earths happened in 1985. So, no more blond Dick-Grayson-clone Jason Todd.
The post-Crisis version of Jason Todd showed up in 1987, and he was a VERY different sort of "child of the 80s."
In fact, one can see a lot of similarities in style and attitude (and adult fears about such kids) between this Jason and "troubled" kids in many 1980s films, including the brother in the 1986 film A River's Edge, who even looks like he stole post-Crisis Jason's pants (scenes can be seen here and here. Warnings for foul language and Keanu Reeves).
Here is the original version of Jason's origin from Batman #408:
And if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times... I dare you to look at the bottom left panel and say that's a cigarrette Jason's smoking. So, this Jason Todd we know is (1) a thief, (2) living on his own in a scummy apartment off of Crime Alley, (3) smokes weed. Ladies and Gents, THIS is no Dick Grayson!
So, in this version of Jason's origin, Batman takes him to a "home"/charity for street kids, only to find out that it's really a cover for a crime organization. Jason helps Batman take down the group, and thus proves himself good enough to train as Robin. It was, truth be told, a very stupid plot.
In Jason's updated origin, from Nightwing: Year One (2005). This time, when Batman catches Jason stealing his tires, what does he do?
That "oh dear lord, help me!" look is priceless in my book.
Jason's post-Crisis origin is also retold in Winick's Under The Hood arc. There he ads one detail:
Yeeeah, nowadays we really would expect Batman to booby-trap and alarm everything on his car. Nice detail, I'm kind of a fan. NOT as big a fan of Batman smiling so much, but Winick's clearly trying to capture the tone of the original '87 origin as much as possible-- thus the Batmobile style. But I do find it amusing that this update, like Nightwing: Year One, felt the need to change Jason's outfit. A much needed change, for sure...
Lastly, there is a tad bit of contradiction over how Jason gets the costume. In the 1980s, Batman gives it to him and Jason is notably surprised---
(from Batman #410)
In Nightwing: Year One, however, Jason honors the more recent sidekick tradition of taking the costume without permission:
ACK! LEGS... DRAWING... ACK!!!
Ahem, but anyway, I really like the detail that Jason as already mentally signed on to the crusade before he even knows that Batman is Bruce Wayne-- it's a nice contrast to Dick, who knew Bruce first.
The really, really recent Batman #683 seems to walk the middle ground between the two versions of the story-- Bruce gives Jason a choice, and Jason, in a way, takes the identity of Robin:
(And yet another Jason-outfit-update, although this one looks closest to the original style... just with sleeves)
In our next installment, Post-Crisis Jason and his (short) time as Robin--