Jason Todd is going solo in September as his series Red Hood and the Outlaws title is about to get a name change to Red Hood: Outlaw (at least, temporarily). Series writer Scott Lobdell and incoming artist Pete Woods are taking Todd in a new direction as part of a "new era".
And with the release of this week’s Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #2, the series confirms (spoilers!) that Roy Harper is no longer teaming up with Jason, but is instead checking out Sanctuary just in time to be involved with Heroes in Crisis in September
Jason won’t be joining Roy in rehab, however, instead starting a new direction that puts him in a new costume and takes him away from Gotham City, where Batman has pretty much kicked him out after he shot Penguin in the face (in Red Hood and the Outlaws #25).
And although Bizarro and Artemis had disappeared at the end of issue #25, writer Scott Lobdell has hinted they might not be fully gone from the series, particularly with their new location revealed in this week’s annual.
Newsarama talked to Lobdell to find out more.
Newsarama: Scott, what brought about the changes we’re seeing in Red Hood and the Outlaws right now?
Scott Lobdell: I’d like to think the best series are the ones that are always changing, no?
As much as everyone loves the dynamic between Jason, Artemis and Bizarro (I have it on good authority Red Hood and the Outlaws is a favorite around the DC offices), there were some discussions way above my pay grade: What would happen if Jason were alone for a while?
Red Hood and the Outlaws was always about taking a lone wolf and teaming him up with other lone wolves and seeing what happened. So I thought it would be interesting to examine - after about seven years with other Outlaws - what an untethered Jason would look like.
And lest anyone thinks Artemis and Bizarro are getting the short shrift, be at ease!
Nrama: OK, we’ll talk about the fate of Artemis and Bizarro in a minute, but how would you describe the new direction in Red Hood and the Outlaws? If you had to kind of pitch what readers will see, how would you describe it? How is it different from what we’ve seen recently from the series?
Lobdell: Aside from being occasionally gut-wrenchingly emotional juxtaposed against gonzo action... Red Hood and the Outlaws has always had the element of a buddy comedy as well.
Without a buddy, Jason is not going to be as light as he has been in the past.
He's not going to be Frank Castle morose - but more like Clint Eastwood in his earlier movies. He's going to be a man of much fewer words and much more violence.
Having lost his partners, and Batman, he has a lot of feelings he's going to keep bottled up. Which is terrible news for anyone who gets in his way as he tracks down the person/people behind the Underlife.
AndI don't know if you know it but the book goes through a title change with issue #27 when it becomes Red Hood: Outlaw.
Nrama: Right. But as you pointed out, you’ve been writing this character’s story for awhile now. Aside from being a publishing decision, do you think this move makes sense in Jason’s overarching story? Does it follow what you’ve been exploring recently with the character?
Lobdell: Like most people, I've had very good years and very bad years over the years. (Heck, day to day!)
I think Jason has had quite a run hanging out with his friends — learning like we all do that at some point you "chose your own family" (not that there is anything wrong with my family). Certainly Jason has had more than his share of familial bat-dysfunction.
So, what happens when that gets yanked away from him? I think Jason's love for his friends, and their love for him, masked or papered over a lot of his long-suppressed issues with trust and rage.
For better or for worse we're going to be seeing Jason deal — or not deal — with that.
Nrama: Sounds like things might get emotional for Jason?
Lobdell: I can tell you I cried while I was writing Red Hood: Outlaw #27.
Nrama: As you pointed out, Jason had a pretty good run going with “Outlaw” team-ups. And he was more recently an accepted member of the Bat-family — at least, mostly accepted. That all changed when he shot the Penguin in the face. What do you think pushed Jason over the edge with Penguin?
Lobdell: I’m not even sure Jason is over the edge. Is he? Certainly falling over a cliff usually ends in disaster. But paragliding over a cliff is fun.
Just because Jason made a decision to do something the “Sacred Arbiter Of All Things Bat” has decreed is wrong...doesn't mean Jason has gone off the edge. It just means he made a separate choice.
Nrama: So…what’s Penguin’s status at this point? Will that be picked up at all?
Lobdell: I did not visit him in the hospital. They are only allowing family at this point.
Nrama: Ok, then let’s talk about Bizarro and Artemis now. I think you succeeded in making your audience love these two characters (and as you mentioned, that included folks in the DC offices). Assuming you felt similarly about the characters, was it tough to sort of toss them aside so Jason could go solo?
Nrama: I don't see them as tossed aside—I see them as having a separate adventure for a while. In the old days of comics we would call it a "subplot.” I'm grateful for my editor Rob Levin who is willing to let me make my case for any one storyline we're working on. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we bat the pros and cons back and forth until we settle on the best story.
It may feel like they are being tossed aside but they are not.
Nrama: Let’s talk about this week’s Annual #2. Red Hood is teaming up with Arsenal. What motivates them to work together for this story?
Lobdell: As you've no doubt read in Red Hood and the Outlaws #25, Roy was on hand to help Jason escape the bat Hammer of Justice... but now Jaybird needs some help pulling himself back together.
Roy decides the best way to do that is by getting "back to work.” While Jason pretends he’s only nominally interested in Roy's latest master plan, the truth is all of us, at one point or another, need that best friend who goes out of his way to pull our heads out of our navels. (For me it was Dennis Hogan who helped me over a particularly grueling break-up at Christmas one year. It happened after I had bought the tree but before I could buy decorations. So Dennis came over and started decorating the tree with a plastic ladle, shoe laces instead of tinsel, and thoroughly washed Hersey's milk chocolate containers. We finally settled on a felt Kermit Muppet in place of an angel. Everyone needs a Roy in their life once and a while.)
Nrama: Great story. So will Arsenal be part of the series at all going forward? (It doesn’t look like it…)
Lobdell: Roy has decided he needs to do some serious work on himself, work he's been putting off while hanging with the Titans. So it doesn't seem like we'll be seeing him back in the series any time soon.
Nrama: Any way that Arsenal’s role in the Annual sets up or ties into the Heroes in Crisis appearance he’ll be making in September?
Lobdell: Oh, absolutely. It is this time he spends decompressing with Jason that makes him realize he's kind of lost the plot since he left the Outlaws. I love the Titans as much as the next guy — but let’s be honest they are quite a group of oddballs. After this breath of relative sanity, hanging out with is best friend and checking it with his AA sponsor, Roy finally has the gumption to look into this "rehab for capes" he heard about. He even invites Jason to come with.
Nrama: Let’s get back to the launch of this new direction in the next issue of Red Hood: Outlaw. What can readers expect from your work with Pete Woods as artist?What does he bring to the title?
Lobdell: When I was told he'd be coming onto the book I thought "Man, he's got some pretty big shoes to fill that belonged to Dexter and Veronica."
But I was wrong. Pete is more like ice skates - gliding through the story and making it all look so easy while you know it only comes with years of experience.
I've never seen such violence rendered so beautifully.
Nrama: I’m getting the feeling there’s lots of violence coming up as Jason works through some stuff. I know you generally described the new direction in the book, but to finish up, can you talk aboutyour overall plans and hopes for the title going into 2019?
Lobdell: Honestly? So much is happening that anything I said would be a spoil! If you thought we had our feet on the gas pedal in #24, #25 and the annual? We're taking off the seat belts and rolling the top down from here on in!