When Jason Todd became the Red Hood six years ago, little did anyone know he'd make such an impact.
Last year, the Red Hood not only starred in one of DC's animated DVDs, but was a recurring character in Grant Morrison's Batman and Robin and starred in his own mini-series by Judd Winick.
Now Jason returns, beginning in May's Batman and Robin #23. Winick, the writer who first introduced Jason as the Red Hood, is following up on Morrison's run with a three-issue story titled "The Streets Run Red."
Featuring art by Guillem March, the story features Jason Todd breaking out of prison, then fighting on the same side as Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne.
And with a team-up like that, the sparks are bound to fly.
Newsarama talked with Winick to find out more about the how he's approaching the dynamic between Dick, Jason and Damian in next month's Batman and Robin.
Newsarama: Judd, we talked last year about the Red Hood, when you had the mini-series and the DVD out, and you indicated you had more Red Hood stories you wanted to tell. Is this story in Batman and Robin what you were planning even back then?
Judd Winick: I had a very good idea what the story was going to be. I didn't know what title at that time, but we talked about Batman and Robin because it's the last title where he showed up. So we thought we'd make it come full circle.
And it makes sense in the story I wanted to tell, because I'm picking up the major thread that came from his last appearance.
It picks up from Grant Morrison's run, picking right up from his last appearance in Batman and Robin.
Nrama: So the Red Hood is in jail as this story begins?
Winick: Yeah, he's been locked up, but he won't be locked up for long. Jason is in Arkham Asylum, but he makes request for transfer, which he gets. I won't give away the discussion he has that gets him transferred, because it's fun. But a lot of this is about the Red Hood going to a "regular" prison.
Then there's trouble, because he gets broken out. But the reason he's broken out of prison might not be a reason he agrees to. So the story is, who's breaking him out and why?
Nrama: And he ends up working in conjunction with Batman and Robin?
Winick: It's basically a team-up between the three of them. Batman, Robin and the Red Hood will find themselves on the same side.
Nrama: Well they're all fighting for justice. It's just that Jason's idea of justice doesn't align with most people's.
Winick: Yeah, he does go after the bad guys. That's the one commonality he still has with the Batman and the Bat-family. He wants to go after bad guys. The manner in which he plays that out is what separates him from the rest of them. And of course he crosses the line.
As we saw in the original run, he's also comfortable controlling crime and even becoming a part of it. He can't kill everyone, nor does he want to. So, along with handing out his own brand of justice, he does believe that crime can be controlled. Batman had said it makes you a crime lord. Jason doesn't think it makes him a crime lord at all. He thinks it makes him a much more effective Batman.
Nrama: He sees Batman as ineffective, right?
Winick: Yes, Jason sees what he's doing as making himself into a better Batman, the Batman that the world actually needs today.
But some of that is just Jason fooling himself. The truth is, all of it is based in the fact that Jason is just damaged and tortured and angry with Bruce. And this is a constant revenge upon him.
Nrama: But this Batman isn't Bruce. This is Dick. What are Jason's feelings about him?
Winick: Jason hates Dick Grayson. He's the good son; he's the one that worked out; he's the one that "Dad" loves best. For me, there's a philosophy behind Jason and Dick that I haven't had a chance to play out fully. I don't think it's going to play out in this story, because it's probably not the place for it. But I don't mind putting the philosophy out there:One thing that haunts Jason is that he thinks if Dick Grayson who was the one that was about to die, Batman would have saved him.
And worse, if Dick Grayson was murdered, Jason knows that Batman would have killed Joker. He knows that in his heart.
The dark, dark thing for Jason is that he doesn't feel Bruce's refusal to take revenge on the Joker is just about Batman's morals and code that he won't break. He thinks it's about him. He thinks that if Dick Grayson was the one who was murdered, Batman would have definitely killed Joker.
Nrama: So what do Dick and Damian think of Jason as they are forced to kind of team-up with him in this story?
Winick: Robin really hates his guts. And Damian is such a wonderful character because he's such a little man-child. I know he's supposed to be a 10-year-old, but when you write him, he's not a 10-year-old, you know? He's a grown man in this little body. So he really finds Jason to be disgusting and thinks he should be locked up for the rest of his life. He has no sympathy for him at all.
Dick also really doesn't like Jason, but he has to rise above it because that's what he does as Batman. He can't let it become about the relationships; it has to be about the work. It has to be about the goals and the mission.
That includes how and why they have to team up. Dick has to approach it logically for the sake of the mission. Robin doesn't like it at all. And that was a lot of fun to write.
Nrama: How long are you on Batman & Robin?
Winick: Just three.
Nrama: Do you have more stories you'd like to tell about the Red Hood?
Winick: I do.
Nrama: Are there plans for you to do more?
Winick: I cannot talk about that at all!
Nrama: You've been saying that a lot lately, especially last time we talked, when I asked about whether or not you'll get to write Justice League International.
Winick: We're in the season where I'm having to say that a lot. It's convention season, so my answer to almost everything is going to be, "I cannot talk about that at all."
Nrama: You were the writer who brought Jason Todd back as the Red Hood, and you've written him a lot. Do you think you have a special understanding of the character?
Winick: I don't know, but I do have a lot of fun writing him. Part of it is that I enjoy the tragedy of it, but I also think Jason has so much potential, and there are so many stories I want to tell about the character.
I've said this before, but I think anyone would agree that Batman is a hard character to write because we've done so much with him already. He's the most psychologically analyzed character in the entire superhero genre. Even when he makes the jump to second media stuff, it's equally about what goes on in his head as it is about his fists. So he's been explored inside and out.
For me, Jason represents a whole new avenue of story in the Bat-universe, both as Batman's greatest failure who has come back to haunt him, as well as a character that is interesting to explore as an individual.
I also like the fact that Jason's actions aren't black and white. Sometimes he functions in that gray area, and it gives you the license to be somewhat hypocritical, because he is. I used to do that with Oliver Queen in Green Arrow, and people would go crazy, because I thought it was interesting to explore that sometimes he's a bit of a hypocrite. I find that likable about the character. And in Jason's case, he professes that he's trying to be a better Batman and he's trying to rid the world of evil, but then he's also just trying to stick it to Batman. It's very much a man-child thing going on.
So do I understand him? I don't know. It's a scary thought that someone would have an affinity with someone who is as messed up as Jason. I do think he's wrong. I don't think he's going about justice the right way. Maybe I'm able to get inside his head a little, but thankfully he hasn't started rooting around in mine.