LOBDELL Goes for Redemption in DCnU RED HOOD & the OUTLAWS


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For long-time comic fans, the teaming of Red Hood, Starfire and Arsenal may seem a little odd. But for writer Scott Lobdell, the three of them being put together is "natural."

In September, Lobdell will launch the new ongoing series Red Hood and the Outlaws, showcasing Jason Todd as the antihero Red Hood and teaming him with Green Arrow's former sidekick Arsenal and alien outcast Starfire.

The story is one of redemption, the writer said, but it also has "action, drama, and splashes of humor."

As Lobdell pointed out, all three of these characters have issues they've had "trouble putting to bed." Having Jason Todd next to Roy and Kori, the writer said, makes his evolution much more interesting as he moves beyond being "Formerly Known As Robin" — especially since they're moving beyond their own issues.

Lobdell, who's known for his work on X-Men titles for Marvel, will be working with artist Kenneth Rocafort, known for his dynamic art on titles at Top Cow and his current run on Action Comics.

Newsarama talked with Lobdell to find out more about the title and what readers can expect when these three characters end up working together in Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Newsarama: Scott, what attracted you to writing this trio?

Scott Lobdell: I am a big fan of redemption stories — and, above all else (the action, the drama, the splashes of humor) Red Hood and the Outlaws is the story of the redemptive power of friendship. Aside from a clearly dysfunctional relationship with Scarlet, Jason hasn't spent a panel since his return as Red Hood interacting with anyone that didn't fuel his overwhelming obsession to punish Batman or Joker or both or sometimes neither. That can't be healthy for the guy.

By putting him in the same orbit as Roy and Kori, two people who also have their own issues they've had trouble putting to bed, Jason immediately becomes a character who can move beyond being Formerly Known As Robin. He would never admit to having actual friends, no, but it is clear he sees a lot of himself in Roy and is in awe at Kori's ability to have escaped the shackles of her past in a way he never has... in ways he may never be able.

Honestly, who wouldn't want to write the next chapter in the life Jason Todd?

Nrama: What's the overall tone of this comic? Is it as dark as it sounds with the "outlaws" title and the presence of the Red Hood? Or is it more action or adventure oriented?

Lobdell: I don't really think of it as dark... but when you have a once dead guy relying on guns, a former addict guy on arrows and a one-time prisoner of war woman who is essentially a nuclear reactor with pretty much one power setting... certainly a lot of violence will ensue.

Since he crawled out of that grave, however, Jason hasn't done much mentally get out of that pine box: he hasn't left that "dark place." I'm looking forward to seeing him interact with other people that have nothing to do with his quest for vengeance or trying to kill his way through the Gotham City Yellow Pages of Crime.

While Roy has had his issues with drug abuse in the past, he's at a place now where — for better or for worse — his "off switch" is off. He'll tell you what he's thinking with the same aim for the heart he uses for his arrows.

And Kori...? She survived intergalactic death camps and now lives on a world trying to help aliens who — as a race — often confuse and confound her. Certainly, if the situation was reversed, and I was living on Tamara, I don't think I'd ever really feel at home.

So yeah, there are dark elements to the story, but if Jason and Roy and Kori aren't moving ahead, aren't slogging through the crappy hands they've been dealt, aren't trying to forge a future for themselves, then that is what I would consider "a dark book." But that's not what's happening here.

Nrama: What do you think of the chance to launch a new #1 with the other titles in this relaunch?

Lobdell: Well, without slighting Teen Titans and Superboy, I think Red Hood and the Outlaws is the perfect book to relaunch in September... because it is one of the best examples of DC's commitment to offer different types of books to the audience. It isn't a book about heroes and it isn't a book about villains; it isn't a team in a satellite or a tower waiting for a distress call and it isn't a team of mercs dispatched on suicide missions. It is a book about three people and how their rough edges grind up against each other and invariably become better people for the experience. That is a book I'm looking forward to reading, let alone writing!

Nrama: How are you approaching Jason Todd as a character, particularly if you're trying to reach new readers?

Lobdell: I'll say this: We all know Superman was rocketed to Earth as a child and Batman was orphaned by a thug and dedicated his life to fighting crime, but those (and most every other superhero in the world) have come much farther than their point of origin. Jason, however, seems to only ever think about or talk about his past and how it informs his present.

I am more interest in who Jason has become than who he was. I think there is only one reference to Batman or Gotham City in issue #1 and none at all in issue #2. Could you imagine if Superman referenced Jor El and Smallville every issue... or Batman said "Eat, Alfred? How can I eat when my parents were murdered in front of my eyes twenty years ago?!"

Old fans picking up Jason will have extra insight into the character, and new fans will feel like they are picking up the first issue of a series about a guy who has made some really poor life choices and is looking at ways to do things better — and the more they come to like the character they'll be driven to watch Judd's excellent animated DVD or seek out all the great Red Hood stories that have come before.

I'll say this: In the "old days" you could pick up the first issue of a comic and you felt like you were getting in on the ground floor. Too often, today it feels like, if you pick up an issue of Moon Bat 1, you're actually picking up the 133rd issue of Moon Bat's 30-year publishing history of canceled series and team book appearance and sporadic relaunches over the years—- and the first issue feels like the writer has ushered you to your seat during the third reel of the movie.

As a fan, I find it really off-putting. So my hope is that with Red Hood and the Outlaws number one, people will feel like they are being brought into the first issue of new series and be excited to stay around until issue #100.

Nrama: It seems strange to have these characters together as a team.

Lobdell: Strange? Really?

Nrama: Yeah, a little. We've seen them each in such different settings recently. It's strange to think they'd be in a team book together now.

Lobdell: I think maybe people look at the title and think it might sound like a "team book" — like Batman and the Outsiders. But it isn't a team book... it is the story of Jason Todd as the Red Hood and a handful of similarly damaged good people who wind up in each other's orbit. Sometimes you pick your friends, and sometimes they pick you... that seems more natural than strange.

Nrama: One thing that's not strange is the art. There's definitely a unique feel to Kenneth Rocafort's art. What does he bring to the title?

Lobdell: He brings the wow! That should be the cover blurb to issue #1! Seriously, even the breakdowns he sends always make me stop what I am doing and just get pulled into the story!

Not only is a he great at the action and the storytelling, but every character he puts on panel is acting — there are not extras milling about in the background waiting for the director to yell "action" or calling out for the writer to cover them up with word balloons.

I'm writing the all my stories in what was once known as the "Marvel Style" of plot first and then script. I can rest assured that, should I not be able to get around to scripting any issue with Kenneth, that the reader won't miss a single story element just because it has no words. He's that good!

And yes, that was hyperbole for effect.

Nrama: Then to finish up, Scott, is there anything else you want to tell fans about the comic?

Lobdell: Yes. I am looking forward to all the message board posts from curious readers and the formally disgruntled who have already gone on record as being frustrated by all the things the book is not, based on the cover of issue #1.... after the book comes out! I am sure they are going to be as surprised as Jason was when he found out he'd be sharing his new book with Roy and Kori.

I haven't had this much fun at the keyboard in years, and I can hardly wait until September to share the experience with Red Hood and the Outlaws.

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