Robin II (Earth-One)
Created by Gerry Conway, Don Newton, and Alfredo Alcala*
Written by Aaron Severson
NAME + ALIASES:
Joseph and Trina Todd (parents, deceased); Bruce Wayne (adoptive father)
As Jason Todd: Batman #357 (Mar. 1983). As Robin: Batman #366 (Dec. 1983)
In 1983, 43 years after his (real-world) debut, Dick Grayson permanently relinquished his partnership with Batman to become Nightwing. Since Batman must have a Robin (if only for licensing reasons), Dick's role was subsequently assumed by a younger boy named Jason Todd, who in his initial incarnation was also a former circus acrobat. This profile covers only the original Earth-One version of Robin II, up to the point when his history was completely rewritten in 1987, in changes following Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The Flying Todds
When he first encountered Batman and Robin, Earth-One's Jason Todd was a 12-year-old circus aerialist, performing with his parents, Joseph and Trina Todd, as The Flying Graysons. The Todds were part of the traveling Hill Circus, whose clown, Waldo Flynn, was friends with Dick Grayson. (DC Comics Presents #31) Waldo later introduced the Todds to Dick, who was struck by how much they reminded him of his own family.
Although the Todds initially had no idea that Dick was Robin, Trina stumbled onto the secret during a party at Wayne Manor. Soon afterward, Dick enlisted Trina and Joseph's assistance in tracking down Killer Croc, a monstrous-looking ex-convict, former alligator wrestler, and would-be gang boss whose protection racket had targeted the Sloan Circus's proprietor. Trina and Joseph managed to follow Croc to his hideout on the grounds of the Gotham City Zoo, but Croc discovered their surveillance and murdered them both, throwing their bodies into the zoo's crocodile enclosure. (Detective Comics #523–525, Batman #357–359)
Dick, still unaware of the Todds' fate but concerned that his friends were in over their heads, left Jason and Waldo at Wayne Manor and set out to look for Jason's parents. While Waldo dozed on a sofa, Jason stumbled upon the secret entrance from Wayne Manor to the Batcave, where he concealed himself in the trunk of the Batmobile. He subsequently aided Batman in defeating Croc, but in the process discovered that his parents had died at Croc's hands. Afterward, Dick expressed interest in adopting the now-orphaned boy, feeling responsible for Jason's plight, but Bruce instead invited Jason to move into Wayne Manor. (Detective #526)
Despite his anguish over his parents' deaths, Jason was excited by his newfound connection to Batman, which the boy assumed would make him Batman's new partner. Bruce initially refused, concerned about Jason's age. (Batman #360) Frustrated, Jason ran away to rejoin the Hill Circus. (Detective #531, Batman #364) Batman and Alfred tracked Jason to the circus's latest venue in Indiana, where they discovered that a ruthless thief called the Chimera had impersonated Waldo the Clown in hopes of holding Jason for ransom. After Jason helped Batman capture the Chimera, Bruce agreed to reconsider allowing Jason to become his crimefighting partner. (Detective #531)
Nevertheless, Batman was angry when Jason dyed his naturally red hair black and donned one of Dick's spare Robin costumes without permission. (Batman #366) Jason's first authorized outing on the streets of Gotham was in an old circus costume — again borrowed from Dick's things — while Bruce and Jason struggled to come up with a new heroic identity for the boy. (Batman #367, Detective #534)
Around the same time, Dick, who had become increasingly uncomfortable with being perpetually in Batman's shadow, decided it was time to relinquish his role as Robin. (New Teen Titans #39) He returned to the Batcave to announce his decision to Bruce and turned over his costume and title to Jason. (Batman #368)
Several observers, including Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon and Detective Harvey Bullock, quickly recognized that the new Robin was not the original, being shorter, skinnier, and visibly younger. However, Gordon chose not to press the issue or ask Batman for an explanation. (Detective #556)
Jason's new career as Robin took its toll on his schoolwork, which brought him to the attention of Gotham social services. Learning that Bruce Wayne's application for legal custody of Jason had never been approved, social worker Amanda Groscz obtained a court order to have Jason removed from Wayne Manor. Corrupt Gotham City Mayor Hamilton Hill, whose election Bruce had publicly opposed, then moved to block Bruce's efforts to regain custody. (Batman #373–375, Detective #540–542)
Shortly afterward, socialite Natalia Knight, a former astronomer whose skin had been bleached white by a laboratory accident, filed her own petition to adopt Jason. The boy decided to support Knight's application, seeing an opportunity to finally prove that she was really the notorious burglar called Nocturna. However, Jason's plan was complicated by Knight's apparently genuine maternal affection and by her determination to convince Batman — whose true identity she had discovered — to pursue their mutual attraction and raise Jason together. After gaining custody of the boy, Knight allowed Jason to continue as Batman's partner and even helped Batman and Robin in their efforts to capture her adoptive brother, former lover, and one-time partner in crime, Anton Knight, a.k.a. the Thief of Night/Night-Slayer.
Jason eventually discovered a cache of loot from Nocturna's past robberies, but found himself unexpectedly reluctant to turn her over to the police. Since Batman felt similarly, Knight was able to slip away, taking the evidence with her. Although she remained unindicted, the downfall of Mayor Hill led to a reexamination of Jason's case and the reversal of the custody order. With the political obstacles removed, Bruce was finally able to adopt Jason. (Batman #376–383, Detective #543–548) Nonetheless, Jason still had conflicted feelings toward Knight, which later led him to seek her out and even defend her against Harvey Bullock, Catwoman, and Night-Slayer.
During the early stages of the Crisis, Nocturna was severely wounded in a bloody confrontation with the Night-Slayer. She subsequently disappeared, leaving Batman and Robin unsure whether she had somehow made it to safety, died of her wounds, or been annihilated by an antimatter discharge from the red skies. (Batman #389–391, Detective #556–558) Jason accepted that she was probably dead, but the uncertainty denied him any real sense of resolution. (Detective #566) It's not clear how he would have reacted if she ever resurfaced.
Later CareerJason gradually became more comfortable in his role as Robin, although he remained frustrated with Batman's frequent overprotectiveness. (Batman #385) Jason was also suspicious of Batman's alliance with the reformed Catwoman, in part because he recognized that Batman's attraction to Selina Kyle was because of rather than despite her criminal history. (Detective #548) Batman tricked the two into working together in hopes of improving their relationship (Detective #560), but Robin continued to regard Catwoman with obvious annoyance. (Batman #395–396, Detective #562)
In his civilian identity, Jason began dating a classmate named Rena. (Detective #561) He briefly considered revealing his identity as Robin in hopes of impressing her, but quickly thought better of it. (Detective #563)
When Hugo Strange succeeded in seizing control of the Wayne Foundation and forcing Bruce Wayne into bankruptcy, Jason was again removed from the Wayne household and remanded to the temporary custody of Amanda Groscz. Bruce and Jason were reunited and Bruce's fortune was restored after Batman and Robin captured Strange and proved that he had used blackmail, extortion, and fraud to gain control of the Foundation. (Batman Annual #10)
Because his pre-Crisis career was relatively brief, Jason had only limited contact with other heroes, but he did have the opportunity meet both Superman and Wonder Woman (Superman Annual #11) and during the Crisis he briefly met the Earth-Two Robin and The Huntress. (Crisis on Infinite Earths #5) Shortly after the Crisis, he joined the Teen Titans, (New Teen Titans v.2 #19–21) although he was never a full-time member.
Like the Earth-One Batman, the Earth-One Jason Todd survived the Crisis seemingly unchanged, but within a year, he was completely overwritten in favor of his post-Crisis counterpart. The post-Crisis Jason Todd was a street kid with no connection to Dick Grayson (Batman #408–411), who did not meet Jason until months after Bruce had allowed him to become Robin. (Batman #416)
Credit and Continuity Notes
Jason Todd's comic book debut was the work of writer Gerry Conway and artists Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala, and it was Conway who first suggested replacing Dick Grayson as Robin. However, Jason's conception undoubtedly also owes something to editor Len Wein, who was seeking a way to balance Dick's role in the very popular New Teen Titans series (of which Wein was also the editor at that time) with Robin's importance to the Batman franchise. Because Conway left the Batman titles immediately after Jason's introduction, most of the character's subsequent pre-Crisis development was the work of writer Doug Moench, including Jason's first actual appearances as Robin (which were also drawn by Newton and Alcala).
In mid-1986, not long after the Crisis on Infinite Earths the editorship of the Batman titles passed from Wein to Dennis O'Neil (beginning with Batman #401 and Detective Comics #568), who discarded nearly all of those books' previous internal continuity. Jason Todd's origin and previous backstory were completely scrapped in favor of a new and quite different post-Crisis origin. One of the few later references to the pre-Crisis storyline was the incongruous revelation in Batman and Robin #5 (December 2009) that Jason's natural hair color was red, something of which there had been no previous indication in Jason's other post-Crisis appearances. (By the time he first met Batman, as depicted in Batman #408, Jason's hair was already black.)
Jason Todd's pre-Crisis origin was often criticized as derivative of Dick Grayson's, although in context, the idea that Dick would befriend other circus acrobats seems less far-fetched than the post-Crisis notion that Batman would abruptly fire Dick from his role as Robin on the grounds that it was too dangerous, only to replace him months later with a significantly younger boy with a poorer attitude and no obvious qualifications other than Batman's evident desire to "save" him. Less often mentioned are the other uncomfortable elements of the original story, including Dick's apparent attraction to Trina Todd (a point rendered more uneasy, not less, by the textual rationalization that she reminded him of his mother) and the fact that Batman and Robin bore significant responsibility for Joseph and Trina's murders. (Before their deaths, Dick did have second thoughts about the appropriateness of using his friends as informants and voiced serious concerns about their safety. However, Bruce irritably overruled him — despite the fact that Croc had already committed at least two other brutal murders and had nearly killed Batman with his bare hands!)
Like Dick Grayson, Jason Todd was a successful circus aerialist from an early age. Even before he received any combat training from Batman, Jason's acrobatic skills made him a surprisingly effective fighter. He also had the makings of a competent detective and could be very resourceful in a pinch. Perhaps his finest hour was single-handedly defeating Mongul using the alien tyrant's own "Black Mercy," which had already overcome both Batman and Superman. (Superman Annual #11) As Robin, Jason wore a utility belt with weapons and equipment similar to Batman's.
» FEATURED APPEARANCES:
- Batman #364, #366, #368, #376–381,
- Detective Comics #526, #531, #535, #542–546,
- New Teen Titans v.2 #20–21
- Superman Annual #11
- Batman #357–400, Annual #10
- Detective Comics #524-566