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Jason Todd: The Origins of a Boy Wonder

The year was 1983. Robin was the leader of the Teen Titans, and with Dick Grayson's departure the Batman needed a new partner.

Enter Jason Todd.

Five years before he found himself on the wrong end of the Joker’s crowbar, and long before he donned the guise of Robin the Boy Wonder, Jason Todd was merely a circus acrobat performing alongside his parents. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Yes, aside from Jason’s blonde locks, writer Gerry Conway’s interpretation of the Batman’s second sidekick seemed derivative of Dick Grayson.

While Boss Anthony Zucco was responsible for the death of Grayson’s parents, Killer Kroc offed Todd’s parents in the pages of Detective Comics and left the youngster an orphan. Bruce Wayne then took Todd in, and he eventually trained his ward to become his new sidekick. However, since Grayson retained the identity of Robin, Todd’s crime fighting alias remained in limbo.

During his training, and before Bruce deemed Todd ready for duty, the Dark Knight came face to face with his archenemy, the Joker, in the pages of Batman No. 366 (1983). Todd knew Wayne needed help against the Clown Prince of Crime, and he wanted to prove himself, so the boy made the choice to go out into the field without the Batman’s blessing.

With the odds stacked against him, and in danger of being gunned down by the Joker’s machine gun, Batman was stunned when Robin swung in and saved him from the Clown Prince of Crime! But it didn’t take long for Bruce to figure out it wasn’t Dick Grayson who came to his aid.

No, Jason dyed his hair black and borrowed one of Grayson’s old uniforms. However, despite Bruce disapproving of Jason wearing the Boy Wonder’s costume, he was surprisingly grateful for Jason’s aid. The boy proved himself ready to become the Dark Knight’s new partner.

Two issues later, in Batman No. 368 (1984), Bruce and Jason debated the alter ego the boy would take on as the Bat’s new partner. To the surprise of both men, Dick Grayson sauntered into the Batcave with a giftbox, and he presented the package to young Jason. Both Wayne and Grayson gave Todd their blessings, and a few moments later Jason wore the Robin costume.

Grayson himself officially passed the mantle onto Jason.

With Robin once more where he belonged, at Batman’s side, Bruce wondered who his old partner would become. Dick told Wayne he was going to just focus on being Dick Grayson for the time being, but it wouldn’t be long before Nightwing took the helm as leader of the Titans.

The adventures of Batman and the new Robin continued for over three years, but the madness of the Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985-1986) began to reshape the DC Universe. Both the Flash (Barry Allen) and Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) died during the crossover event, and the blonde-haired Boy Wonder was about to become a casualty, too.

DC Comics decided to reboot Jason Todd’s origin story, and in Batman No. 408 (1987), the dark-haired, rebellious teen fans all know and love to hate was born. The new iteration of Jason was a homeless, street-tough who actually boosted the tires right off the Batmobile!

The new Jason Todd was NOTHING like Dick Grayson this time around.

In the new origin, Grayson was fired by the Batman after the Boy Wonder was shot in the shoulder by the Joker. Grayson was outraged that he was forced to give up the role of Robin, so Dick didn’t have any affection for Jason to say nothing of passing the mantle of Robin onto the kid who replaced him.

A new, dangerous Robin patrolled the streets of Gotham with the Bat, but unlike Grayson, Todd was an angry, defiant youth who rarely followed orders. The boy’s wild and unpredictable behavior came to a head in Batman No. 424 (1988) when Jason actually killed a man who escaped the law thanks to diplomatic immunity.

For fans, it was the final straw, and comic book readers grew tired of the new Robin's rebellious nature. And in the now infamous A Death in the Family (1988-1989) storyline, which appeared in the pages of Batman No. 426 through 429, the Joker ended the life of Jason Todd as the boy searched the globe for his birth mother.

But death didn’t last.

Jason’s life as a blonde-haired doppelganger of Dick Grayson didn’t pan out, but, in hindsight, the more rebellious incarnation of Robin created a more compelling, controversial character. Fans may not have liked the new origin of Jason Todd, and some may have objected to the way he was murdered by the Joker, but his resurrection as the Red Hood became one of the high points in the Batman’s mythology.

So, who do you prefer? Was the blonde-haired, Dick-Grayson-like Jason Todd the better version of the Boy Wonder, or do you think the darker Jason Todd worked out for the best? Sound off in the comments!


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