WITH AN INTERVIEW WITH GERRY CONWAY
CREATED BY: GERRY CONWAY
JASON TODD – FIRST APPEARANCE: BATMAN #537
This week on The Heroes, Villains and Sidekicks Show we’ll be looking into the interesting past of Jason Todd, the boy wonder replaced Dick Grayson as being Batman’s number one sidekick, Robin. And I am so excited that at the end of the episode I’ll be playing an interview that I did with Gerry Conway, the creator of Jason Todd, as well as so many more characters. But we’ll talk more about that later in the episode. Let’s just say I was so excited to do this interview.
Now jason Todd is one of those characters that has had a fairly convoluted past due to events like Crisis on Infinite Earths, The New 52 and DC Rebirth. So what I’m going to do is take him right back to the actual origin of the character that was introduced in Batman #357 in March of 1983 by writer Gerry Conway and artist Don Newton. When we are introduced to Jason in Batman #357 he seems very familiar. He and his family are acrobats in a Sloan’s Circus and they are the main highwire act. Now if you are saying to yourself, that sounds familiar, wasn’t Dick Grayson and his family acrobats as well. Yep, that’s true, and it’s handled so nicely in that you have Dick working on the case when they meet and he just feels that something is off. He keeps feeling like a ghost has walked over his grave. Now some might say that it an easy way to create the character, but it did what it needed to do, it bridged the transition from one Robin to the next in a way that the readers would understand and feel comfortable with. And there were some big differences in the two origins that are really interesting.
Jason himself looks differently than he does now, in his introduction, Jason is actually a blond and only dies his hair black when he actually begins to be Robin. But how the story rolls out was really cool. Dick Grayson approaches Jason’s parents to help him track a villain. To help give him intel, well, his Robin persona. When things start to go sideways Robin takes Jason to Wayne manor so that Alfred can watch over him. Now Batman is being detained by the Joker and an entire rogues gallery he has assembled, they Robin and Batgirl are on their own. Now back to when things go sideways. The bad guy that the Todd’s are following is another character that Conway created, Killer Croc. Well Croc knows he’s being followed and he lays a trap for them and as you know, Croc can be vicious.
At the same time, Jason is walking around Wayne Manor when he comes upon the clock to the cave ajar and investigates. It’s then he realises Bruce Wayne is Batman. He cobbles together a superhero outfit and stows away in the batmobile wanting to take advantage of what he sees as a golden opportunity. As this is happening Robin, along with the authorities, find the Todd’s dead in an alligator exhibit. Batman then finds Croc and confronts him about the Todd’s murder and Jason overhears this and he attacks Croc but is held back by batman. Croc is defeated by Batman and in the end he takes Jason in. Now jason goes through the training and is working towards being the new Robin, but doesn’t put the actual suit on until issue #366 almost a full year after he was introduced. And even then, when he put the costume on it was without Batman’s approval and he told to take it off. Batman told Jason he had no right to steal someone’s identity.
Two issues later, in Batman #368, Dick Grayson arrives to the batcave with a gift for Jason. He tells Bruce he appreciates the thought, about not wanting to have Jason steal his identity and tells him that he’s not his partner anymore, that he’s in the Titans and is not going to be Robin anymore anyway. Remember at that time he was new the leader of the New Teen Titans, the most popular comic DC had at the time. It was then that Dick passed the mantle, and his costume to Jason and with that, a new Robin was born. Now in these issues Jason is a pretty carefree kid all things given and we don’t really see the darker version of him that we know now.
Then there was Crisis. And like most characters Jason’s origin was revamped in 1985 and went from being a kid who was an acrobat and a child who had lost his parents to a troubled runaway youth that Batman meets when he finds the youth trying to steal the Batmobile’s wheels. I have to say I remember reading this and just finding it to be ridiculous. They two bump into each other again a few times and after Jason helps Batman with a small problem he asks him to hop in the car and pretty much immediately starts calling him Robin. It was all very strange. I have to say, looking back I did not like this recon and I think that’s where all the dislike for this characters started. And dislike is mild. No one like this Robin, well, that may be too harsh, but we know that at least 5,343 really didn’t like him because they voted for him to be killed.
That’s right, back in 1988 Dennis O’Neil who was the editor at DC and for the Batman at the time made the odd decision to kill the character off, but not in the normal comic book way. He decided to leave it up to the fans, and like I said, the fans were not, well, fans of Jason. I remember this, I called the number, and I have to say, I voted to have him bumped off. The final vote was 5,343 votes to 5,271 with only a slim 72 vote difference. It seems like such a small number compared to the numbers that would be generated today using any one of the social media platforms.
So in the Death in the Family storyline written by Jim Starlin and pencilled by Jim Aparo we witnessed Jason Todd being beaten to an inch of his life in a just brutal attack by the Joker. Todd was tied to a chair and the Joker just beat him with a crowbar and then before Batman could save him, the Joker gone, the building Jason was in exploded and he was killed. Then we saw it, the iconic page of Batman carrying a lifeless Robin from the rubble. Now DC was ready, they also had an inked page where Batman was exclaiming, “He’s Alive!” If you want to see it head over to heroesviallainsandsidekicks.com. Now even though people didn’t like this new Robin, most didn’t want to see this and DC took a lot of flack for the decision.
Now this isn’t where Jason Todd’s story ends, we are talking about comics, and the character is resurrected much to fans surprise making his appearance years later, but in normal Jason fashion it’s with fits and starts until he is reviled. And I fought with this, do I go on to talk about Jason resurrected as the Red Hood in this episode or another? I decided to do that in another episode. I mean he did die, was brought back and became a new villain/hero so I think the Red Hood should get his own show. And I also really want to play the interview I did with gerry Conway.
Now Gerry Conway has had a long and varied career in comics working for DC and Marvel, working on iconic storylines such as the death of Gwen Stacey and the creator some of the most iconic characters in both universes. Here’s a short list of the characters he’s created, Jason Todd, Firestorm, Killer Croc, Vixen, Vibe and the Punisher. And without further ado, my interview with Gerry Conway.