Recently, I’ve been randomly having Jason Todd feels and I realize that I visualize him quite differently from how he’s portrayed in fanfiction and fanart.
I’d like to know how YOU see Jason Todd. His personality, how he acts socially. What he likes, what he doesn’t like. The kind of people he’d want to associate with. His mentality. ANYTHING! Tell me how you feel about Jason Todd. And remember, there is no wrong answer(this is just me trying to get a feel of how people view him and it would be a lot of help to me). And hey, if you’re not a fan, do me a solid and pass this along to your friends. Tell them about it and ask them to share their opinions, headcanons, WHATEVER. :)
What is your perspective?
Okay, so. This is a tl;dr mess of feelings and introspection, and I don’t expect everyone to agree with it. It’s my interpretation, and I tried to include the panels and pages that influence how I see him. This really only focuses on post-Crisis Jason and his relationship with Bruce, and it’s still over 8k. If I delved into my take on his relationship with the other Robins, I’m pretty sure it would be too long for anyone to read.
Jason: I can’t believe the Batman is letting me go with you guys. This is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me.
So, let’s start off at more or less the beginning. When people talk about Jason in passing, it’s often with the label “the bad Robin”. Jason had the misfortune of living directly in Dick Grayson’s shadow. Even though he refers to Tim as the “replacement”, it was Jason himself that suffered from being pushed to emulate Dick as perfectly as possible. From his costume to his quips and flips, Jason was expected to replace the first Robin in every way. This pressure to perform was hard on Jason, because he was definitely not Dick Grayson—-though he was eager to please and a natural chatterbox, Jason had been through things that made him a very different young man. Even the Teen Titans pushed Jason to be Dick Grayson, which was an unrealistic expectation for a boy in his early teens.
This concept of Jason as a “bad” Robin is influenced by several things. First off, there’s the comparison against Dick Grayson. It’s a little unfair to stack anyone against Dick, because he’s the kind of true blue hero that is rare, even in comics. He does good for the sake of good, and does it with a smile. Dick was created in a very different time—-an era where all the boy sidekicks wore shortpants and used “golly” and “holy ____” without any sense of irony. The audience was slightly more innocent, and their expectations were different. No one expected Dick and Bruce to be realistic. Since he had decades of canon behind him to endear him to the audience, Dick’s role as Boy Wonder wasn’t as highly criticized. Pre-Crisis Jason’s personality and backstory ascribes to that winning sidekick formula, but the post-Crisis Jason was something totally new. He was grittier, edgier, and had a history built around crime, drugs, and loss. The tone of the Batman books had changed from campy to serious, and they had to make a Robin that wouldn’t seem grievously out of place at Batman’s side.
Post-Crisis Jason Todd was a boy that belonged to Gotham, through and through. He was an orphan, living in a condemned building and doing whatever he had to in order to survive. His path crossed with Batman’s when twelve-year-old Jason stole the wheels off of the Batmobile. That took some major stones, which is one of Jason’s defining personality traits: for better or worse, this kid was fearless. His father, Willis Todd, had been one of Two Face’s goons. A career criminal, he’d bounced in and out of jail so often, Jason hadn’t known that he was dead. His mother, Catherine Todd, had been afflicted with a terminal illness, but had ultimately died of a drug overdose. Since Jason had been stealing—-and possibly turning tricks; more on that shortly—-to provide for her, it can be assumed that he himself had given her the drugs that she had overdosed on.
That’s some pretty damn heavy stuff for a twelve-year-old boy. Jason’s attitude toward the police was understandable, considering that he had probably already had a growing rap sheet. The unfortunate truth is that the American legal system is androcentric, and traditionally female-associated crimes are not viewed the same way that masculine crimes are. Juvenile prostitution is sticky, because they’re not held long, and are pushed back on the street. Kids don’t think of prostitution as an option until someone else shows them the perks. If Jason was pushed into prostitution to care for himself and his mother, he would have been intimately familiar with the holes in the justice system, as well as the shame associated with hooking—-especially for men. When male offenders commit aggressive crimes under the conditions of opportunity blockage, it’s viewed as a normal or functional response. Young men that are taken in for masculine crimes—-stealing, arson, bodily harm—-are seen as badasses by their peers. Male-dominated crimes are glorified, but prostitution is equated with female “weakness”. Jason would have had to defend himself, learn to fight, and “prove” that he was a “man” to everyone around him.
In that light, Jason’s attitude and triggers make a painful amount of sense. Naturally, this isn’t something that the writers aren’t allowed to address. Their pens and hands are tied when it comes to the issues that DC’s editorial team has deemed taboo. When he was asked in an interview if Jason was bisexual, Judd Winick said: “I’m totally dodging the question. This is me ducking the question. There’s things we can talk about and there’s things we can’t talk about, there’s things that DC Comics doesn’t like me talking about and they don’t like us talking about things like that, so I don’t want to answer that, thank you.” He also has said that there is something in Jason’s past that the writers aren’t allowed to get into, and, well, there’s quite a bit of evidence for it being juvenile prostitution.
Bruce: Jason, by now you’ve been told of my death, and you’re probably surprised to be invited back to the cave. But like Tim and Dick, I’m leaving you with the one thing I can’t give anymore. Advice. Of all my failures, you have been the biggest. I take full responsibility for your wayward and self-destructive path in life. You were broken, and I thought I could put the pieces back together. I thought I could do for you what could never be done for me. Make you whole. What happened to you as a child…the terror, the pain, the horrors. But that secret is one that neither of us should have kept.
The biggest nod toward this, in my opinion, is in Winick’s Green Arrow. 1 2 3 4 5. Jason manufactures a meeting between himself and Mia, ostensibly to warn her away from her mentor. He says “I’m like you. I was born out on the streets, too. I’ve seen things. I’ve done things. I know that sometimes we have to do the bad things just to get by.” Seeing as Mia is a child prostitute turned sidekick, Jason’s words take on a new dimension of meaning.
Running with that interpretation, Jason’s Robin days are likewise illuminated. If Jason is labeled a “bad” Robin, it’s through no fault of his own. He was a damaged boy forced into a very specific role. As Bruce’s little speech revealed, he knew that Jason had been abused, but did not address it with him. Bruce is an egocentric man; he understands the pain of others only through the lens of his own loss. He constantly compares his wards to himself, aping their loss as a parallel to his own, no matter how poor a fit that is. With Jason, this was especially damaging. Jason is a survivalist, and he knows firsthand how crime claims innocence—-and how oftentimes, the justice system lets the rich and affluent go, while the poor and oppressed suffer even more. Bruce did not address the things in Jason that he couldn’t equate either with himself, or with Dick Grayson. Bruce absolutely did not understand the experiences of an abused, lower-class boy, so he didn’t get Jason the help he needed. He had the perspective of an upper-class adult white man with all of the privileges therein, so pushing his own experiences on Jason—-while denying anything that didn’t fit—-may have contributed to Jason’s inability to talk about or even process his traumatic childhood. By his own admission, Bruce gave Jason an outlet for his anger and fear, not the tools to repair his damaged psyche.
When talking about trauma, the term resiliency is thrown around pretty heavily. A resilient person is someone who is able to cope with trauma by virtue of personality, and by making connections with people who support them and make them feel less isolated. By ignoring his trauma—-maybe even making Jason feel ashamed of it, by not addressing something that he would have found on his rap sheet—-he set Jason up for a lifetime of continual loss. Jason desperately tries to make connections—-with Bruce, with his birth mother, with Mia, with Dick, even with Tim, whom he hates on principle—-but he was denied.
So, doubling back to where I started, let’s touch on the idea of Jason as a “bad” Robin. The biggest criticisms I hear when it comes to Jason’s Robin run are that he’s violent, angry, and annoying. Some of this is purposeful—-the writer admitted to disliking Jason—-but if you look at it from the interpretation I laid out, his triggers make sense. Jason is at his most violent when faced with crimes against women. He spent a year caring for his dying mother, so his protectiveness is understandable. Moreover, I feel like Jason’s perspective is more like a woman’s, at this point in his life. He is small, he’s been abused by men, and he knows what it’s like to be powerless. He’s more than likely witnessed the uglier sides of sex work, even if he wasn’t sucked into it himself. On a case where a violent misogynist killed a dozen women as a political statement (“to put those uppity women in their place”), Jason flies off the handle. Once caught, the perp falls through the system. The judge has to throw out the evidence that sealed the case—-a bloody knife—-because it was obtained illegally, by the Batman. So a serial killer and rapist walked free because of the Batman, and Jason had to helplessly watch it happen. But before the criminal could skip town, he was killed by the sister of one of his previous victims. She slit his throat with a razor. During her confession, she showed no remorse. She said: “I didn’t kill a man. I put down a mad dog. … It might not have been legal…but it was right.” Batman recounts this to Jason after, and is troubled when Jason agrees.
It’s at this point that Jason and Bruce’s codes of morality visibly begin to split. In Batman #424, the Dynamic Duo is faced with an awful predicament. Jason, responding to a woman’s scream, finds one of the victims of a serial rapist named Felipe Garzonas. As the son of a diplomat, Garzonas had diplomatic immunity, which made him untouchable. A truly rotten piece of shit, Garzonas flaunted this fact. Gloria, the woman that Batman and Robin saved, had been raped by him not once, but twice. When he knew he was about to be deported, he called her, basically promising to come assault her again. Though they hurried, they didn’t get to her place in time. Gloria hung herself, choosing suicide over what Garzonas would have done to her. Jason found her body.
What follows is one of the most-referenced scenes when it comes to Jason Todd’s history. It’s often cited as “proof” that he was a “bad” Robin.
Batman: Robin, did Felipe fall…or was he pushed?
Felipe takes a nosedive off a balcony, falling to his death. Batman didn’t see what happened, but he jumped to the worst-case scenario. And you can see it there, I think. Jason looks up at Bruce, and he sees condemnation. He sees that Bruce assumes that because he was angry, because of his history, and because he believed in a sharper definition of justice, he killed a man. And he realizes that it doesn’t matter what he says. There’s a dead man on the ground, and the only one around to blame is him. The truth didn’t matter, because Bruce had already decided who he was—-and what he was capable of. The question of whether or not Jason killed that rapist has never been answered, but the audience will tell you otherwise. Jason must have killed him, because Jason Todd was a “bad” Robin.
That was the beginning of the end for him. His Robin run is sad, really, because you can see him slowly lose faith. At first, Jason was this plucky, tough kid that marveled at the new world Bruce had offered him. This is the kid that treated everything like an adventure, because all he knew was the lowest tier of life available in Gotham. He had seen and experienced things that the rest of the Batfam only saw at a respectable distance. He’d fallen through the sieve of the justice system, and he knew that he wouldn’t find a home if he went into foster care. He knew that he was unwanted—-that he, at the ripe age of twelve, was damaged goods. So when Bruce took him into his life and made him Robin, it was a fucking dream. He did everything that was asked of him, putting 110% of himself into the fight. He believed in Batman, because Batman had saved him. Batman was his father, his partner, his friend, and his savior. But as time passed, he came to realize that since Batman handed over any and all goons to the police, he was even more impotent than the justice system. Jason watched as madmen broke free and rapists got less than a slap on the wrist. He watched the innocent suffer, and he slowly lost faith in the justice that the Batman espoused.
Jason: It’s called payback! Anybody cuts one of us gets cut in return.
One of my very favorite Jason stories is Gotham Knights #43. It’s the only time that we get a view into how Batgirl!Babs and Robin!Jason interacted, and it shows that his aggressive nature was a part of him long before the Lazarus Pit. But it also shows that Jason’s aggression is born of protectiveness. He doesn’t maim and hurt for pleasure—-it isn’t a thrill to him. Jason is in no way a sociopath. When someone goes after his loved ones, he bites back. It’s that logic that causes him to break down when Bruce doesn’t do the same for him. He isn’t violent without reason. It’s reactionary, usually triggered by crimes against women and children. The difference between Jason and Dick when it comes to fighting is that Dick fights as Bruce taught him. Despite being in the circus, Dick had fairly normal childhood socialization. He was exposed to the societal “monkey dance” that is part of growing up for most boys. Play-fighting and scrapping are accepted for boys, so they learn to honor surrender signals. A fight ends when someone backs down. But for women—-or anyone that grows up with severe abuse—-being hit is a punishment. It’s intrinsically linked with shame. When they fight, it’s to end the fight. The internalized rules of a victimized person are radically different than the rules of healthy man. Dick knew when to back off, and had the clarity of mind to put his opponent’s well-being above his own—-those are two of the Batman’s biggest rules when it comes to combat. But Jason goes for the throat, because he has fought for his life. He’s unwilling to be a victim again. He will survive. And that makes him dangerous.
Barbara: He’s carrying emotional baggage…plus, he’s hauling a gigantic chip on his shoulder and daring anyone and everyone to knock it off.
Sheila: …Jason tried…to rescue me…we…almost…made it…so close…he turned out…to be such a good kid…all his problems…and he…still…turned out good…
If my first section didn’t drive my point home, I think the whole notion of Jason being a “bad” Robin is a big ol’ pile of bullshit. Jason wasn’t some punk that got a jolly out of hurting others—-he was a victimized child that refused to stand by and watch people like him suffer due to the flaws in the justice system. When he wasn’t in a triggering situation, Jason was a sweet kid. He had a bouncy sense of humor, loved to eat, and got giddy whenever he had the opportunity to see the places that he’d never had the money to see before. Give this kid a chilidog and watch his grin light up a room. He relied on violence because it was what worked, but his intentions were heroic. A Death in the Family chronicles the events that lead up to Jason’s untimely demise. I won’t go into a breakdown of the history, since beeftony already did a bang-up job of it in their response. Instead, I’m going to concentrate on how Jason showed his true character, even in his last moments. Once he found his biological mother, Bruce told Jason to sit tight and keep his head down while he went after the Joker. Jason would have none of that. In an effort to show her that he was capable of protecting her, he revealed that he was Robin. His mother immediately turned around and sold him out to the Joker. She used him as a bargaining chip, not realizing that the Joker had no intention of letting either of them live. She left the room and smoked a cigarette as the Joker laid into Jason with a crowbar. The Joker cracked Jason’s skull, shattered his sternum, collapsed one of his lungs, and gave him around forty other fractures, all told. Even with all that damage, Jason dragged his pulverized body toward where his mother was tied up and freed her. He tried to save her, even though he had literally just been beaten within an inch of his life due to her selling him out to a psychopath. He tried to save her, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to save himself.
If you don’t think that’s heroic, you can bite me. Sadly, the Joker had locked the doors behind him, so both Sheila and Jason were killed when the red numbers ticked down to zero and the warehouse exploded. For many years, that was where the story ended. Jason became a cautionary tale, a suit preserved in a glass case, a flail that Bruce whipped himself with. He was the worst case scenario, but the story quickly changed from being Bruce’s fault to being Jason’s. His anger led him there, or his instability, or some defect in his personality that calls up some really terrible tones of biological determinism. Victim blaming became a thing, and I don’t even want to get into it because it is so patently wrong.
But then Superboy punched Jason back to life. Because that makes sense. Six months after his death, Jason Todd woke up in his casket, beaten, bloody, and alive. He clawed his way out, scraping desperately against the coffin lid. He dug his way out of his grave, losing fingernails in the process. He walked twelve and a half miles before he was found. Even as he slipped into a coma, he kept repeating one word over and over: Bruce. When he finally emerged from his coma, he was brain-damaged and functioning almost entirely on instincts. He escaped the hospital and cared for his base needs. If you didn’t know where the Jason loves bread joke comes from, this is it. Starving, homeless, and broken, he stole bread from a bakery. It’s difficult for me to find those jokes funny for that very reason. Even as incapacitated as he was, Jason was still Jason: he shared whatever he stole with other children.
Talia found Jason, rehabilitated him, and—-when everything else failed—-pushed him into the Lazarus Pit. The Pit put him back together, and Talia summed up everything he’d missed in three words: you remain unavenged. With that, she set Jason on a destructive path. Trained by the Greatest Detective himself, the first thing Jason did was track down information on Bruce. He saw that not only was the Joker still alive, but that he was once again out of Arkham and leaving a bodycount in his wake.
I think that Jason had still believed in the Batman, up to that point. He’d truly believed that Bruce would save him. He’d been screaming for him when he died, and upon reanimation, he’d kept screaming. His name had been a lifeline, a mantra. So when he realized that Bruce hadn’t made damn sure that the Joker would never kill again, it broke him. He came to the conclusion that his ways were wrong—-flawed. The Batman was a hypocrite, because either he was too weak-willed to do what was necessary to protect the innocent, or he secretly believed that Jason wasn’t innocent enough to deserve to be saved. Neither option was acceptable. He didn’t know why or how he had come back to life—-not even Ra’s al Ghul, with his vast fortune and connections, could solve that mystery. So Jason latched onto the one thing that was clear to him: he had come back to do what needed to be done. Jason Todd had to dig his way out of his own grave and avenge himself. Self-reliance was not a new concept to him, sadly. It was kind of the story of his life.
Jason: Bastard. HYPOCRITE. How HARD would it have been, Bruce? To kill the MONSTER who took me from you. You never REALLY gave a DAMN about any of us. About ME. Not really. NOT EVER. You made this happen. YOU.
“Ah, God! what trances of torments does that man endure who is consumed with one unachieved revengeful desire. He sleeps with clenched hands; and wakes with his own bloody nails in his palms.” - Herman Melville
Talia enabled Jason, both emotionally and financially. With her money, Jason went back to Gotham and set up a trap—-using the knowledge of the Batmobile that he’d been privy to as Robin, he placed a bomb underneath the car. It was poetic, since tampering with the Batmobile is what got him into the Batman’s life in the first place—-a motif that we see repeated throughout the Lost Days and Under the Red Hood stories. When it comes to the common criminals, Jason has a simple system of rules: if they victimize children, they deserve to die; if they victimize women, they deserve to die; if they profit on the suffering of others, they deserve to die. But when it comes to Bruce, Jason can’t determine his fate through a simple yes-no question. Everything is premeditated, tailored to crawl under Bruce’s skin and make him ache with the afterimages of the brief happiness he’d had with Jason. So Jason doesn’t blow up the Batmobile with Bruce in it, because that would be too easy. He wouldn’t have to come to terms with the ramifications of his actions, and he’d never know that it was Jason that had killed him. He retreats, and Talia offers him the means to become a fighting force equal to his mentor. Jason accepts, and begins a globe-trotting adventure that darkly mirrors Bruce’s training before donning the cape and cowl as Batman.
Bruce had taught Jason well, but he had purposefully left holes in his education. Working with some of the most lethal—-and most rotten—-people on the planet, Jason learned how to do the dirty, ugly things that Bruce was unwilling to do. Through this, I don’t think that Jason ever considered himself a villain, or even one of the “bad” guys. His mantra was I’m doing this because you are evil, and because no one else should have to get their hands dirty. I’m a bad man, and I can do bad things. But I’m not evil. Never evil. I’m doing what has to be done. As such, he found most of his mentors to be morally lacking. If they victimized women and children—-and most of them did—-he killed them after they’d taught him what he wanted to know. Talia addressed this with him, and Jason’s response was simple. I’m not sure if Winick was purposefully mirroring the dialogue from Batman #422, but here’s a panel comparison:
Even though Jason was rapidly growing into a physically impressive young man, he still fought from the perspective of someone intimately familiar with being used and abused. He had decided that the Batman’s mercy was doing more harm than good, and he was willing to do what he would not. In Jason’s perspective, the law favored the rich and well-connected, letting true monsters go free while innocents were punished. The pimps that used women and children were more likely to have the money and connections to get them out of jail than the women and children they were profiting off of. Since Batman bowed to the flawed system, putting justice into the hands of a male-dominated establishment that routinely oppressed the true victims (due to their social class, gender, and race), Jason could no longer believe in his methods. Jason believed that the only way to right things, the only way to fix the disparity in Gotham, was to destroy the cancerous elements. Anyone who hurt the people that had no means of protecting themselves—-those that had no voice and no safety net—-deserved to die. It was the only way that he could be certain that they wouldn’t cannibalize the suffering minorities ever again. He did this because he could, and because he knew that it would twist the knife in Bruce’s back to see him cross the line.
Jason knows exactly what he’s doing. Every bullet is a choice. In Batman and Robin #23, Bruce had Jason placed in Arkham with the hope that he would be able to get the help he needed. But as Jason says, “I am not crazy. I murdered criminals. [ … ] I have passed all of my psych exams—-multiple times. I am simply homicidal. Will I kill again? Sure. Am I a bad person? Oh yeah.” He believes in protecting the innocent every bit as much as Bruce does, but his chosen method of protection is very, very permanent. He convinced himself that becoming a more effective version of Batman—-a version willing to make the hard decisions that no one else wanted to make—-was the reason that he had been brought back from the dead. So it’s not surprising that he puts himself into it with every ounce of passion that he showed back when he was a little boy in pixie boots.
Jason: I’m not like him. At best, he would have just put these dirtbags in jail. They’re wrong. And I’m putting them down.
Jason: You. I’ll be you. The you you’re supposed to be. If you had killed Joker…years ago…beyond what happened to me…you know what hell you would have saved this world. But no. His murder is a long list of sane acts you refuse to commit. You never cross that line. But I will. Death will come to those who deserve death. And death may come to those who stand in my way of doing what’s right. All of your adult life you’ve fought to save Gotham from herself. But you never, ever have understood her. She’s evil. And you have to fight her where she lives. I live there. I’ll be the one who finally brings peace.
Bruce: Loscaso said his son did a better job than had he built it himself. That his son was easily a greater artist than he had ever been. “That is a father’s greatest triumph,” he said. “To have a son surpass his own excellence.”
Jason and Bruce’s relationship is at the core of their conflict. As the saying goes, heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned. Whether you interpret their relationship as romantic or platonic, the intensity of it is unreal. Personally, I do think that Jason was in love with Bruce—-that as screwed up as he was, Bruce became the lightning rod for everything positive in Jason. He was the first stranger to truly give a crap about him, and so Jason desperately latched onto the idea of him as father-mentor-partner. If those feelings were ever sexual in nature, they would have rebounded on Jason, doubling back and turning into shame. His relationship with Bruce was one that defined him, so the idea that it wasn’t as important to him was agonizing. He told himself that if Bruce had ever truly loved him, he would have killed the Joker for taking him away. He told himself that if it had been Dick that died—-the good son, the golden child, the better person that Jason had only managed to mimic imperfectly—-Bruce would have crossed the line. He told himself that Tim was proof that Bruce hadn’t ever really wanted him—-that he’d been a charity case, a pity project to make Bruce feel better. He told himself that he had been replaceable. When he had died, Bruce had scrubbed the manor of all traces of him. As far as Jason saw it, he’d been erased and replaced.
Bruce broke Jason’s heart. Without meaning to, he’d reinforced the idea that Jason was too damaged to be good. All of that love twisted up inside of him, cut with betrayal and an awful lack of direction. Jason had never been given a fair chance, since he’d been judged by the circumstances he’d been born into and the vices of his parents. He’d had to prove that he was good, because he was a future hood until proven otherwise. Because he lived on the street, and because his father had been a criminal, Bruce had marked his trajectory. When he was adult enough to realize that—-adult enough to see all of Bruce’s shortcomings, the veneer of hero worship removed—-Jason resented it. I think that it bears mentioning that in an alternate universe where he never became Robin, Jason ended up a priest. He continued to fight, continued to survive, and pursued a vocation that allowed him to help others. At his heart, Jason genuinely wants to save people. But his checkered past experiences, the shaming and biological determinism that made him doubt his worth as a person, and the circumstances of his death and rebirth made him see killing as the only effective answer.
When he crossed the line, he did it knowing that Bruce would never look at him the same way—-that Bruce would never forgive him. The love he expresses is conditional, contingent on whether or not they kept to his rules. Jason crossed the line because he doubted that Bruce had loved him in the first place. You couldn’t lose a love that had never been there. This is obviously flawed logic—-and untrue; Bruce loved him and still considers him his son—-but I think that it was what really pushed him over the line. Jason had only believed in one person, and that man had shattered him by choosing to protect a mass murderer. I think that ultimately, Jason just wanted to feel like he was worth something. The climactic scene in Under the Red Hood supports that—-Jason sets it up to give Bruce the opportunity to make things “right”.
Jason: If you won’t kill this psychotic piece of filth…I will. You want to stop me? You’re going to have to kill me. [ … ] All you’ve got is a head-shot. I’m going to blow his addled, deranged brains out—-and if you want to stop it…you’re going to have to shoot me. Right in my face.
The incredibly elaborate setup of Under the Red Hood boils down to this moment. He puts a gun in Bruce’s hands and forces him to choose. Kill him—-prove that he meant nothing, that he didn’t love him, that his fucked up morality ranked the sickest psychopaths over the little boy he’d called his partner and son—-or watch him kill. This is intensely personal. This is a no-win situation for Bruce, and Jason set it up as such—-because he has been stuck in the hell of not knowing it the one person he adored and trusted ever loved him. Jason’s pain is palpable; he starts crying, because he knows Bruce won’t do it. Bruce throws a Batarang and slits Jason’s throat. He immediately drops and starts to bleed out. Nobody wins. Even choosing the option that Jason hadn’t laid out ended with Bruce almost killing him.
The Jason that corners Bruce in UtRH is Bruce’s worst nightmares realized. The no-kill rule is what mentally separates him from the people he takes down. If he doesn’t kill, and if he bows to due process, he is a hero. It is how he justifies the Batman—-how he keeps himself from being yet another menace in Gotham. If he works with the police and doesn’t truly take the law into his own hands, he is a hero. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want to kill. He has entertained the idea, but keeping to his self-imposed rules keeps him from the downward spiral that would end with him becoming a tyrant. Bruce isn’t blind to the ineffectiveness of his methods, but he takes it as incentive to try harder—-to find better ways of rehabilitating his enemies and containing those that are beyond rehabilitation. He relies on hope—-on helping others—-instead of fear and control. Jason is the polar opposite. He is willing to become a monster, to play God and exterminate anyone that gets in his way. Physically, Jason has grown into a man that could easily wear the cape and cowl. To be the Batman—-to make the hard decisions—-you have to have a darkness in you. Jason has that in spades. The son that he thought was the least like him has the one thing that the criminals fear more than anything else: his determination.
The hell of it is, neither of them are right. Neither of them are wrong, either. The issue is too complicated to have a clean-cut answer, but everything that Jason has become makes Bruce doubt himself. Their dichotomy is explosive, and when they butt heads, all of Gotham is caught between them. Bruce will never give Jason the satisfaction he craves—-the answer to the questions that Bruce can’t answer, even to himself. He can’t stop him. And I think that in a seriously fucked up way, Bruce is proud of him. He’s proud of his skill, of the man that he never thought Jason would have the chance to grow up to be. It’s confusing and shameful, because he shouldn’t feel that way about a man so diametrically opposed to everything he believes in, but Bruce can’t help it. He still loves him. That love freezes him in a state of option paralysis, so nothing is resolved. He turns a blind eye to Jason, which is the exact thing that he hates the most. Jason felt erased after his death—-like neither his life nor his murder meant anything. As a result, he has this pathological need to carve his existence into everything he touches. He will not be silenced, he will not be ignored, and he absolutely will not be forgotten.
“When it comes to Jason, he’s an entirely different creature to Superman or even Batman. He was born on the streets, and it’s not revenge that drives him per se. He was a kid who had a mean streak, something that had to be controlled. In truth, he only had one person in the world who cared for him. Was he a bad seed, a bad kid from the get-go? Even when he was on this road with Bruce, when he was Robin … had he lived, would he have become the Red Hood anyway? Or would he be taking the skills he was learning and doing right instead of wrong? And we’ll never know. In the experiences of coming back the way he did, did something crack? We’re never gonna know. And that kills Bruce a little bit, too. It’s his greatest failure come back to haunt him.” - Judd Winick
Fighting style: Jason is an infighter. An infighter is someone who prefers fighting at extremely close range—-like, halitosis range. For most people, keeping a certain distance between themselves and their opponent is essential. With an infighter, getting in close gives them the opportunity to limit the threat’s options—-to control their body, bust through their guard, and quickly and brutally finish a fight. Jason is different from all of the others because he fights to kill; he absolutely does not fuck around. He doesn’t allow for countermoves. He prefers hand-to-hand combat, and when he gets into it, he’s the one who engages. He comes in fast, he comes in hard, and he ends it.
Like Bruce himself, Jason has trained with the best of the worst, and I personally believe that when it comes to hand-to-hand combat, he specifically chose female instructors. We did see that in Lost Days, his hand-to-hand combat instructor was a woman, and that kind of stuck with me as curious. So I thought about it. A lot. And the ways that women respond to and engage in violence jive with Jason’s mindset, I think. He has much more respect for a hundred and thirty pound woman who can make him eat the training mat than a three hundred pound man who has steroids and ego backing him. In his experience, female instructors don’t give him bullshit—-they see the world for all the grays and dangers that Bruce instilled into his Robins, just naturally. Instead of feeding him machismo, they instilled in him the mindset of a female combatant. Boys engaging each other physically is culturally acceptable, so men have a hardwired “script” for engaging each other. They posture, they look each other in the eyes, they start a dialogue, and they usually don’t go for fatal or immediate action. But with women, if they’re being attacked—-and yes, they’re usually having to defend themselves; we know this is the norm—-they’re fighting to win at any cost, because they don’t have the advantage. Even though he IS male and huge and well-trained, Jason considers that mindset to be valuable.
Unlike Dick, Jason knew how to survive a fight before Bruce entered his life. Instead of having to teach him to engage, Bruce struggled to get Jason’s anger under control. As an adult, he uses the hell out of his aggression, because a more aggressive fighter almost always has the upper hand. He’s of the school of Whatever Works, though I feel like he has a fondness for Systema (Russian Spetsnaz hand-to-hand style derived from folk wrestling and tooled for assassination).
God only knows what Talia fed him, because he went from being the tiniest precious baby bird to being a tank with a hard-on for brutal justice. He’s still bendy and capable of being light on his feet, but he’s more comfortable with standing his ground and just ruining anything that crashes up against his mighty pecs. As far as height and weight go, he’s between Bruce and Dick—-and seeing as he’s barely out of his teens, he very well might have some more growing to do. I think that he has a tendency to slouch and roll his shoulders in—-making him seem smaller; he’s not even all the way used to his size—-so when he stands up straight it’s a little startling. He’s a complete mesomorph, more rectangular and broad than his fellow grown-up Robins. I know that this isn’t artistically depicted, but I think that he doesn’t have the typical “bodybuilder” physique. He’s got biceps and thighs that could strangle a man (and let’s be real: they probably have), but he’s anything but thin. Depending on his level of activity/obsession (I think that, when he’s engrossed with a plan or an idea, he loses a lot of his appetite. He eats to keep going, but he doesn’t waste time enjoying it. So when he’s NOT engrossed with something, he tends to eat more), he has a little belly fat. He loses and gains both muscle and fat easily. Idk, I have this ridiculous mental association with Jason as a grizzly bear. He eats what he wants, sleeps as much as he wants, and ruins your shit because he’s a bear, fuck you.
He has a straight nose, a strong jaw, thick brows, and a wide and expressive mouth. Jay’s got ugly hands. They’re big and kind of squarish, scarred from a literal lifetime of scrapping. He lost several nails clawing his way out of his grave, and though they grew back, the damage to the nailbeds left some weird ridging.
I’ve discussed my headcanon about Jason’s hair before, because I happen to really love his precious waves and ringlets. Jason’s hair is one of the greatest mysteries of the DCU, though—-is he a natural redhead? What is up with that white streak? There are many explanations for the inconsistencies of canon, but this is where I write about headcanon, so let’s just shelve that discussion for now, shall we? I think that Jason has very thick hair, and that it’s got a bit of stubborn curl to it. He’s been in the habit of keeping it short ever since his Robin days, for that very reason. On humid evenings, or after sweaty workouts, his bangs will curl up in impossible angles. When he was around thirteen, this was a big deal (and a major unfairness of the universe), because he thought that the curliness was so embarrassing. A full head of wavy cowlicks just invites people to tousle his hair in a friendly manner and tell him that he’s adorable, and fuck that.
Jason would frown at himself in the mirror after he showered (where he also practiced his tough Boy Wonder faces, modeled after Bruce’s many glowers), pawing down his wet hair. If he let it air dry, it was a goddamn curlpocalypse. He’d have to roughly brush his hair out, which just left it a dark, downy poof that required a whole lot of gel to smooth down. He tried so hard to be the Robin he thought Bruce wanted, even in the small and frivolous ways.
I love his piebald streak, and I really wish that canon would stick with it. White streaks like that are either genetic or acquired from trauma. I thought that it was telling that his streak was on the same side as his obviously bloodshot eye—-blunt force trauma to the skull could very easily produce a hank of piebald hair. The texture’s a little bit different than the rest of his hair—-coarser and straighter, the actual hairs themselves thicker than his black ones. He dyes it when he needs to blend, but it’s a physical manifestation of the damage that has been done to him. It can be covered up, but it’s still there. It always, always comes back, and it marks him as different from the rest of the world.
Okay. I. I think I need to stop. This is already so fucking long. In fact, if you read this whole thing and got to the end, you get a gold star.