Red Hood’s origin was originally a clone of Nightwing’s, but this fact gives Jason Todd a shocking connection to the Court of Owls.
while Red Hood‘s first origin in DC Comics is generally seen as far inferior to his modern-day story, the second Robin’s childhood takes on a totally different meaning once Batman’s Court of Owls are brought into the mix. Jason’s origin was originally a carbon copy of Dick Grayson’s, with the future Red Hood coming from a family of trapeze artists and spending his young years training with the circus. This origin was later changed to a hardscrabble life on the streets, differentiating Jason as his own character, and yet once the Court of Owls’ influence is considered, his similarities to Grayson take on a shocking new context.
The Court of Owls’ entry into Batman canon happened a little over a decade ago, in Batman Vol. 2 #2 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, long after Jason Todd had been introduced, retconned, and murdered by Joker – and also before Red Hood’s unwilling return to life. Given their stature as a shadowy behind-the-scenes organization, the notion that they had been there long before an audience with them remained perfectly believable. This group, which has cult-like elements, engineers superpowered assassins called Talons to do its bidding, taking out anyone who threatens their vision for Gotham City.
When examining the Talons’ origins, this is where the Court’s connection to Haly’s Circus and the Grayson and Todd families crystallizes. It’s confirmed in Nightwing #8 by Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows that Haly’s Circus has long been a training ground for Talons, with the Court of Owls orchestrating it so that their young candidates are trained in the skills necessary to become assassins. In Grayson’s case, Nightwing has the potential to beat any foe and came from a bloodline that already included Talons, as revealed in Batman #7 by Snyder and Capullo. Had Jason Todd’s initial origin remained the same, it makes sense that the similarities wouldn’t have been coincidences, but rather the result of Jason being the next generation of potential Talon recruits. It also makes sense that the Court would benefit from arranging the murder of both their parents, leaving orphaned, angry, and impressionable young acrobats to corrupt.
If this origin for Jason Todd had remained, the animosity between the Court of Owls and Batman would have grown deliciously deeper. In addition to trying to assert themselves as the most important legendary figures in Gotham City, they would surely be fuming that the Caped Crusader had stolen two promising Talon recruits from under their noses, thwarting the Court of Owls’ ultimate mission. Retcons are fun ways to add lore to a superhero’s universe, but this is proof that they don’t always need to be done if it’s a merely matter of public opinion: good writing always catches up to put the necessary pieces into place.
It is true that a closer examination of the Court of Owls’ scheme to use circuses as their own personal training grounds for Talons did not come in time to preserve Jason Todd’s near identical origin to Dick Grayson. However, in the Infinite Frontier era, where all past continuities exist somewhere in the multiverse, it’s a safe bet that somewhere out there, there’s a Talon Jason Todd whose origin lines up with the Court of Owls‘ lore. hopefully, Red Hood fans will get to meet him eventually – perhaps even as a twisted enemy for the modern-day antihero.
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