Thursday, August 8, 2013

Jason Todds' friendship with Roy Harper

Since I did a couple metas bits looking into the boys relationship with Kori I thought I should give this a look too.

Prior to the relaunch Jason Todd didn't have too many peers. Perhaps this had something to do with Bruces' frustrations with Dick Grayson being around the Titans. Outside his own (brief) missions with the team Jason wasn't shown spending much time with other young heroes. Even that wasn't close to having real friends. There was a gap between their ages and his after all. I believe there was only one back up story that ever showed what it was like for Jason in school. In it he struggles to keep the friends he has although he fears having to stop them if they go through with their plans to change their grades. It also shows that his efforts to keep his own grades up while being the boy wonder give many the impression that he doesn't want to have fun.

Pre-Crisis Jason teamed up with Eddie Bloomberg (Kid Devil.) They didn't see each other often but they kept in touch as pen pals. This was brought into the post-crisis canon as Eddie recalled being friends with the second Robin, apparently never learning his real name.

Whatever the reason for it Jason didn't form any close relationships with people around his age as Robin. The friendships he did form weren't firmly established or brief, usually with older people like Harvey Bullock. In general Jason never really connected with men as he did with women. Lobdell has mentioned that it was intentionally done with his version in regards to Jason's motherly attachment to his teacher Durca but this has always been the case for the character post-crisis. He's not as comfortable with men likely because of the poor impressions men in his life left him with. His father, Willis Todd, wasn't a great guy even before the relaunch, usually absent from home for long periods. Willis' behavior helps shape his son by showing what not to do. Given what was shown in RHATO #0 I don't think it's a small leap to assume his mother, Catherine, started using drugs because of how Willis treated her. (*1) Most of the positive people in Jasons' life were women. Despite his mothers' addiction Jason loved her. Durca, Leslie, Talia and Kori are just a few women that took him in when he needed help. In one case (preboot) Barbara Gordon acted as his tutor.

Although there have been positive male figures they were often problematic. Writers can't seem to determine if Dick and him were brothers or never reached that closeness. Both harbored resentment that Bruce only made worse. Bruce himself was often distant and emotionally cut himself off when Jason needed him. I suppose Alfred would have to be his best male role model, which is interesting as he felt more compelled to hang out with him in RHATO #0 than Bruce prior to finding out his Batman identity. The two still seem very close in RHATO #17, #18 and Justice League #19. The only problem I ever saw in their bond was the sense of betrayal Jason seemed to feel when Alfred revealed personal things about him to Bruce in Death in The Family. The friendship he has with Tim is still growing but we all know it didn't start off so great.

That being said it makes perfect sense for Jason to brush Roy off. It may of took awhile to explain how Kori and him interact but it was apparent that only Roy was curious who Jason Todd really was. He's constantly trying to figure this out in the first arc. Questions Kori never seems concerned with, which makes sense in hindsight as Jason already told her "everything" on her island. Roy didn't have a moment like that where Jason's emotionally vulnerable enough to spill his secrets and ask for an opinion. While he's open with Kori he kept his guard up around Roy. Everything Roy learned had to be picked up on the way and it's simply because he's trying to figure this person out. Lobdell himself puts it best:
"So for better or for worse, Roy, out of sheer force of will, has kind of knocked down whatever barriers Jason might have erected over the years -- and really is the first person not to be intimidated by Jason or his past. We've even been instances of Roy listen to Jason tell some of his more horrific adventures, and Roy just thinks the whole thing is a scream. It's a thing where having Roy in his life allows Jason to understand that life is too serious to be taken too seriously."
He's right of course, although Roy isn't sure who Jason is for the first few issues he's never intimidated by him. In #4 Roy calls him Jaybird and Jason half threatens him to get Roy to stop calling him that. Of course Roy knows it's more of a joke since he never takes it seriously and proceeded to call him Jaybird ever since without Jason doing anything about it. Roy obviously had a vague idea of who Jason is based on what he's heard about him but he doesn't know how much of it is true. According to the exchange they have in the first issue Jason and Roy have met prior to when RHATO started. It sounded like Jason told Roy that he was on his own and refused to be partners, likely meeting him as Red Hood. Their meeting(s) didn't seem to give Roy the best insight. While Jason admits in his narrative that he knows Roy is a good person he still tries to maintain an emotional barrier between them. By letting Roy assume he's romantically involved with Kori (at least in the first issue), that he doesn't care about his family (*2) and trying to do everything by himself.

Roy knows not to judge others since he's hardly one to talk but he kind of buys into it for awhile. He keeps going back to the rumors he heard about Jason being crazy and the things Jason told him. As a result he's shocked to discover those things aren't true. More over he's pleased to learn these details about the guy he's trying to be friends with. When he finds out Jason saved a village Roy can't get over it or wait to tell Kori that Red Hood has a "soft gooey center." In his whispered conversations with Kori he usually assumes Jason will lash out with violence or refused the call of arms of the bat family. But Jason doesn't act the way he thinks he will and Roy knows he still has a lot to learn about him.

Jason doesn't ask for help from Roy, at first he was going to leave to take on the Untitled himself. Sometimes he feels like the other two are tagging along, that they won't let him handle things by himself. Nevertheless he still finds himself warming up to them despite his best efforts to keep them from getting too close. Over time Roy figures out that things are more complex than he first suspected. He's able to understand that there's more to Jason than rage, that he has a reason for doing what he does. At heart Jason does empathize with people and wants to save them. This is a different sort of empathy than Dick Grayson has. With Dick it's because he's a nice guy that doesn't want bad things to happen to anyone. With Jason it's because he understands what it's like to be scared, to be a victim and wants to spare others from similar fates. As Roy and oddly enough Joker both put it he wants to "set things right." His intentions are noble, even Batman has said he can't argue with the results just the methods. Roy doesn't really mind any of said methods, at least not yet, since he kills when needed too. (*3)

Tynion added a twist to what was previously written by showing that before Roy tried to go out in a blaze of glory against a sympathetic Killer Croc he met Jason as Robin. Returning Roys' things to him Jason offers his friendship which the archer turned down due to previously being burned by others. While I have a hard time believing Roy would show surprise at Jasons' good nature under Lobdell if they met like this I guess I can chalk it up to negative things he heard about Red Hood. It's not a perfect fit but there's some wiggle room. There are moments that Lobdell wrote where Roy's amused to see boy wonder like traits come out of Jasons' mouth. (The time he said "treasure trove of technology" comes to mind.) Most have noted, such as Jason himself (RHATO #2) that Roys' pretty clingy with his friends. With Kori he's been more laid back, at least until #20, but their romantic relationship was undefined. There wasn't much pressure from either party although both expressed interest.

Jason was more aloof and Roy had to make more of a effort. This resulted in him being more buddy-buddy, getting in his personal space and other things that made Jason grouchy. This would eventually succeed at breaking the ice enough to form a strong bond. His need for Jasons' friendship likely stemmed from him being ditched by pretty much everyone in his life after he fell off the wagon and a fear of being alone. They already shared horrible experiences as sidekicks as well as abandonment issues, likely another reason he felt so connected. The meeting between the two while Jason was still Robin gives another explanation. It's actually Jason that seemed to plant this idea in Roys' head that "everyone needs friends" and offered to be there for him. In the first issue the archer immediately started saying they were a great team and pointed out that Jason said he wouldn't get involved if he got in trouble yet he was the one coming to Roy's aid. This implies the meeting affected him on a deeper level and gives another point of view for his clingy nature where Jasons' concerned. Not just because Jason seemed to be the most resistant to them hanging together but because it was his idea.

Although it should be noted that wasn't Roy's most cherished memory, it was of Killer Croc refusing to kill him and offering support. Why would he pick one over the other? While I think Roy's stubborn I don't think he would have ignored Jason's attempt at friendship completely. It's not stated but I assume that sometime between rejecting help and the Croc encounter Roy heard about Jason's death. Maybe the idea of going out like a hero inspired him to attack our scaly lizard man. While both memories are bittersweet the meeting with Croc was Roy at the very end of his rope getting help from a very unlikely source that actually turned his life around. Even at the point he was hanging out with Jason again Roy didn't know if they would grow closer. All he knows for sure is that he missed out when Jason died.

Roy loss that chance since it's revealed (through a untrustworthy source) that the same night they met was the same night Jason discovered his mother was alive. He died within 24 hours of them meeting. But Jason returned from the dead and Roy had another shot. Which is another reason for his clinginess since he actually got another impossible chance to make amends. Believing that all three of them need each other and that their bond is beneficial. According to Ducra he has a "deep love" for his friend that helped him out so much and has shown that he's willing to do anything for him. Over time Jason has warmed up enough to express concern over Roy and compliment his achievements. He's more open and willing to have fun with others than he previously was. This is the best friendship he's ever had with another guy and only Kori rivals Roy for the role for best friend. (*4)

*1 Willis wasn't actually shown as physically abusive but he was seen arguing with his wife to the point they both neglected Jason as a toddler. Jason referred to him as a ladies man and it was shown that his dad made plans to get together with a nurse while Catherine was in labor. Although not outright stated it's also likely Willis gave her the drugs since that could be one of his many jobs. In RHATO #18 Jason mentioned trying to sleep with bruises but again it's wasn't confirmed if Willis was inflicting the abuse although he did apparently threaten to get rid of his "two mistakes."

*2 Jason lays it on thick here. He casually mentions how he tried to kill Dick and Dick tried to put him in jail. In #17 it's shown that while their not best buds neither shows the other any true ill will. Then there's the bit where Jason tells Roy that Gotham sucks and basically says the bat family are worse than the baddies. Yet he still responds to their distress signals.

*3 It should be mentioned this wasn't the case in DC Presents #17 where he said some odd things about against guns and killing. Which is strange since Jason uses guns, as did Roy in the last 'verse and the Outlaws all kill. In fact it looks like Roy might have killed more people than Jason whenever the group fights. Most of the people killed at the prison have been shot with arrows, then there was Suzie Sus' gang, after that I don't think they killed anyone.

*4 Tynion has written a friend Jason had prior to becoming Robin named Chris. This will be expanded on in the Year Zero tie in but it certainly didn't end well.

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