Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Writers' Block: The Complicated Relationship of Bruce Wayne and Jason Todd Part 3

This entry talks about why Jason sees Bruce as his father figure, some of the confusion that came when he became Robin and how others in the superhero community view Jason.

I've discussed the RHATO Annual #2 at length here so let's focus on what Batman means. Like most of the illusion it comes from Jasons' mind. He thinks of Batman as his dad and the dark knight treats the Outlaws like misbehaving children. Jason later says Batman was there to keep him from rebelling but that doesn't make sense. Why would the alien that mentally guided Jason want to keep him from completing his mission? It might hint at Jason feeling compelled to rebel against "dad" but I believe there's more to it. I think Batman represents the part of Jason that knows something is wrong with the set up and is trying to stop him from doing something bad. His moral compass if you will though this Batman isn't without some bad qualities. Jason still see him in a somewhat negative light since he's lectured on killing, locking them up in the cave and attacking them with batarangs. Since that's what Batman used to slit his throat in UTH that's a pretty dark turn if you think about it.

I've never seen anyone mention why Jason arguably sees Bruce as more of a father figure than his other adopted brothers. Dick and Tim both had good relationships with their parents (in Tims' case their still alive) which doesn't make either have as strong of a need for a surrogate dad as Jason. But there's more to it, at least in the post-Flashpoint world and Lobdell explores more of Jasons' family history than we EVER got prior. In RHATO #0 we get a better understanding of how he came to be by learning a little about his parents who were apparently teenagers when they had him. Which means they would likely be nearer to new 52 Bruces' age while the Graysons and Drakes are older. A fact I'm sure Bruce was aware of and must have made things different from his time with Dick.

While Dick is close to Bruce they started out on a similar note: the death of his parents and trying to bring the man responsible to justice. At the beginning Bruce is clearly in the mentor role for as Dick processes his parents deaths. Dick didn't need him to be a dad, that would come gradually over time. Once Jason's accepted into Batmans' trust he wants a more father/son relationship. Jason was in a pretty bad spot by not only having to live up to the standard Dick set but trying to win affection and attention. Goals that were near impossible with his own parents and trying to impress Bruce...well it's Bruce. He's not always the most vocal person which lead to Jason lashing out as Robin. On the subject of him becoming Robin there's another detail I'd like to call attention to: how he gained the role in the first place.

Now ignoring Jokers' claim of creating him there's the fact that Jason is the only current Robin that Bruce chose for the role. Dick basically discovered the truth and snuck out in costume to assist Batman. Tim asks for the job and Dick gives the role to Damian who previously tried to take it by force. In the original Post-Crisis telling Batman sees Jason has good morals and fighting abilities before he decides to take him in. RHATO #0 has Bruce and Alfred asking him after he stays at the manor for some time. Secret Origins #5 takes a curious twist since Jason seems to be somewhat upset since Batman dropped him off at the manor. We learned in past RHATO issues that Jason always had trouble sleeping and continued to even after moving in.

Alfred suspects this and notes that Jason is up earlier than usual. For some reason Jason tells Bruce he's feeling better and he'll be leaving. What? Wasn't Jason there "officially"? Based on what Alfred says it seems like Jason was there for at least a few days. Why would he feel better? Did he have injuries from his encounter with Batman? It sounds like he was trying to sneak out before Alfred caught on then he decided to just tell Bruce he was leaving. A different take from Lobdells' other origin for sure. When they tell him the truth then offer him the job as Robin it has the vibe of them doing so to make him stay. Jason is more reluctant in the first origin but what if he felt like he has to take the role in both versions?

Think of it from the perspective of a kid that used to live in the bad part of Gotham. Nothing comes free and while part of him might want to be Robin another might think he needs to be. That maybe this is a job to pay for his room and board. Just before the reveal pages Jason was thinking that they were going to kick him out if he didn't leave. This could add to the confusion he feels and uncertainty over who he's supposed to be. Is Jason Todd a son to Bruce Wayne, a partner to Batman, both, neither? Just a replacement until Dick decides he wants to work with Bruce again? He has no clear understanding of what his place is or if it will even last. At least he had some idea where he stood before coming to the manor. It's no wonder he took off once he learned about his mom.

At the moment we don't have full scope of what heroes think of Jason although some of it could be them backing off because they respect Batman. Supergirl has been written having two opposing views in the B/S annual and her own title. Superman knows he was a hero as Robin which combined with Batmans' vouching for him seems to be the only thing keeping him from turning him in. The Justice League acted like it was no big deal when Jason was in the cave. Wonder Woman had no problem calling the Outlaws in to help during Superman Doomed. We haven't seen or really heard what Diana thinks of Jason but it's possible she would understand him better than most. Diana has mentioned under different writers that she is willing to kill and if Batman was willing to he'd be able to prevent further tragedies.

So far the worst treatment Jason has received has been from most of his surrogate family with Tim really being the only one that makes an effort. It's not surprising that Tim's also the one he gets along with the best. It should be noted that with the exception of Damian no one says anything against Jason when Bruce is around. The two still argue in front of everyone with Jason always willing to point out when Bruce is in the wrong. While others can get to Bruce with their words no one really seems to get under his skin as much as Jason. Likely because despite Batmans' habit of victim blaming he really does harbor guilt over how he's treated his wayward son. Not to mention Jason has a talent for pinpointing just what his mentor did wrong and why something won't work. This might be a subtle nod to their different backgrounds as Jason is more grounded in reality more often than not.


  1. Great analysis, not a lot to add but there are some points I believe I can help with.

    You mention about Jason's exchange with Alfred (the morning before the reveal) being odd. I don't think Bruce or Alfred ever thought of kicking Jason out, so his intention of leaving the manor could be more Jason's insecurities and guilt. He doesn't feel he belongs there and believes the best is for him to leave on his own accord.

    Is not clear but is likely Jason is still convalecent from the wounds that got him on Leslie's clinic on the first place so that's why says "he's better now" when talking to Bruce.

    The general outlook of the superhero community regarding Jason is one of the most intriguing aspects of the N52 and one I wish is cleared soon. Certainly isn't Lobdell's fault since the Batman corner of the DCU is pretty isolated, making very hard to properly define how it relates with the larger picture.

    The different persectives between Jason and Bruce on the N52 are one of the aspects that the critcis and detractors of RHATO always miss. For them Jason is a mindless soldier that obeys Bruce's every command when that is far from being true... even if is diminished on Jason's appearances on other Bat Books.

  2. I didn't mean to imply they were going to kick him out. I saw that scene as them knowing they had to be careful in gaining Jasons' trust. They must have saw something in him to be willing to trust him with the secret and offer him a shot at being Robin. What I found odd was Jason getting ready to take off and no one tried to talk him down from it. They might have had their reasons but it would give him the wrong impression.

    I thought Jason had already healed from that. There's no mention of him being beaten up in Secret Origins, just that Leslie took him in.

    True although some characters vary because of the writers like Supergirl. Johns, Pak and Tomasi have had heroes acting like it was no big deal but you never know.

    I can kinda see them not getting why Jason acts a certain way if they haven't seen the whole picture. I hated what Tomasi did on Batman and Red Hood #20. What made it worse was how it was swept away like it was nothing. But he still showed the conflict pretty well at the start of the issue. Jason flat out said that they weren't good yet even though they had just made up. It's a work in progress.

    It's not a relationship where Jason blindly obeys. Actually it's a give and take. Jason doesn't kill around other bats and Batman doesn't stop him from doing things his way when Jasons' away from them.