Sunday, August 6, 2017

Who I think Black Mask was in RHATO ?

This is the actual identity of the character of my theory I had along with the many clues I saw in RHATO Rebirth and my thoughts.

As I stated previously I don't think Scott Lobdell was writing Roman Sionis as Black Mask and had someone else in mind. Someone that would allow a deeper exploration of who Jason Todd is with an emotional connection to his past. Given a talk I had about it and some recent speculations I thought I might as well post this.

Now when you first hear it I know it sounds dumb because of how this character in place of Sionis has been written previously but let me explain first. Fair warning: it's going to be a long entry.

I believe the new Black Mask was going to be Willis Todd. Crazy right? Well let's get into what I believe were hints.

The Phrasing

This was the one that really made me go "oh crap this does make sense !" Here Jason is recalling his first meeting with Batman and what his life was like. Now in the original comics Jason's (step) mom was dead and Jason assumed his dad was in jail only to learn Willis died when he was Robin. Lobdell had Willis taken into custody in front of Jason in a flashback in his first volume of RHATO and was said to have died in jail. What stood out about this Rebirth version is the fact Jason is narrating his past and he doesn't mention the fact Willis is dead. What he says is "Dad was in prison for life." This detail also lets you know Willis must have done something major for that sentence. In old canon Willis was in and out of jail throughout Jason's life.

Sure past Jason didn't know about Willis at the time but shouldn't he say something along the lines of "and little did I know my dad was dead too"? Not stating it puts the idea into our heads that it's possible that Willis is still alive. That maybe canon has changed. Having Jason then say he was on his way to joining his dad in jail also puts Jason at a juncture with his dad and Batman both representing different paths he can take. Made even more poignant since both Batman and Black Mask are father figures in this arc that want him to go a certain way.

Not long afterward Jason mentions Bruce and cuts himself off before finishing a sentence. It's obvious he was going to say Bruce was the closest thing he had to a father. This still informs how close he was to his own dad and that there's problems with Bruce since he doesn't feel confident enough to finish that thought.

Calling attention to family DNA

I saw a review that said that Jason used what Bruce taught him in this scene to cure the mayor. Only that's not quite right. Long before we learned Simon Amal created the cure this panel caught my eye. This panel is here to show that Jason learned a great deal but the specifics was what made my interest perk up in the reread. In a mystery you never reveal something like this unless it's for a reason and good mysteries have it hidden in plain sight presented as something seemingly unimportant. Jason is learning how to tell someone is related based on DNA not how to detect illness or create a cure. Why that specific ?

The Two Face Encounter

In the original tale Jason fights Two Face then learns Harvey killed his father which is what sets him off the next time they meet. This version has Jason freaking out over the fact Bruce was almost killed. Now Lobdell said Willis was supposed to have died in jail in RHATO VOL.1 but how Willis died was never stated. (*1) Anyway it was very noticeable to me that the scene didn't play out the same. I assumed it was brought up to show "Jason lashed out in fear" but why have that specific scene and do it differently? Sure Willis was confirmed as a jerk in RHATO VOL.1 making it seem likely Jason wouldn't care but there's no real mention of his death here. Was this put in to hint he didn't die and show Bruce has the role of father now?

The Importance of Showing a Henchman

This isn't needed to figure out the truth. You definitely wouldn't if this was the sole example. But Lobdell made a point to mention in an interview that he wanted to show a henchman since their part was important to super villains. I mention this because in past canon Willis worked for Two Face. I was curious why Lobdell previously made him a drug dealer in New 52 as henchman seemed to be a better fit. Anyway a henchman would learn a lot from their boss.

Worth noting that Willis was previous known for running numbers and boosting cars. Willis has shown an interest in teaching Jason his job.

The Red Hint

In the flashbacks there's a muted tone to the colors with just the red standing out. This is mostly to have Jason be more noticeable although Artemis has this happen too. Needless to say it's done with characters that are important and thus far has been tied to the leads. (Minus Bizzaro who has few actual memories at this point thus has no flashbacks in this arc.) When Ma Gunn tells her story of meeting Black Mask? She's not the important one, it's the red in the wine that Black Mask offers that stands out. We're reminded of this visual clue in present time when he sits with Jason with wine glasses prepared. Later on he wears a red tie and they sit in opposing red chairs.

Black Mask Wanting a Heir

This is emphasized a lot not just with them stating it but also with the way Black Mask treats Jason. BM honestly seems to enjoy his company and gets in his personal space. Having it in the text gave me an inkling but I didn't connect the dots for how it's possible until the reread. Why does he really need a heir? How many super villains besides Ra's Al Ghul need a heir? Was that a hint because it's all about the bloodline? Did he just want his son by his side or would anyone do? But let's break down each scene with them.

Jason Attacks The Limo

At this point it's obvious Black Mask knows something. It raised my suspicions right away since he wasn't surprised to see Red Hood. That suggests he knows Jason well enough to think he'd show. I suspected he knew the identity of Red Hood here. Logically he shouldn't want to work with someone that messed with his plans already. Yet he claps and is downright ecstatic when Red Hood arrives.

"You're everything I hoped you'd be." Doesn't that sound like a proud papa?

Familiar Scenario

There are some red herrings like Jason referring to himself as an orphan earlier and Black Mask saying he didn't have any children. In the first case it's what Jason believes is the truth and in the second Black Mask doesn't want to reveal his identity at all. More on that later. That said the scene where they look over Gotham talking about it in female pronouns and BM suggests he knows how to treat her? That felt just like Jason talking to Batman right after he reveals himself in UTH. This might be appealing to Jason in terms he thinks will win him over. Treating a woman well, giving him a father and mentioning how people always disappoint. They might just think alike in this respect. Or it's a little of both.

It might not of been Lobdell's intention but it also gave me a Lion King vibe reminding me of the "everything the light touches" bit. Black Mask is showing what he sees as his kingdom that he wants Jason to inherit.

Originally I was confused over the line about never being interested in dating. Yeah it could have to do with his Gotham speech but it still felt weird. Roman and Willis both had love interests in the past. BM does mention how people disappoint so maybe that's why he had so many flings mentioned in RHATO #0? Or was that just something Jason assumed? Did Catherine disappoint him or possibly Shelia making him not invest much in one particular lover?

Note that this BM and Jason (in UTH) mention different things about Gotham in their talks. BM is positive blaming others for the city's faults while Jason claimed it was evil to its core. Possibly their views depended on their audience and how their life was at the time. BM is getting everything he wants while Jason was previously trying to make a point on how little Bruce understands the city. In a way BM is too as he suggests few know how to treat Gotham right.

Spunky Kid Amuses The Tough Guy

The Batman/Black Mask father comparison really comes into play with their reactions to Jason. In old canon Batman laughed when Jason took his tires. He smiles then later laughs in this canon and Black Mask laughs when Jason makes a sarcastic remark. Roman Sionis wasn't amused with with Red Hood during UTH. This Black Mask is always so proud of Jason, giving him tons of praise and generally seems to like being around him. I quickly brushed aside the "no children of my own" bit as a mislead.

Still the point of the heir bit should be Jason trying to impress Black Mask. Roman has no reason to feign amusement and it's not in his nature.

The First Test

It's important to note despite showing fatherly affection Black Mask is constantly testing Jason to see how loyal he will be. The first test is to kill the henchmen which Jason declines. We know how Black Mask deals with those that don't do what he wants since he then takes out his own his men when they fail. He doesn't get mad at Jason though, he just says a man with his own set of morals shows character. Sounds kind of parental doesn't it? It's obvious from this scene that he knows something, wants Jason to work for him and/or needs Jason around.

Later on he doesn't tell Jason what the cargo he's getting is. I'd guess that it's because he didn't want Jason telling Batman. Really the reason he gives for Jason even being there makes no sense. Looking back at this after BM reveals he knew Jason was trying to stop him gives this scene more meaning. BM targeted Ma Gunn because he knew it would get Jason involved. Which means Willis either kept tabs on Jason after he went to prison and "died" or went to the effort of researching it. Given the letters Gunn has I'd say the former.

He timed the attack a week after he extended an invite and received no reply. Gunn thinks there's no way BM knew about her licence and that he would have killed the children if she had been approved. We know he used to have control of the mayor so it stands to reason he could of known. Jason wouldn't be as easy to predict if pushed too far plus the deaths would attract other vigilantes. As the doomed henchmen says they could have killed Gunn at the restaurant. She wasn't taken out because Black Mask wanted to use her.

He might have even waited for Jason to appear since Jason says he just happened to be in the right place. Then again he does seem to have good insight on Jason. Knowing his son saved Gunn he still nudges him to kill the men. That's a twisted game Willis is playing and he prepared for the rejection too. He exploded their heads via their masks. Remind you of anything? That's a smaller scale version of Jason having an exploding helmet. In fact Jason used that once after one of his men died to Roman Sionis dressed as him. Neat comparison if Black Mask isn't Roman. Lobdell wants to show Jason is good at strategy ? Well so is his dad. Todd does mean Fox and a clever or wily person after all.

Watching the Fight with Artemis

This has Black Mask watching with great interest. When Artemis is stunned BM claps again and talks up Jason's achievements. I already had my theory at this point but what he says further cemented it. He calls Jason "son" well why would he instantly be so chummy with someone he presumably didn't know? Why make him an heir this soon? The comparison with Batman comes right afterwards making the father/son nods more apparent.

Sure he could be using Jason but it felt like there was more there. He also puts his arm around Jason which might not be a clue but it certainly has more depth when you suspect something. BM promises there will be no more secrets between them. Except Black Mask will continue to keep them.

Black Mask's "life work" also stuck out given Sionis' old origins. Sure Jason earlier mentions the Sionis being a crime family in this version but we never get more information on that. Roman Sionis didn't seem to have much ambition given his "sudden" success and Ma Gunn's reaction to it. We do know Willis has at least been involved with criminal activity since his teens.

Tucking Jason into Bed

This is creepy with Roman Sionis but Lobdell didn't seem to want to go there. During the DOTF tie ins there were some noticeably disturbing vibes with Joker spying on Jason and undressing Tim (twice) when he was knocked out. This scene doesn't have the same feeling. Most super villains don't even treat their employees right yet Red Hood gets a comfy room to sleep off the effects of the gas? Jason has his top, jacket, gloves, helmet and hostlers removed yet everything else is on. This suggests Black Mask wanted Jason to be comfortable and made sure he didn't get the wrong message by keeping everything else on.

Willis might not have been the greatest dad but who do you think of when you hear someone tucking someone else in? A parent. This would also be a nice parallel as RHATO #0 VOL. 1 mentions Jason making it a habit of taking care of his parents like dragging his drunk dad to bed to sleep it off. Now Willis could take care of his son. Roman Sionis would have no reason go to these lengths and definitely not for reason he gives at the end of the arc.

What we see of Jason's possessions are also nearby with the holsters hanging on a chair and clothes neatly folded. Look at the care they were handled with. His broken helmet has been replaced by a spare. Jason isn't sure if it's a replicated version or one of his and wonders how many steps ahead Black Mask is. BM says he used Jason to trigger defense mechanisms in the train car but we never saw anything but the gas. He claims he used it to knock them both out so was that a lie? It sounds like it.

The plot thread about Black Mask knowing more about Jason is teased here but we never get any answers in this arc for how that's possible. I think originally BM did break into the bunker and take Jason's helmet.

The Comparison Between Batman and Black Mask

Where Batman doubts Jason we have Black Mask giving him nothing but constant support. Symbolically this would work nicely but while Jason may appreciate the encouragement it's meaningless if he doesn't feel conflicted. He has no emotional reason to want to join Roman Sionis. That's why Willis Todd would work so well. By being alive he challenges Bruce in the role of Jason's father and his viewpoint.

The influence Bruce has as Jason's father figure is apparent especially at the start of the series. It's not a perfect relationship as Bruce doesn't fully trust him and Jason is trying to prove he can be valuable in a way no one else can be. On the flip side BM gives him more freedom and encouragement. Knowing where Black Mask would be based on guessing he's different than Bruce is a nice touch. Meta-wise it's a good character detail on Willis if you think about how he sees the city and how long he's been waiting to have this kind of power.

There's also a nice subtle verbal tick I like in this scene. I've noticed Lobdell likes to write Jason saying "eh?" a lot. Black Mask also does this when greeting Jason when he says: "Awake at last, eh?" It's a small thing but it's the little details that make it work. (Well other characters say it but it's mostly been Jason.)

Showing off

Once Jason is up Black Mask wastes no time reinforcing how impressed he is and how much he appreciates him. When Jason asks about Artemis he brushes it off like she's unimportant and he can handle it. My first impression was BM not wanting Jason to dwell on her especially when he wants to show him something. But the more I thought on it I also see it as BM trying to impress him by implying he can deal with an Amazon too. He's self assured here because he's also in a position of power. Sharing a moment of triumph with Jason, giving out some information and showing off what he has to offer.

Jason does notice how much wealth, tech and staff Black Mask has. Which is probably one of the reasons BM wanted to bring him into the lab. He doesn't react when Jason shows Bizarro compassion because he knows that's what Jason is like.

I think I should also mention the great body language Soy has between Black Mask and Jason. I can instantly tell based on how Jason is walking that he's the younger of the two. Black Mask is usually gesturing showing his power and control. Yet at the same time he has a casual side that slips out. When he's leaning up against the car with his arms crossed watching Jason fight Artemis. Throwing an arm over Jason. It makes me wonder how much is a projection of who he wants to be. Jason on the other hand mostly has the attitude yet vulnerability slips through.

Trusting Red Hood's Instincts

Black Mask makes Bizarro watch recordings of Superman to get him to learn his powers. I especially love the line about BM being used to playing the cards that have been dealt. It's so much more meaningful if you suspect who's really under the mask. When Jason suggests he tries something to get through to Bizarro BM has no problem with it. Likely knowing that Jason does have some experience with Superhero/Supervillain handling. It also highlights the difference between Batman and Black Mask, which was probably done intentionally by Willis.

Bad at Family ?

Jason goes to a toy store to get something for Bizarro and thinks he sucks at family stuff in general. This is partly because he feels guilty for not being able to go to Tim's funeral. We know Tim and him were close but it still seems weird to link that with Bizarro at this stage. Bizarro hasn't really acknowledged Jason yet. While he has felt a connection to the clone the way this is written brings back his memories of his home life. If Jason is thinking about his home life so much this usually means there's a reason for it from a storytelling perspective. A set up for something to come.

Is his bad home life the reason for Willis treating him so well now? Or is BM just using Jason's desire for family to get what he wants?

Jason gets a toy for Bizarro after thinking how he has no concept of how family or even a childhood should be. He never had a toy. Then we have BM making a pretty big effort to act fatherly towards Jason...

Mentions of Jason's Past

Issue #3 has Jason mentioning more of his childhood like telling Black Mask about hiding under the table to call 911. While it helps flesh his character out more it's not needed for this particular story. At least not on the surface if this was in fact about Roman Sionis. This tells you Jason didn't have a happy childhood, he was poor and he was in constant danger. Without filling in all the blanks it paints a certain picture. Hiding under the table is mentioned right after Black Mask tries to bond by relating his family (no idea if Willis meant his folks or Roman's though neither seems likely) to them. That memory it's self is a callback to an issue that heavily featured Willis.

Second Test: Family Dinner?

As mentioned it's very odd that Roman Sionis would fondly recall anything about his family. How Black Mask addresses Jason is interesting as he's not just acting friendly but also probing for answers. If he knows who Red Hood is why get a retina scan? Maybe to test out a theory since he only asks how close Red Hood is to Batman. If he went into the bunker he knows Jason had a good relationship with Batman because he saw the picture. If it was a falling out he can use that to his advantage. The answer could inform him how much Jason is trusting him by whether he completely lies. I do wonder how much this BM hates Batman and why. Sure we can guess but knowing the full story would be incredible.

Watching Jason interact with Bizarro

This is a moment that affects all the leads and Black Mask. Jason successfully calms Bizarro down and talks to him about Gotham. For Black Mask it's important because he sees Jason in a different light. He sees him as someone that can control Bizarro and someone who honestly has a passion for the city like he does. An actual kindred spirit. Which relates back to his speech about the city in #1. It's also another solid link to Batman and his connection to Gotham. Witnessing Jason here is what gets BM to finally see Jason as more than a heir and decide to finally drop part of the pretense later on. But you have to wonder what he's thinking as Jason notes feeling BM watching him the entire time.

The Breakfast Talk

The scenes in #4 are filled with lots of incredible nuggets like Black Mask pointing out that they both feel lonely in their line of work. Something I could go on about for ages. BM is shown looking out over the city and preparing for this meal before Jason arrives. This meeting is important to him and it shows. I wanted to elaborate on this scene in my review but I had to restrain myself.

BM sits down to dine with Jason twice at this point. If you read the previous Outlaws volume you know Jason has food issues as one of his greatest fears growing up was starving. (*2) In fact Batman bonds with him after the tire theft meeting by eating with him. Sharing a meal is also how Tim Drake goes from information broker to brother in the first volume. Food represents a comfort as well as a necessity. As Black Mask Willis is making a point to share these meals together. Also remember Jason saying he had to hide under the table at home? Willis is intentionally having civil conversations directly related to discussing their relationship under the pretense of being someone else. Art-wise I love that there's not even any space under the table.(*3)

When Jason requests Black Mask remove his mask it's refused. Roman Sionis was supposed to have the ebony mask carved from his father's casket burned onto his face. That character was never shy about showing that look off as he considered it his real self. Of course this might seem like a small change in line with Rebirth where he could be uncomfortable with the look. That's not the case. Black Mask doesn't think Jason would ever want to see him and the way he says it gives you some insight to how Jason feels about Willis. He knows his kid wouldn't want to see him. Why would Jason care how Sionis looks and why would Sionis hide it? Why would he just reveal it later anyway? That makes this moment meaningless where the Willis reveal would have a huge impact.

BM admits that he was trying to use Jason as a pawn. Yes I could see how he thought he could control first. But he knew from the first test he couldn't get Red Hood to do everything he wanted. Black Mask mentions seeing things he could exploit. Like Jason needing to prove himself which he exploited by constantly reassuring him. But he never touched the Batman button except to question the bat symbol. Maybe his way of changing the city was a more subtle way of showing their differences? Remember Roman would be more obsessed with Bruce not Jason.

Back to the praise he gives, yes it's partly to manipulate Jason but I felt like it was at least partly true. He says things that Jason doesn't understand the full weight of like a closely guarded secret. Like his first comments to Jason are him being everything he hoped for and later calling him son. There's also been a lot of plurals Black Mask has been using to make their team up be more of a joint venture.

Jason gets ready for an attack only to be shocked when he hears BM sees him as a kindred spirit and friend. Given how BM has acted I did wonder how much he truly wanted Jason to be his heir. Look at the care he gave in the tucking in scene and the attention he gave in general. That's going out of his way and I can't see that being Roman Sionis.

Truth and Lies

After they leave the table their talk is filled with a mixture of the truths and lies. Actually that's been the norm since Jason was recruited. Still Jason remarks about his home and I did ponder the possibility that on some sub-conscious level he suspected Willis. Because Jason normally doesn't talk much about his home life. It's usually a rare thing for him to say anything about it to anyone else.

BM plays up being Roman Sionis and discussing the problems in the Sionis household. While we don't know what happened to Willis' parents I could see him using Jason's feigned ignorance of the Sionis fates to reinforce that he means business. Reminding Jason of the men he killed for failing him. Although Jason doesn't call him out on being so lenient on him later on. What I found more poignant was how BM uses this to give some honest fatherly advise. He can plainly see Jason has problems letting go of the past.

So he tells Jason not to dwell on regrets or hold grudges but to work on fixing his problems. I just find it funny because this is said after saying how Roman killed his parents which almost makes it sound like he is encouraging the same behavior. Would Willis not regret the past though?

Jason is seen in the flashback under the table with Sparky while Willis and Catherine fight. Notice Willis' color theme and how dressed up he is? The angle of the table also keeps his head from being seen. This a nod to what Jason told BM earlier about his family life but it's also a callback to RHATO #0 VOL. 1. The issue where we see Willis in the most. It makes me think the identity changed to Roman at the last moment with the last page of #5 of this arc.

Making the Offer

From here he wants Jason to broaden his thinking in how to gain power. Black Mask appeals to him by saying how much better the city would be without the maniacs. More than ever Jason realizes how much that sounds like himself and his arguments with Batman. (*4) BM finally drops part of the pretense and admits he knows Red Hood has been trying to stop him all along. He also calls Jason by his name saying that he's always known and went out of his way to ensure that he was recruited.

In all honesty I don't know any other conclusion I could have reached if I didn't pick up the previous clues. Because there's no other answer I could come up with for how Black Mask knows so much about Jason given what was already shown. (*5) Anything other than Willis being Black Mask seems like a huge stretch at this point. If Roman Sionis knew wouldn't he be more interested in hurting Bruce with that information? Roman was forced to be Bruce's friend since they were kids and hated him. As soon as he had an excuse he tried to kill Bruce. I can't see Roman playing it out this long. He's previously been shown as rash, short tempered and not being one to plot things out like this BM does here.

Being able to pinpoint what someone will do suggests he knows Jason well. As does the fact that he's "always" known who Red Hood was. This also alludes to a similar moment in canon when Bruce had a good idea when Jason came back but didn't accept it until he had proof. After refusing to join BM in taking over Gotham Jason brings up their earlier conversation asking what he'll do when people disappoint him. That along with the father/son theme throughout the arc really enforce the direction, at least for me. BM even flat out says Jason is just letting himself be controlled by Batman to earn his father's love.

The unmasking really feels like it should have been a huge moment and was changed last moment in RHATO #5 vol. 2. But even still if you are like me then you might be confused how this fits in with Willis' portrayal under Lobdell. Well I gave it some thought.

Previously Hinted?

Back when the Death of Family tie in was first written I thought it seemed more than a little odd. I don't know how involved Lobdell was in the Teen Titans issues as Fabian Nicieza was also credited. Lobdell might have just written the outline. Joker claims to have kidnapped Jason and Tim's fathers to force them to fight. Jason buys time by fighting Tim claiming it wouldn't surprise him if his dad was alive since Joker was trying to convince him that so much of his life was manipulated. Even at the time knowing he was only trying to create a distraction this whole set up was just strange to me. Was Lobdell really planning this far ahead or at least toying with the idea of Willis being alive ?

I don't believe Tynion read much of Lobdells' work but I recall a particular line that seemed out of place during his run that relates to this. When Jason was talking to Chris and Chris mentioned what a badass Willis was. Which was ridiculous at the time as Willis had never been shown to be more that a petty criminal. This was a guy that previously showed off a bruise Batman gave him which made it seem unlikely that he'd ever be impressive.

Jason doesn't talk much about Willis dying and outside the original Two Face encounter it wasn't mentioned much. In fact the original story was technically never finished as Collins had more he wanted to do with it. (*6) If you look back at the original comics it says Willis is PRESUMED dead. Meaning no body was found. We've always known how the Graysons died, we saw it many times. The Drakes fate has never been vague even if it changes in canon. We only know Willis is supposed to be dead because we're told. One of the biggest rules in comics has always been "no one's dead unless you see the body" (sometimes not even then.) We never saw him die or knew for sure how he met his end. Two Face is thought to be his killer for Willis apparently "double crossing" him then in New 52 it's said he died in prison.

What made me waver on this theory early on was how Lobdell wrote Willis in RHATO VOL.1. Willis isn't shown being the brightest bulb as he mostly seems concerned with sex, breaking the law and isn't a good father. One of the reasons Jason had trouble sleeping was after overhearing his drunk dad wishing his two "mistakes" were gone and fearing they'd be killed by Willis. Jason doesn't like him, at one point he was so angry he wished Willis had died. Then I thought about it a little more.

Willis could be more intelligent than Jason informs us since he's not always the most reliable narrator when it comes to his past. He tries to hide things and changes the subject. Plus Willis could have been drunk a good deal. It also could be the result of the canon shift with Rebirth. Did Willis hate Jason? I don't think it's quite that cut and dry. Jason does recall Willis being proud of him for learning the ropes of his job. Which is what Black Mask is basically doing throughout the arc. I could see Willis being thrilled that his son had become such a badass. Yes he can use Jason to his advantage but I wondered if there was more to it.

What if Willis felt bad for abandoning his kid especially after hearing Jason had died? He goes out of his way to make Jason comfortable and be more supportive. Not to say that he wouldn't try to use Jason, I fully believe he would. Still he reads as a much more mature character than Willis was previously shown to be. Why would Willis take on the Black Mask persona? To gain power, not have to build up street cred with a new ID, etc. Meta-wise this reminds me of Jason taking up another ID to reinvent himself and Jason's dislike of "dress up."

One thing all Robins struggle with is having their own rogues' gallery. The Court of Owls are also Batman villains, the same problem happens with the Al Ghuls even though Damian is related to them. Although Stephanie had more of a solid connection to Cluemaster but I don't think Bruce saw her as his kid. Canon makes their connection weaker and I don't think her parents care for her now. (*7) Black Mask being Willis shakes things up more not only creating conflict for Jason but also challenges Bruce for his role as Jason's father.

This also would have made the arc the perfect sequel to Under the Hood. It explored the relationship and ideologies of Batman/Red Hood but also would have the shock of someone returning from the grave. UTH had a son that could potentially be better than his adopted father by using methods Batman didn't approve of. This arc had Jason trying to prove himself to Bruce and could have had a more emotional twist with Willis trying to throw a wrench in that. If Willis did get the helmet from Jason's bunker then he would have seen the picture of his son with Batman. There's so much material that could have been used to flesh Jason out further.

I was very disappointed with the ending which made no sense to me. This Black Mask didn't act like Roman Sionis. The reason for keeping Jason around didn't add up either. It was to see if he had anymore of the antidote? Why did he assume Jason had it and not Batman? How did he "always" know who Jason was? Wasn't it implied he knew where Jason's headquarters were since he had a spare helmet? Wouldn't he find the antidote there? Why did he wear another mask over the one he considers his real face and claim Jason would never want to see it then show it anyway? 

*1 Lobdell doesn't mention it and presumably Collins had plans. It was implied in a panel for DITF that Two Face shot him when they were trying to wrap up Jason's story.

*2 Mentioned in a text box in RHATO #13 VOL. 1

*3 I'm not sure if it was done purposely but Jason is never seen actually eating when he's sitting down with BM. He even asks if he can take a bagel as they leave the table. We saw him eating with Batman and even his breakfast with Tim had him pick something up to eat. BM always wears his mask while Bruce takes his off to have a less formal meal with Jason at the end of the arc. There's even a bit earlier where Jason is at his lair and doesn't eat his second hamburger. I later realized he got it for Bruce who didn't show up or to remind him of good times.

*4 Before Black Mask and Jason speak at breakfast Jason thinks how BM does things how he wants without caring what others thinks. He relates this to himself but later he remarks that Bruce is the same way. Just thought it was worth mentioning that they all share this trait. Although Jason has been more accommodating than the other two.

*5 Okay technically I think most people in Gotham should know who Jason Todd is because Bruce adopted him. But so far only people that actually knew Jason seem to recognize him.

*6 To quote Collins: "I had a whole storyline developed that was later ignored that had to do with Jason's father and Two-Face. I frankly don't remember exactly where I was headed, just that the book dropped my concept and went in a direction that ultimately led to the fans voting Jason's death."

*7 I dropped Batman Eternal and don't recall all the plots I did read but I believe both her parents wanted her dead.


  1. Well... you have ME convinced... and I don't even read this book! But kudos for taking some very obscure, and not so obscure clues and backstory, and weaving it all into a coherent theory. That is a lot more than most writers do!

  2. Thanks ! I wasn't sure if you'd read this since you don't read the book. The writer Scott Lobdell is doing just that by bringing back obscure things from Jason's past. It's really fascinating and I wish more writers would do that.