• Faith & Fandom

Red Hood: Not A Hero


A little over a year ago in a Finding God in Comics Panel at Oak

City Comicon, someone in the crowd asked us to talk about

what Comic Book character we identified with the most. I

seriously don’t think I had ever really put much thought into

that question before that time. Surprisingly, it didn’t take me

that long to settle on an answer comfortably. While I've spent

the majority of my life as a Batman fan, I think the character I

identify with the most would be Red Hood, or Jason Todd. This

is what I told the panel:

“As much as I want to be the hero, the pure, noble,

selfless archetype of justice and sacrifice, I'm a lot more

flawed than that. I have darkness, and frustration, and

bitterness. I lack the discipline to execute my life on the

level Batman does, but I really do want to try. I really do

want to be a hero, just sometimes I get in my own way.

Even though I’m a broken, disgraced, sinful member of

God’s family, I’m still family. Even though Jason is a

murderous, violent, embittered branch of the Batman

family, he is still family. His brokenness, but acceptance

into a family speaks volumes to me.”

I’ve been a fan of Jason since the 2003’s epic Batman arc

“Hush.” I had taken a decade long sabbatical from comics, and

Hush was the first story that brought me back in. In a

marketing ploy in the 80’s, DC actually let fans vote whether or

not to kill or save Jason Todd, who was Batman’s second Robin

at the time. Jason was a more reckless, calloused, and




dangerous sidekick to the Dark Knight than his previous pixie-

shoe-wearing predecessor. In a narrow vote, callers paid a land


line phone charge in order to clearly express that they wanted

Jason to die, and he did. He stayed dead the majority of my

life.

At that point, he had been dead the entire time I had read

comic books. Tim Drake had long been Robin, and Jason had

long been a memory, or a cautionary tale. A key part of the

story of hush is that someone had dug up Jason Todd’s dead

body, and that the mystery tormenter of Batman known as

Hush was revealed to be a resurrected Jason Todd. By the end

of the battle, they revealed that the mystery figure was Clay

Face, but Jason’s body was still missing. Shortly after, a

mysterious new opposition appeared in Batman’s life and

violently took down Gotham’s underworld. Like, heads in a

duffle bag violent. After a long game of cat and mouse, we

finally saw that Red Hood was in fact the long dead Robin.

Even further, we see that Jason was in fact the one battling

Batman in Hush, but he tagged out with Clayface in order to

keep the mystery going and let Jason continue to set up his

own agenda. (FYI the definitive origin on Jason’s resurrection

and return can be found in Batman Annual #25 by Judd

Winick).

Thus, my 16-year relationship with the Red Hood had begun. I

saw so much of me in him. I’m not a violent murderer, but

there are plenty of times I’ve chosen my ways over my

Father’s. There have been plenty of times I’ve chosen to do



things I completely knew were wrong, yet still found myself

being offered grace and a welcome back into a family. I don’t

have a lot of blood family that I'm close to, but I do have a

small patch of misfit friends and associates that would fight for

me to the death. I’ve worn a lot of labels, but I am still figuring

out who I am. I’m not a hero. I’m broken, but I haven’t given

up yet.

At the end of Batman Annual #25, Jason comes to the

conclusion that Bruce is not grieved or broken over his loss,

which was inaccurate. If he had spent a few more minutes in

his presence, he would have learned the truth. Instead, he

rejected who he was and took on the mantle of Red Hood, a

throwback to a moniker used by the Joker in the early days and

a direct slam against who Batman had trained him to be. While

Red Hood stuck, he spent a lot of time trying to figure out who

he was. Not long after adopting that identity, he donned the

mantle of Nightwing in the One Year Later storyline, which was

not a favorite concept of Dick Grayson.

Things perpetually got weird from the situation, but it

eventually boiled down to him trying to discover who he was,

even if it meant simply mimicking his predecessor. Shortly

after that, Jason donned another Bat-Family moniker of Red

Robin. The events of Countdown gave him a fresh start to

adopt the mantle once held by Dick Grayson in Kingdom Come.

It worked well for a while for him; he even had a semblance of

a team and redemption, but he eventually abandoned that

quest to return home to his Red Hooded roots.




Shortly after this, Batman died at the hands of Darkseid. Kind

of. It’s complicated. Regardless, that left a bat-shaped vacuum

over Gotham and resulted in Jason ever so shortly becoming

Batman. Of course, that didn’t last, and Jason went back to

Red Hood again. Since then, he had a brief stint as “Wingman,”

but his role as Red Hood, I think, is concretely in place now.

The legalities of his actions and proximity to his bat-family may

shift occasionally, but in general, he has found himself.

I can really identify with this concept of continually struggling

to find who you are. I understand what it means to continually

struggle to not only know your identity, but to truly see where

you belong in the world. I’ve struggled with this concept many

times in a variety of manners. I was always vainly trying to find

my identity in some role, relationship, or accomplishment. I

thought becoming a missionary, youth pastor, college pastor,

pastor, husband, father, author, screen writer, award winner,

or any other label would make me feel more at home in my

own skin, but it really didn't. I remember leaving the life of

being a missionary with a Bible camp, thinking becoming a

pastor would make me more mature, or make me feel like I

had arrived. I was wrong.

Being married or a father doesn’t make you more faithful or

better at relationships. Having a degree in the Bible doesn’t

make you a better follower of God. No label or responsibility I

place on myself will make me more content or comfortable

until I'm okay with who I truly am. As I write this, I’m a couple

weeks away from accepting an award for being one of the “40




Under 40” for Fayetteville, NC. It’s an award and

acknowledgment of the most successful and influential people

in my region under 40. I first heard of it a couple years ago

when two of the peers I work with in art and community

received the award the same year. I thought then, “I want

this.” Now that I’ve gotten it, it doesn’t change anything. Just

like Jason switching masks every few seasons was searching for

something, I do it too with less costumes. I really have to come

to the place where I'm okay with who I am, and not just who I

think I am or who I want to be, but who God says I am. Look at

this powerful statement Paul made to the Colossian church:

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily

form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.

He is the head over every power and authority.” -

Colossians 2:9-10.

I have read over those verses hundreds of times, yet it just hit

me sitting here at this moment the power of the statement,

“...in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” Let that sink in.

Just like fullness of God dwells in Jesus, we have been brought

to fullness in God. You aren’t incomplete. You aren’t lacking.

You don’t have to make up for anything. You don’t have to

earn more. You don’t have to overcompensate for your

failures. You have been brought to fullness in Christ. There is

nothing more for you to accomplish on that front. Take a step

back and assess what you are trying to accomplish and the

identity you are longing to find. Think about the level you are

longing to achieve. If you know Jesus Christ, you are already at




that fullness. He is over every authority and power, and you

have been brought to fullness in Him. On our own, we will

always be falling short, but in Him, we are in fullness. Accept

that for yourself. You will never find a title, status, or

achievement that will give you more joy, peace, and

satisfaction than who you are in God.

When Jason isn’t struggling to figure out who he is, he is often

struggling to figure out where he belongs. Depending on the

issue you are reading, Jason can go from being beaten half to

death on a rooftop by Batman, to sitting down with Damian,

Duke, and Bruce at a fast food place where Damian gets a Red

Hood action figure in his kid’s meal (yes, that actually

happened). For better or for worse, his bat family is there for

him, even in times of heavy friction. After Jason lost his cool

and shot Penguin in the face, Batman was ready to end him

and cast him into prison forever. Within a couple issues, Bruce

is sitting right beside him in a restaurant lovingly comforting

his adopted son through a painful loss. No matter how many

times Jason has utterly failed at being not only Bruce’s but also

Batman’s prodigy, Batman had given him forgiveness and more

chances than I can count.

Bruce’s constant forgiveness, even in the midst of outrage and

disappointment, is humbling. There is no more beautiful and

humbling love than to be welcomed home after you have

knowingly failed big time. While Bruce isn’t a perfect father,

God is.




“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will

forgive us our sins and purify us from all

unrighteousness.” - 1 John 1:9.

That verse is a promise. It is a promise from God that anytime

you want to come back home, you can. No matter how far

you’ve gone, no matter how many times you’ve sinned, failed,

or shot Oswald Cobblepot in the face, you will be welcomed

with open arms. Not only would you be welcomed back, but be

forgiven like it never happened. Not only would you be

forgiven, but made clean from the entire experience.

As grateful as Jason should be for Bruce, we should be so much

more grateful for our Father welcoming us back into the

proverbial Batcave. Jason may find constant support and

forgiveness in Bruce, but he found his home in his friends. In its

various incarnations, The Outlaws have been the best place for

Jason to thrive. Living and leading beyond the shadow of

Batman’s cape, and beyond the pressure of his failures, he

made a family of his friends. Roy, Starfire, Artemis, Bizzaro,

and the few others occasionally sprinkled in the mix, the

Outlaws are home. Personally speaking, I think the

Bizzaro/Artemis/Dark Trinity version of The Outlaws is the

best, but you really can’t deny the true friendship that Jason

and Roy shared. Jason and Roy to me are the modern

equivalent of David and Jonathan.

“As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of

Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan

loved him as his own soul. Then Jonathan made a




covenant with David, because he loved him as his own

soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was

on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his

sword and his bow and his belt.” - 1 Samuel 18:2-4.

These two former titans were the brothers they both needed.

The one they would always be able to count on. With the

aftermath of Heroes in Crisis, Roy is gone and Jason is hollower

because of it. Prior to Roy’s departure though, Jason had been

at his peak with Artemis and Bizzaro at his side. With Roy and

Starfire, Jason just had peers. With Artemis and Bizzaro, Jason

not only had a peer, but for its initial arc, Jason was the father

figure to Bizzaro. That was a role he hadn’t played before, but

he played it well. Bizzaro needed his “Red Him,” and Jason

grew because of it. This team grew into a solid family. They

were there for each other in the adversity, and that’s when

they needed it most.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a

time of adversity.” - Proverbs 17:17.

Sadly, the team up didn’t last. I am hoping for a return soon.

Jason isn’t good alone. Neither am I. None of us are really. The

first negative statement in the Bible is that it’s not good for

man to be alone. When we are alone, we tend to implode into

ourselves. I can attest to this over and over. I am better with a

team. I am better with friends. I am better with support. I

know God never leaves me, but when I can have someone side

by side with me in the process, I'm a much better Hector. I can

see thousands of people a day at a Comicon, but at the end of




the night, if I end up alone in a hotel room away from all the

people that love and support me, I'm a hot mess. With Bizzaro

and Artemis displaced, he was alone. With his failure to

Batman lingering over him, he lacked direction. Roy’s death

was the nail in the proverbial coffin that left Jason in a place of


newfound loneliness and isolation. He fell back into his ultra-

violent ways (and subsequently started dressing like a Mortal


Kombat character). Everything he had become with his new

family was falling away. I know that happens with me; I

encourage you, don’t let it happen with you.

Build friendships and cultivate relationships. Don’t be afraid to

be the first one to text or call. Don’t be afraid to put yourself

on the line for relationships that might not last forever. If you

can build beneficial friendships that only last for a season, it’s

worth it. A solid friendship for a season is definitely better than

being alone for a season. Like Roy and Bizzaro, even the best

friendships don’t last forever. The big thing to remember is

that when they end, don’t go back to being alone. Find new

friends, build new relationships, and don’t go backwards.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good

return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one

can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has

no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together,

they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm

alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can

defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly

broken.” - Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.





I see a lot of me in Jason. Life is hard. It’s crazy. It doesn’t

always go like we plan. It may not always seem fair. But we

don’t have to keep searching for a new identity. We don’t have

to run from home. We don’t have to be alone. We keep going.

My favorite Red Hood quote of all time is a simple one.

“When life shoots you out of a cannon, you know what

you need to do? Land.”

This is a simple statement. You can’t control the circumstances

around you. You can’t control what others do. You can control

how you respond. Land. Stop fighting against all the things that

have gone wrong in your life. Start thinking what you will do

when you land.

“You can be part of the solution or part of the problem.

But you can’t be both.” - Red Hood.

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