Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why I Like Red Hood and the Outlaws

I had a few favorite characters when I was growing up: Kara Supergirl, Dick "Robin" Grayson, Lois Lane, Donna "Wonder Girl" Troy, and Roy "Speedy" Harper.

Admittedly, Roy, and Ollie, were pale imitations of Batman and Robin, even if they existed nearly as long. Arrowcar vs Batmobile. Trick arrows vs Batarangs and utility belts. It really was no comparison. Things changed when Ollie lost his fortune and was no longer the millionaire Bruce was.

Roy Harper was always the afterthought in stories, or nearly always. When Ollie got an extreme makeover, complete with facial hair, Roy was nowhere to be found, except the occasional mission with the Teen Titans. It wasn't until drug addiction and fatherhood were thrust on him by editorial and writer decisions that he got interesting. Really, I can't recall why I liked him all along, except maybe he was cute, cuter and funnier than Dick. But suddenly, in the '70s, he got interesting and I couldn't get enough of him, yet DC never seemed to know what to do with him. Speedy. Arsenal. Red Arrow. Arsenal. Make him edgy by being an addict, then taking on a personal crusade against drugs. Make him a single father who had a daughter with an assassin and an unhinged one at that. Put him in the JLA reboot instead of GA, then have him lose his arm and his daughter, the only thing keeping him from the darkness, and once again, we've got Roy Harper, addict. And then, it all goes away after Flashpoint.

Roy was the afterthought. Ollie was the character who got his own book. Roy could barely keep a team book going. It became a character point. He didn't like joining teams, but this is a character who had abandonment issues. Better to stay away, or sabotage yourself, then wait for others to hurt you. It's all there, and the only time it was properly exploited was the Arsenal mini by Devin Grayson. They kept layering so much crap on this character and never seemed to know what to do with what they ended up with, so they layered more on and still had no clue. Except Devin. She got it.

And now, Scott Lobdell gets it.

Jason Todd had it almost as bad. Started out as a Dick Grayson clone. Circus performer, parents killed, Batman takes him in, makes him the new Robin. Changed to punk kid caught stealing by Batman who takes him in, makes him Robin. Obnoxious brat, so not really like Dick. I voted for the Joker to kill him. Good riddance, I thought. Then he's back, as Red Hood, but still obnoxious, still a punk. No character development. No reason to like him.

Until now. This new universe DC made.

We get a Jason Todd who is at the point in his life where he knows he got a second chance and he can learn and grow. He's affected by the people who took him in, cared for him, learned from them and is now continuing his personal journey while helping the only two friends he has.

Roy Harper, a new old character. Started over. This isn't a reworking of Roy the way Dick Grayson is and isn't the Dick of the old universe, with details tweaked. This Roy feels new and fresh with Roy's personality but a background still to be learned. He's no afterthought who needs things layered on to make him interesting. He's starting out that way. I can see the room for growth, the things he needs to deal with. The potential. In Roy. In Jason. In Kori.

Starfire. A recognizable secondary female character who couldn't carry her own book but can help carry a shared book. An alien more alien than ever. Alienated on Earth among humans, until she rescues Jason, and meets Roy. These are characters I want to read about. Hell, these are characters I can't wait to read about.

If, like me, you were turned off last year by those scans of the few pages in the book that showed off supposedly bimbo Kori and horndogs Jason and Roy, you're missing something good, something maybe special, the story of three people who become friends in spite of themselves and maybe, even start to care about each other and about life, all while fighting the good fight. Here's a page I think is a better representation of what this book is about.

Red Hood and the Outsiders 11
That last panel tells me all I needed to know.


  1. Anonymous2:02 AM EST

    I'll have to give this one a try. I am a big Roy Harper fan. You sold me!

    1. Hi! Always nice to find another fan of Roy. You'll have to report back here on what you think of it. :)