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Escapist Friction: Was The Red Hood Born To Be Bad — Or Rad?

Of all the guys crusading in capes, Batman has arguably the most famous and recognizable rogues gallery in comics. The Joker, Two Face, Mister Freeze, Poison Ivy, Penguin, The Riddler – the list goes on and on. That’s why, despite the best efforts of Jason Todd revivalists, the repeated use of The Red Hood persona seems a tad underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of what’s been done with The Red Hood as a character. But as an icon? It seems like creators could have built something a little more iconic and a little less… phallic.

I love Alan Moore’s Joker origin in “Batman: The Killing Joke” and I think Grant Morrison’s handling of Jason Todd’s current persona in “Batman and Robin” – particularly this week’s #6 – is a lot of fun, but there’s no denying it: He looks like a tube of glossy red lip balm.Originally a persona used by the Joker to shake things up, and later a retconned origin device used to explain his first tragic encounter with Batman, the idea of The Red Hood seems like it’s always fighting for justification. In “The Killing Joke” Alan Moore basically points to the thing and says, “See? It’s totally rational now – the Joker needed a hood to survive falling into a vat of chemicals without dying, amirite?” That’s all well and good, but after the Joker beats Jason Todd to death with a crowbar, it’s a little too ironic for him to pick up the mantle when he rejoins the land of the living. Then again, a dude who grew up wearing scaly green briefs to visit Superman on his birthday was obviously never trained in the arts of fashion crime fighting.

“Clean thoughts chum, indeed”

Now, the fact that I enjoy The Red Hood character despite his highly suggestive design and hilarious name (it’s really more of a helmet than a hood, you know?) says a lot about the various talent associated with him over the years. Really, it takes a lot of sharp writing and deft illustration skills to permanently distract from how fundamentally stupid both his name and costume are when looked at from anything resembling an outside perspective (not someone who spends a lot of time chuckling over old Batman stories).

Are we so forgiving as readers to let a little something like insane design slip through the cracks? Shouldn’t we hold creators accountable for their madness? Isn’t madness the order of the day? Nay – the genre?

The answer to all of those questions (and more) is a resounding and eternally conflicted yes.

So here’s to you, Red Hood. You look like a horny dog’s junk and kind of suck from time to time, but we dig you just the same. Marvel even feels the same way!

The Hood (that is red)

If that’s not a testament to the totally undeserved radness of The Red Hood, I’m not sure what is.

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