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The Comics You Need To Read Before Titans Season 3

Actors prepare for roles in a number of ways. Some go the way of method acting, completely embracing the character even beyond the camera lens. Others prioritize their acting partners, basing their own performance on the ensemble around them. Still others take deep advantage of whatever source material exists for the project. For Titans actors like Curran Walters, who plays ex-Robin Jason Todd, there's more material than you can shake a bo staff at.

In a recent Instagram post, Walters revealed five graphic novels he's been reading to prepare for season 3, in which he'll return as not Robin, but the Red Hood. You might recall that we saw the show's other Robin, Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites), take up the mantle of Nightwing at the end of Season 2, escaping both the shadow of Batman (Iain Glen) and himself. As the Red Hood, though, Todd is not quite done dealing with shadows yet.

How does Jason Todd become the Red Hood in the comics?

To understand the Red Hood, Titans fans may want to check out the comics Walters is reading, starting with Batman: A Death in the Family (set to become a DC animated film). Written by Jim Starlin and illustrated by Jim Aparo, the four-part story was a direct result of readers' ire with Jason Todd.

Dick Grayson had been a favorite since becoming Batman's first sidekick in 1940's Detective Comics #38, but Todd was as contentious as Grayson was loved. The two Robins couldn't be more different in personality, the former quippy and optimistic, the latter brash and sullen. DC set up a poll in response to readers' reactions to Todd: did they want to see him survive or die in an upcoming Batman storyline? A mere 72 votes tipped the scales to the side of death, and so it was that Batman was unable to save Todd from the Joker's clutches.

Of course, death in comics is a fleeting thing. In Batman: Under the Red Hood by Judd Winick and Doug Mahnke, Todd makes a not-so-triumphant return following some reality-rewriting shenanigans courtesy of an alternate version of Superman (long story). Talia al Ghul finds him and introduces him to the Lazarus Pit, which her father Ra's al Ghul uses to essentially remain immortal. It revitalizes and empowers Todd, but it also brings his anger to bear. Red Hood: The Lost Days by Winick and Pablo Raimundi expands on all this.

As the Red Hood, Todd takes the skills he learned from Batman to the next level — not just stopping criminals, but killing them. The Caped Crusader doesn't stand for that, of course, and the two clash, physically and ideologically. The baggage between them isn't something that can be safely carted away, especially not with the Joker still alive and thriving. Old friends fighting takes a different toll than heroes battling villains, and both men come out even more scarred than they went in.

Where does the Red Hood's story take him?

Todd may have disappointed readers as Robin, but his new alter ego was almost universally well received. In an ironic twist of fate, it was Red Hood's growing popularity that caused him to land his own series: Red Hood and the Outlaws, created by Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort. There was no vote this time around, but readers' voices were still heard loud and clear.

The series chronicles Todd's ongoing crusade in his new persona — no longer a killer, and no longer alone. The "outlaws" referenced in the title are his partners in (stopping) crime: Green Arrow protege Arsenal and extraterrestrial princess Starfire. After many adventures together, Arsenal and Starfire leave their outlaw days behind them, but two others take their place: Bizarro, the twisted clone of Superman, and Artemis, an Amazon warrior.

Eventually, Todd ends up alone again, leading the series to be rebranded as Red Hood: Outlaw. His new mission: track down the Underlife, a criminal group Arsenal told him about before dying. As of September 2020, that's how far Red Hood's story has gone — and how much Walters has to read before walking in the character's shoes. Titans fans should, too — the devil's in the details, after all.

How will Titans season 3 adapt the comics?

With so many other characters' stories to tell on Titans, it's doubtful that season 3 is going to showcase all this Red Hood content. The series' panel at DC's virtual FanDome event confirmed that Walters will don the red hood, however, so at least some of the comics lore will clearly make its way to the screen.

Jason Todd's transformation has to be believable, but it's anyone's guess whether it will result from his death and resurrection. He almost perished at Deathstroke's (Esai Morales) hands, and his death was again hinted at in a vision, this time at the hands of the Riddler. Whether or not Todd will actually meet his demise and rise again is a question only time can answer.

As in the comics, Todd's handling of the Robin mantle in Titans is fueled by anger and a less merciful sense of justice than Grayson's. If anything is going to lead to his Red Hood days, it could very well be those personality traits. Because of the mask, Todd often feels like he can do whatever he wants, so what difference would a new mask make?

Implementing the "Outlaws" would have to come after Todd's development as Red Hood, and though difficult, it's not impossible. Starfire and Arsenal both exist in the Titans universe (though the latter has thus far only appeared in his civilian identity, Roy Harper), so the original line-up is in play. Bizarro and Artemis would be a little more difficult to introduce, but Superboy and Donna Troy respectively prove that there are Kryptonians and Amazons around.

There's a lot to do to set up the Red Hood — a lot that may or may not happen. Either way, following in the footsteps of Walters' comic book research would be a fine time for any Titans fan to pass the time until season 3.