Joker Is Way Harder to Romanticize Thanks to One Jason Todd Observation

Few DC characters have a darker history with Joker than Jason Todd, aka the vigilante Red Hood. The Clown Prince of Crime murdered Jason, ending his tenure as Robin, with the crime-fighter only able to return thanks to the fabric of DC's reality coming under attack. Since then, Jason has spent time both exacting revenge on Joker and working to confront and learn to cope with his trauma. While some comic stories and adaptations romanticize the serial-killing supervillain, one detail Jason remembers about their encounter makes it far harder to see him as anything but a horror.


The death of Jason Todd was a very controversial moment for comic fans. In 1988, as the result of a reader poll, writer Jim Starlin and artist Jim Aparo made the decision to kill off Jason Todd. The Joker captured Robin, beat him with a crowbar, then planted a bomb that killed Jason and his biological mother. Jason stayed dead for years in the comics until it was revealed that tampering with reality had changed history, bringing him back via the eldritch magic of the Lazarus Pits.

Related: Nightwing Found Out About Jason Todd's Death In the Worst Way Possible

In 2016, in Red Hood and the Outlaws #10, writer Scott Lobdell and artist Dexter Soy have Jason Todd experience his brutal murder from a new perspective. As Jason sits isolated in a dark room, he recounts his death from his own perspective. The beginnings of the murder begin to unfold in front of Jason, as a projection of his own trauma. He reveals that his most potent sense memory of the moment is the Joker's smell, which Todd says is a chemical stench of death left over from the Clown Prince of Crime's dive into the toxic matter that bleached his skin. It's a gross, haunting detail that serves to distance Joker from his sometime image as a romantic agent of chaos.

The Importance of Jason Todd's Trauma

red hood comments on joker smell

Over the years, Jason's death was often treated as a trauma primarily experienced by Batman, but with Red Hood's return, the concept becomes far more personal - not just the experience of losing a friend to a supervillain, but of being physically attacked by a horrifying killer. Adding this detail to Jason's experience helps communicate what he's going through as he wrestles with trauma, bringing readers into an experience that is often used to characterize the hero's journey, especially in his darker moments. In the scene, Jason reveals that every night he relives the murder, showing how intensely he still feels. This is vital to his characterization given the lethal tactics he has employed as the Red Hood, and the distance this creates with his Gotham allies.

To know that Red Hood relives his murder every night is horrifying, but the added detail of Joker's overpowering stench makes it far more real and helps to undercut the idea of Joker as a charming rogue or misunderstood counter-culture icon.