Red Robin22 Jul, 2010 By: John Latchem
The new DC Universe animated movie Batman: Under the Red Hood is an adaptation of one of the most significant stories in the 71-year history of the character.
“I felt this could be something like The Dark Knight — realism stemming from a big emotional story,” says writer Judd Winick, who wrote the script based on his own “Under the Hood” comic book storyline.
From a production standpoint, Winick’s biggest obstacle would be introducing audiences to Jason Todd, a character whose role in Batman lore may not be fully understood by those not versed in the comic books.
“There are two seminal moments in Batman’s life: the murder of his parents and the death of Jason Todd,” Winick says. “One created Batman, and the other put him on a road he couldn’t come back from.”
In the early 1980s, the original Robin, Dick Grayson, left Batman’s side to fight crime solo as Nightwing. A second Robin, Jason Todd, was introduced in 1983, but his abrasive style was not popular with fans. In a 1988 DC Comics storyline called “A Death in the Family,” the creative team let fans decide his fate by calling a 1-900 number. By a margin of 72 votes out of more than 10,000, fans elected to kill him off, leading to the iconic image in Batman #428 of Batman holding a dead Robin amid rubble.
When Winick had an opportunity to write a Batman storyline in 2005, he was able to resurrect Todd in the guise of the villainous Red Hood. This forced Batman to confront one of his greatest failures as his past literally comes back to haunt him.
“[Executive producer] Bruce Timm asked how I would introduce people to Jason Todd,” Winick says. “I said we start off by killing him. Jason’s background doesn’t matter for our story as much as the fact that he died and Batman failed to save him.”
Winick also wrote a six-issue “Under the Hood” prequel called “Red Hood: Lost Days” to coincide with the movie, which premieres at Comic-Con.
He says he’s pleased with how the movie turned out and heaps praise upon the creative team and the voice cast, which includes Bruce Greenwood (Capt. Pike in Star Trek) as Batman, Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing, Jensen Ackles (“Supernatural”) as Red Hood, Jason Isaacs as Ra’s al Ghul and John DiMaggio (Bender on "Futurama") as The Joker.
“This movie is for any Batman fan,” Winick says. “I think a lot of people will be surprised, maybe a little horrified, and even moved. This is not what you’d expect from a Batman cartoon.”
Batman: Under the Red Hood will be available July 27 on DVD (single-disc $19.98, two-disc special edition $24.98) and Blu-ray Disc ($29.99) from Warner Home Video.
Robin’s death from Batman #428 (right), compared to the animated version from Batman: Under the Red Hood