This week, in Titans’ 6th episode (“Jason Todd” watch it here), Dick Grayson was forced to confront his past while working with the boy who has replaced him as Robin. Each week, we’ve been identifying the comic book references found in each episode, and this one had a lot! How accurate was the panel-to-screen transition in “Jason Todd”? Let’s take a look!
Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
STEALING THE BATMOBILE’S TIRES
The story Jason told Dick about stealing the Batmobile’s wheels is straight from Batman #408 (written by Max Allan Collins and penciled by Chris Warner, read it here). Although the original version of Jason Todd was a circus acrobat (as we detailed here last week), the reality-altering events of 1984-1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths gave him a new backstory – and his first meeting with the Dark Knight was a bit edgier. While it wasn’t the best way for Jason to make an impression on Batman, the Dark Knight saw potential in the boy, and soon made him his second Robin.
Speaking of the Batmobile, the Dark Knight’s famous ride was mentioned by Jason this week and later seen during one of Dick’s flashbacks. The car has gone through many incarnations over the years – in the earliest Batman comics, the Caped Crusader would just drive around in Bruce Wayne’s sedan…not the best way to maintain a secret identity! In Detective Comics #48 (written by Bill Finger and penciled by Bob Kane), a bat ornament was added to the hood and the vehicle was referred to as “the Batmobile” for the first time!
JASON’S CHOICE OF CODENAME
During their awkward elevator ride, Dick suggests a few alternate codenames for Jason, including Bluejay! Jason scoffs at the name, and it should be no surprise -- as his comic counterpart didn’t think too highly of it either. In Batman #368 (written by Doug Moench and penciled by Don Newton), Bruce and Jason were brainstorming codenames for Batman’s new partner, and Bluejay was rejected. Luckily Dick Grayson showed up and gave him his blessing to use the name Robin.
While telling Dick Grayson his backstory, Jason Todd talks about his parents being somewhere in the prison system. Unfortunately for poor Jason, his comic counterpart’s parents didn’t have a much better fate. In Batman #409 (written by Max Allan Collins and penciled by Ross Andru, read it here), the Caped Crusader did some investigating and found out that Jason’s father, Willis Todd, was a career criminal who wound up being killed by Two-Face (more on him later). Catherine Todd, the woman Jason believed to be his mother, eventually died of a drug-related illness. Jason eventually learned his biological mother, Sheila Haywood, was alive in Ethiopia…but his reunion with her ultimately led to his doom (in the classic "Death in the Family" storyline, read it here).
DICK AND THE STRONGMAN
During this episode, Dick had a happy reunion with Clayton Williams, the former strongman at Haly’s Circus. We met a similar figure from Dick’s past in Batman #129 (written by Bill Finger and penciled by Sheldon Moldoff). His name was “Sando the Strongman”, and like Clayton, he was a friend of Dick’s from his circus days who performed as a strongman and was seen comforting the lad after the deaths of his parents. Sando and Dick had a happy reunion years later, and thankfully he didn’t have to get an acid shower like poor Clayton almost did!
This week, we learned that a mobster named Tony Zucco had arranged the accident which had made Dick Grayson an orphan. This is consistent with the Boss Zucco character we met in Detective Comics #38 (written by Bill Finger and penciled by Bob Kane). More on him later…
HARVEY DENT AND BOSS MARONI
While Dick and Jason are looking over crime scene photos, Boss Maroni and Harvey Dent are mentioned. DC readers were first introduced to the two of them in Detective Comics #66 (written by Bill Finger and penciled by Bob Kane). Harvey Dent (known as Kent at the time) was a hotshot district attorney and Sal Maroni (known as Boss Moroni at the time) was a mobster who scarred the prosecutor with acid! That’s right folks, even Maroni’s acid attacks came from the classic comics! Poor Harvey Dent was never the same after his face was scarred and he went on to become Two-Face, one of Batman’s most dangerous rogues.
ZUCCO AND THE MARONI CRIME FAMILY
For many years, Zucco and Maroni were only used in flashbacks tying to the origins of Robin and Two-Face...until Batman: Dark Victory #1 (written by Jeph Loeb and penciled by Tim Sale) revealed that the two were part of the same crime syndicate. Like his television counterpart, Zucco worked for the Maroni crime family. Kudos to the Titans writers for doing their homework!
TONY ZUCCO’S UNTIMELY END
The Titans version of Zucco was gunned down by Maroni’s men so he wouldn’t be able to testify against them. Zucco’s comic counterpart met a similar fate in Batman #438 (written by Marv Wolfman and penciled by Pat Broderick). Rival crime lords shot Zucco as he was being released from prison. Like the TV version, he knew too much and his criminal colleagues wanted to silence him. No honor among thieves!
SON OF ZUCCO
This week on Titans, Tony Zucco’s son Nick went after Dick Grayson’s friends as revenge for his father’s murder! The comics version of Zucco does have a son, who we met in Nightwing #21 (written by Kyle Higgins and penciled by Brett Booth). Zucco had changed his name to Billy Lester, and started a family, attempting to leave his old life behind. His son Brian isn’t big enough to do any damage yet, but it may be a good idea to keep an eye on him…..kids grow up and become dangerous!
Did any of you notice the Wayne Enterprise logo on the computer? Wayne Enterprise is Bruce Wayne’s company, which was first seen in The Brave and the Bold #113 (written by Bob Haney and penciled by Jim Aparo read it here). Believe it or not, Bruce Wayne wasn’t much of a business man in the decades prior to that! He did oversee charitable endeavors at the Wayne Foundation, but it wasn’t until Wayne Enterprise came along that the Dark Knight became more of an entrepreneur.
DICK RETIRING THE ROBIN IDENTITY
After a scathing verbal takedown from Jason, Dick does some soul searching on his place as Robin. When Kory asks him how many Robins will be returning to the safe house, Dick tells her “none”. It appears Dick Grayson is following the footsteps of his comic book counterpart by leaving the Robin identity behind. In New Teen Titans #39 (written by Marv Wolfman and penciled by George Perez) Dick tells his teammates he’s stepping down from the Robin identity. A few months later, he became Nightwing. Will the Titans version of Dick be following the same path?