Scott Lobdell, like his Red Hood protagonist Jason Todd, knows what it feels like to find himself in hot water. Now, Scott Lobdell is writing Red Hood and the Outlaws for DC, for the second time in his career. Jason Todd, Artemis and Bizarro are a strange and wonderful trio of super-weirdos, rejected and made to play second fiddle by the likes of Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman. When Lobdell spoke with Inverse, he sounded enamored with his awkward, “soulless” heroes in their Rebirth.
After several arguments with other DC creators over the casting in comic movie adaptations, he famously left Twitter for a period. In the early ‘90s, under then-Editor In Chief Jim Shooter’s regime, Marvel employed a “no openly gay characters” rule, which Lobdell broke in March 1992 when he had superhero Northstar say simply, “I am gay.” It was the coming out heard round the world; Lobdell had penned Marvel’s very first LGBTIQ hero, making the decision in hopes of drawing attention to America’s HIV/AIDS crisis.
Lobdell’s work was the subject of fan outrage in 2011, when his original Teen Titans comic doubled down on depicting Starfire’s experimental and playful sexuality. Legions of fans derided Lobdell for “making Starfire a slut”, and he defended his depiction of the character, who by the way is still sexually charged and non-monogamous in contemporary comics, by calling the critiques, essentially, slut-shaming, though he didn’t use the term. Over the years, he’s become accustomed to writing misunderstood characters.
“Jason Todd,” Lobdell told Inverse, “wasn’t brought up being told he’d take over as Dark Knight. Bruce wasn’t like, ‘okay buddy, you’re gonna grow up and be another Batman,’ so then he had this tragedy, and now he’s Red Hood,” Lobdell said. “Artemis was raised in the Egyptian country of Amazons, and she was told, ‘you’re smart and you’re pretty and one day you’re going to lead us,’ but when her small fractions of the Amazons was integrated with the rest, she was just another really good warrior in a group of women raised to be the same thing. She always kind of saw herself as a Wonder Woman, and then she was told, ‘Nah, no thanks, we already have one of those.’”
Lobdell laughed, drawing a comparison between Red Hood and Artemis to the third member of the Outlaw trifecta: Bizarro. “At first, Bizarro doesn’t have any awareness that he’s not Superman. He really believes he’s that guy, so it’s only as he starts to interact with other people that he actually sees Superman and then looks at his skin and he sees the horror in people’s eyes,” he said. “He thinks, ‘Oh, if Im not this, then, who am I? What am I?’ That’s another side of the dark trinity, all of them looking in the mirror and not seeing the world’s greatest heroes.”
Although the three superheroes share more than they realize, Lobdell says their new series will take a long time to get them to a place of mutual understanding. “Not only will there be friction before things settle, but there will be friction as the series goes. Jason thinks he’s the toughest guy on the block, trained by Batman himself, and Artemis sees him as a three-year-old who’s going to hurt himself with the weapon he’s holding. She believes she’s forgotten more than Jason could ever know about war or conflict. The art of war, that’s something Jason read in a book, but Artemis has been alive for a very, very long time.”
The conflict is clear in Lobdell’s first Rebirth issue, which introduces Artemis as a frustration to Jason Todd. “He’s going to react to a gorgeous Amazonion calling him out all the time,” Lobdell laughs, recalling the final panel in his Rebirth comic.
The trio of heroes fight crime and corruption in different environments, including but not limited to Gotham. But what exactly is it about Gotham, Batman’s hometown and stomping grounds, that attracts countless minor heroes and super-villains.
“Here’s the thing about Gotham,” he said, “I used to live in New York, for about a decade, and one thing I heard people say a lot was, ‘This is how New Yorkers are,’ and I always thought, “Mmm, I don’t think so.’ Like, ‘I’m from New York, and that’s just how we all are.’ There’s uptown and downtown and Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea and Alphabet City and Harlem and the Seaport and Central Park West, right? All of those places, they’re made of people, and block to block, those people have different attitudes about themselves and their city. As Martha and Thomas [Wayne] found out, one turn can put you an entirely different environment. Gotham speaks to so many writers for that reason; that’s why it stayed, because there are endless corners to discover.”
The geographical map of Lobdell’s Red Hood And the Outlaws: Rebirth complements the dynamic between his three heroes, shedding light on characters and alleyways in DC’s ouvre that haven’t been made familiar yet. “I’m confident that by the end of this series,readers are going to come to find yet another neighborhood in Gotham, or a new alley, or a street or park they haven’t seen before.”
Lobdell’s fresh take on Red Hood is available at comic book stores, starting August 10th.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.