Since beginning his universe, Murphy has committed to creating starkly different versions of classic DC characters, and he makes no exception for the Red Hood. This White Knight version of Jason Todd has small changes which separate him from the official canonized version of Jason. As Robin (the first, not the second) Jason is attacked and tortured by Joker into revealing Batman's secret identity. And it's that shame which sent Jason in a self-imposed exile, presumed dead... but taking a new identity as Red Hood, and a new twist on Robin in the form of a young East Backport girl named Gan.
If this backstory sounds vaguely familiar, it may be due to the recent popularity of Netflix's Cobra Kai. Batman White Knight Presents: Red Hood's co-writers Sean Murphy and Clay McCormack clarified that surprisingly direct inspiration for Screen Rant at this year's San Diego Comic-Con.
SM: Then we realized that Jason should be like Johnny Lawrence from Cobra Kai, a loser who knew how to fight. A kind of sad sack, and this was his chance to redeem himself with a young person in his life.
CM: That's what hooked it for me. Because there was so much Sean fleshed out with this idea of Jason's backstory, it was all great stuff. But I couldn't quite track the thing's end, for me to really think, 'I know how we can do this.' Then we were both like, 'Well, he's kind of like Johnny Lawrence a little bit. He's a man out of time, and has to deal with this younger person. He thinks he knows everything, and he's introduced to this new younger version of himself who kind of opens his mind up very reluctantly.' And I was like, 'Okay, that we can work with.'
For those who haven't seen the series, Cobra Kai serves as a sequel to The Karate Kid, which ends with lead hero Daniel winning a tournament by last defeating central antagonist Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). 33 years later, the once brash and cocky Johnny is now a depressed alcoholic whose life basically went downhill after losing to Daniel, opting to redeem his legacy by taking on a new student and re-opening the Cobra Kai dojo.
The parallels between Johnny and Jason Todd are unexpectedly striking. Even outside of White Knight's canon, Red Hood was always a cocky, brash upstart as Robin who, like Johnny, becomes hardened by the world around him after experiencing a traumatizing event. This presents a fascinating prospect for Jason's future in the White Knight universe. Taking on a protege, be it ill-advised or not, gives Jason Todd the redemption arc that Red Hood still has yet to properly achieve, even in the official Batman canon.
Batman White Knight Presents: Red Hood #1 is available now.