The Red Hood first appeared in Detective Comics #168 (Feb. 1951), in the story “The Man Behind The Red Hood!”. In the original continuity, the man later known as the Joker was a master criminal going by the Red Hood alias, claiming to be a lab worker intending to steal $1,000,000 and retire. His costume consisted of a large domed red helmet and a red cape. While attempting to rob a chemical plant, his men were dispatched and he was cornered on a catwalk by Batman.
Left with no alternatives, he dove into a catch basin full of chemicals and swam to freedom, surviving because of a special breathing apparatus built into the helmet. The toxins in the vat permanently disfigured him, turning his hair green, his skin white and his lips red. Driven insane by his reflection, he recreated himself as “The Joker” and became Batman’s greatest foe. A decade later Batman reopens the case while tutoring a group of college students.
To mock him, the Joker resumes the identity and tries to rob the college. However a gardener, Owen “Farmerboy” Benson, captures him and takes his identity, planning to commit crimes with the Red Hood getting the blame. Batman realizes this Red Hood is a fake and captures Benson, who takes him to the real Red Hood. The Joker then reveals his origin.
In Batman: The Killing Joke, Alan Moore wrote an alternative origin of the Joker and the Red Hood; the man who would become the Joker is portrayed as a former chemical engineer, now a struggling stand-up comedian with a pregnant wife. He is approached by the Red Hood gang, who want him to lead them through the chemical plant he once worked at so they can rob the card factory next door. He accepts in order to make enough money to start a better life for his family.
The gang gives him the Red Hood costume, which has been worn by many others; unknown to the engineer, the gang plans to use him as a patsy in case they get caught. The day of the proposed robbery, police inform him that his wife died in a freak accident. He attempts to back out of the robbery, but the gang strong-arms him into keeping his commitment. During the robbery, the plant’s security men spot the intruders and shoot the other criminals dead. The engineer tries to flee, but Batman appears and corners him on the plant’s catwalk. Terrified, the engineer jumps off the catwalk into the chemical basin to escape.
As in the previous origin story, he goes insane after discovering what the chemicals have done to his face and becomes the Joker. The Joker himself is reluctant to admit that this iteration of his story is definitive, stating: “Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another…if I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!”
Author: Mark Industries / Don