This is "Written in the Book," a brand-new feature where I will detail the chronological order of trade collections if you want to fill yourself in on the history of a particular character.
We begin with Jason Todd's journey to the present day.
Reader Mick T. inspired this feature when he wrote in to ask:
Hope this email finds you well. I am a quite green at reading comics, so I decided to start reading a comic about a week ago, and I chose Jason Todd, Red Hood, as my first comic. Since i really wanted to appreciate Jason Todd from the beginning, which includes his origin, why he was orphan, how did he become Red Hood, etc. I would like to read an elaborate history about him. Since I really did want to know about him I searched through the internet to know the chronological order when he was appeared first in the comics; unfortunately the internet did not help me very well, it left me with an unanswered questions... so today I searched the topic about finding the chronological order and I visited CBR. Then i found your email. If you could help me on that matter, I would be greatly happy for that.
Sure thing, Mick. I think that the best way to go about trying to read the history of a specific character is to look at the trade paperback history of that character. Nowadays, there are also plenty of back issues available digitally, as well, but those are a big less concrete (in the sense that the companies don't always maintain the same stories online, so a story might be on DC Universe Online today but not tomorrow, stuff like that). There are also digital back issues that you can buy outright, but, again, I think it's just simpler to point you to the trade collections, as that could help other people, as well, who want to follow Jason Todd's comic book journey.
First off, there is a huge caveat regarding Jason Todd's history. He was introduced in the early 1980s with a completely different origin than he later had. He was essentially a Dick Grayson clone (not a literal clone, but same basic background, right down to being part of a circus act). Those stories have not actually been collected. DC has collected two volumes' worth of Gerry Conway's Batman run during the 1980s, but the last one finished a year shy of Jason Todd's debut in Batman #357, so it is unlikely that that will be collected any time soon.
Doug Moench took over from Conway and it was Moench who actually made Jason Todd Robin, but Moench's first Batman run has also not been collected.
Therefore, I think it makes the most sense to just skip to 1986, when Jason Todd was given his modern origin. This took place during Max Allan Collins' run on Batman. These stories are collected in Batman: Second Chances...
During the same time that Collins' stories were coming out, Mike W. Barr and Alan Davis had a great run on Detective Comics starring Batman and Robin (Jason Todd). These are collected in Legends of the Dark Knight: Alan Davis, Volume 1...
Things take a turn for the worse for Jason soon after this...