THE OWL SIGNAL: Lobdell Hunts Owls with "Red Hood & The Outlaws"

During the "Night of the Owls" crossover event, it isn't just the Court that comes home to roost. Jason Todd and his band of Outlaws are returning to Gotham City, but as their team name suggests, they won't be interacting much with the other Batman mainstays. Under the writing of Scott Lobdell and art of Kenneth Rocafort, Jason Todd, Arsenal and Starfire have traveled worldwide on Jason's quest to avenge the All-Caste, the secret society who trained him to be a deadly assassin. By the beginning of "Red Hood and the Outlaws" #9, the team is already in Gotham dealing with a past threat when the trip turns into an encounter both with the Court of Owls and the newly-resurfaced Mr. Freeze.

Wrapping up CBR's week of "Night of the Owls" coverage here on THE OWL SIGNAL is "Red Hood and the Outlaws" writer Scott Lobdell, who spoke with CBR News about the team's role in the crossover, Jason's interactions with several "Batman" regulars, the Outlaws' future following "Night of the Owls" and the story behind the redesign of Mr. Freeze.

CBR News: Scott, Jason Todd gets drawn back to Gotham City in May for the epic Batman crossover "Night of the Owls." How will Jason react to being back in Gotham at the request of Tim Drake?

Scott Lobdell: Actually, it turns out Jason is already in town on some other business when he answers an all-points call for help from Alfred. See, Suzie Shu -- that crime lordess from "Red Hood and the Outlaws" #2 -- was sent to specialists in Gotham City for her injuries. (And, let's be serious, if Gotham City hospitals specialized in anything, it would be gunshot wounds!) When Jason and the Outlaws, who are just this moment leaving when the call goes out, learn that Red Robin is unable to deal with his particular Talon, Red Hood steps in to help.

That said, there is an awesome scene between Jason and Tim that is going to have people spitting out their Cheerios and standing on their breakfast table shouting with glee! It is one of my favorites glimpses into both Jason and Tim's life that I've gotten to write since the New 52 started.

How were you able to introduce Jason's return to Gotham in a way that felt organic to "Red Hood and the Outlaws?"

Well, you've probably noticed, Red Hood And The Outlaws "isn't like the other kids" -- they're not really asked to play in the reindeer games. When you see how they wind up caught between a Talon rock and a Mr. Freeze hard place, it will feel like exactly what it is: A "Night Of The Owls" story through that Outlaw prism.

Throughout your run on "Red Hood and the Outlaws," you've painted Jason with incredibly deadly skills that he's not afraid to utilize -- considering his abilities, what role will he be playing in investigating the Court of Owls?

Investigating?! You're thinking of Tim and Bruce and Dick and some of the other eggheads of actions! Jason doesn't have any time at all to investigate -- he's too busy trying to protect Mr. Freeze from the Talon and all of Gotham City's Chinatown from Mr. Freeze. "Investigating" -- you're killing me!

Speaking of Freeze, "Red Hood and the Outlaws" #9 also ties-in to "Batman Annual" #1, which introduces Mister Freeze to the New 52. How does Freeze's presence affect Jason and the Court of Owls?

Well, Jason himself, I don't think he has two words to say to Mr. Freeze -- but that's why it is good to have partners who can step in to help in any situation. (And if you think a walking nuclear reactor like Kori and a human blizzard like Mr. Freeze aren't going cause some damage -- then you're reading the wrong book.)

I can tell you a fun story though, since we're here. I really wanted to re-imagine Mr. Freeze physically for the 2012 audience and I was told, "Nah. We like him the way he is." Well, I can be pretty stubborn, as anyone who knows me knows -- and I had the ultimate secret weapon in my arsenal, which is of course the progressively-more-brilliant-every-issue Kenneth Rocafort! So we plotted and sketched and whispered like two kids in the corner of the classroom until we had this cool new awesome looking Mr. Freeze. I hit "send" -- presenting the work without comment -- and now we have this awesome new Mr. Freeze!

While Jason's the one with the most obvious connection to Gotham, Starfire (as recently as issue #4) was heard saying "Richard..." -- a possible reference to her relationship with Dick Grayson. Will Starfire be having any interaction with Nightwing when Red Hood heads to Gotham?

Um, this is the "Night Of The Owls!" There is a lot going on. While I fully expect Kori and Dick to meet up someday, this wouldn't be the ideal situation for that encounter to take place. I promise, when we do Night Of The Exes...

As readers discovered early on in the series, Arsenal may also have a pretty strong connection to Gotham considering his somewhat suicidal face-off with Killer Croc. How will Roy feel about coming back to Croc's stomping ground?

You are making a lot of assumptions in the question. Why do you think Roy was in Waylon's stomping ground and not the other way around? Hmmm. But, either way, it is pretty clear to eagle eyed Hoodies that Roy and Waylon's relationship developed a lot more after the aforementioned suicidal face-off -- so if Roy had the time, he would probably have stopped by Arkham Asylum to check in on Killer Croc. But again, everyone is too busy with the Talons to be taking much personal time during this story.

One of the reactions readers have yet to see in the New 52 is Bruce's attitude toward Jason and his chosen lifestyle after being brought back to life. How much, if any, interaction will Jason have with Batman during the course of "Night of the Owls?"

There is zero interaction between the two. There was going to be a one-page cameo where Jason dropped a defeated Talon onto the floor of the Batcave in front of Batman and says, "Don't say I've never done anything for you," but it got edited out because it didn't fit into the Batman story.

That said, I've gone on record more than once that I'm not terribly interested in telling another Batman/Red Hood story. Judd has told so many great ones that, when I do get the chance, it is going to have to rise to that level of awesome. Also, I really want "Red Hood and the Outlaws" to stand on its own. Yes, it is a Bat Book -- but it can be a Bat Book without needing Batman as a guest star.

I will say something, though -- I read more than once on the message boards that "Batman is going to beat the crap out of Jason when he sees Jason is wearing a bat on his chest!" I have to say, I don't see it: With all the crime and murder happening in Gotham -- and the more global exploits of the Justice League -- I just think Batman has so much more on his plate than to worry about whether or not Jason is wearing a bat on his chest. Bruce has a lot of issues with Jason -- but I think dress code is the least of them.

Earlier this week, Scott Snyder and Mike Marts commented on how closely the Bat-books have been working together on "Night of the Owls." How will events in some of the other Bat-books during the event impact what you'll be doing in the future of Red Hood?

First let me say how excited I am to be working with Scott -- the kid is just killing it every issue! Yeah, the Joker and Penguin and Mr. Freeze are all amazing characters and it is clear why they've lasted so long, but Scott and Greg have gone in a bold new direction creating a new mythology out of whole cloth. It is an exciting time to be a Bat-fan!

But how this event impacts on the future or Red Hood -- I don't see it having any long-term effects, but let's see what happens in the future.

Moving forward, what's next for Red Hood, Starfire and Arsenal after "Night of the Owls?" How does Jason's detour to Gotham influence the direction he takes to avenge the All-Caste?

I can't wait for the tenth and eleventh issues of "Red Hood!" There is a two-part story that finds Jason and Roy in outer space as part of the crew under Kori's command -- and the guys learn first hand that their "lil' princess" is one of the most feared and respected figures in the galaxy! Wait until you get a load of the rest of her crew! I'm telling you, if this isn't a spin-off waiting to happen...!

"Night of the Owls" continues with "Red Hood and the Outlaws" #9 in May.

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