Publication history 
The Red Hood first appeared in Detective Comics #168 "The Man Behind the Red Hood" (February 1951). In the original continuity, the man later known as the Joker was a master criminal going by the alias of the Red Hood. 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 then he was suddenly cornered on a catwalk by Batman. Left with no alternatives, he dove into a catch basin for the chemicals and swam to freedom, surviving because of a special breathing apparatus built into the helmet. The toxins in the vat permanently discolored him, turning his hair green, his skin white and his lips red. Upon discovering this, he went insane and adopted the persona of the Joker.
In Batman: The Killing Joke, Alan Moore wrote an alternative origin of the Joker, and thus 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 wanted 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 costume of the Red Hood, which has been worn by many men before. This way, the gang is able to falsely identify the Red Hood as their leader on all crimes they perform when things go wrong. 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, he 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!"
A retroactive continuity change appears between the Batman #450-451 story line The Return of the Joker and the graphic novel one-shot Batman: The Man Who Laughs. In The Return of the Joker, the Joker resurfaces after apparently being killed at the end of the Batman: A Death in the Family storyline. In this story, the Joker rummages through his belongings, finds the Red Hood costume and wears it for a robbery in order to regain his confidence and become the Joker again. The Man Who Laughs is a retelling of the first appearance of the Joker, a few months after the Red Hood's plunge into the chemicals, tying the story into both Batman: Year One and The Killing Joke. In this story, Batman is in possession of the Red Hood costume, presumably having discovered it on the banks where the Joker washed up after his swim in the chemical basin.
The Red Hood also makes a brief appearance in Neil Gaiman's "Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" during the funeral wake scene.
Jason Todd 
A new Red Hood appears in the Batman: Under the Hood storyline running through Batman comics, written by Judd Winick. Jason Todd, the former Robin killed by The Joker in Batman: A Death in the Family, is revealed to be resurrected and is the new Red Hood. His debut culminates in a fateful confrontation with those he feels have wronged him. He beats the Joker with a crowbar (mirroring the way the Joker had tortured him before killing him with a bomb) and later kidnaps him. The new Red Hood assumes control over various gangs in Gotham City and starts a one-man war against Black Mask's criminal empire. He actively tries to cleanse the city of corruption, such as the illegal drug trade and gang violence, but in a violent, antiheroic way. He eventually comes to blows against Batman and other heroes allies, including the new Robin, Onyx and Green Arrow.
In the second story arc of Batman and Robin by Grant Morrison and Philip Tan, Jason retakes the mantle of the Red Hood. With the goal of making the very concept of Batman obsolete, he puts a lot of effort into public relations: he drastically alters his Red Hood costume to look more like a traditional superhero outfit, recruits his own sidekick known as Scarlet. In their war on crime Red Hood and Scarlet freely kill criminals, villains and anyone who gets in his way, even the police. After all his killings he leaves behind a calling card which states "let the punishment fit the crime." He describes his vendetta against Dick Grayson as "the revenge of one crazy man in a mask on another crazy man in a mask."
After Barry Allen's involuntary tampering with the continuum, Red Hood is shown, along with Arsenal and Starfire, as one of the Outlaws, a close knit group of anti-heroes. Still not above killing, and still angry at the world, Jason has now reverted to the street clothes costume, forgoing his feud with Batman for stealthier, more cloak and dagger missions.
In an interview for the Infinite Crisis hardcover, Jeanine Schaefer states that Geoff Johns originally planned to reintroduce Red Hood as the Jason Todd of the Earth-Two universe, but such plans were discarded. Said Schaefer:
"Well, Geoff's idea was to have Red Hood be the Jason Todd of Earth-Two. So he'd be this kid, who wanted to be Batman's sidekick. He sneaks into the Batcave, and the first thing he sees as he boots up the bat-computers is... Batman murdered. And so he uses Bruce's stuff, training himself to take over for him. I think there was even talk of his possibly being Deathstroke's Robin."
Other versions 
Kingdom Come 
Unrelated to the Joker and Jason Todd incarnations of the Red Hood, is Red Hood from the limited series Kingdom Come. The Kingdom Come Red Hood is Lian Harper, daughter of super-hero Roy Harper and villainess Cheshire. A skilled archer much like her father, her costume and name are modeled after both the fictional Little Red Riding Hood character and possibly Robin Hood. Lian's costume is also at least partially modeled after Centaur Publications' Arrow.
DCAU comics 
An animated version of the character appears at the end of The Batman Adventures #8. It was meant to be a subplot to be resolved later, but the cancellation of the ongoing series prevented that. Though the creative team (Dan Slott and Ty Templeton) behind the story are hoping for a chance to resolve it, they have yet to do so. It has been stated that this Red Hood is someone crucial to the DC animated universe.
Dan Slott mentioned that the background of the character would tie into a subplot concerning Lucius Fox, the Vellestra Gang (from Batman: Mask of the Phantasm) and the Powers Family (including an infant Derek Powers from Batman Beyond).
Justice League: Generation Lost 
A future version of the Red Hood is shown in Justice League: Generation Lost #14. Here, he is revealed to be the partner of the Batman of that era, as well as a member of the Justice League. His real name is stated to be Thomas Grayson, implying that he is somehow related to Dick Grayson. 
In other media 
- The original Red Hood appears in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold voiced by Jeff Bennett. This version is a heroic alternative reality version of Joker and is shown to be an extremely capable fighter, able to hold his own against multiple members of the Injustice Syndicate. In addition, he wields projectile weapons shaped like spades (a reference to his mainstream counterpart's playing card motif). Like the Joker, this Red Hood was disfigured after falling into a chemical vat at the Ace Chemical Plant but he was already a superhero and was actively dropped in by Owlman. His sanity is said to have been 'Bent, but not broken'. In the episode "Deep Cover for Batman!", Red Hood tries to rally his world's heroes (alternate versions of the villains from the "normal" universe) against the Injustice Syndicate but they are defeated. Red Hood escapes and tries to use a device to recruit help from another Earth (Batman's universe) but he is captured by the Syndicate. After Batman is attacked by Owlman (sent to Batman's universe on a reconnaissance mission), he journeys to Red Hood's dimension. During scenes in this episode, the Red Hood's face is shown, but in shadow, showing a bit of green hair and a wide grin that clearly resembles the Joker. After the heroes are freed and the villains defeated, Red Hood thanks Batman and hopes his counterpart can return the favor. Sure enough in the next episode "Game Over for Owlman!", Batman is forced to team-up with the Joker in order to defeat Owlman (who has impersonated Batman and ruined his reputation in his absence).
- In Teen Titans, a similar character named Red X appears. In a Teen Titans Go animated short, it was implied, much like Red Hood, Red X may actually be Jason Todd.
- In Astro Boy, a character named "Shadow" wears a costume identical to the first Red Hood, only in a black and white yinyang colour and a yellow eye with a black pupil.
- In the pilot episode of Arrow, Oliver Queen is taken hostage by a group of hired thugs all wearing red helmets, meant to be an allusion to the Red Hood Gang.
- In the 2010 animated film Batman: Under the Red Hood, the second Red Hood (voiced by Jensen Ackles) appears as the main antagonist while the original Red Hood (voiced by John DiMaggio) appears in a flashback showing some material from Batman: A Death in the Family. It is also implied that several people have used the Red Hood persona.
- In Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, Bane enters the Gotham Stock Exchange disguised as a motorbike deliveryman, wearing a red helmet and biker's jacket (a clear nod to the second Red Hood).
- An action figure of the Joker as the Red Hood was released as part of the Justice League Unlimited toyline, included in a six figure set.
Video games 
- The original Red Hood was mentioned in Batman: Arkham City. In Hugo Strange's interview tape that revolved around Joker, it was mentioned that Joker got his Red Hood outfit from Carmine Falcone's men when it came to robbing the Ace Chemicals Plant which led to Joker's transformation during the fight with Batman.
- The original Red Hood is also mentioned in Lego Batman: The Video Game as a part of Joker's biography.
- The second Red Hood appears in the Nintendo 3DS version of Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes as a playable character.
- The Red Hood costume for the Joker was released as DLC for the fighting game Injustice: Gods Among Us.
See also