Something kind of awesome happened yesterday. I was contacted via email by someone called Marko. He hangs around the Comic Book Resources forums and during a discussions about Batman’s Robins, my name came up, tied to a post I made on my old blog, Storie in Rosso, in 2011/2012. This guy looked for me, found another never updated site and contacted me asking if I had a copy of the article to share. Well, as a matter of fact I do.
Below is the original article. No changes. But because I really liked this little surprise, I’ll do one better and post an updated version later on. 🙂 Enjoy!
Today I bring you a little discussion about Comics or better, a branch of series of the DC Comics, which all started with Detective Comics #27 in 1939. The die hard fans recognize it as the issue where the world’s most famous masked detective and the superhero who defined ‘badass normal’ was first introduced: Bruce Wayne AKA the Batman.
Although, talking about Batman is like talking about sweets: they’ve been around for so long and they made so many of them that it’s impossible to talk about them all in a limited space and do the world of sweets justice. So, spurned by a recent rumor, I’ve decided to have a little analysis of the Batman in relationship to his closest members of the ‘Batfamily’: the Robins.
Important things first. The rumor I’m talking about, as first reported by the guys over at BleedingCool (http://www.bleedingcool.com/2012/01/24/robins-comic-from-jeff-lemire/). It seems that writer Jeff Lemire may have been drafted to be the pen behind a new series called ‘The Robins’, which should focus on all the characters who have been the Batman’s little wings over the years. This rumor caught my full interest because:
1. Jeff Lemire is the writer behind the new 52 Animal Man series which is my second favorite of the bunch;
2. The series is supposed to star and make interact all the characters who have donned the name Robin over the years;
The second prospective is the most exciting one to me because, if Batman started out as a lone character, he never was a loner, and it was the appearance in his life of these little soldiers that have made the biggest changes to his character. Let’s go see, in order of time of service, with the honorable mention of Stephanie Brown who’s although more of a Batgirl than a Robin.
Each section has a brief character history, the effects the character has had on Batman and a special section which I call ‘The Batman’s Aspect’, as in, which aspect of their mentor each of the Robins best incarnates.
Robin I (Dick Grayson)
Current Identity: Nightwing
“You’ve trained me too well — made me what I am.
You can’t keep me from pursuing my own destiny.”
This is where it all started. When in the comics Batman still smiled a lot, spouted words like ‘Old Chum’ and his Dark Knight persona still wasn’t as overbearing as it is today, that was when DC Comics decided to give old Bruce a sidekick. The choice fell on a character archetype that was sure to touch the billionaire/vigilante’s heartstrings: young Dick Grayson, whose parents’ ultimate demise, responsible the multicolored Two-Faces, Bruce witnessed under the tent of the Haley Circus. Moved by the youth’s grim loss, so similar to his own one, he decides to adopt him and make him his partner in the fight against crime.
His career begins as the dark knight’s sidekick but growing up, he begins to carve his own way as the leader of the Teen Titans. With growth, also came the need for personal space and making his own life. This led to the falling out with Batman and the birth of Nightwing.
How did that work for Batman?
If Dick’s adoption was an act of charity, it proved also to be the start of one of the most challenging venues ever undertaken by the Batman: having a partner was the least of his problems compared to his first taste of parenthood. Dick is probably the Robin who, in bringing up, Batman has done the most mistakes with and yet, maybe the one who came out the best since Dick has become someone able to stand up to his mentor where other senior heroes are afraid to, as proved by their frequent scuffles, but also someone who he can put his trust into, as proven by the numerous times Dick has donned the Dark Knight’s cowl in Bruce’s absence, either by request or by will of taking up his mentor’s cause. Even if, sometimes, he needed a little convincing. Batman or Nightwing, Dick still is his own person. This will never change nor is it something he’s willing to surrender anytime soon, greater good or not.
The Batman’s Aspect
The way I see it, each of the Robins has ended up being prone to master and perfect a different aspect of their mentor’s persona, like everyone got their part of an hypothetical Batman’s inheritance. In Dick’s case, there’s no doubt that the aspect he incarnates is the Athlete.
One of the objectives Bruce chose to achieve when deciding to become Batman was to achieve mental and physical perfection, and in his growth the first Robin nailed the latter one, also thanks to his background as the up and growing prodigy in a family of acrobats. Nice examples are found in the numbers of his ongoing series which feature the Cataclysm and No Man’s Land cross-over arcs.
Robin II (Jason Todd)
Current Identity: The Red Hood
“You rule them by fear, but what do you do with those who aren’t afraid?
I’m doing what you won’t! I’m taking them out!”
Oh, boy. My favorite Robin, and does he not have the most convoluted story out of the whole bunch. Going through a Crisis on Infinite Worlds, a resurrection and a reboot, Jason was first thought of as a red-haired replacement for Dick, having an almost identical origin story, which got rewritten after the first crisis. Jason was born in the slums of Gotham, to a far from perfect father who also promptly bit it, a caring although damaged adoptive mother and a real birth mother whose existence he didn’t even suspect. Once his adoptive mother also passed away, Jason was left to fend on his own, an angry, spiteful boy who wasn’t even afraid of stealing the wheels off the freaking Batmobile, which is how the two met and the new incarnation of the dynamic duo formed.
In the end, though, after discovering that there was a reason why his biological mother was able to leave him behind without remorse when she sold him out to the Joker, Jason died. After his resurrection, his journey brought him to go down his mentor’s same road, taking the aspect of his worst fear and coming in direct confrontation with almost the whole Batfamily more than once. Following Flashpoint, he seems to have found a new dimension in the world alongside other ‘damaged’ heroes Starfire and Arsenal. But the events of Court of Owls may bring back those ties he seems to have discarded.
How did that work for Batman?
Not really well. Batman loves all his sons equally, and he had learned from the mistakes he had made with Dick, but there was a big problem: Jason wasn’t Dick. The first boy wonder never ever displayed all the pent up rage that his new sidekick possessed, and Bruce was ill equipped at dealing with a son like Jason. Then Jason died, betrayed by his own mother. If The Killing Joke was a prelude, A Death in the Family was the catalyst. Jason’s death was the event that wiped away any and all traces of Adam West from Batman, turning him all Millar. The pain, the guilt over Jason’s death still hunt Bruce to this day. So, if you loved The Dark Knight trilogy and basically every grim portrayal of Batman, thank Millar and Jason, or better yet, the Joker’s crowbar.
The Batman’s Aspect
Jason Todd has ‘middle child’ written all over him. Not possessing the innate athletic skills of his older brother, nor the smarts of his younger one, he nonetheless incarnates maybe the most important aspect of the Batman, although to his own ends: the Fighter.
I’m not talking about martial prowess, but strength of will. No matter how distorted or misguided it may have been at times, Jason has always displayed a drive matched only by his original mentor, without maybe realizing it himself. We’re talking about someone who, although brain damaged and scared to death (again?!), dug out of his own grave with only tool the buckle of his belt.
Robin III (Timothy Drake)
Current Identity: Red Robin
“If Bruce taught me anything, it’s that you have to have
a game plan for everything, even for death.”
The guy who got it all: his own series, his own sidekick, and most importantly Young Justice! I loved that series! But just where did he come from? Well, Timothy is this young man from one of the wealthy families of Gotham who manages to deduce the Batman’s secret identity all on his own, worried about the dark path he seems to be heading down after the second Robin’s death.
Tim is the Batman’s Robin to the day of Bruce’s death, going also through a tenure as the leader of Young Justice first and Teen Titans later, acquiring the identity of Red Robin as he set on his quest of looking for his mentor. The reboot put him back in the Teen Titans, although still as Red Robin.
The big difference from the two previous Robin was that Tim wasn’t an orphan. He lost his mother pretty soon, but his father only bit it during Identity Crisis, which made Tim only a partner and a friend to the Batman for a long time. Most emotional baggage out of the way, Bruce could focus on his crime-fighting skills a lot more, liking his handiwork and Tim’s growth, not without difficulties, but this sums up pretty nicely his expectations of the third Robin: “Tim…I have to hand it to the boy…He wants to be the world’s greatest detective. And from what I’ve seen so far… He will be someday.”
The Batman’s Aspect
It’s a no-brainer. Seriously, it’s just too easy. We’re talking about someone who found out as a kid who Batman was and how many Robins were there based on an acrobatic jump he had seen when he was even younger and whose computer skills are superior to even the B-Man himself. There’s no doubt in my mind that Timothy got the Detective part of the Batman persona.
Be it putting together clues, following trails, hacking into computers, trying to clone your dead boyfr-BEST FRIEND! (that was a honest to god typo, not a joke! God damn it, YAOI FANGIRLS! >.<), Tim Drake has proven himself to be the family’s wiz kid over and over again.
Robin V (Damian Wayne)
Current Identity: Robin
“He is not your son. I am.”
Well, here’s the tough guy. Robin’s latest installation now adjourned with authentic Wayne blood, homicidal tendencies and discipline issues that make Jason and Dick’s venues pale in comparison. Ladies and gentlemen I give you Damian Wayne, son of Bruce Wayne and a mad Talia Al’Ghul. Daughters of the Demon hasn’t been nice with Talia.
Each Robin has had different reasons for starting their career: Dick and Jason out of gratefulness for their adoptive father and for the excitement of the life, Timothy out of worry for Batman. Damian? Damian was convinced that standing by his father’s side was his birth-right. Sadly, he only managed to get the role as Robin after Bruce’s death, being the only Robin going through two Batmans: first Dick, then Bruce itself.
Making Damian into a fine Robin may be Bruce’s hardest task yet. Not even Jason gave him that much trouble, if only for the fact that Jason hadn’t been grown up since birth as a member of the League of Assassins. On top of having to deal with Damian’s emotional issues or lack of said emotions, Bruce has to try his hardest to beat the Al’Ghul out of his flesh and blood. A hard task, since if Dick had managed to start breaking through his shell, Bruce is a very different kind of Batman.
The Batman’s Aspect
At the moment, we haven’t seen enough of Damian as Robin to fully define him as an aspect of the Bat. Maybe the strive for perfection, the ruthlessness, but the aspect he more closely defines is still to be decided.
So, this concludes or trip down the history of the Robin’s name. Their past and futures. A first family reunion is going to come with Court of Owls, where the whole Batfamily, including the ‘renegade’ Jason, will come together again for the first time after Flashpoint. Will sparks fly? Absolutely. Will punches be thrown? Probably. Snarky comments? Damian and Jason live on those. Headaches for daddy bats? Valium is the answer.
So, while I go re-read my man Jason’s adventures, I’m lightning a candle for The Robins. That’s a series I would like to see no matter what.
Meinos Kaen out!