Easily, the most compelling, fascinating, and dynamic character in BATMAN is (duh) Richard Grayson (a.k.a., Robin). A lot of us have a hard time with Robin. And I’m one of you! Who dresses like that? To fight spree killers and bank robbers and mafia kingpins? When Batman steps out of the shadows, people are scared. …
" /> Jason Holborn | Cybercarnet/Weblog - When You're This Big, They Call You Dick

When You’re This Big, They Call You Dick

Easily, the most compelling, fascinating, and dynamic character in BATMAN is (duh) Richard Grayson (a.k.a., Robin).

A lot of us have a hard time with Robin. And I’m one of you! Who dresses like that? To fight spree killers and bank robbers and mafia kingpins? When Batman steps out of the shadows, people are scared. I would be! If Robin stepped out of the shadows, you’re going to say, “Hi, kid! Don’t trip on your yellow satin cape!”

I get it. I do. Robin is silly.

In BATMAN, Bruce Wayne is the most committed human on the planet (and he has been blessed with a superpower: vast wealth). He fights violent and pervasive crime in a dangerous city worth saving, as the Batman, facing terrible and terrific dangers each night out there.

So, he would never have a kid sidekick.

Yet, he does.

And, he would never have a partner — period.

But he does.

Plus, he would never put a minor in harm’s way!

However, he does.

He does.

Why???

Of all the best BATMAN stories I’ve liked (THE DARK KNIGHT, THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, BATMAN: YEAR ONE, ALMOST HAD HIM, and even BATMAN (the 1989 movie), or DYING IS EASY COMEDY IS HARD, or BONE), Robin is in none of them. Ever.

I’ve never even read a Robin story that remotely interested me.

Ever.

I remember the first time I even saw BATMAN, as a kid, as a black and white re-printed comic — and even the Penguin intrigued me more than Robin.

And yet even I know that “Batman & Robin” goes together like “salt & pepper” or “books & movies” or “rock & roll” or “Batman & the Joker”. Robin IS a part of BATMAN and can’t be subtracted; even when they cut him out, they (always!) bring him in eventually.

Robin is silly.

And yet, so is Batman. Um, just be a detective with a business card and an office. Duh! At least you’d be allowed to carry a gun!

Yet when Michael Keaton dresses up as him, we all have to admit that Batman is cool. When Frank Miller draws him, along with many other talented drawers, we get a little thrill from the cool factor of Batman, regardless of how “silly” he is.

The Joker is basically silly, too.

Until Alan Moore does THE KILLING JOKE.

Until Frank Miller gives him a lipstick tube and an ice-cool demeanor.

Until he’s Jack Nicholson.

Until he’s Heath Ledger.

ALL of these people are “silly”: Selina Kyle, Harvey Dent, Edward Nygma. BATMAN is “silly”. Or, rather, BATMAN is “escapist”.

Batman would never have a thirteen year-old sidekick. No serious, modern man in any dangerous profession would accept a thirteen-year old sidekick. (And yes, Robin is thirteen. Or twelve. Or fifteen. He is not Chris O’Donnell or Joseph Gordon-Levitt.)

And yet, this most serious and most modern man *does* have a thirteen-year old assistant who stakes out the lairs of the world’s most dangerous evildoers — the ones whom even the FBI can’t handle. At some point in his life, having established The Batman, Bruce Wayne *does* take in and adopt a thirteen-year old partner-in-crimefighting. Bruce Wayne, who frequently saves small children from danger, allows a thirteen-year old to dodge ninja stars and chainsaws and laughing-venom darts and bullets instead of, er, doing homework and sleeping. He even lets the kid drive. (A tank.) He even lets the kid fly a plane.

It can’t possibly make any logical sense — unless the kid in question is, easily, the most compelling, fascinating, and dynamic character that Bruce Wayne has ever met. Ever.

As much as I have never believed Robin, ever, in my entire life, I recognize he’s an important part of BATMAN. There’s one BATMAN origin story I have never really personally seen done, and it is one of the great ones: how and why a committed, dedicated, unwavering Bruce Wayne could possibly, possibly, possibly, in a million years, relent and agree to take this orphan kid fully into his life. Why not just give him a grant to go live with a nice, happy family? Robin must be an incredible story and character that would make Bruce Wayne change his life’s trajectory and work, and channel his energy into a father figure role. So, yes. ROBIN is the best BATMAN story never (yet) told.

Who on earth would make a committed man on a crusade decide to take on a kid?

There is more than one possible answer to that question. I admit: I have a “fantasy Robin”; if I ever got to write for DC, I would struggle to make Robin a challenging, arresting character you would never forget.

Obviously, that’s who he was to Bruce Wayne, right off the bat.

20140606-105212.jpg