by: Joel V. Grineau
|Robin: The "Mother" Of All Sidekicks
In April 1940, "Detective Comics" #38 introduced the world to the first sidekick of comicdom, Dick Grayson aka: Robin, the Boy Wonder. But why, after only twelve Batman stories, and only a year after his creation, was it felt that Batman needed a sidekick?
Well, in creator Bob Kane's own words "I thought that every young boy would want to be like Robin; instead of having to wait to grow up to become a superhero, they wanted to be one now. A laughing daredevil - free, no school, no homework, living in a mansion over a Bat Cave, riding in the Bat Mobile - he appealed to the imagination of every kid in the world." (Bob Kane "Batman and Me", 1989).
Most readers would offer additional answers: that Robin acts as a foil, he provides a lightness that balances/offsets the grimness of Batman. Of course, like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Batman has to explain his amazing deductions to Robin, so that the reader also understands what is going on. A few wags would answer that Robin makes a nice bright target in yellow, green and red, to Batman's black and grey. Political correctness prohibits me from delving into a fourth possibility, instead I refer you to Saturday Night Live's 'Ace and Gary, the Ambiguously Gay Duo' cartoon.
What makes Robin special? Sidekicks have come and gone since him, and will continue to do so. Yet, Robin remains. Robin has become an archetype, an icon. He is firmly entrenched in the DC mythos. The phrase 'Batman and Robin' flows off of the tongue. In comic books Robin only came after Batman had established himself, and this was also the case in the films and animated series.
But what's the formula? How did this kid in yellow, red and green become such an archetype? Well, first off, almost 60 years of continuous exposure definitely didn't hurt. Secondly, as stated above, it was because of the many roles that Robin fills.
Most importantly though, he was allowed to grow. Even as a young man Dick Grayson felt the need to determine his own course, leaving the Batbooks to head the first and second groups of Teen Titans. Usually the only non-superpowered individual, he still lead the teams, and was never 'killed'.
After a time remaining Robin wasn't enough, so Grayson became Nightwing and continued to lead the Teen Titans ("Tales of the New Teen Titans" #44, 1984). More recently (1994), when Batman was temporarily crippled, Nightwing assumed the 'mantle of the bat' but it was psychologically too much for him, and he gave it up. Today, Nightwing is busting heads in Bludhaven, just down river from Gotham.
Further proof that Robin is an archetype is evidenced in that others have followed in his footsteps. Yes, others have struggled to fill the footsteps of a sidekick! The second Robin, Jason Todd, was disliked by a majority of fandom, and thus, after barely six years in comicdom, was killed by the Joker ("Batman" #427, 1989).
The third and current Robin, Tim Drake, appeared shortly after Jason Todd's death. He has fared much better, starring in three mini- series, (1991, 1991, 1992) and his own continuing series (1993 - present). Not even the original Robin starred in his own series. No other teen sidekick has ever carried their own comic book series.
Of course, once you are an icon, the iconoclasts are sure to come a callin'. Two prominent examples come to mind. First, "Amazing Spiderman" #353-58 (1991) contained an entertaining story about Moon Knight's sidekick Midnight turning evil, and it was titled "Round Robin: the Sidekicks Revenge". Secondly, the truly subversive "Marshall Law: Kingdom of the Blind" (1990) had the hero investigating the Private Eye, a Batman-like character who killed his boy sidekicks and stole their organs to extend his life.
Mock him if you will, but I think that in some way, Robin deserves respect. He was the first, and the best sidekick of all.
Just ignore the Batman TV series.
||Joel Grineau is a former Writer/Contributing Editor for "Chaos"
Magazine. "Iron Man" 146 (purchased in the spring of
1981) was his first comic book, and time has not worn down his
enjoyment of them. Joel holds a BA from the University of Guelph and an MA
from the University of Saskatchewan. He is currently an officer with the Canadian Forces.
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