Thoughts and observations on Green Arrow, classical liberalism, freedom, comic books and matters of social justice.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Robin still works

Chris Nolan said there was no place for him in his films. Christian Bale has sneered when asked about using him in a sequel. Alex Ross believes he’s the one concession Batman would never make. The fact is Batman barely made it a year without him.

Introduced in 1940, Robin, the boy wonder, was created by Bill Finger. The son of slain circus performers, Richard Grayson was taken into the Wayne home as a foster son to the millionaire (Wayne has since been upgraded to billionaire). After discovering the secret identity of Gotham’s resident playboy Grayson took on the mantle of Robin, after Robin Hood and not the bird, and became the Dark Knight’s crime fighting partner.

The character served many purposes; first, as a means for young kids, who made up almost the entirety of comics’ readership, to relate with the adventures of this dark hero’s often eerie exploits. Not many kids could identify with a rich guy who fights crime as a bat because of the murders of his family years ago. But every kid wanted to fight alongside that man, and Robin was the way they could accomplish this.

Second, Robin helped to lighten the mood a bit and make the adventures more fun. Purists scoff at the notion of adding a ray of sunshine to the world of Batman but remember folks, comic books can be fun too. And how realistic is a guy who carries the weight of his parents’ death twenty years ago as though it were yesterday? It wasn’t until Robin came along that Batman even smiled.

Third, Robin served as an instrument for exposition, finally Batman had someone to talk to and explain what was to happen next. As we all know the experiment worked and the character of Robin, in some form or another, has survived ever since.

It goes without saying that Robin can be explained by Bruce Wayne’s need to be the father he remembered and missed. Through the persona created by his parent's death, Wayne has created a new family. To answer Alex Ross I say that once you concede the idea that a billionaire chooses not to support tough judges, honest political candidates, and other types of social reform with his money, but instead dresses up as a bat to beat up street thugs to affect change in a corrupt city, then you must also allow for Robin.

Many comic book fans prefer the notion of a measured dial of suspension disbelief. They will allow for a “Batman” solution; but to then permit for the Robin character asks too much. I see it as more of a light switch, once you have guys in capes, all’s fair. Plus, Robin still works. My youngest son and I watch the new Batman cartoon every Saturday morning and it is Robin, not the Batman, who he identifies with and chooses to play as.

Even after 68 years Robin, the boy wonder, does his job.

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