I know…today’s the first day of the new year and all that, and I should probably give out some tidbits about the day and how it marks some sort of important something or other…I just don’t care. Instead, I’m going to talk about something completely different…
In fact, I’m going to talk about a character that has, traditionally been one of the most useless fictional characters of all time (only really used to humanize a character that is anything but human nowadays): Robin, Batman’s sidekick.
I recently became aware that I knew nothing about the origin of the boy wonder’s chosen moniker and went on a hunt to find it…and was disappointed. There are actually two different tales regarding how Dick Grayson (the first Robin) went about choosing the name he would take to strike fear into the hearts of evil. One was his love of Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood films. This one actually makes sense, as, you know, he kinda dresses like an Errol Flynn character. Actually, that’s about it. I mean, he doesn’t use a bow and arrow, he doesn’t steal from the rich or give anything to the poor. Yeah, it’s pretty lame.
But it’s still better than his current reason for choosing the name, which seems to be little more than, well, it’s a bird and it flies and Batman is named after a flying thing, so, you know, that works.
What’s even worse is that this explanation, although barely touched on in the comics and is barely an origin for the title, is really just how the creators came up with the character. In other words, Dick Grayson has this cool story about his parents dying and how he is taken on as Bruce Wayne’s ward, but when it comes to why he calls himself what he does, it’s little more than, well, Batman created this costume and it kind of barely looks like either a character that’s a far cry from a little boy who fights crime, or a, well, a song bird…
Obviously, you can forgive the other five Robins (more if you count non-canon tales) for the name, but Grayson, sheesh.
Although, there seems to be a real terrible history with superhero identities among the Robin crew. Dick grows up to become Nightwing…which he technically takes from a Kryptonian hero who lives in Kandor, but really it’s just because, you know, he glides around at night. Jason Todd, after resurrecting from the dead, becomes the Red Hood…and Tim Drake grows up to become Red Robin, because he loves hamburgers…or, because of some convoluted tale about his love for Jason Todd, even though he grows up to become this evil guy based on the fact that the Joker killed him, but didn’t. (Honestly…Jason Todd should’ve just stayed dead. They spent so much of the Batman mythos using his death as a development point for Batman, it really seems to be one of the most atrocious resurrections in comic book history to bring him back…outside, perhaps, of bringing back Supergirl, whom I love, but was killed off in order to sell billions of comic books back when DC was on the verge of death themselves)
Sooo…back to Robin. Honestly, for all of the crap I give Batman, Robin really deserves even more crap. He’s so underdeveloped in most situations. Once he joined the Teen Titans we begin to see that he’s really just a little miniature Bruce Wayne (same thing with Nightwing) that it kind of becomes annoying, as Batman’s found a way to make little Batmans without actually having to make a mother. In fact, he seems to really dig finding kids who don’t have parents and pushing his own issues on top of them. Robin, actually, is the perfect example of how terrible Batman is. He’s a human who really seems to have completely lost his way, become too attached to his own selfish battle against everyone, but then decides to allow these kids into his life to fight alongside him, as long as they realize that they need to become horrible people like him as well.
Oh yeah…did you forget that I don’t like Batman?
That’s right, because Batman operates as this lone wolf, spends most of his time working against the Justice League because he operates alone, but then somehow he has this whole Bat-family of Robins and Nightwings and Batgirls and Huntresses, all who bicker among themselves about how they hate Bruce even though they are all exactly like him. Yep, that’s right, when you start looking closer, you realize that the Bat-family makes the Batman books more like an angsty broken family tale than the detective comics they were supposed to be. You know…because DC wants to be more like Marvel.
In the end, none of this matters, because, you know, I’m over Batman (although there are the few standout tales, such as Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, or Knightfall). I’m just starting to wonder what Batman would have looked like without Robin, which, for the record, although Robin seems like he would have been one of those weird additions of the 70s (because everyone got sidekicks and younger versions (and animals) in the 70s ), Robin’s been around since almost the beginning, since 1940, a year after Batman came around in the first place.
You know why Robin came around? Because the writers were tired of having so much of the words on the page in the books being internal monologue…which, of course, is a staple of the detective comics/film noir movies. Robin officially came around to make the books less detective-y.
It seems to have worked for the popularity of the characters, I suppose. So maybe I should just shut up.
Anyways, here are your tidbits for this Thursday. I’m out.
Have fun out there!