"The Legacy of Robin in the World of Batman" Author: Ricky Chruch (Follow RICHARDCHURCH16)
In comics, sidekicks often come and go with the times and, perhaps more importantly, the whims of the publisher and fan base. Nearly every superhero has had a sidekick at one point or another, but not many of them have stayed around long enough to be truly memorable. This makes Robin unique in not only being the first ever sidekick, but for having a legacy as long lasting as his mentor.
For 75 years Robin has been the model to base sidekicks off of, but he was also a means to draw in very young readers. After all, what child doesn’t imagine themselves running across rooftops with Batman or any other superhero? The Boy Wonder was a way to further attract young readers with someone they could directly relate to, even if he did wear a ridiculous costume.
Over the last several decades though, the idea of Robin has evolved beyond a simple marketing tool. He (or they) has become a strong character in and of himself, cultivating a very large following of his own. Not every superhero needs a sidekick, but Batman without Robin? That day probably will never come. Why is that exactly?
Perhaps that is because great lengths have been made to make Robin a character rather than someone who just follows Batman and helps move the story along. Dick Grayson, the very first Robin, in particular has grown over the course of 75 years to the point where in the comics he is no longer Robin, but his own developed hero called Nightwing. Without the relationship he and Dick have, Batman may have cut himself out from humanity and descended deeper into darkness. Dick Grayson brings out the best in Batman.
"YES!" - Jett
That may seem a silly thing to say, but one of the very reasons Bruce Wayne took Dick in in the first place is because he saw himself in the young boy. Like Bruce, Dick witnessed his parents murdered right in front of him. Knowing the anger Dick would be feeling, Bruce took him in to comfort and guide him. In the story DARK VICTORY, set in Batman’s early years, writer Jeph Loeb deconstructs the relationship and similarities they both share. There is a great sequence in that story where one page shows Bruce Wayne as a child mourning the loss of his parents while the opposite page shows Dick Grayson doing the same. They both say very similar things to Alfred throughout their conversation, but the crucial difference is at the end where Alfred takes the time to reassure Dick that he will never be alone while regretting the fact he never said that to Bruce, wondering what that small difference might have made in who Bruce would become.
Another outstanding sequence comes from the series YOUNG JUSTICE where Wonder Woman is highly critical of Batman’s "indoctrination" of Robin to his crime fighting cause. Batman replies that Dick needed help to hunt down the man responsible for his parent’s murders to which Wonder Woman replies “So he would become more like you?” Batman’s short reply is perfect and speaks volumes about the amount of respect and admiration he has for his protégé: “So that he wouldn’t”.
Batman recognizes he is not a perfect person and is trapped too much by his inner demons, but Robin is the opposite. He’s light, funny, insightful and very compassionate. He does what he does as Robin and Nightwing not out of a need for revenge, but because he simply wants to help and do good in the world. That may have not been possible without Bruce’s guidance as he too could have been swallowed up in his darkness. His capabilities even allowed him to become Batman himself when it was thought Bruce Wayne had died. Even The Joker is slightly jealous of Robin as he covets the title of Batman’s BFF.
With the exception of Alfred, there’s also no one who knows Bruce Wayne better than Dick Grayson. Their bond is that of a father and son or big brother and little brother at the very least. One moment that exemplifies this further is when Nightwing reveals he knows the codes to the Justice League teleporter from hacking into the Batcave’s computer. Batman tells him they’ll talk about that later and Nightwing’s response is “I can’t wait to see the pride beneath that disapproving scowl”.
The idea of Robin even grew beyond Dick as Batman has recruited multiple people to take up the mantle of Robin. So far there have been five in-continuity Robins, six if Carrie Kelly from THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS is included. He’s appeared in two of the Burton/Schumacher Batman films and, while it wasn’t the traditional Robin, he played a role in Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Robin John Blake was an amalgamation of the three most popular Robins: He had Dick Grayson’s day job as a cop, the rough childhood of Jason Todd, and discovered Batman’s identity on his own like Tim Drake did.
The contribution of Robin to not only the Batman mythos, but to the comic industry cannot be argued or understated. Without Robin, Batman wouldn’t have realized his need for a human connection or begun a legacy that will most certainly outlast him. Whether it’s Dick Grayson or anyone else under the mask, Batman will always need a Robin to not just help him fight crime, but keep him grounded and sane. - Ricky Church