LOG Op-Ed Article: Bring on 'The Boy Wonder'
By BRIAN HEATON
If there is one thing all Bat-fans can agree on, it is that the Robin character splits the fan base. Many try to walk the line on the issue, but there really is no middle ground. Either you like Robin and think he adds something to Batman/Bruce Wayne’s existence, or you despise him, thinking Robin is “campy” and a burden on the franchise.
Friends, I’m firmly entrenched in the former category. The Boy Wonder is a crucial part of the Bat-universe.
Robin makes Batman more human. For me, it is all about the realism factor. Bruce Wayne taking Dick Grayson as his ward, and ultimately as his partner against crime, furthers the maturation and development of Bruce Wayne (the man) and Batman (the hero).
As Bruce gets older and goes through more “fake” relationships under his cover as a rich and flamboyant playboy to hide his role as Batman, having a son, at least legitimately, is not feasible. In comes Dick Grayson, full of anger and sadness regarding his parents' death, much like Bruce himself at the same age. So Bruce mentors Dick, becomes a father figure, takes joy in Dick’s development as a person and at the same time and learns something about himself, now that he is responsible for another human being. It is a natural evolutionary step for Bruce Wayne, as a human being.
For Batman, much the same is true. How long can one guy fight alone, in darkness, without a helping hand? How long until the crazed psychos that Batman deals with finally put a crack in the Caped Crusader’s resolve? Having a young partner and ultimately, someone to take the mantle when Bruce gets too old for the role (as we've seen DC do with Dick Grayson in the comics) gives Batman an heir, but more importantly, a partner and friend that gives the Dark Knight a shoulder to lean on when the constant battle takes its emotional and physical toll.
Despite those arguments, there are fans that can’t stand Robin and think he’s a waste of time given the reason behind his origin. Yet, while Robin may have been founded with the word “campy” in mind, to appeal to young kids, the character has evolved into much more than that. Robin provides an additional human element that enriches the Batman story.
I can hear some of you now: “Hey, while you talk a good game about realism, what guy in his right mind would send a 12 or 13 year old out there against psychotic killers? How is that real?” Good point. I will not deny that is a complete stretch in regard to realism. But, whether Robin is 13 or 16, this is fiction, so we can allow our imaginations some leeway.
My point is not perfection regarding the character. It is about the necessity of giving Bruce Wayne/Batman a beacon of light in a universe and life that gets notoriously dark and jaded over the years. If Alfred serves as Bruce's surrogate father, then the natural progression is for Bruce to experience that role himself, complete with the difficulties and rewards associated with it.
While I like the loner angle of Batman and it makes things gritty to see him as a one-man army against Gotham City's underworld, Robin makes the Batman character well rounded. The Dynamic Duo's relationship provides the basis for more intriguing stories and reinforces the notion that Batman is a man with the same needs and faults that we all have.
Matt's Thoughts: Ok, I like this article and I enjoy the points made by Brian. What I want to add is simply the thought that what is so wrong with Robin being a tool to rope in kids to the franchise? You all do realize that although we're adult fans now, we began as kids. If kids DON'T get into Batman...the franchise dies with us. I, for one, don't want to see that happen. So, I say long live Robin!
Brian Heaton is a regular contributor to Legions of Gotham. When not opining on Batman-related news at LoG, he works as a music journalist and communications professional in Northern California. His work covering the world of hard rock/heavy metal music can be found at The Breakdown Room – www.breakdownroom.net.
Matt MacNabb is the owner and editor of Legions of Gotham.