The Issue of Robin

There is a lot of talk on movie websites about the inclusion of the character Robin in the latest round of Batman movies.  You check out these articles from SlashFilm and Cinematical.  The main issue seems to be that no one believes that Robin should be included and some even argue that the character of Robin should be removed from the Batman mythos altogether.

This is a horrible idea and further proves that most of the people calling for the removal of Robin 1) do not understand the Batman mythos and 2) have probably only experienced the Chris O’Donnell Robin (which is not Robin).  Allow me to explain.

Robin serves a major role in the Batman universe in all 4 incarnations.  For those that are not aware there have 4 Robins to date: Dick Grayson (now Nightwing), Jason Todd (Killed by Joker but recently brought back due to a split in universes during Infinite Crisis), Tim Drake (the current Robin), and Stephanie Brown (aka the Spoiler and Robin only for a short time).  In every instance, Robin is the more optimistic (usually) character to Batman’s dark pestimistic view on the world.  This adds a touch of humanity to Batman, having someone around that constantly looks on the brighter side of things, even in the face of danger.  But each Robin serves their own distinct purpose as well.

Dick Grayson

Dick Grayson, whose parents were tragically killed by criminals trying to harrass the circus owner of the circus he and his parents traveled with, was brought in under Batman’s wing to give him a outlet for his anger and giving young Grayson someone who could mentor to him and teach him a path that didn’t end in disaster.  Something Batman did not have.  Dick was the first to wear the Robin mantle (and if you’ve read Robin Year One then you know he also help come up with the name).  Dick is also the most likely successor to the mantle of the Batman as he as been trained from a young age to be a detective and crime fighter.  The main point here is that Grayson’s path was set by Batman, it also gave Batman a partner in his lone war on crime.

Jason Todd

Jason Todd was the exact opposite of Dick Grayson.  A criminal who Batman found stealing tires off the Batmobile, Batman figured he could give the boy a more constructive hobby.  The problem with Jason Todd (and the reason he was killed) is he wasn’t Dick.  People had grown to like Dick Grayson and had watched the boy grow up.  The idea of a new Robin didn’t sell well (at least the first time).  Jason Todd’s role as Robin is now that he is Batman’s greatest failure.  An innocent who was killed in the line of duty by Batman’s greatest foe.  It is this mistake that causes Batman to have reservations about taking another Robin.  But when a third Robin does come around, Batman goes to great lengths to ensure his safety.  Without Jason Todds death, Batman has no large failure.

Tim Drake

Tim Drake, the third Robin, is the only Robin to have his own monthly series.  And under the guide of writer Chuck Dixon, is really shown to have a place in both the Batman mythos and the DC Universe as a whole.  Where Jason Todd is Batman’s biggest failure, Tim Drake is his brightest student.  Batman is on record as saying that Tim is smarter than him and will more than likely take over some day.  The main reason people like this Robin is because he has a tie to Dick Grayson (he has a picture of himself sitting on Dick’s lap while attending Haily Circus) and was there when Dick’s parents died.  Also Dick Grayson cares for Tim like a brother (and since Bruce has officially adopted Tim, they are brothers).  Tim is important because he is the one who made Batman understand that he needs a Robin.  Batman needs a Robin to make him really think through all the angles and not be so gung-ho in battle (read A Lonely Place of Dying).

Stephanie Brown

Stephanie Brown served as Robin when Tim Drake temporarily quit at the request of his father.  Stephanie was also fired as Robin for not obeying orders.  Stephanie’s purpose as Robin is two-fold.  First, she is proof that not everyone that wants to be Robin or included in the Bat-Club can cut it.  Secondly, she is a cautionary tale about understanding just how deep Batman’s secrets go.  He never let her in on all the secerets and because of this, she inadvertantly started a gang war that seemingly ended with her dying (it has since been revealed that she is not dead, and has returned to Gotham as the Spoiler again).  She is also proof that Batman wants soilders, people who are willing to follow orders without too many questions.  Most of the time, it is his way or the highway.

How to Do Robin Right

Now, I can understand some people’s fears on bring Robin into the Nolan Batman movies.  The last time Robin was brought into the movies, it was pretty horrible.  He wasn’t a kid, and he had too many anger issues, and they gave him Tim Drake’s suit.  So Robin in Batman Forever had Dick Grayson’s origin, Jason Todd’s anger, and Tim Drake’s outfit.  Too much at one maybe?

So how should someone write Robin into the Nolan Batman movies?  Since this is probably never going to happen, here is how I would do it.

  • Make sure he is a kid! This is the big one folks, for Robin to work you have to make him a teenager (like 12-14 max).  It also adds to the reason that Robin always told jokes when fighting, because it was the only way (as a kid) he knew to mask his fear.
  • Keep the circus origin, it is important that Robin be athletic and an acrobat (gives him a leg up when the training starts)
  • You’d need a training montage.
  • Make his costume more realistic (like Batman’s), it can be darker but it still needs color (the color was meant to be a distraction so Batman could act quickly)
  • Make sure Batman has the father-figure thing but at the same time ensure that it is something he learns over the course of a couple of films.  Bruce and Dick still have issues relating with each other to this day.
  • Get someone like Chuck Dixon to help write and help folks understand Robin.  Chuck Dixon is the best writer of both Tim Drake’s Robin and Dick Grayson’s Nightwing.  He truly understands both characters.

The solution is not full proof.  And Robin should not show up for at least 2-3 more movies.  And if you really want to follow continuity, you’ll need to bring Batgirl around first anyway.  The idea here is that Robin is important to the overall character development of Batman.  It shows he’s human and is not just a over-obcessed nutball, he has a mission and he needs people to carry on that mission after he dies.  He needs family, something that he never truely had.  This is something that a lot of people don’t fully understand for some reason.

Recommended Reading:

  • Dark Victory
  • Robin Year One
  • Nightwing Year One
  • Lonely Place of Dying
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