Writing obituaries for the young is never easy. The task becomes harder when the boy in question is prodigious enough to be unanimously called the Boy Wonder. But life and super villains are evil things. Robin, as the eighth installation of Batman Incorporated tells us, is no more. Last heard,
the grieving Batman had shut himself in a cave. His guilt and remorse are reportedly exaggerating his baritone while amplifying his thirst for revenge. We may eventually be offered a comic bloodbath to make up for our loss, but Batman’s world without Robin will continue to seem as preposterous as, say, Thelma’s life without Louise.
It must be said, though, that Robin wasn’t exactly that young a cherub. Created by DC comics in 1940, Robin started out small. Little more than the grave Batman’s goofy sidekick, Robin rose to fame in the 1966 Batman TV series, which saw him pace Gotham city in his dirty green tights, excitedly spouting unforgettable lines such as, ‘Holy priceless collection of Etruscan snoods!’ For most part, however, Robin stayed in the shadow of Batman’s all-encompassing cape. Even when he was given a meaty supporting part in the 1997 film, Batman and Robin, audiences seemed more interested in the catfight between Poison Ivy and Batgirl than in his Oedipal battles with Batman, the meanest daddy on the block. Robin’s life was never easy. Being confined to the passenger seat of the Batmobile never is.
During his life and many avatars, Robin has retired and become an independent superhero called Nightwing. He has been murdered by the Joker, and has then miraculously come back from the dead. Unlike other sidekicks in the superhero universe, Robin has seemed as flexible as his spindly legs. In recent comics, it was the character of Damian Wayne, Batman’s 10-year-old son who had appropriated the role of Robin. By getting him killed, DC comics have again introduced to Batman the theme of familial loss. Writer of Batman Incorporated, Grant Morrison asks an interesting question —“For what son could ever hope to replace a father like Batman, who never dies?” The whole of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy seems to be predicated upon the invincibility the superhero acquires while witnessing the deaths and murders of his loved ones. If you happen to be close to Bruce Wayne, the moral in Gotham goes, make sure your will is in place.
Robin, ever since his inception, had always been a signifier for our aspirations. With Batman’s muscle and gadgets always out of reach, Robin’s excitable adolescence was identifiable. While children threw tantrums wanting latex Batman suits, it proved much easier for parents to stitch an ‘R’ to our red shirts instead. With Robin, we may not have lost a superhero in the strictest sense, but we have undoubtedly lost a hero as sidelined as us.
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