It’s no secret that Robin, the Boy Wonder sidekick, has been a fan favorite since his creation in the golden era of comic books. Now that DC Comics has revived the character with modern sensibilities, it’s time for fans to rejoice and demand more of their favorite superhero crime-fighter.
Robin has been part of the Batman mythos ever since he first appeared in 1940, and had a prominent role as one of the vigilante group’s most iconic sidekicks. He was originally introduced as the smart-mouthed but loyal Junior Justice (Robin’s full name is actually Robert Johnson).
After Bruce Wayne’s father was murdered by a criminal named Joe Chill, he swore to avenge his father’s murder. What began as a personal vendetta soon became a crusade to protect the innocent and punish evil-doers. In the 1940s, Batman’s rogues’ gallery of enemies included murderers, rapists, and other violent criminals.
Wayne’s fight for justice brought him into contact with a group of talented musicians, who helped him to create the Dynamic Duo of Batman and Robin. In the 1950s, Batman became the dominant force in crime fighting, capturing many notorious criminals and earning the respect of the press. The two sidekicks became inseparable, traveling the world and working together. In the 1960s, Batman and Robin started appearing on television, and soon became household names.
In the 1960s, DC Comics became more popular than ever before, and the demand for more superhero content became an industry standard. That trend continues today as the comics industry embraces social media and pop culture events, often featuring its most famous characters.
With so many comics to read, it was inevitable that fans would create alternative versions of their favorite characters. During this time, a whole subculture of nerds, sometimes referred to as ‘geeks’, developed around the concept of alternate universes and parallel realities. One of the best-known examples of this is the Teen Titans, a team of superhero teens who operate in the ‘main’ DC universe, but occasionally appear in other, parallel universes. (Their names are actually the initials of popular cartoon characters, and for some reason ‘Teen Titans’ is always their motto.)
While this was a phenomenon that occurred throughout the entire superhero genre, it was Detective Comics, a comic book devoted to helping crimefighters navigate the complex world of criminal law, that became the blueprint for all future ‘buddy’ comics.
With the rise of the comic book industry came the comic book fandom. Fanboys and girls grew up alongside their favorite superheroes, creating a comic-book subculture that persists to this day. One of the best-known examples of this phenomenon is Peter Parker and Stan Lee, the creators of the iconic character Spiderman. After creating the spider-man in 1933, Lee decided to give the character a ‘buddy’ sidekick, and created the funny and genius-smart Peter Parker. The two worked together on a variety of stories, eventually creating the Marvel Universe in which we know and love so many cool comic books.
With the popularity of superhero comics came the desire to create ‘heroic’ versions of everyday people. People who wanted to be superheroes, but perhaps lacked the physical attributes required to be one, could now become everyday supermen and women through science and technology. As a result, we have Ironman, Captain America, and a host of others.
In recent years, DC Comics has published a sequel to Detective Comics, titled Batman After Dark. In it, we learn that Batman has retired from his crime-fighting days, and has not been active for years. However, a mysterious figure called the Puppet Master, who preyed on Gotham City’s wealthy and elite, causes numerous crimes from which Batman must solve. The narrative focuses on Batman’s struggle to figure out who the mysterious Puppet Master is, as well as what his connection to Joe Chill is. (Chill’s, you’ll remember, was one of the very first victims of the Batman crusade, and we eventually find out that the Puppet Master’s real name is actually Joe Chill.)
This year, DC Comics will release a new, young-oriented Batman series, written and drawn by the amazing Kate Kane. The series will have a strong female lead, and is described as an all-ages read that will appeal to both boys and girls. In this new series, Gotham City is now a place where everyone can feel safe and secure, which has resulted in a 50% drop in homicides.
While Batman has not been seen or heard from since his retirement in the 1960s, his iconic status and popularity have not diminished. In fact, it seems the opposite may be true. His absence has only made him more relevant and vital, and has inspired a whole new generation of superheroes.