Nerd Rant: Batman and the Dead Robins Society
News came out early this week of an upcoming plot development in DC's Batman comic book series: Batman's sidekick, Robin, is going to die. Again.
"Dammit! Alfred, fetch me another Robin from the orphanage!"
The latest dead Robin is the fifth Robin in official Batman continuity--sixth if you include the Robin from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. (Then again, DC has rebooted and ret conned its superhero universe so many times, what really is "official" continuity anyway?) This will also be the third dead Robin, after the second Robin, Jason Todd, was blown up by the Joker back in 1988, and the fourth Robin, Stephanie Brown, was killed in 2004 after being tortured by Black Mask. (Check out the official Robin-torturing Black Mask action figure here.) However, the current dead Robin is the only officially dead Robin because Brown was brought back in 2008 and Todd was brought back in 2010. To paraphrase Adam West, "Some days, you just can't get rid of a Robin!"
According to what I've read, this Robin will be killed while he is saving the world, by an assassin cloned from Robin's own DNA. (Doesn't this qualify as suicide?) How long this particular Robin will stay dead remains to be seen, providing that DC doesn't have some kind of unwritten rule that there must now be at least one dead Robin for Batman to mourn over at any given time. You know, for ready-made pathos that doesn't involve Batman's dead parents.
It's been said frequently that death doesn't last long in superhero comics, which is all too true. However, there's something unintentionally and morbidly hilarious that Batman's kid sidekicks die and then return from the grave on what now appears to be a regular basis. Keep in mind that the character of Robin was originally created in the 1940s as a surrogate for kid fans of Batman, that he enabled child readers of the comics to imagine fighting alongside the Caped Crusader himself. Now, they can imagine themselves croaking and then cheating death too with Batman by their side--providing that Batman himself isn't dead, lost in time, having his back broken by Bane, or some other inconvenience that will inevitably go away within a few issues.
If this isn't enough shark-jumping for you, just take a look at the details behind the killed character in question. The new dead Robin is Bruce Wayne's biological son, Damian Wayne, who Wayne had with Talia Al Ghul, daughter of Batman villain Ra's al Ghul--although Wayne didn't know about it until ten years later. Then it gets weird. As Vaneta Rogers for Newsarama writes:
"Talia had her developing fetus genetically perfected and grown in an artificial womb. Then as Damian grew up, she made sure he was trained by the masters of the League of Assassins. ... Not only did he become an expert in martial arts, but his childhood was a life of cold-hearted competition, a matter of "kill or be killed." ... By the time Talia handed the boy over to his father -- in an apparent attempt to disrupt Batman's investigation of one of her villainous plots -- Damian Wayne had grown into an unfeeling, barbarous, uncontrollable killer. ... the bratty, spoiled, deadly Damian Wayne was immediately a problem for Bruce ... Originally, the kid came across as an almost humorous addition to Bruce's story, because the super-cool Batman was getting frustrated with his inability to control the little bugger. But when Damian went out on his own and beheaded a criminal to "help" his father fight crime, the problem got a little more serious. ... "(Damian) means well but was raised wrong," Batman artist Tony Daniel told Newsarama after the character first debuted."
Robin no. 5 (a.k.a. Damian Wayne), working out his frustrations
over having a crowbar instead of a machete.
(* Damian Wayne is not to be confused with Cassandra Cain, yet another youth who was raised by a parent to become a deadly assassin but was then taken under Batman's wing for the sake of redemption. Cain briefly assumed the mantle of Batgirl, although the last time I checked I think that Cain was kicked out of the official Batman timeline during the last DC reboot. I guess there can only be one homicidal-yet-redeemable youth in the Batcave at a time.)
Batman writer Grant Morrison says,"Batman will
ultimately always have a partner."