27 April 2008

The “Battle We’ve All Been Dreading”

This week Fuse #8 provided a link to Barcelona-based comics artist David Baldeon's online gallery, including some pages he penciled for Robin #169. These also appear on his Spanish-language blog, as do examples of how some of the same pages looked after digital inking and coloring. In addition, Baldeon had drawn Robin #172 and some issues of Teen Titans and Blue Beetle, which both featured, well, Robin.

The basis of this weekly Robin installment is Baldeon's full-page image (click on thumbnail to the right) of the current Robin (Tim Drake) and the original Robin, now Nightwing (Dick Grayson), about to confront each other over...well, some pool of immortality thing--I wasn't really following. This was the dramatic last page of one chapter in a story that arced over several of the Batman-related magazines late last year in the usual effort to boost sales.

The next chapter appeared in Nightwing #139. Its cover showed Tim and Dick grappling, the headline "Brother vs. Brother," and the marketing copy "Is this the Nightwing vs. Robin battle that we've all been dreading?" The first full-page spread by Don Kramer looked like this.

(Bigger images here.)

Fights between two popular heroes are part of superhero comics' stock in trade, so common that they're cliché. They offer lots of action. They bring in two sets of fans. They answer the sort of question that burns in the minds of eight-year-olds: "What if Superman fought Wolverine? Wouldn't that be neat!"

But in this case, after about four pages of acrobatics, Robin and Nightwing hugged it out. And their fans weren't disappointed. Because Tim and Dick have the most comfortable, least emotionally fraught relationship of any two characters in the "Batman family," and possibly all of comics. Since 1991, they've been written as brothers, well before they had any familial or legal tie. (In recent years Bruce Wayne has adopted both as heirs.) They've remained close and respectful even when one or the other was estranged from Batman.

And fans love that aspect of these two characters. That's why folks were dreading a fight between Nightwing and Robin while a fight between Superman and Wolverine would still be neat.

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