Tato Farfan was a sixth-generation circus acrobat. With his father, mother, and older brother, he made up that period’s Flying Farfans. The book showed their life traveling by train with America’s biggest circus, practicing their routine, and putting on the show. It also showed other backstage details of the circus.
I liked this book a lot when I was younger. It also told me that, contrary to some tellings of the Batman mythos and somewhat to my dismay, Dick Grayson’s Robin costume has nothing to do with the circus. In fact, it would be dangerous to dress that way while flying on a trapeze.
Tato Farfan wore tights so his father could grab his ankles; bare legs could hurt, and boots with a flare at the ankles would have gotten in the way. Tato taped his wrists since circus flyers grip each other’s wrists rather than cling hand-to-hand; flaring gauntlets would have been dangerous.
To be fair, even back in Detective Comics, #38, Jerry Robinson drew young Dick in a traditional aerialist costume while he was with the circus, looking much like Tato. So have most artists since, though some have also showed an older Robin performing trapeze tricks in his costume, cape and all.
Jerry Robinson’s inspiration for the Robin costume wasn’t the circus but, as he always said, N. C. Wyeth’s paintings of Robin Hood in late medieval style. The boots, gloves, cape, jerkin, and mail trunks have their roots in that art, not in the circus.
TOMORROW: Where is Tato Farfan now?