15 November 2015

“A depth that other superhero comics didn’t have”

A few months back, as McFarland sent out the first copies of Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder, editor Kristen L. Geaman asked all of us contributors to describe what our essays were about.

Here’s how I summed up my essay “Success in Stasis: Dick Grayson’s Thirty Years as a Boy Wonder” for the project’s Tumblr page:

The first chapter of the book looks at the first thirty years of stories about Dick Grayson, from his debut in 1940 until he leaves Wayne Manor in 1969. That was a period of stasis for the character, with no growth and no rifts with Batman that weren’t solved by the end of a story. Yet it was also the period that established Robin the Boy Wonder as a household name.

This chapter argues that the partnership of Batman and Robin was crucial to how those characters survived in the late 1940s when almost all other costumed superheroes stopped being published. The emotional bond between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne, explored most often in stories written by Bill Finger, gave their adventures a depth that other superhero comics didn’t have.

Robin thus became DC Comics’s preeminent symbol of youth, and the 1960s produced a roiling youth culture that forced the company to make changes in Dick Grayson’s life. After thirty years in his early to mid-teens, he had to grow up.
That highlights the hypothesis I arrived at while preparing that essay: that the emotional bond between Bruce Wayne/Batman and Dick Grayson/Robin was the crucial ingredient that made their series survive when most superheroes faded away. And Bill Finger, co-creator of the characters, was the storyteller who did the most to establish and explore that bond.

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