17 November 2007

Don't Let the Robin Drive the Car

The first superhero comics collection I remember reading was a copy of Batman: From the '30s to the '70s, published in 1971. I think it was in the library of the college where my father taught, and I would have been in early elementary school. Naturally, this collection included a lot of stories about Batman's sidekick Robin, starting with the 1940 adventure in which young Dick Grayson began fighting crime and going through the 1969 tale that showed Dick leaving Wayne Manor for college.

I didn't buy or read comic books until a few years later, and then I focused on Marvel titles--Batman and Robin were trademarks of that company's rival, DC. But the last series that I bought on a monthly basis, the only one I still checked out during my own first years at college, was the Marv Wolfman/George Pérez Teen Titans. That group of young superheroes was led by none other than Dick Grayson, though toward the end of my run he'd taken a new costume and identity as Nightwing.

Robin, the Boy Wonder, was thus at the alpha and omega of my experience with superhero comics. So when I decided to look at that genre again this year, I figured I could do worse than investigate them through that character. He's been around in American culture for two-thirds of a century. Other young characters have now assisted Batman under the name Robin. And the whole batch have, it turns out, gone through some interesting changes and interpretations.

At first I imagined a week's worth of musings on Robin, but then I realized I had more. Enough to turn this into a comics blog, of which there are plenty already, and to turn off some children's-literature fans (one of whom I've already heard from this COMICS AND NON-COMICS fortnight).

So instead of bunching the Robin posts together and letting the Boy Wonder drive this blog, I'm inaugurating an almost-regular series I'll call "the weekly Robin."

You've been warned.

(The dramatic image above, anonymously drawn by Dick Sprang, comes from the cover of Batman magazine, issue #20, Dec 1943/Jan 1944.)

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