01 March 2009

Scott Beatty on Robin

Scott Beatty posted his introduction for a new Spanish edition of Robin: Year One, which introduction begins: "Without question, Dick Grayson is the most compelling comic book character ever created."

So naturally the weekly Robin had to link to that. To be sure, Beatty has an interest in putting the first Robin on top of the heap. Beatty and Chuck Dixon scripted that look at Dick Grayson's early days, as well as Batgirl: Year One and Nightwing: Year One. Beatty's also author of Batman: The Ultimate Guide to the Dark Knight and other DC Comics reference titles. And the purpose of such collected-edition introductions is usually to hype the books you've bought, to put you in the proper frame of mind for reading them.

Nonetheless, Beatty makes an interesting case for the drama behind Dick Grayson. Since going to his blog makes your computer play early-'90s pop while slowing down all its other operations, here's the gist:

Now, in the annals of comics, there is no greater loner than the Caped Crusader. . . . Swearing vengeance on not just his parents’ murderer but CRIME itself, Bruce Wayne pledged to wage an unrelenting war against injustice. And in his mind, nothing mattered but THE WAR. Not his personal safety. Not close relationships (except for faithful valet Alfred Pennyworth, of course). Nothing.

And then this kid came along. Yeah, Dick Grayson. . . . Maybe Batman saw something familiar in the stoic face of Dick Grayson, a boy who needed justice also in a cruel and unjust world. And thus, the Dark Knight made one of his best decisions, or worst mistakes--depending on your perspective--particularly where child endangerment issues are concerned. . . .

Here, Chuck Dixon and I write a tale that shows just what it means to be entrusted with the secrets of the World’s Greatest Detective, and what it means when the Boy Wonder finds his wings summarily clipped for failing to live up to the Batman’s sometimes impossible standards.

And that’s what this is all about. Dick Grayson is the best comics character in the world not because he got to live in stately Wayne Manor, nor because he got to play in the Batcave and drive Batmobiles and Batcycles and Batboats. Of all the kids in comics (a veritable schoolyard of orphans and waifs and naifs), Dick Grayson was the first to be given Batman’s TRUST.
Beatty doesn't address Dick's next major passage, leaving Batman for the Titans. Presumably he's saving that for Nightwing: Año Uno.


Anonymous said...

The trouble is that Nightwing Year One (Which ran from NW 101 to 106) continued Dixons editorially mandated ignoring of Dick's Titans connections which ran through his entire work with the character.

Gone were the influence of the Titans and Starfire on his growing up and away from being the other half of "Batman and " , and his own assertion of an independent identity which Wolfman and Perez NTT had given us.

Instead we got the infamous "You're fired for no earthly good reason" moment of ghastliness from Batman, modifed a little so it's not that Dick was shot by the Joker, but that Dick dared tell Batman the Titans were important to him. Aside from one quick phone call from Donna we never saw them again, instead we got Dick showing off to Barbara and flirting with her (Which, as he was in a committed relationship with Starfire at the time, just seemed insanely tacky.)

NWY1 alas maintained the "dragging Dick back into the Batverse" and "The Titans are irrelevant to Dick's character growth" tropes.

J. L. Bell said...

I think we're in accord in mourning the loss of Dick Grayson's gradual and dignified transition from Robin to Nightwing in the New Teen Titans magazines of the early 1980s.

That all seems to have been wiped away, post-Crisis, in a bid for more conflict between him and Bruce Wayne. But writers and fans who follow the current DC continuity are stuck with that, I'm afraid.

When I came back to comics after two decades, I was surprised to find the relationship between Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon front and center. I'd missed their flirtation in the late 1970s Batman Family. As far as I knew, Dick moved straight from Betty Kane and Duela Dent to Koriand'r, which was obviously a step up.

Now Dick appears to have been sleeping around on both his main inamorata, which strikes me as completely out of character. Someday I'll do a "Sex Life of Dick Grayson" series with more thoughts on that.

For now, I'll just point out that editorial mandates drove the creation of a new Robin in the early 1980s, letting Dick find his own adult identity. And editorial mandates built the wall between Nightwing and the Titans in the late 1990s. Editorial mandates can give, and they can also take away.

fyn scarlet reed said...

Editorial mandates can give, and they can also take away.
Too, too true.

I recently reread 'Robin: Year One' and had to put the book down for a moment, when I reached the part where Two-Face beats him up.

(Hi, I found this site while looking for Robin-y things, but I am also happy to read about things like 'Twilight' related CFPs.)

J. L. Bell said...

Yeah, that’s a rough scene, an epitome of the DC Universe post-Code and post-Crisis.

It’s based on a story Dick Grayson tells Tim Drake in Robin, #0, but much nastier.

Hope you like the mix o’ stuff I think about.