22 May 2011

“He needs someone like Dick Grayson”

The death of the second Jason Todd and retelling of how Dick Grayson became Robin led to a flurry of reader letters in 1989 discussing what those events had meant to Batman, and what Batman himself meant. Here’s a selection.

Steven Milunovich, Batman, #436:
Most of the world thinks of Batman and Robin as inseparable, yet the creators of the comics can’t make the two concepts compatible. It does seem inconsistent to have Batman the avenger trailed by a teenager in bright red and yellow. But from Robin’s inception until his departure in the early 1970’s the team was a tremendous success, inspiring many copies.

So what of the present rendition of Batman? When Batman becomes a crazed loner, the entire supporting cast suffers. Is there no room for a lighter side in a man driven to fight crime because of the murder of his parents?
Michael Leon, Batman, #440:
In Batman’s current state of mind, he needs someone like Dick Grayson to alleviate his anger and his melancholy. Batman losing Jason Todd can be likened to when Dick Grayson left. It was like losing your own son twice. Batman becomes an embittered loner without a companion. He needs someone to keep him under control.
Malcolm Bourne, Batman, #440:
[Bruce Wayne’s] lack of reaction to Jason’s death could destroy him. We all need to grieve, and a failure to do so is catastrophic, emotionally and psychologically, for the grieving person. Maybe Dick can heal the rift and, at the same time, help Bruce through this difficult time. But first Bruce must acknowledge these differences.
(Another letter from Bourne appeared in issue #442, guessing that a new character would provide help.)

John Brindley, Batman, #440:
I’m a counselor at Sky Ranch for Boys in South Dakota, a home for troubled boys. . . . Many could identify with Jason’s juvenile problems. There’s a popular consensus that they would like to see Dick Grayson return as Robin someday. For now the boys prefer Batman alone as they are, always haunted by memories and past mistakes, yet continually striving to find peace in their lives and someone to share their future with.
Other letters also suggested that Bruce and Dick team up more regularly, but only this one said Dick should return to the Robin costume.

In fact, that prospect left most vocal fans anxious, as expressed by Leif Vanderwall, Detective Comics, #605:
I heard that Dick Grayson was going to join Batman again (after “Year Three”) and possibly change his name from Nightwing back to Robin. I don’t mind Dick Grayson joining forces with his old mentor from time to time but I think he is too old to be Batman’s “little boy.” I think he’s good where he is right now, being Nightwing and being the leader of the Titans.
That letter was actually printed twice, the second time in Detective, #607, probably because Assistant Editors got their signals crossed as one took over from another. The editorial reply in the earlier issue was non-committal. The second told Vanderwall and the rest of the readership that “Dick Grayson will not change his name from Nightwing back to Robin to join Batman again. He thinks it’s good where he is right now, too.”

At the same time DC was reassuring Nightwing fans, it was also trying to keep some mystery alive. The house advertisement for the “A Lonely Place of Dying” storyline showed Dick Grayson as Nightwing holding the old Robin uniform and looking sad. The copy read:
Batman is destroying himself. Can Nightwing help? Will he?
Of course, everyone knew Dick Grayson would try to help because he’s, you know, Dick Grayson. But how far was he willing to go?

As I noted last week, the “Year Three” recounting of how Dick Grayson saw his parents murdered at the circus also introduced a four-year-old fan in the audience. Which leads to the last letter…

Christopher Scott, Batman, #440:
I really like the way “Batman: Year Three” is going. I can’t know this for sure, of course, but from where I sit, it looks like by the end of this 4-part tale we’ll be seeing young Timmy in the yellow cape at the big guy’s side. I hope I’m right. Batman has been through a lot and taking on a new partner might be good for him.
The editorial reply to that letter said it had “been censored due to Christopher’s almost spilling the beans.” But because of what issue #442’s letter column called “a production error,” that speculation ran unedited at the start of a new storyline titled “A Lonely Place of Dying.” The only detail Scott got wrong was being three issues too early.

COMING UP: Young Timmy in the yellow cape.


Richard said...

Did it really say Christopher Scott's letter had been censured? I know they could be kinda strict at the DC offices in those days, but that letter doesn't deserve more than the mildest rebuke. Maybe a light tap on the knuckles at most.

J. L. Bell said...

Good eye! The editors had indeed wanted that letter censored. But presumably censured whoever let it through without redacting the crucial notion. (Though I suppose that speculation wouldn’t have mattered so much if the editorial reply hadn’t mentioned the need to censor it.)

Fixed the transcription above.