May 29, 2013
I'm no long-time fan, but I absolutely love Batman. I love the comics, the animated series, the games, and the movies. There's a lot to like about Batman, from his dark, psychological inner-battles to his enormously intriguing gallery of rogues. But mainly, it's his humanity that sets him apart from other heroes. The fact that he accomplishes what other superheroes can't without actual superpowers just appeals to me. But...this post isn't about Batman.
It's about his trusted sidekick, Robin. Out of all the aspects of the Batman universe, I've always found myself slightly uncomfortable with the idea of a boy wonder. There are obviously times when I either love certain versions of Robin or don't give it a second thought, but then there are times like today when I feel that the Batman character is better without a Robin. I'll run down a few reasons why.
First of all, I see Batman as a character defined by his solitude and loneliness. He's a brooding character whose primary method of crime fighting is lurking in the shadows and striking fear into his foes. All of that falls apart when you add a flamboyantly dressed child into the picture. Suddenly, the usual "stalk the prey in the darkness" tactic becomes "let this acrobatic circus boy go wild". For me, it just breaks the illusion of what makes Batman so cool, which is his acclimation to darkness and his willingness to wage a solitary war on crime.
The other thing I'm uncomfortable with is the implication that Batman is willing to send a child out to fight some of the most dangerous individuals in the world. I respect the Batman character because of his inhuman intelligence and his unwavering sense of justice...but then you bring Robin into the picture, and suddenly Bruce Wayne seems like an irresponsible wreck of a man. There's just no reasonable justification for sending a preteen out to fight street thugs and mob leaders; it doesn't matter how trained or talented he is.
Now, to be fair, there are plenty of things that justify the existence of Robin. First of all, it's important to note that Robin was introduced in 1940 to appeal to younger audiences. This was a time when Batman wasn't quite the dark and troubled hero he is today, and Robin has since become such an iconic character that it's almost impossible to exclude him in any Batman-related work.
Story-wise, Robin has been a vital part of keeping Bruce Wayne's mental and emotional health in check. He serves as a surrogate son of sorts to appease Wayne's longing for a family, and he was always there to give a second opinion when Batman was willing to do something uncharacteristic or drastic. In this regard, Robin is an essential aspect of Bruce Wayne's life.
So, to be clear, I don't deny the impact Robin has had. I actually consider Dick Grayson and Tim Drake to be among my favorite Batman characters, and I've thoroughly enjoyed their appearances. I simply feel that overall, Batman works better as a character in the absence of Robin. I prefer the stoic, brooding Batman who drags himself through a constantly losing battle with the strength of his convictions alone.
The opinions will always vary, so I ask you: Does Batman need a Robin?