One Panel #185: Introducing... the Sidekick

From Batman: "Robin the Boy Wonder" by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, Detective Comics #38 (April 1940)

It was the spring of 1940 and nothing would ever be the same again. For Batman, certainly. With the colorful, smiling  - smiling! look at that face, so gleeful in the face of danger - Dick Grayson at the Dark Knight's side, he wasn't so dark anymore, and the addition of a kid sidekick would push him more and more into the light. And in that light, he'd find colorful villains, crazy adventures, comedy, and ultimately the outer space stories we're not supposed to mention anymore. It is actually pretty surprising that the gangland/pulp era ends so soon. Oh not completely, of course, but with this young acrobat in the mix, it seems we've seen the last of Batman's controversial guns, and now perhaps, he'll allow himself his own smile. By the time *I* met Batman, through '66 reruns and the Super-Friends, it was all chum this and chum that, the inseparable Dynamic Duo were joyful costumed adventurers more than dour avengers of the night.

We can't realize today how much of an impact Robin had at the time. His popularity was so great he spawned many more like him. Bucky, Speedy, Sandy, Toro, Dan the Dyna-Mite, Captain Marvel Jr... And that's just keeping to the Golden Age. It's a trend that would keep going through the Silver Age and at DC, at least, give us the Teen Titans. Even spins on the formula, like the Star-Spangled Kid (the sidekick was the adult, Stripesy) and Superboy (actually the hero as a teenager) have their roots in Robin the Boy Wonder. The readership just wanted to BE him, it seems. It seemed so much more fun.

When the third Robin, Tim Drake, got his own series in the 90s, there was much ballyhoo about Robin getting his first series ever, but while technically true, it really wasn't the first time Robin starred in his own solo adventures. Few seem to remember Dick Grayson's strip in Star-Spangled Comics, but he earned it and carried on for about 5 years at the exact time other superhero strips were flailing (1947 to 1952)!

Truly, a comics icon, and probably the third most important DC star introduced in the era (and thus, EVER introduced) behind Superman and arguably Batman, but probably in front of Wonder Woman. So is he a David, or is he really a Goliath?


Brendoon said...

A good comment, Siskoid.

Also, damn those "fantasy canonising revisionaries."
Won't let us mention the space stories?! Worse than Victorian missionaries.
If we can't have a bit of fun with our fiction...

Anonymous said...

And these days, Dick Grayson is probably the spiritual embodiment of the DC Universe, kind of what Ben Grimm is to Marvel. Dick Grayson is the smiling, confident, idealistic hero who risks his neck every single day simply because he can help people. And when he uses guns (as in the "Grayson" series), he just throws them like batarangs, a gimmick that makes me giggle and clap like a toddler every time.

I still want that Dick Grayson / Ben Grimm crossover series, with the two of them teaming up at different eras of their lives. First issue would be the most recognizable forms of Nightwing and the Thing; second issue would be newbie Robin meeting original lumpy Thing and getting into a heroic misunderstanding (probably involving the Yancy Street twerps), and so on.

Siskoid said...

I would read the hell out of that!

Anonymous said...

The two of them would totally click, wouldn't they?

The final issue, I think, would be Ben Grimm inviting his pal Dick Grayson to one of his legendary poker games. This would be a few years down the line, and would give them a chance to reminisce about their friends. There's probably a discussion to be had comparing Reed Richards and Bruce Wayne, but I don't think I'm up to it.

Brendoon said...

The closest to that was the Hulk-Batman crossover in the 80's(?) but it definitely wasn't the same thing.


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