Opinion: Grant Morrison Is Right On A Robin-Free Batman

by Andrew Lococo
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Grant Morrison recently voiced his opinion that there shouldn’t be a new Robin after Damian. Partly because he wanted Bruce to go back to the beginning, being alone, and partly because he thinks it wouldn’t make sense for there to be another after this. I agree with him.  Let me preface this whole opinion piece by saying that Robin has been one of my favorite parts of the Batman mythos and I think the idea of a squire to the Dark Knight has always been a great idea. In fact, my favorite Batman character isn’t even Batman, it’s Dick Grayson, former Robin and Batman.  Bruce has always been a fascinating read, but Dick Grayson has always been far more interesting to me, probably due to his relationship with Batman, and their nature as parallels, as friends, and ultimately as Father and Son. Damian Wayne was my second favorite Robin, and Dick’s time as Batman with Damian as Robin stands out as one of my favorite periods of Batman Comics ever. So why do I think Grant Morrison is right in his opinion that there should not be a new Robin in the wake of Damian’s death? If I love having a Boy Wonder, why do I have such a problem with a new one?  Because I think it doesn’t make sense anymore after the death of two children.

Jason always had an edge to his approach.

Jason always had an edge to his approach.

Now I’m saying it makes perfect sense for there to be a Robin from an enjoyment perspective. It’s really fun and enjoyable. I love Robin, everyone loves Robin, it doesn’t matter which one but for Batman and and the plot, it would make no sense at all. Two young boys have died in the Robin suit, and Batman has lost two people very near and dear to him. They were both impulsive, both darker and edgier, and ultimately, both lost their lives because they did not listen to the Batman and chose to do their own thing. Dick and Tim were different, and they worked wonderfully as Robin, and balanced the Dark Knight, but can Bruce really justify ever having another sidekick after Jason was not a one time thing he could not prevent? He went to insane lengths to make sure it would never happen again with Tim Drake, and Tim was fine. Damian, his own son, was killed a few weeks ago. Bruce should be as shattered or more then when Jason died, and he must realize that it’s finally happened again. He failed to save his young partner.  I can’t ever see Bruce saying “Third time’s the charm.” Bruce rarely if ever gives something a second chance, and he did. He gave the idea of Robin a second chance.  While you could argue that yeah, Stephanie Brown died as Robin  and it didn’t effect Bruce as horribly, that whole thing was a mess that is better left forgotten because of how terrible the writing was. No one talks about War Games for a reason. There’s also the fact that while Jason’s death is still in continuity, Steph Brown probably never existed, much to my and many other fan’s displeasure. So let’ s rule out Steph and look back on Jason, and Damian, and why I think that the pixie boots should be hung up unless Damian is brought back.

A death in the family, and one of the defining points in Batman's life.

A death in the family, and one of the defining points in Batman’s life.

Before Damian, there was another troubled Robin, Jason Todd. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, Jason was retooled in the new DCU to be a bit of an edgy punk who once tried to boost the wheels off the Batmobile. Bruce saw the boy as someone who needed saving, who needed focus in his life before he became a criminal. Since Dick had flown the coop, the Robin position was free, and though he would never admit it, he missed Dick Grayson. So the Dynamic Duo took to the skies once more and things were good for a while…until Jason died.  At the end of the day, Jason’s own mentality that his job was a game, and seeking the approval of a parental figure, got him caught by the Joker. Then the Joker did what he would to do any child he’d find lost, alone, and vulnerable. He tricked him, beat him with a crowbar, and then blew him up, like one big joke. While Batman cradled Jason’s broken and dead body, I thought to myself  ‘This is what would really happen if a child was the Batman’s partner”.  Children die in this business. Batman has lost two Robins at this point, and while Jason has come back, there is no believable reason Batman would ever take another junior partner again after losing not just another Robin, but his son. Bruce could never put himself in the position to lose another child of his to the dangerous work they do. Even if they’re older, like a 16 year old, they are still so young, and ultimately, vulnerable.

While I have a high suspension of disbelief, a man dressing up as a Bat, fighting crime, and never being caught, I’ve always had to rationalize Robin. Dick Grayson, I find could rationalize him because he was an insanely good acrobat, incredibly clever, and a natural leader. Dick, even at 9-12, which before the DCnU was traditionally his age when he donned the pixie boots, could probably take out fully grown adults if he were rigorously trained by someone like the Batman. This is something that was brought up in the Young Justice cartoon, coincidentally. Wonder Woman calls out Batman, that he put a 9 year old in this kind of dangerous work, but Bruce reasons that  Dick needed to avenge his parents death, and work through the pain, so that he would never become like he did, a brooding avenger.

"My partner. My Soldier. My Fault."

“My partner. My Soldier. My Fault.”

When Jason died, Batman was broken.  In the Dark Knight Returns, which was done a few years prior to Jason’s canon death, Bruce hung up the cape and cowl because Jason died. This was emphasized by one of the most memorable lines from the Dark Knight Returns ‘My partner, my soldier, my fault.” Losing Jason was enough to break Bruce Wayne from his never ending crusade, until he was lured back out of retirement and gained a new partner in Carrie Kelly. However for the mainstream Batman, this left him incredibly unhinged.  Losing his partner, failing him, and the idea he could not save him like he failed to save his parents, left him at his lowest. He was always a loner before that, but he pushed people away even more after Jason died, as if to not get close to anyone ever again after losing Jason. Tim Drake eventually realizes who Batman is through detective work notices his own erratic behavior, and came to his aid as his new Robin. He helps to kick him back into shape instead of this sloppy and overly violent vigilante and back into the Dark Knight we all know and love.

The Boy Wonder Returns

The Boy Wonder Returns

Now this is where people say “What are you talking about? You’re only proving that Bruce NEEDS a Robin”.  My point is, it’s not that Tim saved Bruce, it’s that he filled a void. The need for Batman to have someone understand his mission, his pain, who works closely with him. Someone he could care for, and rely on. Bruce never stopped hurting after Jason died, but Tim filled that void of loneliness and pain, which is fitting because the arc in which Tim becomes Robin is called “A Lonely Place of Dying” . Ultimately, Jason came back to life but Bruce said that it changed nothing, that he wouldn’t take down the shrine he had to Jason in the Bat Cave. It doesn’t matter that Tim thrived as Robin, and that he took precautions to prevent another death, or that Jason came back to him. He still failed, not just to save him, but to train him. To temper him into a force for good, because his impulsiveness and vulnerabilities still got him killed, and not all the Superboy Prime Dead Raising Punches in the world could ever change that.  The void did not need to be filled by a Robin, but by anyone. It could have been Nightwing. It could have been Catwoman.  Someone who could hold their own, that Bruce could trust entirely, not as a junior partner, but an equal. Tim’s decision to be Robin was Bruce’s chance to undo some of the damage he did with Jason, that a Robin could work. Tim did work, and for a while, everything was great. Until Damian walked into his life.

Damian Wayne was Bruce’s son with Talia Al Ghul, and was trained from birth to be the new heir to the League of Assassins. Like Jason, Damian wanted a father in Bruce. Over a long period of time, after mellowing out a bit with Dick Grayson, he got his wish. Bruce took Damian under his wing, and together they were Batman and Robin. Father and Son. While Damian had disturbed him a bit with his initial attitude, they quickly warmed up to each other. Damian loved his Father, and Bruce loved his Son. Damian in many, many ways, is Jason’s counterpart, rather then Tim’s. Both needed a father figure, fought against their own nature, and their own inability to follow orders got themselves killed. Jason and Damian have far more in common during both their time as Robin.  Jason saved Batman’s life in heroic moments like helping against Mongul in ‘For The Man Who Has Everything’ and saving Bruce from the titular Cult in the Batman storyline ‘The Cult”. Damian tried to do the same thing, but failed in execution. Both died when Batman was just a few minutes too late to save them.

"Batman and Robin will never die!"

“Batman and Robin will never die!”

How can Batman even justify ever having another partner after Damian bit the big one? He lost two sons in his war on crime. One to the Joker, and one to some kind of bizarre whale accelerated clone brother of Damian. The answer is, he can’t. The Batman, in character, would never let in another sidekick knowing he failed twice. While we the fans can say “It’s not your fault Batman. Take on another Robin, it’ll help”, Batman doesn’t see things that way. All he sees is two shrines in his Bat Cave, reminding him of what he’s lost.

That said, I don’t think there shouldn’t be a Robin forever. The two things I’d want is for there to be a long enough time that perhaps Bruce could think about bringing in a new Robin, or if Damian comes back. I think Damian should come back, something Grant Morrison noted could very well happen in the comics after his departure, which he wouldn’t mind. He does that there should not be another Robin after Damian.Bruce would never let anyone take up the mantle again. Not after Jason and Damian died. I hear fans grumbling about Harper Row being an obvious replacement as Robin, but I don’t think she’ll take up the mantle. At least, not for a while. If she does, then I’d be annoyed, because Batman should not let anyone take up that role any time soon, if ever.  There used to be a saying among comic book fans, ‘No one stays dead in comics except  Bucky, Jason Todd, and Uncle Ben.” Well, in the last ten years, Bucky and Jason Todd came back, and let’s hope Uncle Ben stays dead for the good of the Spider-man mythos.

"I'll be back. No one stays dead in comics....Right?"

“I’ll be back. No one stays dead in comics….Right?”

I believe Damian will be back, given enough time. The fans liked him, the writers liked him, this was not the same as Jason Todd, who the writers and fans, more or less, disliked greatly.  I know that there’ll eventually have to be a new Robin, not only because of the Batman & Robin title, but because the Dark Knight always has a Boy/Girl Wonder. I just feel like maybe we should have a solo Batman for a while. Give him some time to spend with his older Bat-family members, like Dick, or Babs, or even Jason.  I think this death should have lasting repercussions and that it’d be a disservice to the fans and to the characters if we merely wipe this under the rug with someone new to fill the void. But that’s just my opinion. What do you think?

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