Why I Love Dick Grayson

Here's a piece I wrote for an upcoming book—the first ever!—on Dick Grayson, the original Robin and, depending upon how you define the term, the first sidekick, and certainly the one who became the archetype, defining the role for future superheroes. The book's editor, Kristen Geaman, talked me into writing something, even though I felt a little trepidation, given that most of the book (I believe) is going to be something of a scholarly, academic tome. Nevetheless, never one to disappoint, I wrote a piece for her...which promptly got cut for length. Isn't that always the way? I shook my fist at the heavens, cursing editors...and then remembered that that's how I've spent much of my professional career.

I never liked Robin.
I knew I was supposed to. I distinctly remember being quite young and thinking, “I’m supposed to identity myself with Robin.” Maybe those weren’t the exact words, but they were close. I was meant to be able to relate to Robin because we were both kids. I understood that from the first. It just didn’t work.
The Batman I grew up with was the Adam West television show. My weekdays were centered around the repeats shown on our station in Dallas. We moved to Connecticut, shortly after my fifth birthday, and that was it for my daily dose of Batman, and it was a serious loss. I loved that show with all my heart and soul. On the other hand, they had snow in Connecticut, and since I didn’t have to shovel it, that was pretty great.
They also had comic books. Our local grocery store had a spin rack, and once in a great while, my mom would let me get, if I’m remembering the economics correctly, a three-pack of DC Comics for a dollar, at least one of which would probably be Batman-related in some way. And sometimes the universe would align just so and the library would suddenly have a hardbound collection of old Batman comics. They were from the 1950s and if they didn’t work for me nearly as thoroughly as the newish ones in the grocery store—and they didn’t—they still thrilled me through and through. Any Batman was way, way better than no Batman. Really, for me, any Batman was way, way better than pretty much anything else in the entire world.
But those old comics drove home even more solidly my reasons for disliking Robin. He made stupid jokes. Batman rarely made any jokes—his mission was a serious one—but on the rare occasion he did, they were at least genuinely funny. Okay, sure, Spider-Man made jokes too, all the time, but his were funny, and often self-deprecating in a way I appreciated, and not just lame puns. And Robin seemed to always be doing stupid things and getting caught and captured and then needing to be rescued by the Batman. Oh, sure, sometimes it was the other way around, and it was Robin doing the rescuing of the Batman. But those were the exceptions to the rule.
Listen, I was the youngest of five. I was fully aware of the physical and cognitive differences between, say, an 7-year-old and a 14-year-old, or an 11-year-old and an 18-year-old. All it took was playing stickball with my older brothers for a few minutes to make crystal clear the gaping chasm between our skill sets. So extrapolating from that: a little kid and the Batman? Partners in crime fighting? The willing suspension of disbelief was one thing. I was all about the willing suspension of disbelief. Denying everything you know about everything is quite another.
But a weird thing: I had to admit that, in color especially, Batman and Robin looked good together visually, with the yellow of Robin’s cape contrasting wonderfully with the dark blue of the Batman’s. The jokes still bugged, and the short shorts were kinda goofy, but still: he looked pretty cool, and they looked good together.
And then I stumbled across an issue of The Batman Family, an anthology book from the mid-70s. And in that story, my old nemesis, Robin was suddenly…cool. Like, really, really no kidding cool. He was a college student now and he was tall and smart and his jokes were funny and he rode a motorcycle. And he could do anything. Well, maybe not anything. As far as I could tell, he couldn’t fly or teleport or sling webs. But it seemed like pretty much anything the Batman could do, Robin could do. And even a little bit more: my boy Dick Grayson seemed to have grown up to be quite the suave, debonair bon vivant. I mean…he and Batgirl team up to defeat the devil in the story. Seriously. And then? And then? ‘cuz, you know, it’s not like beating the devil’s enough. No, then it got good: Batgirl kissed him. Batgirl, the first woman I ever loved, kissed him.
So…Dick Grayson was handsome, intelligent, funny, attractive to females, and able to do the most outrageous physical feats. And—and this was huge—unlike the way most characters with those attributes were generally portrayed in stories, he wasn’t a jerk in the slightest: just the opposite, in fact.
Oh, yeah, now here was a character I could totally like. 
Click through to her site to read the entire thing.

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