My day job being what it is, I often have time to hang about on the Twitter for thirty seconds at a time a couple of hundred times per day.  Recently, Chris Wilson and I had a few pretty fascinating interactions regarding several of DC’s core heroes, most intriguingly opining that the concept of Robin was not only foolhardy, but counter to the narrative spine of Batman’s character.  It’s an interesting point (and one that has merit, albeit only for certain interpretations of Batman as a character), but it’s one with which I vehemently disagree.  The idea that Robin humanized Batman for the first time, making him a father and/or big brother figure (depending on the era and implied ages of the characters), gives the implacable Dark Knight a greater depth, showing that he’s trying to heal the damage to his personality that the loss of his parents caused, even if by the ill-advised method of involving his surrogate child in deadly situations.  For me, there’s a reason why most people will finish “Batman” with “and Robin”, and it’s not just the work of Messrs. West and Ward, which leads to today’s superstitious and cowardly query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) does admit that the idea of kid superheroes is one that really works best when they’re truly super, such as with the New Mutants or the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans, asking: Do you think that the concept of the Robin-type kid superhero/sidekick has ever worked?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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8 Comments

  1. Everett
    August 8, 2014 at 11:52 am — Reply

    Yes, it has. The young avengers are examples of teen/kid heroes. Providing not only legacy for marvel but highlighting the competency of younger folks that believe and aspire to the banner of men like Steve Rogers, and tony stark.

  2. Chris
    August 8, 2014 at 12:01 pm — Reply

    Wow. Didn’t know you enjoyed my ideas as much as you did. I was pretty sure your thoughts were more “God this guys a jerk face”. Again, Batman as someone who wants to make people safe makes it a horrible idea for him to have a kid sidekick. I have no problem with idea of adopting Dick out of sympathy for his situation, but the fact he would knowingly put him in danger and make him go through what Batman does is silly. Batman is a character who works best alone.

    • August 8, 2014 at 8:03 pm — Reply

      Hey, I try to have discussions like that at least six days per week, as the MS-QOTD won’t just write itself. :D

  3. Ian
    August 8, 2014 at 1:20 pm — Reply

    I thought it worked best with Tim

    • Ian
      August 8, 2014 at 3:08 pm — Reply

      Let me qualify that as worked best as a serious sidekick, especially in the bat-verse. He was older, more mature, showed himself capable of acting alone. Giving him that horrible new name and replacing him with a punk brat little kid was horrible.

      My favorite example of a kid sidekick working altogether, though, was probably Kid Devil in the old BD series. A light-hearted book like that allowed a younger sidekick to work better IMO. Too bad they turned him into an angsty douchebag in TT.

  4. August 8, 2014 at 1:57 pm — Reply

    Yes, yes it has.
    Robin aside, Speedy who I know is Robin light worked in my opinion. As a member of the Teen Titans and teen dad (Missed Opportunity) he worked very well. His drug addiction brought the problem and the idea of how it could be anyone to light much more so than Harry Osborne.
    I would also call in “The Star Spangled Kid” : A wealthy lad whose servant aided him in his crime fighting exploits. While his original incarnation was mostly fun, it showed how a team works. They had maneuvers and would call them out by number based upon the situation. This little bit was a very well thought out idea that slightly differed from the adult/kid team norm.

  5. August 9, 2014 at 9:54 am — Reply

    Yeah, it definitely has worked and can work. All it takes is the same suspension of disbelief and willingness to have fun with a story that allows us to read about a man who can fly, a scientist who fights crime by shrinking, and sea king that can control aquatic life. It’s a fantastic world, and there’s no reason stories like this can’t work.

  6. Oldcomicfan
    August 9, 2014 at 10:33 am — Reply

    Given that the Kid Sidekick was a device thought up by certain cynical publishers as a way to increase readership among kids and therefore Kid Sidekicks didn’t need to make any sort of logical sense, I think the idea worked for the purpose for which it was intended. When we were kids our parents would NOT buy us any Marvel comics because their dark, gritty and demented heroes were considered inappropriate, but they WOULD buy us DC comics because Batman had his Robin, Wonder Woman had her Wonder Girl, Green Arrow had his Speedy, Flash had his Kid Flash, Superman had Superboy (not technically a sidekick, of course, but the principle was the same – a munchkin version of the main hero) and the Whizzer had to go ALL the time…. (sorry – couldn’t resist).

    Benton was correct, thought, it did require a suspension of disbelief to accept that a ten year old kid could handily beat up an adult, shoot an arrow as well as a person who had several decades more experience than them, or run as fast as a grown man with fully developed lungs and legs that were twice as long as the kid’s. Story-wise, the notion did not always work, and after decades of the drivel that was spewed out during the Bill Finger Batman era, it was a relief when Batman finally jettisoned the bat-cave, the bat-gadgets, the bat-brat and returned to his roots. But my distaste for the bat-books of the late 50s and 60s is due to stupid writing and corny art more than the actual concept behind the books.

    That said, I think the kid sidekick notion worked best with two Robins. The original, of course, Dick Grayson. They gave him virtually the same origin as Batman – seeing his parents murdered before his eyes and the criminals get away scott-free. And though the notion of taking a kid whose voice hasn’t even broke yet and sending him out to beat up villains is appalling, and the kid sidekick idea led to all manner of awful jokes about the sort of antics Brucie and Dickie got up to when they weren’t leaping around in tights, when you look at how Dick Grayson turned out as a character, it turns out this was the right course of therapy for the tramatised Dick Grayson. He didn’t grow up anti-social, brooding or obsessed with his role in life, like his mentor. He was able to put the role of Robin aside to attend college and get a normal education, have normal friends and a boring normal life until he decided to don a costume of his own making and return to a life of fighting crime. He was even able to assemble and lead the Teen Titans, even though he was the only person in the group who had no special abilities or super powers! And then after Thanos… or was it Darksied – I get those two craggy-faced megalomaniacs confused – “killed” Batman, Dick assumed the mantle of the Bat and even took on a kid sidekick of his own. So, all in all, you’d have to say that Bruce did a damned good job by Dick. Pity about Jason, though. Ouch. Can’t win them all, I guess.

    The second Robin that worked well was Carrie Kelly. Yes, I know, to many purists, The Dark Knight Returns is not cannon, though so much of the story HAS been worked into cannon it might as well be. But rather than being able to magically beat up full grown villains and outwit hyperintelligent pan-galactic super-evil geniuses with her child’s brain, she used the wits she had, her knowledge of popular kid culture, her gymnastic abilities and a sling shot to be of aid to Bats in his darkest battles. Probably the first and only example of a realistic kid sidekick in all of comics history. Miller only got one thing wrong though. They DON’T teach you in Scouts to SET a broken limb. They teach you how to IMMOBILIZE the broken limb until a trained medical professional can set the broken bone. The scene where she puts on street clothes and spreads misinformation among the mutants was almost genius, and one wonders why Bats never thought of this logical use for a kid sidekick before…

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