With my move to digital comics and the new DC 52, I’ve been thinking a lot about Batman lately. I’ve always been a Spider-man person myself – I’ve always enjoyed Peter Parker’s little quips – but the new 52 has confirmed that when it comes to DC, it’s the darkness of Batman that really pushes my buttons.
And because of the way my writerly brain is wired (rather than holding any secret ambition of writing a Batman comic) I’ve spent some time thinking how I would write Batman.
The thing that fascinates me about the character isn’t so much the dark anti-hero theme that’s ever present, but rather his relationship with Robin.
I get why some people hate Robin. Aside from the fact that elf-shoes are never a good look, it takes Batman thematically in completely the opposite direction to the one where he works best. He’s best when he is brooding, just a moral step away from the villains he fights. With Robin, he’s slightly more cheesy, a freak in a costume with young ward in tow.
In today’s cynical (although in many cases, justifiably so) world, there’s something questionable about a grown man in a bat costume hanging around a teen dressed in a pair of green pants. I think Batman writers have done a very good job of avoiding that.
But years ago, back in the age before gay superheroes, I wondered if there was scope for a Batman elseworlds story that made Robin older, Bruce slightly younger and made them an item. Nowadays, I don’t think that would be so much of a shocking twist, however that relationship with Robin still intrigues me.
In the new 52, the latest Robin is Damien, Bruce’s 10-year old son. He’s a bit of a brat but in a way that makes him interesting. It also gives Batman a new dimension. I mean, what sort of person would take their ten-year old out onto the streets to fight villains like The Joker? It seems to defy all logic on good parenting on so many levels.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last couple of weeks and I’ve come to the conclusion that Wayne is scared. Batman is a mask he puts on to combat his night terrors, but in reality he feels weak and helpless. He never wants to be back in a situation like the murder of his parents in Crime Alley, where he was helpless. It’s that fear that has produced Robin. He never wants his son to be helpless and that fear has driven him to the point where he’d rather have him fight by his side.
It’s gloriously fucked-up, and helps illuminate the darkness at the heart of Batman. If I were writing Batman that whole relationship between Batman and Robin (possibly juxtaposed to the relationship between Bruce and Damien) would be at the core of the book.
It looks like the new Batman & Robin book might just do some of that and as a result I’m really interested to see where they take it.