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Old 01-17-2019, 08:08 AM
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Is there a canon justification for Robin?

Robin---Batman's teenage sidekick, in various iterations---seems, on the face of it, like a wholly terrible idea. There's not only the moral issues in letting an underage boy go out at night, fighting against armed thugs and the occasional superhuman criminal, but also the fact that it's hard to see how he could be terribly effective---he is, athletic prowess notwithstanding, still not a grown man, up against people trying to kill him (and succeeding, at least in one case, though I understand that was walked back later).

So, what does Batman need Robin for? Is there any attempt to provide insight in both the necessity and justification of Robin? Some Elseworlds story where Batman decides against throwing underage boys into the maw of crime, and becomes totally detached from humanity, or whatnot? Why is there a Robin, and why is it OK for there to be one?
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Old 01-17-2019, 08:13 AM
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It's simple. Robin is canon fodder.

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Old 01-17-2019, 08:20 AM
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Robin was added by the writers to lighten the tone of the stories and to give the readers someone with whom to identify. At the time, comic books were aimed at a juvenile market.
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Old 01-17-2019, 08:24 AM
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I’ve seen them float the idea that he’s going to do it anyway — which you or I might shrug off, but which Bruce Wayne is going to 100% believe — and that his odds of surviving go up if he does that next to Batman instead of working solo.

Also, there’s the bit where Tim Drake deduced that Bruce Wayne (a) is Batman, and (b) pretty much kept it together when Dick Grayson was a cheerful quipster, but got real grim real fast when he was out Batmanning alone. And so Tim took on the role of Robin so Batman wouldn’t sink all the way into dark obsessive violence.
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Old 01-17-2019, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Scumpup View Post
Robin was added by the writers to lighten the tone of the stories and to give the readers someone with whom to identify. At the time, comic books were aimed at a juvenile market.
This pretty much nails it, and also explains the presence of all those other, apparently superfluous kid sidekicks in comics in the Golden and Silver ages.

Robin was introduced just about a year after Batman himself. He's one of the oldest elements of the Batman mythos, aside from Batman himself. He predates the Batcave (though not the Batmobile), Alfred, and the Bat Signal, If Robin isn't "canon", what is?
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Old 01-17-2019, 08:30 AM
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Robin was added by the writers to lighten the tone of the stories and to give the readers someone with whom to identify. At the time, comic books were aimed at a juvenile market.
Which is why Roberto Alcázar had Pedrín and Capitán Trueno had Crispín: teenage sidekicks were supposed to draw the kids in.

I think Astérix version is Ideafix
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Old 01-17-2019, 08:36 AM
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SMBC nailed it.
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Old 01-17-2019, 09:05 AM
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Note that having a sidekick helps with exposition. Instead of Batman having thought balloons around his head all the time, he gets to talk with someone.

Not having a sidekick and being very thoughtful about stuff fits certain superhero personas but not (traditional) Batman.

The choice of a teenage sidekick is commercial, as mentioned.
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Old 01-17-2019, 09:10 AM
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This pretty much nails it, and also explains the presence of all those other, apparently superfluous kid sidekicks in comics in the Golden and Silver ages.
It was mostly a DC thing. Stan Lee didn't like the idea of teenage sidekicks so you rarely saw it in Marvel comic books.
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Old 01-17-2019, 09:11 AM
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Jason and Damien, it was to get them onto a less criminal path than they were on (Damien being groomed to take over the League of Assassins, Jason being a street punk).
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Old 01-17-2019, 10:00 AM
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It was mostly a DC thing. Stan Lee didn't like the idea of teenage sidekicks so you rarely saw it in Marvel comic books.
Yeah, but back in the Golden Age (before Stan Lee was the editor-in-charge) you had Toro, the sidekick to the Human Torch. And Captain America had Bucky.

also, as ftg points out, a secondary character gives the main character someone to talk to, so he seems less schizophrenic. So Stan Lee may have hated Kid Sidekicks, but The Hulk still had Rick Jones (who only really lacked a costume).
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Old 01-17-2019, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham View Post
This pretty much nails it, and also explains the presence of all those other, apparently superfluous kid sidekicks in comics in the Golden and Silver ages.

Robin was introduced just about a year after Batman himself. He's one of the oldest elements of the Batman mythos, aside from Batman himself. He predates the Batcave (though not the Batmobile), Alfred, and the Bat Signal, If Robin isn't "canon", what is?
Of course, Robin is essential to the Batman mythos. Also, there are very good narrative reasons for including a (teenage) sidekick---audience identification and exposition, as already mentioned, among them. But I was asking about an in universe justification---why does Batman, Bruce Wayne, take on underage boys to engage violent criminals? Not: Why did DC decide to include a crime-fighting boy wonder in its title?

One reason given so far is to keep them from worse fates. Is there anything else? I just found out there's a 'Robin: Year One' arc. Does this go in any depth regarding the reasons behind Robin being Robin?

Last edited by Half Man Half Wit; 01-17-2019 at 10:17 AM.
  #13  
Old 01-17-2019, 10:43 AM
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Various writers have tried - and mostly failed - to explain Robin.

Damien probably has the best explanation, because he is already trained as a murderous ninja assassin and there are many storylines that emphasize Batman trying to restrain him. It's pretty clear that without Batman's intervention, he would become a supervillain (and in 'Injustice,' he certainly does).

As for the rest... It usually the explanation centers on the fact that super-heroing is hard work and it's not something a single individual could realistically accomplish. We have to accept right off the bat (ha) that nothing about Batman is realistic in the first place, but there are practical reasons that Batman requires an assistant. This is very much the reason for the Carrie Kelley version. She rescues Batman from certain death and insists on being a sidekick, and Batman tolerates (and later accepts) her because he needs her assistance. Many other comics have emphasized that importance of the Bat-Family (eg Oracle, Gordon, Alfred, Huntress, etc etc), and point out that despite Batman's demeanor he can't actually succeed by himself.

The obvious problem with this explanation is: Why does Robin have to be a child? Why can't Batman recruit other adult super-heroes as his assistants? Frank Miller tried - and failed - to address this in 'All-Star Batman and Robin,' and the answer basically boils down to the fact that Miller's Batman is fucking insane. Batman -in this interpretation - is just plain incapable of cooperating with anyone, so the only acceptable option is to recruit is a child that he can brainwash and mold in his own image.
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Old 01-17-2019, 11:28 AM
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Maybe Robin the character can be justified, but there is no justification for the ridiculous costume he was forced to endure. You'd have to be a special kind of kid to willingly dress like that.
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Old 01-17-2019, 12:00 PM
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How old is Robin?

I mean, as originally introduced, but answers for other versions of Robin are welcome too.
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Old 01-17-2019, 12:17 PM
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I wasn't around in 1940, but I'm willing to bet the attitude toward teenage males in an America just coming out of the Depression and gearing up for war was a lot different than it is today.
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Old 01-17-2019, 12:17 PM
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Carrie Kelley was 13 when she first appeared as Robin in The Dark Knight Returns. Dick Grayson was 8 years old when his parents were killed. You can assume some years of training passed before he debuted as Robin.

Last edited by silenus; 01-17-2019 at 12:21 PM.
  #18  
Old 01-17-2019, 12:26 PM
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Maybe Robin the character can be justified, but there is no justification for the ridiculous costume he was forced to endure. You'd have to be a special kind of kid to willingly dress like that.
In one story, Nightwing says he was an extrovert and a fan of Errol Flynn movies, and laments switching to more somber clothes when he grew up.

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Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
How old is Robin?

I mean, as originally introduced, but answers for other versions of Robin are welcome too.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Croft
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Croft was the first actor to play the comic book character Robin in a motion picture,[9] doing so in the 1943 15-chapter movie serial Batman.[10] As of 2013, Croft remains the youngest person (aged 16) to portray Robin, who at that time was depicted in comic books as being a young teenager.
Comic books are always very vague about character's ages. In the early comics, Robin was quite a bit shorter than Batman. I think high school, possibly junior high school. He stayed that way for about 30 years. Then in the late 1970s or early 1980s, they had him graduate from high school and move away to college.
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Old 01-17-2019, 12:36 PM
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Batman needs someone to share in his crime fighting adventures.

He likes being looked up too.

Robin is Batman's Watson.

Last edited by aceplace57; 01-17-2019 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 01-17-2019, 12:37 PM
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Robin was one of the "Teen Titans" (which date back to 1964) so presumably he was in his teens.
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There's not only the moral issues in letting an underage boy go out at night, fighting against armed thugs and the occasional superhuman criminal
This was regarded as much less of an issue 50+ years ago than it is now.
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Old 01-17-2019, 12:49 PM
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There was an existing tradition of kid fic featuring kids going out adventuring without any adults at all at the time Robin was introduced. In the comic strips, Lil Orphan Annie et al got into all manner of shit with grownup badguys.
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:14 PM
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There was an existing tradition of kid fic featuring kids going out adventuring without any adults at all at the time Robin was introduced. In the comic strips, Lil Orphan Annie et al got into all manner of shit with grownup badguys.
This is very true, and should not be overlooked. This was the era of Tom Swift and the Hardy Boys, of Terry and the Pirates and Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy. Teenage boys (and even girls--remember Nancy Drew?) going up against and defeating fully grown, nasty adult villains was a pretty standard part of kids' entertainment in those days. Robin wouldn't have raised an eyebrow.
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:59 PM
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One reason given so far is to keep them from worse fates. Is there anything else?
Originally, it was fairly simple: Bruce Wayne saw in Dick Grayson a younger version of himself--a child who saw his parents murdered. However, I think we're all well aware that Bruce is not particularly sane; his perception of Dick was at least partially projection, leading him to believe that here was someone who would want to follow the same course he had, but who did not have the resources to make it happen.

Left to himself, Dick Grayson would have gone to the police, but Batman--with a mistrust of the cops in question that may or may not have been justified--convinced him that doing so would get him killed. That left Dick with a choice between death, life as a struggling orphan with no chance at justice, or life with a powerful, wealthy benefactor who promised him revenge. The writing in DC #38 is extremely simplistic, but from a modern perspective, I would say that it comes across as Batman manipulating the kid, trying to make a little copy of himself, probably out of unacknowledged loneliness.

(On the practical side, the one advantage to Batman of having a child sidekick was to use Robin as a sort of urban scout. Dick was nonthreatening in appearance, and could hang around and gather information in public places where Bruce Wayne would draw attention or cause people to clam up, even in disguise.)
  #24  
Old 01-17-2019, 02:00 PM
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Maybe Robin the character can be justified, but there is no justification for the ridiculous costume he was forced to endure. You'd have to be a special kind of kid to willingly dress like that.
Don't forget, Dick Grayson was a circus performer before his parents were killed and Bruce Wayne took him in. Those are the kinds of clothes he was accustomed to moving around in. Many superheroes' costumes, such as Superman's and Batman's, were inspired by circus costumes.
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Old 01-17-2019, 02:23 PM
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Carrie Kelley was 13 when she first appeared as Robin in The Dark Knight Returns. Dick Grayson was 8 years old when his parents were killed. You can assume some years of training passed before he debuted as Robin.
Actually, not really. Not originally, I mean. It was "many months" but seemingly less than year of training in Detective Comics #38. Dick's age was also murky. Early on he seems 12-14 in his early Robin days. He takes an undercover job working as a steward on a boat shortly in his second or third issue (Batman #1) and flirts with girls on occsasion. Yet he also gets 8 birthday licks in another issue. Though he definitely didn't look 8 in the original panels where his parents were killed. Of course, long-term consistency is not to be expected in comics.

Really, originally, it, of course, wasn't an issue that the work was dangerous. He was rather a role the boy readers could see themselves in, I guess (I'm told sales doubled when Robin was created, though I've never seen actual numbers). But, of course, plenty of kid's entertainment has children doing incredibly dangerous things and more than a little has adults allowing it. If kids stayed home and safe, they'd not have adventures worth reading about. And now he's a legacy.

There aren't really good excuses for bringing kids into the business, IRL, I admit. Within the fiction, there are only two that even halfway stand up to any sort of scrutiny. The first works with kids with powers (so not Robin) and that's that they are still more capable and less likely to be hurt that non-powered people when dealing with these situations. The second excuse used is "they can't be stopped." Short of chaining them to the bed, you cannot keep a child from leaving the house. You can punish all you want, but you can't really imprison them. So if they're going to go out and do this job anyway, then you, as a hero, train them as best you can so that they are less likely to get themselves killed when they do go out. I think this was used in Batman: The Animated Series (where Bruce did not intend Dick to become Robin when he took him home), but it's been a very, very long time since I watched the episode and checked that detail (definitely didn't like the way that show went later).

Jason Todd as Robin was different. I think it was all Jason's idea for him to be Robin in Pre-Crisis, but haven't read those issues. Post-Crisis, of course, Bruce missed Dick and decided to keep Jason after Jason intervened in a robbery and just started calling him Robin (didn't ask him if he wanted the job, and made it seem like he was adopting him in order to make him Robin). Recruited an 11/12 year-old to replace the 19-year-old he fired because the work was too dangerous. Treated Jason a lot like a replacement and, IMO, was a very poor parent to him and Dick in that storyline. Post-Crisis Batman (particularly from the late '90s or maybe early '00s onward) was a very bad parent and even emotionally abusive and I really prefer the late '60s to mid '90s Batman when he was more good than bad to his loved ones.

Tim's recruitment really didn't address the issue, IMO, and someone else has already commented on how it was handled with Damian. Steph never gets counted (that was really screwed up both in-universe and out), and Cass was never Robin (but has the same basic excuse as Damian), and they were both mid-to-late teens anyway.
  #26  
Old 01-17-2019, 02:44 PM
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There was an existing tradition of kid fic featuring kids going out adventuring without any adults at all at the time Robin was introduced. In the comic strips, Lil Orphan Annie et al got into all manner of shit with grownup badguys.
Yes, there was a series of young frontiersmen, young roman soldiers, young detectives, and of course young supernatural questors.

Kids like reading about kids doing stuff. There's nothing wrong with that and of course no real kids were ever in danger. "There's not only the moral issues in letting an underage boy go out at night, fighting against armed thugs and the occasional superhuman criminal" is ridiculous, it's fiction. We accept FTL travel, aliens, wizards and what not, why not kids making a difference?
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Old 01-17-2019, 03:20 PM
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"No, Robin, you can't go out chasing the Joker tonight. You have homework to finish and your room is a mess."
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Old 01-17-2019, 03:30 PM
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"No, Robin, you can't go out chasing the Joker tonight. You have homework to finish and your room is a mess."
In reality, Robin was sneaking out to see the Penguin's daughter. She's a cute chick.
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Old 01-17-2019, 03:33 PM
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Batman needed a love interest.
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Old 01-17-2019, 03:33 PM
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The narrative reasons have been said. Within the fictional universe, another reason for Robin is deep down Batman is trying to create a surrogate family for himself. Alfred is a father figure and Robin is a son (in at least one case literally).

On a more practical level he is taking the opportunity to groom someone to replace himself when he is too old to continue or is is killed.
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Old 01-17-2019, 03:39 PM
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Batman needed a love interest.
"Robin, what have I done to you?"
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Old 01-17-2019, 03:50 PM
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The narrative reasons have been said. Within the fictional universe, another reason for Robin is deep down Batman is trying to create a surrogate family for himself. Alfred is a father figure and Robin is a son (in at least one case literally).
That depends on the era. Originally, Alfred met Bruce as an adult and sort of forced them to accept him as a butler (he was the comedic relief), and he was definitely not a father figure. Of course, back then, Bruce was pretty emotionally healthy (except for the dressing-up-as-a-bat-and-fighting-crime thing). That hasn't been status quo for a long time.
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Old 01-17-2019, 04:38 PM
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The more serious and "realistic" Batman stories get, the more Batman looks like a horrible guardian.
For the most part though, I can believe, in the fictional world of DC Comics, that having a teenage sidekick to fight crime is an acceptable idea.

Once a Robin was killed on the job (Jason Todd), it's poor writing for Batman to continue having child sidekicks. The writers try to justify it by implying it's only when Batman's sidekicks disobey orders that they get seriously injured and/or die. But if you're going to add "realism" to superhero comics, then realistically, Bruce Wayne should realize that he's completely at fault, as it's unrealistic to train children as dangerous vigilantes capable and constantly put them in life-or-death situations, and not expect them to kill or be killed. You would think he would want these kids to have a long life, and normal life.
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Old 01-17-2019, 05:17 PM
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Do any of you remember when the Joker called him Robin, the Boy Hostage?

Robin's purpose was to get kidnapped and have Batman rescue him. Same as Lois Lane's purpose.
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Old 01-17-2019, 05:27 PM
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Mr Atoz:

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Teenage boys (and even girls--remember Nancy Drew?) going up against and defeating fully grown, nasty adult villains was a pretty standard part of kids' entertainment in those days.
The adult villains frequently lamented being unable to get away with their crimes due to the meddling of kids.
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Old 01-17-2019, 07:02 PM
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And, occasionally, dogs.
  #37  
Old 01-17-2019, 07:33 PM
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A ringer

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Originally Posted by Half Man Half Wit View Post
...Also, there are very good narrative reasons for including a (teenage) sidekick...
Yes. The 37 second example shown in the YouTube clip here provides an instructive example.
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Old 01-17-2019, 09:56 PM
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So, what does Batman need Robin for? Is there any attempt to provide insight in both the necessity and justification of Robin?
In the TV series, it was a given that Robin was always the first one to solve the Riddler's puzzles. That didn't actually make him look smarter - it just made the adults look more stupid - but at least it was some sort of justification for him being there.
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Old 01-18-2019, 12:46 AM
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Batman: The Animated Series dealt with Robin by having Dick Grayson be a college student and only around occasionally. Some college students work on their breaks and some just lounge around. Apparently Dick relaxed by dressing in a costume (which was basically the same design as Tim Drake's) and fighting weirdos.
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Old 01-18-2019, 12:57 AM
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In the early comics, Robin was quite a bit shorter than Batman. I think high school, possibly junior high school. He stayed that way for about 30 years. Then in the late 1970s or early 1980s, they had him graduate from high school and move away to college.
Yep. Comic characters age at a glacial pace and even then arbitrarily. And every few decades they have to do a retcon. It no longer makes sense for Tony Stark and Frank Castle to have been in Vietnam, since that would make them both over sixty years old.

FWIW, recent storylines have seen Dick Grayson 'graduate' to being Batman. We even had comics with two 'Batmen' (Bruce and Dick) conversing in the same panel. The rule seems to be that the current Robin 'grows up' when the authors are ready to introduce a new one.

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(On the practical side, the one advantage to Batman of having a child sidekick was to use Robin as a sort of urban scout. Dick was nonthreatening in appearance, and could hang around and gather information in public places where Bruce Wayne would draw attention or cause people to clam up, even in disguise.)
This is a good point. Batman is supposed to be the world's greatest detective, after all. Sherlock Holmes routinely used a network of street urchins to gather information.
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Old 01-18-2019, 02:31 AM
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Sherlock Holmes routinely used a network of street urchins to gather information.
And Robin's very first assignment was to take on a role as a newsboy to gather information on a protection racket. It's probably the smartest thing in a pretty dumb origin story. I always assumed (or perhaps hoped) that it was an homage to the Baker Street Irregulars.
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Old 01-18-2019, 07:24 AM
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Maybe Robin the character can be justified, but there is no justification for the ridiculous costume he was forced to endure. You'd have to be a special kind of kid to willingly dress like that.
Being the child of circus artists helps with dressing up as one.
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