The Robin of Batman ’89 doesn’t gain his name from Batman, and it’s a perfect twist on the character’s public persona for the DC movie’s world.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Batman ’89 #2, now on sale
Robin is one of the most famous elements of the Batman mythos, the second part of the Dynamic Duo. There have been plenty of depictions of the character over the years, often deliberately playing against Batman and serving as his right-hand partner — including even just the identity of Robin. But the Robin of one universe got his moniker in a far different manner.
In most incarnations of the DC Universe, Dick Grayson takes up the mantle with the blessing of Batman, becoming his sidekick and partner. But the Robin of the Burton-Verse Batman, as showcased in Batman ’89 #2 by Sam Hamm, Joe Quinones, Leonardo Ito, and Clayton Cowles got his moniker in a much more down-to-earth way.
Unlike many incarnations of the character, the Robin of Batman ’89 operates wholly on his own, unconnected with the Dark Knight and his crusade against crime. Instead, he’s just a street-level young man, who’s tired of living in a crime-infested city. He does his best to protect the locals of Burnside and confronts a group of rioters who, under the moniker of being “inspired” by Batman, try to commit robberies and beatings. But Drake takes up his hooded costume to stand up to them, quickly defeating the four men.
When the commotion of the fight draws the attention of others, one of the Batmen tries to frame Drake for the robbery. But Drake just keeps hitting him, cutting him off when he says “robbery.” Leaving the criminals to the men who just arrived on the scene, Drake recommends turning them into the police — or locking them in a nearby dumpster — and heads off. A nearby child reveals that he heard the crook say “Robin” — as in Robin Hood, the legendary defender of the poor from the rich and powerful. Although his friend quickly corrects him, the smirk on Drake’s face seems to indicate that he’s okay with the title that’s been bestowed upon him.
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It’s a clever way for Robin to gain his name, without it feeling wholly indebted to the Dark Knight. Batman has already come up against Drake in costume, and Robin even got the better of him in their quick throwdown. It instead further ties Robin into the role this universe has given him as a champion of the streets, fighting for the down-trodden. The bright color scheme, when compared to someone like Batman, is all the more notable now — and having Drake be openly compared to Robin Hood is a good justification for someone like Drake to commit to such an otherwise flashy and potentially silly persona. It gives Robin a deeper connection to Gotham, and positions him as an alternative to the well-funded but overzealous actions of Batman.
As pointed out by the Robin King in Dark Nights: Death Metal, Robins as a species can be seen as a particularly dangerous and invasive species. And in more cynical readings, Batman determining his sidekick’s costume will be flashy has some incredibly dark undertones. But by making it the people of Gotham who inadvertently name him, the identity gains some unique power — especially in this form, as the Robin and Harvey Dent of Batman ’89 are used to exploring some heavy issues that are often absent from the mainstream Batman stories. It gives this version of Robin more personal agency and connection with Gotham, and is a promising development for the series.
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