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Can Batman's Robin Find His Cool?

Robin is arguably the most famous superhero side kick of them all. Introduced into Batman's world in April 1940 (DC Comics No#38, see image below), almost a full year after the very first Batman story was published. In general Batman fans are divided about Robin. There are those who like the character and there are those who feel Batman is better when he works alone.

Rumors have been around for a while now that a pilot episode for a TV show based on Robin's early years (pre-Batman) was in the works. To be called The Graysons the show, by television network CW, is seen as a possible predecessor to Smallville, the long running TV series about the young, pre-Superman, Clark Kent.

However, according to E! Online, the show has been canned due to the concept not being in line with Warner Brothers current Batman strategy. Whatever the reason I have to say I'm a little happy about that.

The idea that most of the major Superman characters seem to have either lived in or passed through Smallville in Clark's formative years has never worked for me in the Smallville series. Particularly the ongoing relationship between Clark and Lex Luthor (it's too big a stretch for me to think Superman's arch nemisis lived in the same 'no where' town as a kid). No doubt Dick Grayson's early years may have gone the same way, perhaps with a young Joker, Catwoman or The Riddler. No thanks.

That aside I'm a big fan of Robin and I want to see him back on film.

Unfortunately when most of the main stream think of Robin on film they think of Burt Ward's Robin (See image below) in the highly successful 1960's TV series. Why? Because think of all the Batman catch phrases you know and chances are it's actually something you thought Burt would've said as Robin, "Holy TV show, Batman!" - no he never said that but here's some 'Holys' he did say:

Holy demolition, Batman! - Robin

Holy heart failure, Batman! - Robin

Holy Long John Silver, Batman! - Robin

Holy Captain Nemo, Batman! - Robin

Holy costume party, Batman! - Robin

Holy bill of rights, Batman! - Robin

Holy haberdashery, Batman! - Robin

Holy atomic pile, Batman! - Robin

Holy priceless collection of Etruscan snoods! - Robin

You get the picture. Unfortunately Burt's Robin is cool when you're nine years old but, for anyone who's seen the 1960's TV series as an adult... not really so cool as you remember him.

Robin has been very cool for quite some time inside the DC comics world (see image right). Even when wearing that yellow, red and green suit of his - which makes no sense against Batman's Grey and Blue, or Grey and Black in the comics. Most people who hide in the shadows don't wear bright yellow capes.

Clearly it's not the suit that stops Robin from being 'cool'. Take a look at Chris O'Donnell's Robin in the two Joel Schumacher Films (see image below), Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. One could argue that you don't really think of Chris' Robin before Burt because these two films were so bad that you've erased them from your memory in the hope that you could believe they were never made.

For those of us that do remember (the films had their good points), the Robin suit in both these films was actually pretty awesome (with exception to the nipples on the suit fiasco). However Chris played Robin as a jealous, whiney, arogant, self centred pratt. All pretty spot on for a teenage character but not really 'cool'. Mostly you just wanted to punch him in the face and wish Joel had done a Christopher Nolan who has said he's not interested in bringing Robin into his version of Batman.

I've said several times in previous posts that the best on film Robin I've seen is Johnny Duncan's version in the 1949 cinema serial, Batman and Robin. The way he plays the character is very 'James Dean' cool and he has to contend with, not only the not so cool looking Robin suit but an equally dodgy looking Batman suit (seriously, you can't half tell that Robert Lowery, as Batman, often can't see where he's going).

So can Robin find his 'cool' on film again? I mean the character has earned it. Especially since, in the comics, there has been at least three Robin's to Bruce Wayne's Batman.

If Robin isn't likely to appear in Christopher Nolan's Batman world any time soon then I think a Robin TV series is a great idea. Just not a Robin 'origin' story. We don't need another Smallville. Plus if they had done The Graysons, as pitched, people would be forever comparing it to Smallville, which, despite my misgivings about the show, is none too bad story wise. A lot of pressure for a Robin TV series to live up to.

A more interesting Robin TV series would be one that focuses on Dick Grayson's transformation into Nightwing (see image right). If you're like me and you haven't read Batman Comics in years you may know that the first Robin, Dick Grayson, eventually graduates from being Batman's side kick to being a Superhero in his own right, Nightwing, but that's all you know about him.

A TV show focusing on this period could have everything that we love about the Batman universe. Not only could Robin be reworked into an edgier, cooler character (like Nolan did with Batman), but also you could have episodes that feature Batman, Joker, Catwoman etc. etc. In this time period where Robin becomes Nightwing all the familiar characters of Gotham City and beyond are fully realised as we know them.

There's no need for a Robin 'origin' story which, like Smallville, ultimately becomes limited as the main character gets closer to the Robin that we know. However a Nightwing story need not stop when Robin becomes Nightwing. Like Batman, the Nightwing story is open ended and filled with possibilities.

Not only that but Robin can still feature in Nightwing stories given that two other characters in the comics, Jason Todd and Tim Drake, have both donned the Robin suit as the 'new' Robin. Who better to bitch about Batman to than the original Robin, right?

The success of Christopher Nolan's Batman films and his statement that Robin isn't likely to appear in that world means that we're not going to see Robin on film any time soon. It's not looking like he'll turn up in the on again, off again Justice League movie either.

Robin's Nightwing story is a classic 'coming of age' story line. You may not think Robin is particularly cool but personally I think he is the key to a new Batman TV series.

By focussing on Robin there's less pressure to live up to what Chris has done with Batman. However the show could build on Chris's ground work with stories clearly targeted at the same adult audience who enjoy a good intelligent crime drama in a hightened reality.

Robin can find his cool because Batman does need him, even if Batman himself sometimes thinks otherwise. Batman and Robin are a team. Robin can get Batman back on TV sooner than Batman can because no one is going to pitch a Batman TV series. The fact that CW pitched a Robin TV pilot shows that some industry people think Robin is a viable option.

In a world that's been saturated with Batman, Nightwing is a way to come in to TV from the side. It's not more Batman, it's Robin and there are many of us that think Robin is cool.

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