Friday, March 1, 2013

The Ethics and Responsibilities of Raising Robins

I think Wally West put it best before the relaunch back when Stephanie Brown was Robin.

SPOILERS AHEAD but I think everyone knows by now.

Seriously I think this offically makes Bruce the worst mentor in all comics. It used to be a joke but look at his track record. Even if you take Stephanie off the list (either because they retconned it so she never died or don't count her as Robin) he's lost half of his Robins. That's just mindblowing.

I'm not a fan of any of the Robins dying and thought those deaths were all handled poorly. Stephanie was briefly put in the Robin role in a mean spirited move to get more attention. They did it just because they already planned to kill her off and wanted it to be more "meaningful." Yet DC wasn't willing to acknowledge her as a Robin once they offed her further proving how insulting their handling of her death was. Unlike the boy Robins Stephanie wasn't one of Bruces' kids by adoption or blood. Alfred suspected the only reason Bruce even agreed to have her as a partner was to make Tim jealous, something Bruce never answered. She was drawn sexually during her torture, demeaned because of her gender (Black Mask claimed her real use to the Bat clan must be sexual) and repeatedly called reckless.

Blamed for her own death much like Jason still is. Like Jason she was a poor kid with a deadbeat dad and an addict for a mother. Because of this both of them were painted as "the bad kids" that weren't good enough to survive although both were doing just that before they became sidekicks. Writers forcefeed this train of thought into characters mouths to push the blame away from Batman and the rest and onto the victims. Bruce told Cassandra Cain that Stephanie and Jason were too alike and suggested that neither were fit enough for the role. (Forgetting that Jason did have extensive training for months before Bruce even let him on patrol and letting either of them on the streets unprepared is his fault as their mentor.) At one point Cassandra placed the blame on Stephanie, her best friend, by saying she "messed up." They even made Stephanie refer to Jasons' infamous "game" speech (which writers still don't understand the true meaning of.) DC had Stephanie and Jason claim their to blame to further erase any trace of guilt on Bruces' part. But here's the thing, he used Stephanie then refused to take responsiblity for a kid looking for acceptance. He was Jasons' legal guardian thus should have put his kid first. If you lose more than one kid it's time to start thinking that maybe it's your fault not theirs. Bruce Wayne is the adult with the Robins after all.

Jason Todd, at least the post-crisis version, didn't have as much time to grow as Damian Wayne did. Damian had about seven years and Jason had what, two? Damian had Grant Morrison, a writer with influence to keep him around for awhile. Jason had Jim Starlin, a writer that didn't like Robin and was determined to get rid of him anyway he could. There was a poll that lasted a day fueled by curiosity if DC would connect to the Dark Knight Returns novel that depicted the Robin case in Jasons' memory. Even though there was talk of someone rigging the poll DC went through with it anyway and yes there was a backlash. (*1) I've talked about Bruces' bad parenting in DITF in my review but it sort of repeats it's self in these deaths. At least with the boys. Bruce knew Jason was depressed, potentially suicidal and ran away from home. Yet he chose to go after the Joker instead of looking for his adoptive son. Jasons' disappointment when Bruce admits he wasn't looking for him but on a case was very apparent when they met up. There are a lot of other incidents where he made the wrong choice putting the mission before his responsibilty as a parent. He doesn't try to get Jason to be the one going off to save the relief workers and KNOWS leaving him behind is a bad idea. He did it anyway. Bruce devoted all this time to working against Talia and not enough to make sure Damian was safe. Again Bruce should know better.

Stephanie received verbal abuse along with the physcial insulting her sex. Jason was chided by the Joker for being a "bad boy" that "needed to be punished." One has to wonder if all of this was simply the writers making the villains act as their mouth pieces, which doesn't speak very highly for said writers. For all the blame thrown Jasons' way for his fate in DITF the one mistake he made was trusting his birth mother. Everything he does in DITF is exactly what every other member of the bat family would do if a parent was endangered. We saw it when Cassandra Cain became obsessed in discovering the truth about her mother. Damian has shown concern for both of his parents and would take risks to ensure their safety. I can't imagine Bruce would have acted any different. Jason didn't get a chance to fight like Stephanie and Damian did, not really. He fought back but like with Damian the thugs helped take the fight out of him. While Damian would plead for his mothers' help (*2) Jason never begged, he told his mother to run away not expecting her to help him. She tried to assist him even though it was a helpless situation while Talia was too busy taunting Bruce to notice her own child.

The fact remains that Morrison is treading old ground by having Bruce grieve a sons' death. Jason is Bruces' adoptive son and for years his death was treated not as the loss of a partner but a son. Being a child by blood doesn't make this anymore meaningful. All this does is showcase how insane it was to take a ten year old, no matter how skilled, and put him in a garb that another son died in. With Stephanie the bat family pretty much abandoned her in the events leading up to her death. Bruce encouraged them to do so to keep her out of it. She wanted to make things right but no one was willing to help her. Jason needed a parent to put him first, he didn't "challenge the Joker" just tried to get his mother to walk away from danger. Damian shouldn't have been there and I suspect Alfred will feel guilty for allowing him to go off which resulted in his death. I know Damian helped protect the cube which saved the world but I can't see his death as heroic. Stephanies' wasn't. Jasons' sort of was since he died covering his mom from the blast but she still died. As for Damian? He died fighting alone with no one to help him. Damian died as a child desperately trying to get his mother to save him, helpless and terrified. Jasons' death had shades of this but he still put on a brave face and prepared to die to save a life.

All of the Robins that died had some definance (*3) but that doesn't make for a good death. Some were respectful in ways the others weren't but all three failed all the same. These characters didn't have proper send offs and none of them should have been killed in the first place. Morrison planned to kill Damian since the beginning, I know this and state it not to say this doesn't matter. No I say it because many seem under the impression this is some evil the new 52 is to be blamed for. This would have happened regardless if the relaunch happened or not. If not Morrison then someone else for one simple reason: he ages Bruce Wayne. Unless he remained a child forever Damian was doomed to die since his creation. That's why the other Robins weren't related to Bruce by blood. It's even why Dick Grayson was the only original Titan in previous canon not to have a child. Because whether or not he's related to Bruce having a kid would still make Bruce a grandfather. It ages him in a way DC doesn't like. (*4)

One of the things that always bothered me about Damian Wayne, no matter how much I liked him, was this feeling Morrison was trying to send some meta message that he was just like Jason Todd. Or at least the Jason Todd some seem to see, a parody or exaggeration if you will. When the character was first introduced under Morrison he cursed at Alfred. This prompted the Butler to say it's been awhile since he's heard that language implying another of his charges used to behave in such a manner. Since it seems odd to think either Dick or Tim would yell like that it leaves Bruce and Jason. Naturally many assumed the street kid was the one cursing despite the fact he never treated Alfred like that. Then of course Damian breaks Jasons' case to steal his tunic in a storyline that originally would have led to his death. Now that he has died I can't get over how repetitive this all is.

Fans had to fight to at least get DC to respect Stephanie something that didn't last long since she's in limbo again. Jasons' fans also fought for him and rather ironically he had the most requests for an ongoing series. Something that has come to pass with his current series Red Hood and the Outlaws. As for our newly departed bat baby it's hard to say if fans can change the heads of DCs' minds. Damian already has the fact he's Batmans' son and his creators' desire that he remain dead against him. Morrison has a lot of clout. In regards to Bruce I can't see how their going to push a new Robin onto him now. I always had a problem buying him accepting Tim but after the second dead son? No, at present I can't see how their do that. Harper Row looks like she'll be the most likely sidekick at the moment although she doesn't seem to have any combat experience. We'll see but with so many dead Robins more than one fan has to question him having younger partners.

*1 Although this wasn't talked about in the same way it is now a days with the internet DC was well aware of the hate they received for the end result of Death in the Family. This was talked about in the extras on the Bluray version of Batman Under the Red Hood.

*2 Talia Al Ghul is seriously out of character in most of Morrisons' writing. Morrison changes things to suit his needs. He did this with X-Men with Emma Frost and he did it with Talia. The woman that previously moved heaven and hell to save her son in the return of Ras Al Ghul story disowned and put out a hit on Damian. The woman that shared a passionate love with Bruce that only rivaled Selina Kyles' was reduced to a rapist that wanted a perfect son to keep Bruce so they could rule the world.

*3 There have been different bits echoed throughout these three deaths. One of them is the boys spitting blood onto their soon-to-be murderers' face. Jason does it in the movie version of Under the Red Hood and Damian does it moments before his own death. I don't think this was something Morrison had in mind when writing this but it's a good connection between their characters.

*4 The only Robin that ever had a kid was Stephanie and even she gave the baby up.


  1. Well, Wally was absolutely right, wasn't he? Dang, I miss Wally.

    The murder of a child, merely to give the parent, or mentor, or whatever, some angst does not charm me. It didn't charm me with Lian, it doesn't charm me with Damian.

    Scott Snyder had actually gotten me to read Batman,who has never been much of a favorite.


  2. Wally wins tons of points for saying this.

    I was sickened when I first heard about Jason, with Stephanie, with Lian and with Damian? I'm not so much mad as aggravated that their literally repeating Jason's death with a new spin. Wants to "rush in" to save his mother? Check. Not considered a well behaved Robin like Dick/Tim? check. Gets beatened, attacked by thugs and finished off by big bad? Check. Bruce comes to late and holds dead Robin in his arms? Check. Epic mourning period where Bruce might go to far? Check.

    The bat books in general are all getting on my nerves at present. I have back issues of Bruce losing it over Jason I don't want to see him go through this all again.

  3. Nope, I don't like the "Kids in Mircowaves" thing. I think the last time I wrote about that was pondering if it would happen to Rani.