Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Killing Robin

Tomorrow marks a sad day for me.  I have loved the characters of DC Comics since I was nine years old.  The first comic book I ever read was a DC comic, Green Lantern #4 by Gardner Fox and Gil Kane.  Last week I began to seriously consider the wisdom of my continuing to support DC by covering their books in my blog and by giving them my money every Wednesday.  I was never a huge Marvel Comics fan, per se.  I guess from here on out I'll be supporting independent and creator-owned comic books.  Books like Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's Walking Dead or the brilliant Terry Moore's Rachel Rising.  But not DC, even though it means ending my half-century-long love affair with Green Lantern.

I can only complain here, and on Facebook and Twitter and such.  And I can only vote with my feet, and with my wallet.  And as far as DC is concerned, I will be walking away and keeping my wallet closed.

Last week I mentioned that, against all rational and sane judgement, DC Comics has hired noted anti-gay author and activist Orson Scott Card to write their new Adventures of Superman title.  I can't support their choice, and I refuse to put my money in his pocket.

Now this happens:  nypost.com: Holy Hit Job!

Yes, in tomorrow's issue of Batman Incorporated #8, Robin is going to be killed off.  They claim he will be going out a hero, saving the world from some clone monster that shares his DNA.  This particular Robin is not the Robin with whom most folks are familiar; he's not circus orphan Dick Grayson -- Dick Grayson these days operates on his own, as the hero Nightwing.  He's the illegitimate son of Batman and Talia al Ghul, the daughter of one of his arch-enemies, the immortal eco-terrorist Ra's al Ghul.  This is not the first time DC has decided to kill a Robin.  The last time they did this was bad enough -- the Joker beat teenager Jason Todd to death with a crowbar before Batman could arrive to save him.  But this is the first time they've decided to kill one who's only TEN YEARS OLD.

I don't care how heroically Robin goes out.  And I don't care much about all the crap that's been written about the latent homoeroticism of the Batman/Robin relationship.  Robin came about in the 1940's when the editors at National Periodical Publications decided that they could sell more comics if there was a character with whom the kids could identify.  A kid just like them, only he gets to hang out with and help Batman.  All the other stuff was laid on later, about how Robin was the one ray of light and humor in Batman's otherwise grim and relentless lifelong war on crime in Gotham City.  They put a kid in the book so that they could sell more books to kids at a time in this country when readership consisted of all ages, and Batman and Superman routinely sold upwards of 100,000 copies each and every month.  Nothing today even comes close to those sales, although a wider range of ages is reading comics these days.

So the kid sidekick was born, and the adults reading comics gradually stopped, and by the 1950's it was a junk medium for children.  That's a bit of an oversimplification, but it's basically true.

Regardless of the wider range of ages reading comics these days, at the end of the day the idiots who produce them need to take a step back and take a hard look at what they are producing.  It's not just grown-up fanboys who read comics these days; kids still read them too.  And they need to be a little more aware of what they produce when what they produce involves violence against children.  This Robin is a little boy.  I don't care who his mom is, or the circumstances of his conception or birth.  I didn't much like the gimmick when he was produced like a rabbit out of a hat after it was revealed that Talia tricked Batman into helping her conceive an heir for her dad's criminal empire, but comics are full of that kind of over-dramatic revelation.  No, what I care about is that they are committing the ultimate act of violence against a young child.

Yes, I know; death in comics is rarely permanent these days.  Despite all the claims to modern sensibilities and values, nobody really dies in comics any more.  This, in my opinion, has had the unfortunate effect of diluting the importance, the tragedy, and the drama when a character dies.  Comics fans used to jokingly say that there were only two characters who had to stay dead -- Captain America's sidekick Bucky and Spider-Man's Uncle Ben.  Well, guess what?  They've both been brought back.  Nobody is hands-off for resurrection.  And apparently nobody is hands-off for killing.

So even if Robin is brought back in a few months, I don't care.  I won't be there to see it.  To pull a stunt like this, especially after our nation seems to be mourning mass murder after mass murder, and multiple deaths by violence of children, is appalling, thoughtless and insensitive.  And I won't be paying for it.

[As always, all images are © and ™DC Comics and are used here solely for the purposes of review and comment.]

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