Thursday, February 10, 2005

I am a long-time comic book nerd. I've been reading comics since the Batman TV series in the 60s. Yes, I was a wee lad at the time, but I loved Batman! It wasn't until about 10 years ago when FX started running the Batman series that I got how campy it was, but then I liked it because it was campy.

I was reading comics about the time Neal Adams began making The Batman a creature of the night again, revitilizing the character. Robin went off to college,and joined the Teen Titans, and during the 70s and 80s, that's the way things stayed.

The Batman, as he is now known, became darker and more obsessed during those years. By the mid 80s, Gerry Conway, the writer at the time, realized that the Batman needed a younger partner to humanize him. So he created Jason Todd, a circus acrobat whose parents were killed by Killer Croc. Jason eventually learned the Batman's secret identity, and asked to be his partner. Finally the Batman agreed, and they began trying to come up with a name for Jason, and Domino was the leading contender. ("It's Batman and Domino!")

Coincidentaly, over in Teen Titans, written by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, Robin was having a bit of an identity crisis. For most of his life (and since the 40s for us), he has always been the Batman's partner, the last half of "Batman and . . .". According to the letter pages of the day, when Marv learned about Gerry's name troubles over in the Batman books, he decided to have Dick Grayson quit being Robin. He strolled into the Batcave, costume under his arm, and told the Batman he needed to figure out where Dick Grayson fit into the world, and Jason Todd became Robin.

In 1985, DC has restarted its universe in The Crisis on Infinite Earths and many things about the DC characters changed. For example, instead of suffering growing pains, Dick Grayson was retired from his role as Robin after the Joker almost killed him. The Batman didn't want to put anyone that young in danger, so Robin was no more. Then he found street punk Jason Todd stealing the tires off the Batmobile, and somehow decided he would be a perfect Robin.

No one liked the "new" Jason Todd. Amid fan hatred, Batman editor Denny O'Neil crafted a mini-series called "A Death in the Family." The first three issues would build up a fight with the Joker, and end with Robin in a tent that explodes! The fans would be able to call one of two 1-900 numbers to vote on Robin's survival. Much to Denny's surprise, the fans offed Robin.

A third Robin, Tim Drake, appeared who was well liked and popular, and he contiues to wear the costume to this day.

Meanwhile, Nightwing had left the Teen Titans and wound up in Blüdhaven, a city down the road from Gotham City. For the last hundred issues or so, he's been fighting to clean up the streets of the 'Haven. Now Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon (Thank goodness Chuck is back!) are retelling the origin of Nightwing, and I have to relearn all this crap again!

This time, it seems, the Batman fired Robin because he was spending too much time in college and in the Teen Titans to be of much help in the Batman's war on crime! So Dick gets kicked out of the cave and Wayne Manor. In Issue #102 , Dick goes to visit Superman who tells him about a Kryptonian superhero called Nightwing. (In the first origin story, Dick Grayson mentions that the name came from Superman. In the second, written while Superman and the Batman didn't get along, he came up with the name all on his own.)

I'm only on the second issue of a six issue arc, and already the relationship between the Batman and Nightwing, as well as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, has changed again.

God, I hate getting old and have to relearn origins and stuff. But I won't quit reading!


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