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Robin, the Boy Wonder
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Fred Hembeck

Robin, the Boy Wonder
Uploaded June 15, 1999

"I have a crush on Batgirl!!" says Robin.

Who didn't?

Let's face it - Yvonne Craig made the third season of the 1960's television version of 'Batman' worth watching. The purple spandex, the boots, the motorcycle......yow. Throw in Julie Newmar as 'Catwoman' and it's no wonder that the show was such a hit on college campuses.


I've written bits about sidekicks on this site before; they're so ubiquitous in comics, and so rife for satire, that it's only natural that Fred zeroed in on them in his strips. It's not like the sidekick - as a concept - is new, though. Non-comics media have used sidekicks for years, to provide support for the hero of the piece, to act as a substitute for the audience, to serve as a Greek chorus, or simply to provide comic relief (the words 'Jar-Jar' come to mind). The Lone Ranger had his Tonto, Sherlock Holmes had his Watson, Lindsay Wagner had Max, the Bionic Wonder Mutt, Rebo had his Zooty, and so on.

For a while, it seemed as if every hero had his/her own sidekick. One of DCs most popular hero groupings - the Teen Titans - was comprised entirely of sidekicks, namely Robin, Kid Flash, Speedy, Aqualad, and Wonder Girl.

Hmmm. 'Comprised entirely of sidekicks'. This smacks suspiciously of unionism, don't you think? Just imagine what would happen if all of the sidekicks went on a wildcat strike. (That's 'wildcat' with a lower-case 'w', by the way; a Wildcat strike would be somewhat painful, and, yes, that's an inside joke for all of you Golden Age aficionados. You're welcome.)

Batman would probably resort to scab labor to fill the void, though. That could actually prove quite effective, since most criminals would faint dead away at the sight of Alfred wearing a pair of tights.

Over on the Marvel side of the fence, we find uber-sidekick Rick Jones still hanging around heroes after 35 years. He's partnered with Captain America, the Hulk, the Avengers, Captain Marvel (Marvel's version, not the Big Red Cheese), and others. Can anyone say the word, "groupie"? I knew you could. I almost expect him to try to join the X-Men, claiming the mutant ability to hang out with assorted super-heroes through assorted battles and interstellar conflicts without getting killed.

Say, there's a thought - how's this for the next DC/Marvel crossover epic: 'Rick Jones vs. Snapper Carr'!!!! The battle of the century! Avengers hanger-on goes mano-a-mano with Justice League mascot! Get your ringside tix right here!

Back to that whole Robin and Batgirl thing - nothing ever really surfaced in the television show (in front of the camera, at least), but there was the occasional allusion in the comics themselves, usually around Robin's unrequited interest. For a while, it threatened to become a whole 'Joanie Loves Chachi' riff, but - thankfully - saner editorial heads prevailed. The fact that the discussion must have taken place at some point in the DC offices makes you stop and think, though - the editors, writers, and management actually would have had a serious should-they-or-they-shouldn't-they debate. Better still, these kinds of water-cooler discussions are part of the job descriptions! Oh, the envy….

- NP

The copyrights, trademarks and publication rights to Fred's cartoons belong to DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and Fred Hembeck where appropriate. Proud Robot Productions graphics, site design, cartoon re-coloring and commentary copyrights belong to Neil Polowin and Proud Robot Productions.

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