A Tribute to the of






Robin the Boy Wonder has been on my mind, possibly because, with all the 75th anniversary hoopla we’ve been observing here at the Silver Lantern this year, he remains the last character who was rolled out in 1940 that we’ve not yet spotlighted. It’s now time to remedy that little situation.

As any DC fan worth their salt knows, Robin came onto the scene in Detective Comics #38 [Sage #192]. The official credits for creation are Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson and while Jerry told me about his contributions, he was always quick to credit Bill with his hand in things, which gained my immediate respect. Unlike many, Jerry had nothing to prove or embellish, since his remarkable career included a lot more than just his work on Batman and he was gracious with giving credit where it was due. He did, however, have a lot to do with the design of the character, so I didn’t hesitate to call out his name as the creator of Robin at that panel in San Diego that I mentioned in the last Silver Age Sage.

Robin proved to be a popular character right out the gate, sharing the cover of Batman #1 [Sage #116] and therefore gracing a U.S. postage stamp, gaining a regular gig in Star Spangled Comics with solo adventures and single-handedly inspiring a gaggle of sidekick imitators, both at DC and the competition. Bucky Barnes, Toro, Speedy, Aqualad and Kid Flash, just to name a few, owe their lineage directly to Robin. Robin, of course, was one of the founders of the Teen Titans and over the years a handful of characters other than Dick Grayson have worn the familiar traffic-light colored uniform.

So it was no small feat to decide on a worthy candidate to review for this edition of the Silver Age Sage, but I finally decided to go to June of 1963 in the pages of Batman #156. “Robin Dies at Dawn!,” is considered a classic and it was even reprinted in the first volume of The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told. Editing was by Jack Schiff, artwork by Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris with lettering by Stan Starkman and scripting by the immortal Bill Finger. As an interesting side-note, the first story in this issue was "The Secret of the Ant-Man!"

On to our story: Batman is seen rising into a star studded sky and finds himself on an alien landscape replete with twin moons. He soon notes he is completely unarmed with his utility belt missing. He feels as isolated and alone as he ever has and as he scouts about he notes a deserted city and plenty of weird plant life around. Just then he’s caught by a plant with tentacle-like tendrils. He shouts for help from Robin, who suddenly appears and helps Batman to escape.

As dawn approaches, Batman has the eerie feeling he’s being watched when they encounter a huge, 4-armed stone idol who means them harm. They flee to a nearby chasm and manage to get across, but quickly realize that the giant stone statue will not be held back. They realize that their only hope is to lure it to the edge of the chasm where the footing will be fragile, but the idol hesitates, so Robin provokes it. The stone figure scoops up a boulder and comes forward to attack when the ledge gives way. Unfortunately for Robin, as it looses the boulder, it lands right on the Boy Wonder, killing him. A bereft Batman buries his partner and again feels the eyes watching him. Batman soon encounters a large beast with glowing eyes, but he is too weak to fight, so he says, “Let it come! I don’t want to live! It’s my fault Robin died! I don’t want to live…

Right about then we join a well-monitored Batman in a test chamber of a military laboratory. Batman had forgotten, but he’d been undergoing tests to help learn the limits of the human body under extreme stress for the space program. Batman had been suffering hallucinations in the stimulus-deprived environment.

After some rest, he returns to the lab to record his experiences and realizes the feeling of being watched was a direct result of those monitoring him in the chamber. He notes that the loneliness as one of the worst feelings and the doctor in charge explains that it is one of mankind’s most basic, primitive fears and in Batman’s case was manifested in part by concern about his young partner. As Batman and Robin depart, the doctor muses to the Army Officer present that he hopes our hero doesn’t suffer any after effects, ending chapter one.

Chapter Two has the Dynamic Duo in action as they chance upon a moonlit robbery by the Gorilla Gang. Yeah, gang-members dressed as gorillas. I suppose anything can happen in Gotham City… As Batman and Robin take to the rooftop and engage the three gang members, those feared after-effects begin to kick in. First, Batman imagines the steel support structure of a nearby construction site is the stone idol. He tackles Robin to prevent the idol from harming the Boy Wonder and inadvertently sends them both over the edge of the building. Fortunately Batman snaps out of it in time to arrest their fall.

The gang gets away, so it’s back to Wayne Manor for the Caped Crusader to enjoy some rest from his ordeals in the test chamber. He is greeted warmly by Alfred and Ace the Bat-Hound and soon bunks down for the night. Unfortunately his subconscious doesn’t give our hero much of a break either as he begins shouting in his sleep that the tentacles have him in their grip. Dick comes into Bruce’s room to awaken him and reassure him he is in no danger. He suggests having Ace stay with Bruce.

The next night, our heroes are out on patrol and again spot the Gorilla Gang, who swiftly get into their getaway car and start to try to run the Dark Knight down. The headlights trigger another flashback as Batman begins to see the glowing-eyed creature and he again reverts to wishing to die as having been the cause of Robin’s demise. Robin then leaps into action, grabbing the wheel and altering the course of the car as it crashes into some barrels of camphor flakes before getting away.

Later, back at the Batcave, Batman makes a momentous decision. He cannot continue to try to function this way and he hangs up the batsuit. Robin goes to an appointment with the doctor in charge of the tests to discuss matters without Batman’s knowledge. Meanwhile, Bruce gets an alert that Commissioner Gordon is trying to contact him. Reaching out with the two-way radio, Bruce learns that the Gorilla Gang has taken Robin prisoner and sentenced him to death at dawn. Batman has no choice but to suit up and go for the rescue of his partner.

He remembers the camphor and enlists the sensitive nose of Ace the bat-hound to track the getaway car of the Gorilla Gang. It turns out they’ve trussed up the Boy Wonder to a weather balloon and are about to cut the tether with an axe when they hear footsteps. One of the gang members goes to investigate and when he returns it is Batman in the gorilla suit with Ace alongside. They quickly dispatch the other two gang members, but not before they’ve used the axe to set the balloon adrift. Now the tether ropes are dangling around Batman. Will he revert again to the tentacles from his hallucination?

No! He grabs up the axe and throws it at the balloon, opening a tear that will allow it to descend softly back to earth. Batman explains to his young protégé that in his hallucination he only imagined Robin died at dawn, while this situation held out the possibility that Robin would really die at dawn and the grim reality shocked the World’s Greatest Detective back to normal, signaling a new dawn in Gotham City with Batman and Robin on the job.

I don’t know that I’d necessarily classify this as a “greatest Batman story ever told,” but it wasn’t bad. It was certainly typical fare for the day and it’s always great to read a story written by Bill Finger. I’ll give it a 6 on the 10-point rating scale.

A happy 75th anniversary to the original sidekick, Robin the Boy Wonder! Gotham City wouldn’t be the same without you and at least as far as this reader is concerned, it will always be Dick Grayson in that role.

Do come back the middle of August for another edition in this ongoing feature. The webmaster and I still have much to explore. Questions, comments and other feedback is always welcome and you can send it to: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Thanks for coming and…

Long live the Silver Age!



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