How a Christopher Nolan Robin Could Work

The best and most recent incarnation of the Batman franchise starting with Batman Begins and culminating in The Dark Knight has been successful for many, many reasons. It has been argued that one of those reasons is that Christopher Nolan has vowed to banish Robin, Batman's plucky sidekick, from the franchise altogether. I believe there is a way to include Robin into the story without compromising the integrity of the films as they have been thus far.

First off, obviously, get rid of that ridiculous red, green and yellow costume and put some frakkin pants on. We'll get into some costume design later, but no one can take the pictured costume seriously. This is one of the reasons everyone gets turned off by the thought of Robin in a serious Batman story.

But let's dig deeper into the story of Dick Grayson, shall we? Originally, young Dick was appointed Bruce Wayne's ward after his family was murdered by gangsters who were trying to extort money from the circus at which they worked. The Flying Graysons, they called them. Yeah, that's not gonna work. Maybe that can be his back story, but in Christopher Nolan's Batman we won't even tell it. What made the Boy Wonder an orphan can be just as much of a secret as the Joker's origin. And as much as they liked to believe Bruce Wayne was a stand-up guy who would take on the responsibility of a young ward back when he was first created, it's just not what we have in our new Batman. Bruce is a troubled man. A troubled man with a huge secret and a huge company. This is not the kind of man who would relish the thought of having a teen ripping through his mansion. So in Christopher Nolan's version, Dick Grayson is a ward of the state, a trouble-maker and a gang-banger.

Follow me on this: as a young man growing up in the corrupt legal system of Gotham City, Dick Grayson is often found alone, fending for himself, stealing in order to survive and even killing if he has to. Martial and acrobatic/parkour skills are learned out of necessity, and a life on the street gives him a better knowledge of those streets than even Bats himself.

So now we have a rough and tough Dick who probably calls himself The Robin, after his apparent ability to fly, in order to stop people from making fun of his real name. Maybe he has a tattoo of a stylized robin on his arm clawing at a skull. Dick "The Robin" Grayson is a deceptive, baby-faced killer who's never seen a single day of public school and learned everything he needs to know on the streets. He wears an iconic red jacket with a dark green hood and wrap-around sun glasses. And what's most important about dear young Dick is that he's the bad guy.

This is important. We need to introduce The Robin as a bad guy who consistently eludes Batman due to his acrobatic skill. Look at him as a foil to Batman - a young man who crosses the thin line that Batman walks between vigilante and criminal. The Robin presents Batman with with an alternative version of himself: a version that is not privileged, who struggles to survive and cares for little more than making it through the day in Gotham. Batman takes interest in the lad because of his uncanny ability to escape Batman's clutches, but in learning more about him, takes pity in poor Grayson. Which Dick obviously hates. He doesn't need anyone taking pity on him or taking him under his wing. Bruce doesn't even try. Like I said, he's in no position to care for a child. There's only one way this can end. The Robin screws up and gets caught.

On his 18th birthday Batman lands Dick in jail for murder. Tried as an adult, Dick is sentenced to life in prison. Where can he go from there? This is where it gets interesting. Bruce Wayne takes an interest in this particular inmate. He spends the next two years occasionally meeting with The Robin. After developing a deep trust, when Dick asks why Bruce has taken an interest, Bruce explains the parallels he sees in their two stories. How they were both orphans trying to make it on their own and how it somehow turned out that they operated on opposite sides of the law. Dick points out the obvious fact that Bruce had money. Dick didn't. When Dick is twenty years old, Bruce bails him out and offers him a room in his mansion if he would pay rent by honest means. Dick is, therefore, on his own. Bruce doesn't have to worry about taking care of him. He pays for his own groceries and utilities, really starts to take on some real responsibility. After he gets out of jail and lives in Wayne Manor, he is known is Dick Grayson. The Robin is no more.

Well, it doesn't take long for Dick Grayson to realize that Bruce is Batman. He's out every night, he keeps certain parts of the mansion a secret, it's not difficult to put two and two together. So Dick decides to take back out his old red jacket. He hits the streets as The Robin once more to find Batman and confront him as Bruce Wayne. What he doesn't know is that this is exactly what Bruce wants.

It was made clear in The Dark Knight: Bruce does not want to be Batman. This whole time he was sizing up Dick Grayson as his replacement. When they meet on the streets, Batman spills the beans on his intentions for Grayson, but Grayson doesn't want to be Batman either. He already has a perfectly fine alter-ego: The Robin.

Batman spends the next years of his life training The Robin as a replacement for Batman and making sure he's ready leave his old, lawless ways behind him to embrace the way of taking the law into his hands. The most important part about being Batman is that he never kills his enemies, and his challenge is to take a young killer and turn him into the next Dark Knight.

Update (7/25/12)
So, The Dark Knight Rises just came out and it was fantabulous. There was no "Robin", per se, but there were some Robin-esque qualities about which I shall not write in fear of spoilers. You should all go see it now. I still say, however, that my idea for Dick Grayson should be used some time. I think it's brilliant.

Comments

  1. Just make Richard Grayson a little kid (around 8 years old) who witnesses the horrific murder of his parents... Bruce takes him in temporarily (to be mainly cared for by Alfred) to try and get more information regarding the crime... They could make very subtle, veiled references to the campy, traditional version of "Robin"... like his parent's could have nick named him "Robin" as a term of endearment... or after accidentally discovering that Bruce is Batman (by accidentally stumbling into the cave), he jokes about helping "Batman" (which Bruce would find totally laughable)... while seeing the little kid play in the backyard, he could wear a old green blanket around his neck in a very makeshift, entirely kid-made make-believe superhero outfit that vaguely resembles the traditional Robin costume. In the end, something the kid witnessed or repressed --- some small detail from his parents murder --- would be missing peice that solves the entire film's expanded storyline, tying everything together... AT NO POINT, would the kid actually be seen as "the boy wonder" or any of the crap... Just make him a believable realistic little kid who witnessed something horrific.

    At the end of the film, Bruce and Alfred could decide to permanently adopt Richard Grayson... which would bring the whole story full circle... For some people, they wouldn't even know that the little boy was "Robin"... like I said, he doesn't have to be a ridiculous 2 dimensional version as in prior versions... and he most certainly would not be jumping the rooftops of Gotham... He should be a little kid and nothing more.

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  2. Sigh, this is the same exact type of thinking with regards to Batman before he became a more realistic character.  Look at the Batman costum over the years.  The 1960's Batman costume worked for little kids....but was ridculous for Chris Nolan purposes.....yet however, it's still the same design but all black now....even Tim Burton's Batman was the same....but was awesome as well.  The same holds true for Robin's costume but people are too blind to see it.  Make the colors similar to Robin in "Batman The Animated Series" but make the shades extremely DARK!  In the Batman TAS series, Robin's Costume covers his legs, and it looks cool.  Obviously the bright colors can not be translated exactly from animation to live action.  However, like I saidn....the solution is the same as it was for both Tim Burton & Chris Nolan's Batmans.......YOU GO DARK AND COOL!  Simply make the Red and Green (with the green looking almost black in low light) as dark of the shade as can go.  And as for Robin's cape, black on the outside with a dark mustard color on the inside to have that hint of yellow.  All the colors are represented...and like his Mentor.....Robin now looks awesome and bad ass. 

    Don't believe me.....then you have no imagination.  And why do I have the nerve to say that.....well go see the new Amazing Spiderman trailer to see my logic being translated briliantly frm comics to live action.  Or better yet, check out last years Captain America......if that costume can be made to look cool, and stay true to the comic book....then anything is possible.

    And a few more things, the magic of the Batman & Robin relationship is a direct result of Robin's Circus Origin.  Bruce being there by chance and witnessing his nightmare all over again......a boys parents dying before his eyes......and being made an orphan.  The age thing is also something that needs to reflect the comic.  But again, that doesn't mean that is has to be translated exactly.  A kid fighting crime out on the streets is not believable.  What works in the comics doesn't always work in live action.  The Solution......perhaps Dick Grayson can spend his growing years rigoursly training and helping from the cave.  After all.....a lot of detective work goes into tracking down criminals.  Then at a realistic age....say 17 to 18 years, he finally ventures out with his Mentor. 


    I also like the contrast of going from the the bright lights of the Circus, and into the dark world of the Batman.  It just works from a drama standpoint.  Any other origin for Dick Grayson....especially making him a street kid, just equals epic fail in my mind.  It's like saying that Superman flying is not realistic so in Chris Nolan's universe we simply can't have it.......and so instead of tackling it, they leave it out.  Oh yeah, that is EPIC FAIL!

    Thinks about it.  Anyway, I'm sorry if this piece seems rushed, but I am short on time.  And I just basicaly wanted to get my ideas accross. 

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  3. I think the more obvious reason that they were good is that the ideas were originally written by Frank Miller in his Batman graphic novels. With this in mind, it might be easiest to simply research to see if there is a precedent for a non-ridiculous Robin story by either Miller or someone equally talented, i.e. Moore or Morrison. Not being a comic book guy myself, I cannot easily think of one, but I don't doubt that at least one exists. From a simple search I found that Miller also wrote The Return of the Dark Knight, which takes place in a future Gotham, when the now retired Batman decides to make a comeback after the death of the second Robin. The character is mentioned, which is a start!

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  4. @ Scott: Moore never wrote a Robin story. Miller has, but he kept the Flying Graysons origin. Morrison created his own Robin, who's the love child of Talia Al Ghul and Bruce Wayne. The best Robin stories were written by a guy named Chuck Dixon, but even that was Tim Drake (Robin III) not Dick Grayson (Robin I). To be perfectly honest the best Dick Grayson stories ever written were in the pages of Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman.

    @Steve: I would say that you may want to check out a character named Jason Todd. He was a street tough who's parents had died a long time ago. He survived on his own, stealing and doing whatever needed to get by. Until one day while he was trying to jack some tires off a car he found parked in an alley. The only problem was that the car belonged to Batman. Batman talked to the boy, and realized the boys natural abilities to fight, as well as all the other methods the boy had learned for survival. After a few weeks of training, Batman decided to bestow the mantle of Robin on him, which was recently given up by Dick Grayson. The only problem was, years of living on his own on the streets of Gotham had made Jason an angry young man, who may have even killed certain villains when Batman wasn't looking. Because he was so head strong this eventually lead to his death by the hands of the Joker.

    Later on Jason Todd would return, having spent years training with the very same men who had trained the young Bruce Wayne. He came back as a motorcycle riding vigilante who was willing to kill criminals, called the Red Hood.

    So, yeah, I noticed a little bit of a similarity between Jason Todd and your idea.

    Also, the main issue I have with this idea (and trust me, as a member of multiple Batman forums, this has been discussed heavily) is that for all the things Nolan has done to make Batman and his rogues more realistic, he has kept the essential character traits from the comics in tact. Joker is an origin-less homicidal maniac with a clowns face, Ra's Al Ghul uses global terrorism to try to eliminate unwanted cultures, Joe Chill killed Bruce's parents, Crane was a doctor that experimented with fear toxins, Dent is a fallen DA that tried to work with Batman and Gordon to save the city, Victor Zsasz is serial killer who scars himself. These are all things that are completely unchanged from the comic. So the thought of changing Dick Graysons origins so drastically just doesn't seem to be something that Nolan would do. Personally, I don't think there's anyway you could make Robin work. (or the Riddler, but that's another matter)

    Sorry for going all fanboy supernova, I of all people would love to see Robin in a Batman film, because even though I'm a big Batman fan, I'm an even bigger Robin fan. It's just that all the Robins origins (there have been 5 Robins at this point) are just a little too crazy to work in the Nolan-verse, and the man is loyal to his source, which is a good thing.

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  5. I like the Jason Todd Robin. Only problem is if we're gonna go so far to maintain established canon, then we'd also need a Dick Grayson Robin for him to replace. I deeply respect Nolan for staying true to canon, but I still wish he could introduce my Robin. After re-reading what I wrote, I really like him lol

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