Review: Creators Celebrate The World’s Most Famous Sidekick In ‘Robin 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular’

by Olly MacNamee

It would seem that with the pandemic criss we are currently facing, only fictional characters will get to celebrate their anniversaries this year, and Robin is the next in line for the special treatment as DC Comics released their Robin 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular last week to mark the young man’s 80th year in print.
Like previous other recent examples of these anniversary issues, this is an anthology of strips that span the various characters who wore the famous red, green and yellow uniform and celebrate their time behind the mask. Unsurprisingly it is an unashamedly sentimental look back on Dick Grayson, Jason Todd , Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown and Damian Wayne’s role as Robin and what each one brought to the part that made them unique and not simply a copy of the original.

Furthermore, with the heavy use of previous creative teams who have depicted the worm of Robins over the past few decades, with the likes of Marv Wolfman, Scott McDaniels, Devin Grayson, Dan Jurgens and so many others included, reading this collection certainly feels like a friendly trip down Memory Lane as they take a look at each person in chronological order and often set these stories at very specific times gone by that many long-term readers will be familiar with. With Wolfman, for example, he gives us a conversation we didn’t get to overhear during The New Teen Titans and ‘The Judas Contract’ storyline in which Dick hung up his tights and took on the title of Nightwing. On the surface it seems to touch on a perennial favourite in the history of Batman and Robin, as Grayson feels Batman’s dictatorial behaviour has clipped his wings somewhat at a time when he wants to fly on his own. Include the artwork of Tom Grummett (inked by Scott Hanna) – himself closely associated with the Teen Titans comic back in the day – and it’s a good indication of the issue’s tone and purpose as a whole. A celebration, yes, but also a reckoning of the past into one cohesive whole. Thus we have Dick Grayson running around in short-shorts, then as Nightwing and even later as Agent 37. In a comic book celebrating 80 years of the premium sidekick of comics, it’s quite right that Dick Grayson gets the mammoth’s share.

Across many of the stories is the spectre of Batman, and his relationship with the different Robins is also a big focus of this anniversary issue. My favourite take on this has to be ‘The Lesson Plan’ by Tim Seely and Tom King with art by Mikel Janin. In mentoring has own agent during his time in Spyral, Dick is reminded of his own training by Batman. How he then translates this advice and pass it onto his young protege is a very interesting take on what exactly Batman’s effect on the young acrobat’s formative years. But, just when you think the young Dick Grayson hasn’t taken any heed whatsoever, there is redemption.
It’s all very positive, but it also depicts Grayson as his own man. Juts as it does for Todd, Tim and Damian. Although in the latter’s portion of this comic, there is more than a hint of impending doom that has been reflected in the recent Teen Titans comic book series and Damian’s own plans for criminal rehabilitation that would see his father hit the roof if he were to ever find out. It’s certainly a strange tone to end on, after the previous tales of hope. It’s also a story that echoes Grant Morrison’s own relationship with a character he helped bring to life alongside Frank Quietly and later Chris Burnham thanks to the stylings of Ramon Villalobos. A very fitting choice and one of the many outstanding strips in this anthology.

I would also recommend the short story, ‘Boys Wonder’ by writer James Tynion IV and artist Javier Hernandez, which sees Tim Drake spend time with all the (male) Robins to try and come to terms with his pace in the world today. It’s another off-age conversation from a previous storyline, but will be welcome by fans of Tim Drake. Tim, out of them all, chose this path, it didn’t chose him in, reminded readers what this, in effect, means to the young adopted son of Bruce Wayne.
Robin 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular is available now from DC Comics

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