Saturday, August 31, 2013

Batman, Robin, and 'the path of righteousness'

Detective Comics #38 (by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson) is famous for being the first appearance of Robin, the Boy Wonder. Young Dick Grayson is usually credited with having a lightening effect on Batman's grim quest for vengeance against all criminals, and there's evidence from this issue that the boy's impact was immediate, though very limited at first.

After Batman agrees to train the boy, the two of them take a crime-fighting oath that includes the words, "never to swerve from the path of righteousness." That feels like an important addition to Batman's mission. It's not enough just to make criminals pay for their misdeeds, Batman also begins to see the importance of maintaining a personal code. He doesn't define "righteousness," but that he even includes it as a concept may be significant.

Eventually, "righteousness" may include a prohibition on taking lives, but not right away. In fact, Batman and Robin's ultimate plan for avenging the death of Robin's parents involves entrapping the main bad guy and photographing him as he murders one of his men. Not only do Batman and Robin not try to save the henchman (Batman implies that the thug is the one directly responsible for the Graysons' deaths, but presents no evidence of it), they manipulate the mob boss in order to make sure that the henchman is killed.

Batman may see the need to raise Dick more morally than the way Bruce Wayne developed, but it's not an easy or quick transition.

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