Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Yeah, never walk in a teenage boy behind closed doors, Batman, where did you learn how to paren-- oh, right.

It’s sort of the To Kill A Mockingbird of Batman stories, in the sense that it mentions a bird dying. All the other stuff, the changing state of rural Southern mores and the whole thing about being a tribute to human dignity, that stuff not so much – but birds, death, yeah, this is pretty much the same story!

Batman's never met a stone
wall he couldn't penetrate!
How Many Ways Can A Robin Die? (Batman vol.1 No.246, December 1972) never actually gets around to answering that question, but I’ll guess “seven.” Technically, the only ways the story bothers to show us Robin dying involve having him shot with an arrow, stabbed through the heart while hiding in a magician’s cabinet, drowned while chained to a concrete block and hanged in a crypt. Clearly they left out auto-erotic asphyxiation, high blood pressure, taking a bath with a portable tv perched on the edge of the tub, not looking both ways when crossing the streets, ignoring the little yuck face on that bottle he found under Batman’s sink and which he assumes must be candy, or being sent to a Robin farm where he can romp and play with all the other Robins all day.

The story takes the form of Batman running around Gotham like an idiot because an old enemy of his – Emil Ravek, the so-called “Butcher”, previously convicted to death for murdering and chopping up his victims – is planting a bunch of Robin mannequins all around the place and symbolically murdering them. The plan is to drive Batman crazy, but I’m afraid if he looks carefully enough he’ll find that Batman is already pretty much chimney-fucking nuts – the guy beats up hobos and hangs out in a dinosaur exhibit under his mansion, dressed like a rubber ferret. I think you’ll find the sanity boat has sailed, Butch’.

Anyway,  Batman follows a series of obtuse clues all around Gotham in the way that he always follows a series of obtuse clues all around Gotham, each one leading him to the site of another Robinnequin murder before his very bat-eyes. Eventually drawn to Gotham’s most famous wax museum (I’m assuming there’s, like, eight of them), Batman confronts the Butcher and his plan to behead the real-life but drugged-up Robin on the replica guillotine in the museum’s hall of horrors. I am now aware that the replica weapons in the wax museum can actually be used to kill people, so I guess I know where I’ll be stocking up after the apocalypse turns us all into road warriors.

As Batman stories go, it’s not the most tense or engaging – after all, I just assumed Robins die every fourth issue. There is no one “Dick Grayson”, that’s just a group codename used for convenience for the eighty-five murdered Robins between 1943 and 1987. What this story does give us is a series of delightful chapter headings, including “How To Shaft A Robin!”, “How To Carve A Robin”, the semi-erotic “How To Bury  A Robin … DEEP!”, “How To Twist A Robin’s Neck”  and, lastly, “How To Chop Up A Robin”, the last of which is attributed to Frank Robbins but many literary experts believe it was ghost-written by Truman Capote.

Did it? I can't even tell what's going on here.


Ted Hobgood said...

"There is no one “Dick Grayson”, that’s just a group codename used for convenience for the eighty-five murdered Robins between 1943 and 1987."

Brilliant + amusing.

Steven Wheeler said...

Glad to see I'm not the only one wondering if B&R are into auto-erotic asphyxiation...

Well done.

cup king said...

Has there ever been a Robin who's also Kryptonian? You know how those guys are falling out of the sky like raindrops. It's only a matter of time, right?

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