Year 9: Event 1 - The Gauntlet - The Test

Despite misgivings due to Dick's age, but in light of Dick's success in protecting the Cave, Bruce realizes he can't go back on his word. The boy is very capable and in Dick's eyes, he has proved himself. However, Bruce isn't prepared to put the boy out on the streets until he is certain he can look after himself. So Bruce devises a test - Robin will be dropped in the warehouse district... away from the criminal heart of Gotham. Given a six hour head start, he must stop Batman from finding him before sunrise. He can't ask for help, must stay inside the city limits and in costume at all times. Bruce believes he will find Dick long before sunrise so there will be no harm done. Dick can then return to his training in the safety of the Batcave.

Thus, on July 4th, for the first time, Robin hits the streets of Gotham.

Within hours of the test starting, Robin rescues a man being mugged. The injured man gives the boy a deck of cards for Captain James Gordon. Robin opens them to discover the cards show naked ladies and he thinks - "Gordon must have a wild side Batman doesn't know about'. (g)

Unaware he has the prized possession of Gotham's darkest and deadliest underworld figure (Minette), Robin continues with Batman's test - but with Minette's hundreds of lookouts now watching for him.

Batman is shocked when he realizes his inexperienced ward has the prize everyone in the underworld is looking for. Thus, Robin is a target and Batman has no way of contacting his young charge. (This point doesn't work for me because I beleive Batman should and would have had a way to contact Robin... but that's just me.)

Batman follows the clues Robin leaves but realizes he is taking too long. Hence, he pays Minette a very personal visit. He warns the gangster to "Keep your slimy hands off the boy!" Minette realizes Batman cares about 'the boy' and sends every man on his payroll in search of the boy ordering them to bring Robin or his corpse to him.

When Batman finds Robin, he watches from the shadows, admiring the boy's skill. When Robin is finally cornered by Minette himself and about to be shot, Batman appears behind Robin, shocking Minette and giving Robin the split second he needs to disarm and capture the gangster... and all without knowing Batman has helped him. Despite not staying ahead of Batman until sunrise, Robin passes the test and Batman takes his very young partner to meet Jim Gordon. Thus, the greatest partnership the world has every seen is formed.

Go to here to see my page on "The Gauntlet".


Comment
It is difficult to rationalize how any adult could place a child in danger the way Batman does. However, we are given an insight into this in "The Gauntlet." Bruce says: "The whole concept of Robin is important to Dick, Old Friend... and it's important for Dick. When I lost my parents I had no way to release my anger, my... grief. Though he hides it well, those same emotions are churning away inside Dick. Robin will be his release valve - a way to exorcise that darkness before it can corrupt his soul. Nobody else can give him this, Alfred. Only I can. And I will!." In Bruce's mind, he is saving Dick from Bruce's own fate.

Reference
# "Batman Chronicles: The Gauntlet"      


Year 9: Event 3 - First Official Robin Outing

On this first outing, Robin joins Batman in the Batmobile. Batman is trailing the Joker. He follows the Joker into a mansion, telling Robin to call an ambulance for a guard The Joker injured and then to go and wait in the car and not be seen. Dick does this, but when the Joker comes out of the mansion and Batman doesn't, Dick decides there is no harm in a little surveillance. He follows the Joker and then tackles him from behind, ties him up and then ducks out of sight leaving the Joker for the Police. Batman is unimpressed. See below.




Comment
Clearly, at this time, Batman was giving Robin experience. He had no intention of the boy engaging with danger, nor, it would appear, being seen by too many members of the public.

It is interesting to note that the Joker is Dick's first bust. Based on the images from the story, it is unlikely The Joker saw who it was.

Reference
# "Detective Comics" #866      
Year 9: Event 4 - Dick struggles to adjust to his new life.
Dick struggles to adjust to the changes in his life. The difference between being a circus performer and Bruce Wayne’s ward is, at times, overwhelming, despite Dick enjoying his Robin activities. For this reason, he sneaks out of the mansion to spend some time alone.

On this outing, Dick chases and captures a young pickpocket not much older than himself. Dick is fascinated by Wendy who describes him as a ‘spoiled brat in a circus costume.’ She then distracts him by kissing him and escapes. Before Robin can give chase, Batman appears behind him. To Dick’s surprise, Batman isn’t angry. He’s understanding, but does insist that Dick doesn’t run off on his own again.

This leads Bruce to question if he has done the right thing in taking Dick in and in attempting to raise him. He appears to decide that he has done the wrong thing, despite Alfred’s support, and believes Dick may be better with a foster family.

Dick can’t get Wendy out of his mind, mulling over how easily fate could have dealt him her hand… he ending up on the streets after the death of his parents. Unable to get passed this, he defies Bruce and goes out again. Robin comes across Wily Wendy but she isn’t alone and Dick is overpowered by the large group of street kids.

When he regains consciousness, he finds himself in what looks like a carnival place house. This is Mother Grimm’s Dreamland, a place she has built for wayward kids. Mother Grimm, a plump, odd looking woman, has provided love and a place to belong for kids who don’t fit in anywhere else. This resounds with Dick who is struggling to adjust to the recent changes in his life. The carnival-like atmosphere is closer to the life he had at the circus and Dick feels a strong sense of belonging here with the other kids his age… and particularly with Wendy.

When Batman bursts in, Mother Grimm reprimands him for trying to turn Robin into a smaller version of himself, playing into his self-doubts relating to raising Dick. She then demands Dick make a choice between staying with her and with Batman. Angry and confused and despite sensing this is all too good to be true, Dick sends Batman away, choosing to stay with Mother Grimm and the other kids.

Bruce is clearly devastated but chooses to leave for the time being. He doesn’t get far before he is captured, drugged and imprisoned by Mother Grimm.

Meanwhile, Dick is enjoying the delights of Dreamland. He soon discovers that everything isn’t what it seems and that Batman is being emotionally tortured by Mother Grimm. Robin springs into action and rescues his partner. Wendy proves Dick’s faith is warranted by risking her life for Robin on two occasions. In the end, Robin must confront Mother Grimm who is in fact a woman with psychological problems. He tries to encourage her to do the right thing but she stabs him.

Batman appears, Mother Grimm is washed away down a churning river and her body never found. Dick realizes he both belongs with Bruce and at Batman’s side as Robin and Bruce no longer has doubts his ability to mentor the boy.


Comment
This story acknowledges the difficulties Dick would have faced moving from the life of a circus performer with friends of his own age, to being the ward of billionaire Bruce Wayne with largely only adults with whom to interact. It also shows Bruce’s difficulties in becoming a father. I like this story on a number of levels. Dick is portrayed as respectful, but full of courage and independence. It shows how much Bruce does care for Dick and Dick for Bruce. Most importantly we see Bruce was vulnerable and did doubt if he’d done the right thing in choosing to raise and mentor the boy. It is interesting to note that this story is actually recounted by an adult Dick Grayson who concludes that he could not have been trained by a better mentor, nor had a better father. For me, this is important for we see Dick himself views Bruce as both mentor and father. BTW – Dick is stated to be eleven in this story but as it is set not long after the death of his parents and very early in his Robin career, Dick needs to be nine to fit the fundamental timeline.

Reference
# "Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight" #149 to #153

Year 9: Event 5 Earns Gordon's Blessing

When taking down Mr. Freeze, Robin saves Gordon's life and escapes Freeze's clutches without assistnace, proving he can take care of himself. Until this point, Jim has been against Batman having a child for a partner, but he decides the rules don't apply to Batman and that he has no right to deny Batman family.


Comment
There is no way to justify putting a child in danger the way Batman does, but Jim Gordon has to find some sort of peace with himself and this incident allows him to do so. Robin is portrayed as a teenager here, but it would need to have happened soon after he debuted as Robin.

   

Reference
# "Batman: Turning Points" #2
Year 9: Various- Dynamic Duo

Various early cases. I will add at some stage. These include...
* Meets Professor Carter Nichols
* Bell boy
* Meet Catwoman for first time on ship
* Killer Moth
* Robin passes ambush training (Batman #687)
* ETC