With great fictional characters there is often a prop that becomes associated with them that helps define their very nature. Superman has his Kryptonite, a name that screams science fiction. Wonder Woman, in her heyday, had her magic lasso which evoked fantasy adventure (does she even have that lasso anymore?). Yet for Batman, to me anyway, the item that always comes to mind is a gun.
His parent’s were murdered by a mugger with a gun. He battles criminals armed with guns on a nightly basis. In Batman comics, the gun holds power as a moral symbol to its lead character, it’s a symbol of pure darkness and death – the line he straddles but will not cross. He will not kill, and he will never use a gun… well, almost never…
In fact, in his earliest incarnation, the gun was a “cool tool”. One can see Batman holding or using a gun in Detective Comics #32, 33, 35 and Batman #1. By Robin’s introduction, however, this dark demeanor would soften, and Batman would be seen smiling happily during battle. Only in more recent years has the gun resurfaced in a pivotal manner, from the classic Year Two story arc, to Batman’s most recent temptation in Infinite Crisis #7. It’s always stirring to see him with a gun in hand, only because you know that Batman would never, ever kill with that weapon – and if he did, if the creators actually pulled it off, it would signify the end of the character. There would be no going back. Tension built on finality.
So, Batman has his gun.
But what of Robin? Well, as an acrobat, he saw his parents die from a huge fall off a sabotaged trapeze. No gun there. Sure he battles criminals, but in such a smiling, carefree attitude, that the guns seem less poignant. He’s a brightly clad daredevil, not a dark, brooding avenger like Batman. With this in mind, guns seem alien to the character and it just seems unimaginable to ever see him with such a weapon. So you can envision my surprise when looking in Batman #118, and spying the Boy Wonder with a semi-automatic in his hands. Bad enough Batman being a MerBatman, capable of only breathing water (don’t ask), but to see the junior partner, a mere grade schooler, using firearms too? Now that’s just too much! Don’t believe me? Have a look:
See, they’re in a giant fish tank. And in regards to the gun, well, here’s a closer look…
It’s all right there. To the left, Robin is seen catching a gun dropped from the prone hand of a beaten up crook. And to the right we see Robin promptly shooting Batman in the back! Oh, the folly of youth!!
Okay, so Robin never did pull the trigger, but the image alone is strange enough, particularly when you realize that the issue is from the late 1950s era of social conservatism and the all mighty Comics Code Authority. Then again, this was also an era where children were encouraged to play with replica rifles and to join dad on hunting trips, etcetera, so maybe it wasn’t as uncommon a sight to see a 12 year old brandishing a .45? I believe that even by 1950s standards, this would be an oddity.
Weird, isn’t it? A gun toting Batman is one thing, but a gun toting Boy Wonder? Now that is creepy!
Guns and Robin are certainly a poor mix. Thus the question remains, what is Robin best associated with? Sadly, I have but one option remaining…
Pixie boots anyone?
Batman, Robin, Detective Comics and all related characters and stories are TM and © DC Comics.