A Look Back at ROBIN, the Teen Fashionista

In this edition of BATMAN FAMILY ALBUM, Robin opens the closet …

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UPDATED 11/12/17: Artist Don Newton, a personal favorite, was born Nov. 12, 1934, which was 83 years ago. Sadly, he died way too young at the age of 50. I’ve been thinking of Batman Family a lot lately, so today seemed a good day to present this piece again. Newton drew one of my favorite Bronze Age tales in Detective Comics #481Does the Costume Make the Hero? — which was pubbed in the first issue when Batman Family merged with Detective. I get into that below, as well as the whole Robin fashion schtick. Hope you dig it. These features had a huge impression on me as a kid — and Newton helped bring them to life. — Dan

Previously, in our look back at the late, lamented Bronze Age title Batman Family:

Part 1: The Coolest Batbook of the Bronze Age. Click here.

Part 2: The Ballad of Babs and Dick. Click here.

Part 3: Batman Family’s Greatest Villain — The Joker’s Daughter. Click here.

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Bored in class at Highland Park Middle School, it was very easy to let my mind wander and daydream that I was Dick Grayson, bored in class at Hudson University.

Sure, Batman was my favorite but I also identified with Robin, the Teen Wonder. It was very easy to imagine my town as a stand-in for New Carthage, y’know? (Actually, come to think of it, it kind of was — half the kids I knew had parents who taught or worked at Rutgers.)

But, man, that outfit. It looked good on Burt Ward but the older I got, the sillier it seemed in the comics. I was definitely not alone in this because one of the great occasional features of the Bronze Age Batman comics was when readers sent in their suggestions for a new costume for Robin.

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You’d see these in Batman and, later, Batman Family. I would just stare at them, poring over the little details, imagining them in action or just choosing which was best — or worst. Some were great, others, well… (It wasn’t until years later that I saw that one of them was designed by none other than Norm Breyfogle, one of the classic Bat-artists of the ’80s and ’90s.)

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The Bat-editors went all in for Detective Comics #481 — most of which would have been Batman Family #21 if the two titles hadn’t merged amid the infamous DC Implosion. The issue featured “Does the Costume Make the Hero?” –– a story about Robin trying out three new outfits that were in reality sent in by readers.

It was a neat little tale, written by Bob Rozakis, with memorable art by Don Newton and Dan Adkins. Robin even got a potential arch-foe out of the deal — the Raven — though he didn’t stick in the long run.

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By story’s end, Dick decided to stay in short pants but, as it turned out, not for long: Within five years, He would embrace long johns as Nightwing.

Rozakis had a hand in a lot of those What If? Robin features, so I asked him about it for this BATMAN FAMILY ALBUM installment …

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Dan Greenfield: For several years in the ’70s, before the whole Nightwing thing came in, there was always that debate about Dick’s costume and whether he should change or put on pants or grow a mustache or put on a bandana or wear a disco suit or whatever it was. One of the great features of those books — whether it was Batman or Batman Family — was when fans would draw their Robin outfits and you would run maybe a two-page spread. Were you involved in those selections? Did you have anything to do with that?

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Bob Rozakis: Yes, yes. We would get them regularly and Nelson Bridwell and Julie Schwartz and I would sit and say, “All right, this one’s good. that one’s good. Let’s use these.” In fact, one of the stories I did… we just decided we were gonna have some fun. We were like, “We’ve got all these different costumes. How about if he actually has to wear them?” So that was where that story came from. “Let’s come up with some way to get them into the story.” We had a number of people who were very ambitious as far as coming up with these costumes.

Dan:  Did you ever think maybe you could sneak it through and actually get ‘em to change it or were you happy with the way things were? That was a fierce debate, about whether or not his outfit should change.

Bob: Oh, no, they were not gonna change the costume. There was too much licensing stuff involved. They could not change the basic costume, you know? He had to look like Robin.

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MORE

Part 1: The Coolest Batbook of the Bronze Age. Click here.

Part 2: The Ballad of Babs and Dick. Click here.

Part 3: Batman Family’s Greatest Villain — The Joker’s Daughter. Click here.

BONUS:The Greatest Robin Costume That Never Was. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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8 Comments

  1. I regretted that last-minute mustache five minutes after the mailman picked up the letter to DC. Sigh.

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    • We actually ran this a while back as part of a Back Issue preview. It’s terrific!

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  2. One of the perfect things the show got right was Burt Ward’s Robin costume. It’s just perfect, actually. Don’t like any other alterations or versions.

    And man! it’s great to see Don Newton art on it, too.

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  3. interesting always though the only costumes changes robin went through was deciding on his nightwing look and cool to learn that norm bryfoggle himself entered a submission.

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