HOLIDAY HOT PICKS #10: We wrap up ROBIN WEEK with an interview with Kristen L. Geaman, editor of the first-ever academic study of Dick Grayson and his successors.
This is kind of a twofer — a ROBIN WEEK piece but also an official selection of 13th Dimension’s HOLIDAY HOT PICKS.
Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder is the first academic study ever undertaken of Young Master Richard and his meaning in comics and society. It’s the brainchild of University of Toledo instructor Kristen L. Geaman, and there’s no way that this year’s celebration of all things red-breasted would be complete without an exploration of this outstanding work, published by McFarland. (It’s $39.95 in paperback and you can get it through the publisher or other online booksellers.)
The book features chapters by a variety of writers, including Geaman herself, tackling issues such as “Grayson, Sex and Feminism,” “Boy Wonder to Man Wonder: Dick Grayson’s Transition to Nightwing and the Bildungsroman” and “Outlining the Future Robin: The Seventies in the Batman Family” — the last one a particular interest of mine. There are also interviews with important creators such as Denny O’Neil and Marv Wolfman. For a look at the full scope of the book, check out the Table of Contents, here.
Previous ROBIN WEEK coverage:
It’s ROBIN WEEK! Click here.
13 COVERS of Robin in the Golden Age. Click here.
13 COVERS of Robin in the Silver Age. Click here.
13 COVERS of Robin in the Bronze Age. Click here.
13 COVERS of Robin in the Modern Age. Click here.
Robin, the Teen Fashionista: Dick Grayson’s Bronze Age costume choices. Click here.
Jason Todd’s first look: The Greatest Robin Costume That Never Was. Click here.
Burt Ward’s 13 Grooviest Moments as Robin. Click here.
Dan Greenfield: What’s your Secret Origin?
Kristen L. Geaman: What a great way to phrase this question! I feel cooler already.
I have a PhD in medieval history, and I teach at the University of Toledo in Ohio. I first got interested in Batman and Robin via Batman: The Animated Series in the early ’90s. My dad is a big Batman fan, so he introduced my brother and me to the show. I got back into reading comics during graduate school, when I needed something fun to read to relax.
Dan: Why did you decide to devote this kind of effort to Robin?
Kristen: Batman gets so much attention, both from DC and other publishers. There are multiple academic books about Batman, which is great, but they all tend to focus on Batman (and maybe Joker) and Robin seems more like an afterthought. I’m a proponent of the interpretation that Batman needs Robin, so I hate to see Robin getting such short shrift.
In addition, I had my doubts that DC would give Robin the recognition he deserved for his 75th anniversary. I do think DC has done a good job with this, given they published Robin the Boy Wonder: A Celebration of 75 Years and Batman and Robin Eternal, but I (and my co-writers) weren’t confident this would happen back in late 2013/early 2014 when we started planning the book.
So we figured we would put something together so we could be assured Dick Grayson, who was turning 75, would have one book out celebrating his entire history. I guess I figured I should follow the old adage, “If you want something done you need to do it yourself.”
Dan: How did you get this project to come together?
Kristen: I initially made a post on Tumblr back in late 2013 asking if anyone was interested in working on a collection of essays about Dick Grayson in preparation for his 75th anniversary in 2015. Within a couple of hours, the post had over 100 notes, which was a lot for my blog.
After that, I decided to pursue the project more seriously; I asked people to submit abstracts for articles they intended to write and I posted a call for papers on an academic website. In early 2014, I shopped our table of contents around to a few publishers; McFarland gave us a contract. Once we had that, everyone got down to work on their articles. Some people had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts and life generally interfering, but everything came together relatively smoothly.
Plenty of people are really passionate about Dick Grayson, so the hardest part wasn’t convincing people to write but convincing a publisher that Dick Grayson could sustain and sell an entire book. But I strongly felt that Dick could, so I would have self-published the book through CreateSpace if we had to.
Dan: Was there anyone on the Robin front you regret not talking to?
Kristen: Personally, I wanted to talk to Peter J. Tomasi, since his work on Nightwing is one of my favorites. Plus, as a medievalist, I really love that Tomasi had Dick work at The Cloisters, the premier medieval art museum in the U.S. (in New York). I wonder if Dick working at The Cloisters had any special meaning (such as Tomasi loving medieval art).
For the book, I wish the timing had been better and we could have interviewed Tom King and Tim Seeley. Unfortunately, since we had to turn the manuscript in to the publisher in fall 2014 there weren’t many issues of Grayson out yet. I didn’t have any questions to ask that weren’t superficial or basically asking for info in advance. If only more issues had been out we could have given greater coverage to what Dick is currently doing. (For an interview with Seeley and King at 13th Dimension, click here. — Dan)
Dan: What’s your all-time favorite Robin?
Kristen: As you have probably gathered, Dick Grayson is my favorite character in comics. He’s my favorite Robin because he’s my favorite everything. Although Tim Drake was Robin in the comics by the time I became acquainted with the Dynamic Duo, I was introduced to Dick as Robin first via BTAS.
I have also read many Golden and Silver Age comics, courtesy of the Batman Chronicles and Archive editions, so I’m pretty familiar with Dick as Robin. The Bruce and Dick dynamic is my favorite.
Dan: What’s your all-time favorite Robin story?
Kristen: I would say “Grimm” from Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #149-153 (January-May 2002). Trevor Von Eeden’s art is terrific, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez does amazing inks (as he always does), and J.M. DeMatteis’ story is a wonderful look at Bruce and Dick’s burgeoning partnership. My preference is for more light-hearted, character-driven stories with family moments. This story hits all of those and has great supporting characters such as Wily Wendy.
I also like “A Lonely Place of Dying.” It’s a wonderful origin for Tim Drake, expertly showcases Dick’s skills, and has some nice Dick and Bruce moments.