The beloved '60s Batman series may be remembered for Adam West’s legendary portrayal of the Caped Crusader, but always nearby was another hero humbly waiting in the shadows in his subtle bright green underpants and tights, ready to defend Gotham City with heart, strength and a weapons-grade haircut. He was the greatest sidekick a superhero could have, yet one of the most underappreciated crime fighters of all time. The following is a salute to the Boy Wonder himself: Robin.
Arguably the most important member of the dynamic duo, or at least comfortably sitting among the top two, Robin was the alter ego of Bruce Wayne’s youthful ward, Dick Grayson. Dick was one of the few people to know Bruce Wayne’s identity as Batman, an otherwise stealthily kept secret thanks to the heroes’ keen disguises and the incomprehensible dullness of Gotham’s residents.
Living among Gotham’s abnormally crime-riddled city, Robin was constantly at Batman’s side, ready to fight evil and serve the public regardless of the risk to his own wellbeing. Frequently relying on his own skill and guile to escape traps and deadly predicaments, Robin saved both his own life and Batman’s on numerous occasions, thereby also helping Bruce Wayne avoid some extremely uncomfortable conversations with Dick’s Aunt Harriet (Madge Blake) should anything have gone wrong.
Making matters more remarkable was Robin’s youth, highlighting his maturity and dedication to crime-fighting alongside his legal guardian. Ordinarily, consistently putting a child in lethal danger would be cause to contact social services, but in Robin’s case, he took the risks all in stride, generously ignoring the fact his guardian was constantly placing his life in imminent peril with scarce regard for his safety. For example, here’s Batman handing Robin a book cover made of asbestos. (This is really what happens.)
And here’s Batman using Robin as a weapon by throwing him into a criminal.
More than merely a lackey awaiting instructions or the next case of criminal neglect perpetrated by his guardian, Robin was also a genius in his own right, often taking matters into his own hands, utilising his initiative and intelligence to decipher vital clues that not even Batman could solve.
Yet despite being hyper-intelligent, Robin also remained humble, never letting his ego get in the way of his education and willingness to learn from his more experienced partner, as seen here in this lesson on the value of good grammar.
Played inimitably by Burt Ward for the entire series from 1966-68, Robin was the role Ward became best known for throughout his career. He often reprised the character in TV specials and various other shows, following West’s lead by embracing the role rather than trying to distance himself from it, further endearing himself to fans in the process.
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Still hugely popular today, the show holds up incredibly well thanks in no small part to Robin’s presence as the perfect complement to Batman’s personality, with the two brilliantly playing off each other with total sincerity often in the most bizarre of circumstances.
Since the '60s, numerous incarnations of Batman and Robin have come and gone, with some finding success but none having the same impact on pop culture, speaking to the broad appeal of West and Ward as a captivating duo.
Though West’s portrayal of Batman may be the more iconic role of the two, for his performance to be effective required a generous and talented partner, with Ward filling Robin's boots with admirable skill, serving as a reminder that behind every great superhero is an even greater sidekick (apart from Superman, Spider-Man and a bunch of other versions of Batman who were never as good as Adam West).
You can watch the classic Batman series on SBS VICELAND every Friday night at 6:35pm: