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The Strange Origins of the Batman Slap Panel!

This is the latest installment of "See the Meaning," which is a feature where I provide the context behind notable out-of-context comic book panels!

One of the all-time most popular comic book related memes is the one that shows Batman slapping Robin. The basic gag behind the meme is the shock over Batman striking Robin in an old-fashioned comic book panel. It seems so incongruous with what we think of when it comes to the relationship between Robin and Batman (or Batman's views towards good guys period) that people decided to come up with humorous examples for why Batman would ever hit Robin.

The first, and most famous example, is that Robin is cheerfully asking Batman what his parents are getting him for Christmas and this, of course, enrages Batman due to him seeing his parents murdered in front of him...

While that was by far the most famous version of the meme, people just did their own versions of the meme by substituting different dialogue for the two of them or various other alterations to the basic concept of the panel...

A particularly popular (and dark) one involves substituting Wolverine for Batman...

Of course, this being the internet, that Wolverine one is probably on the extremely low end of the questionable taste used in some of the versions of the meme.

So anyhow, the origin of the panel is in 1965's World's Finest Comics #153 by Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan and George Klein. Check out the awesome cover by Curt Swan...

"Imaginary stories" had been a trademark of the Superman titles throughout the 1960s at this point and this is right up the alley with the greatest imaginary stories of the time. As a recap, "imaginary stories" were essentially the term of art for DC's version of "What If...?" stories. "What if Superman died? What if Superman married Lois Lane? What if Superman gave up his secret identity? What if Superman split into a blue and red version of himself?" (okay, so some of the choices were a bit on the specific side of things). Anyhow, this one was "What if Batman wanted to kill Superman?"

The set-up for the story is that Dr. Thomas Wayne doesn't get shot in Gotham City. Instead, he comes to Smallville to work on a cure for Kryptonite. He is then murdered by someone with super strength. Young Bruce can only think of Superboy, so he decided to dedicate his life to killing Superboy to avenge his father...

As part of his plot, though, he decides to first become a superhero so that he can get close to Superman. Along the way, he picks up a sidekick in Robin...

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