Welcome to Adventure(s) Time’s thirty-ninth installment, an examination of classic animated series and their tie-in comics. This week, we’re looking back on Batman: The Animated Series‘ adaptation of Robin’s origin story. Then, an obscure issue of the Gotham Adventures series that continues the narrative.
Airing as a two-parter on February 7-8, 1993, “Robin’s Reckoning” is another dramatic story brought to us by comedy writer/West Point graduate Randy Rogel. (There’s a great interview with Randy Rogel at the Big Damn Geeks site. His life before Batman is pretty interesting.) Dick Sebast directed both chapters, and while Part One is stunning, the second chapter is, honestly, a disappointment. The blame can be placed on the excellent studio Spectrum animating Part One, with Part Two going to the inconsistent Dong Yang.
“Robin’s Reckoning” opens like any other episode, assuming it’s one of the random ones co-starring Robin. We see the heroes bantering atop a skyscraper, staking out a construction site that’s been targeted by mobsters. Not only is Batman’s taciturn nature played as an intentional gag, but we even glimpse the Dark Knight cracking a smile during his talk with Robin. Or, “talk” in quotes, since the joke is the grim Batman isn’t much of a conversationalist. It’s a joke Batman is participating in, emphasizing his affection for Robin. (And Kevin Conroy’s delivery of that “uh-huh” is honestly funny, while still true to the character.)
This scene is important, establishing just how much the duo likes each other. In the ensuing story, we’ll see the events that forged the bond between them, and the conflict that could end their partnership. The plot has this everyday mission disrupted when one of the thugs drops the name “Billy Marin” during Batman’s interrogation. Batman tenses up, refuses to let Robin continue the mission.
Robin sticks up for himself, and the ensuing argument later became one of the most viewed clips from the series. Why? Because it was used during the Today show’s interview with Denny O’Neil during their coverage of the “Knightfall” storyline. The clip was selected to illustrate why Batman wouldn’t do the obvious when injured — ask Robin to fill in. Sure, the context was all wrong, but it did expose the series to an audience that had likely never seen the show. Plus, Denny O’Neil was booked on the Today show, which was nuts.
Back to the show, the story has Batman pursuing the case without his sidekick. Understandably upset, Robin vents his frustrations to Alfred. Just why is this Billy Marin so important? A database search provides the answer. Billy Marin is just one of many aliases for Tony Zucco, the man who killed Robin’s parents.
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