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When Dark Knight Returns Invaded Batman: The Animated Series

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When Dark Knight Returns Invaded Batman: The Animated Series

Welcome to the thirty-fifth edition of Adventure(s) Time, where we look back on a beloved animated series and an issue of its tie-in comic with a similar theme. This week, we examine the two unexpected appearances of The Dark Knight Returns in the canon of Batman: The Animated Series.  More specifically, the appearances of Batman’s chipper new Robin, Carrie Kelley.

Many fans aren’t aware of Carrie’s initial showing in TAS lore, an issue of the tie-in comic Batman & Robin Adventures. Issue #6 (May 1996) is from the classic team of Ty Templeton and Rick Burchett, the story introduced with a cover that would draw anyone’s attention.

“Round Robin” opens with Robin dropping down from the shadows to stop a quickie mart robbery, only to find himself overwhelmed by the seeming average punk holding up the place.  The camera pans closer, revealing the unconscious Robin’s lighter hair color and surprising freckles.  The newspaper box next to his sleepy head establishes the hook of the story — a tabloid is claiming Batman has fired Robin.

At home in Wayne Manor, Bruce and Dick are discussing the latest piece of fiction from the “National Insider,” with Dick incredulous that anyone could believe he’d be fired for incompetence, and Bruce declaring no one takes tabloids seriously anyway.

A call to the rooftop of the GCPD proves him wrong, however, as Commissioner Gordon relates the problem the city’s been having with “replacement” Robins auditioning for the job…and the ransom message that’s been left by the thug introduced in the opening of the issue.  He’s taken the freckle-faced Robin hostage and demanding fifty thousand dollars.  Before Batman and the real Robin can pursue the case, they’re interrupted by a flash of light.

Aside from providing Harvey Bullock with perfect dialogue that just begs for Robert Costanzo’s voice acting, the page also brings us our first glimpse at a DCAU incarnation of Carrie Kelley.  As mentioned earlier, much of Batman & Robin Adventures was published during the years TAS was out of production, the assumption being the show wasn’t coming back with new episodes and most of the crew having moved on to Superman: The Animated Series.  So, Templeton/Burchett didn’t feel as if they were stepping on any toes by bringing in a figure that hardcore Bat-fans would love, Frank Miller’s replacement Robin from a grim, never-to-be-approved-by-BS&P future.

The rest of the issue details Batman and Robin tracking down the kidnapper, only to find a series of aspiring Robins inadvertently getting in their way.  Turns out, this version of Carrie has a father who’s a city councilman, so she’s freed from custody that night and allowed to pester Batman on two more occasions.  First, she locates the payphone the kidnapper will be using…

…then, blows the handoff of the ransom cash when she tracks Batman to the scheduled meet-up.

Ultimately, the criminal is apprehended when the real Robin locates the specific window frame spotted in the video, and reaffirms that no one can take his place when he subdues the kidnapper.  He even convinces Batman to let go of his usual camera shyness and have his picture taken with Robin, hoping to quell any rumors of a break-up.  The “Insider” runs the photo…with the headline that Batman and Robin are secretly CIA spies.

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