Saturday, August 18, 2018

Retro Review: Detective Comics Vol 1 #38 - "Robin the Boy Wonder"

Holy Origin Story, Batman!

Written by: Bill Finger
Art by: Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson
Cover Price: 10 ¢
Release Date: April 1940

This is the start of a new bunch of reviews that myself and others are going to start doing on the weekends here at Weird Science.  Since a bunch of us are not so thrilled with the current state of affairs, I thought it might be cool to go back in time and review some comics with our favorite characters, storylines, etc to kind of recharge the old batteries and get things a little more positive around here.  Since Dick Grayson is my favorite character, I figured I'd go back to the very beginning and review his first appearance in Detective Comics #38.  I hope you'll be into this and away we go...

We open in a "rising young town outside the big city" where Haley's Circus is getting ready for their big show that night.  We get one panel of the Flying Graysons before seeing Dick overhear some gagsters shacking down Mr. Haley for protection money.  Haley ain't having none of that and that leads directly to Dick's parents dying that night from an "accident".

Things certainly move quickly here.  Within three pages we get the shakedown, the death, Batman showing up to take Dick under his wing and Dick training as Robin.  No need for things like adoption papers or anything really.  Modern readers may laugh at the whole situation, but I think I might take this over 99% of the six-issue origin arcs we get nowadays.  The best part has to be the candlelight oath that Batman makes Dick swear by. 

We continue months later with Dick getting a job as a newsboy which leads to Tony Zucko.  It seems like the Crime Boss needs some extra cash and has been shaking down more and more business owners.  When Dick tells Batman about it, the Dark Knight goes on a one-man wrecking crew tour of Zucko's establishments, turning over tables and bonking heads every step of the way.  I'm not sure which is funnier, Batman throwing huge gambling tables across the room or Zucko having to end every sentence with "see" so we remember he's a gangster?!?  I say it's a tie (see!)

The fun continues as Batman sends Zucco a present...a box with a live bat and a letter in it.  Pretty dark there Batman!  The letter is such a crazy setup, telling Zucco to stay away from the Canin Building that's under construction, but stupid Zucco falls for it hook, line and sinker.  They plan to blow it up, but instead, run into Robin.

This is where the kids of the day must have fallen in love with Dick Grayson.  It's like Home Alone meets Die Hard and seeing him attack them with a slingshot (described as a "queer-looking instrument") and his acrobatics is so cool.  Of course, Batman shows up, beats up some more guys and it all ends with the Dynamic Duo taking down Zucco complete with the newspaper headline declaring "Zucco is Guilty" a few days later.  Justice is served and quickly!

We end with a pipe smoking Bruce Wayne calling Dick a "little squirt" and threatening to "Whale him" for attacking the gangsters by himself.  If that panel doesn't make you laugh out loud, I don't know what will.

This issue was a whole lot of fun.  I've read that Bill Finger wasn't so keen to have Robin in the book at first, but it's easy to see from the getgo that it was a great decision to add him.  He plays off Batman so well and gives readers a point of view character to grab onto since Batman is not really like any of us.  He is the light to Batman's darkness and I love him.  

Bits and Pieces:

It's hard to find anything wrong with a classic so I won't even try.  This is such a fun start of the character from the two legends that started it all with Batman.  I can't imagine a Batman without a Robin and luckily, we don't have to.  This is a must-read for every Batman, Dick Grayson and comic fan out there.



  1. Jesus, is this how the digital version looks? Where did all the flesh tones go? I won't pretend like it looks great in print, but I've seen editions that look a damn sight better than this. Still, a great issue!

    1. Digital does take a lot away from the original, but I'm no Rockefeller and have to go with what I can!