Bruce Wayne was Robin BEFORE he was Batman
Today we watch the startling story that revealed that Batman had been Robin before, well, Robin!
This is ‘Foundationed Deep’, a feature where we look at some odd / weird / interesting special cases of retroactive connection of different comic book characters (for example, Strange X-Men # 268 retroactively established that Wolverine knew both Captain America and the black widow of WWII).
It’s strange, because after deciding to do this one a few days ago, I saw that Dan Greenfield I just wrote an article yesterday about Batman’s time as Robin! Dan was reacting to DC’s recently revealed solicitations for September, where Sholly Fisch (who knows more about DC’s history than virtually any comic book author) certainly appears to be referring to that story in an upcoming. The Batman and Scooby Doo Mysteries issue, with the art of the always exceptional Scott Jeralds …
So it’s quite a coincidence. It certainly would have made a lot more sense to me to have written this relating to Sholly’s story, and I guess I can retroactively say that it is, but it’s really just a weird coincidence that I have. chosen this weekend to write about this story. It’s been on my “to-do list” for quite some time. Weird stuff.
HOWEVER, let’s get to the story in question!
One of the interesting things about the early days of Batman and Superman is how much the writers tended to care about the background of the characters in question. Superman received a nude origin story in Action comics # 1 then a slightly widened (but very short) origin in Superman # 1, but that was the case for most of the 1930s and 1940s in the comics. It’s really not before Superman Adventures the radio show dived a bit into Superman’s Kryptonian origins that the comics began to do, too, in the late 1940s, with 1948 Superman # 53 finally having Superman briefed on the fate of his planet native (heck, he didn’t even know he was from Krypton until then!). Here is the other interesting aspect of this story, however, is that it was written by Bill Finger (Finger also later wrote the 1957 story in which Superman received a “mind tape” from his father, Jor-El, who educated Superman about the Kryptonian period of life, and from that point on, the Superman comics started to have a lot of Kryptonian connections). Finger, of course, was the co-creator of Batman, but also wrote a number of Superman stories in the 1940s and 1950s. It’s interesting because it kind of explains how this stuff works. The original writers of the characters often fail to fill the background of the heroes, so later writers come in and see an angle for new stories. Finger did it with Superman and Edmond Hamilton did it with Bruce Wayne’s origins as a lawyer in the 1955s Detective Comics # 226 (illustration by Dick Sprang and Charles Paris).
Hamilton was an acclaimed science fiction writer who was a popular pulp magazine writer during the time Mort Weisinger was working as a pulp fiction editor. When Weisinger started working in comics in 1941, he quickly brought Hamilton to the Batman and Superman comics in 1942. Weisinger was quickly replaced by Jack Schiff on titles due to Weisinger’s service in World War II ( Schiff would stay on the Batman titles until the mid-1960s, while Weisinger took over the Superman books later in the 1940s and remained in charge of them until 1970). Hamilton naturally noticed that there wasn’t really a story that showed us Batman training to be Batman (funny, right after this comic came out, Bill Finger also did a story about the days of Bruce Wayne University).
Batman is with Robin in the Batcave when Alfred shows a package that was sent to Bruce Wayne that contained a copy of Robin’s costume! Robin, of course, is like, “What the heck?” and Batman makes things crazier when he then points out that this costume could mean the end of Team Batman and Robin. He explains that when he was Robin’s age, he decided to follow famous police detective Harvey Harris to learn how to be a detective. However, he naturally thought that Harris might find him following him, so to disguise himself, he made himself a colorful costume …
Okay, a couple of things. He was worried that he would be caught following Harris, so he made himself a bright, colorful suit to, what, blend in? Second, why does he have an R on his chest? What is the R for, man? His name isn’t Robin yet, so … what? What is happening here? This is hilariously absurd!
So Bruce helps Harris break a deadlock and Harris agrees to train the young man as a detective while, of course, trying to figure out his identity so he can get the kid off the streets (by the way, already you Could I noticed that Bruce is way too old for his parents to be alive, right? One of the other side effects of the other writers who fill the character storyline is that there was very little consistency when it comes to continuity. Finger would know Bruce was already an orphan at that age, but I guess Hamilton didn’t). Harris also names Bruce “Robin” …
Okay, so Harris starts training Bruce, but really, as he trains him, he also starts delving into Bruce’s history to find out his identity. He’s fine-tuned it enough at the end of this page, and see if you can figure out how he does it, because Bruce apparently escapes his questions …
Their case involves a villain playing with the rich’s collections and Harris reinforces Bruce’s identity on this page, due to a rare, subtle piece of art by Sprang (Sprang was brilliant and he was also often detailed, but subtle is usually not a word you would like to associate with it).
Did you understand how Harris did it? Well, first of all, in the story of the past the case is resolved, but Bruce realizes that he still has a lot to learn, so he decides to wait to become a lawyer and sends the costume to Harris as a gift, while also being happy that he at least kept his identity a secret. But not, of course, as Harris had known all along.
Harris appears to Bruce and Dick as a ghost of strength (okay, just a letter, but leave this to me) and explains that while Bruce was apparently cleverly blocking Harris’s investigations, he was actually giving other clues, like this. he had to learn how to sew from the sea scouts and that his family was wealthy enough that he could buy all these books. So Harris gave him a list of rich phone numbers and if you go back Bruce isn’t looking at the piece of paper when he calls Wayne’s phone number …
He was only revealing this now since he had passed and he could never be forced to betray Bruce’s identity.
Smart stuff. Harvey Harris would later be used by a more modern writer, E. Nelson Bridwell, to tie Wendy from Super Friends to the DC continuity (she was his niece).
If anyone has a suggestion for a more traditional Foundationed Deep (retroactive connections between characters), please drop me a line at [email protected]
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