Robin gets his own pre-Batman TV series

Oct. 01, 2008 | 9:23 p.m.

Yesterday, Variety reported on the CW’s development of “The Graysons,” a new series about the life of Dick “DJ” Grayson in the days before he became Batman’s sidekick, Robin.

Robin The series will be executive-produced by “Smallville” showrunners Brian Peterson and Kelly Souders and “Terminator: Salvation” director, McG. According to the article, it will deal with DJ Grayson’s first loves and rivals and the network sees it as a potential replacement for “Smallville,” which followed the life of Clark Kent before he adopted the Superman persona.

While it’s wrong to write off a series before the pilot has even been shot, I can’t help but harbor my doubts about its premise. In all my years of reading Batman comics, I’ve never been interested in Dick Grayson’s life before his parents died and Bruce Wayne became his mentor. It would be like looking at Bruce Wayne’s childhood before his parents were killed. What’s the point? He’s just another kid.

“Smallville” was different, because even though Clark wasn’t wearing the big red-and-blue Superman suit in his teenage years, he was still an alien from the planet Krypton with super powers. Even Bruce Wayne in his years spent in training would be interesting to see (as Christopher Nolan proved in the opening scenes of “Batman Begins”). But Robin is barely interesting as a sidekick, let alone a sidekick without the hero.

Sidekicks have had their own series before. Hawkeye’s buddy Trapper John went from “M*A*S*H” to “Trapper John M.D.,” Rhoda broke out from “Mary Tyler Moore” to get her own show and without “Cheers” there would be no “Frasier.” But the essential difference between those shows and this one is that we followed the sidekicks we’d learned to love, we didn’t see them before they got interesting. Who really wants to see Frasier in his married life to Lilith? Or Dr. Watson during his army years, before he met up with Sherlock Holmes? Or Tonto when he was just a brave?*

“Star Wars” fans still seem upset by the realization that Anakin Skywalker wasn’t nearly as interesting a character as Darth Vader. Did they really expect otherwise? And with all due respect to the success of “Smallville,” is it possible that their premise, however well-intentioned, is fundamentally flawed?

– Patrick Kevin Day

Image courtesy of DC Comics

*Fixed to correct grammar.

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Comments


22 Responses to Robin gets his own pre-Batman TV series

  1. sir jorge says:

    No, no, it is ok to write this show off based on premise. No one likes robin.

  2. bob says:

    was Tonto a squaw?

  3. Liko says:

    I'm all for the series, as long as they don't try to hide the fact that Robin is gay.

  4. Dennis Reinhardt says:

    Seeing Tonto when he was just a squaw *would be* interesting. The boring part would be when he was just a brave.

  5. Orlok says:

    "Or Tonto when he was just a squaw?"
    Well, if we get to delve into the whole gender-reassignment angle, it might make for a good documentary!

  6. JFStan says:

    I can't imagine this being too exciting.. The amount of embelishment it would take to make it interesting would likely drive off Batman fans. And, there aren't many secondary characters associated with Robin exclusively.

  7. John says:

    What, Robin gets his own series, why? This is possibly the dumbest think I heard all week. ok read all week but still. WHY? What a waste of good money. Hey I have an idea why not make a series about the green lantern before he was the green lantern, it makes about has much sense.

  8. Joe says:

    For a Dick Grayson/Robin based television series, the best period that would be worth exploring would be a period between the murder of his parents and the first time he puts on the Robin costume. There was a storyline in the comics that involved the Tim Drake character getting training from Henri Ducard. Doing a series on Dick Grayson's years in training would be an interesting one.

  9. Lia says:

    I think it would be much more interesting to see a Tim Drake-central series.

  10. neena says:

    As a huge DCU fan, I'm a fan of the Bat books and the Titans in particular. So yeah, I'm a love Dick Grayson, and even I think this is a dreadful idea for a show.
    A teenage soap set in a circus? Why on earth try to tie Batman into that? It just makes no sense at all.
    It's not like this can be a story of Dick Grayson becoming a hero, because that kinda comes AFTER his parents are killed. Unlike Smallville, there's no journey — this would be set before the journey even starts.
    If they really want a Dick Grayson story, they could always go with Nightwing. Who the heck associates Dick Grayson with Robin anymore anyway? Even the cartoons use Tim Drake. Stretching out no Batman for several years might get ridiculous, but no more than Smallville's eight-year road to Superman that still has no end in sight.
    If Super Max didn't sound so awesome, I'd be more disappointed about not getting a Green Arrow spinoff. Oh well….

  11. no one important says:

    I thought this was a terrible idea at first. Then I realized it would be an ABSOLUTELY terrible idea. I guess they can't call him his real name anymore because the audience can't take a person named "Dick" seriously. Hard to believe they will green-light this.

  12. Brian says:

    I am consistently surprised at the *lack of * common sense in TV show development. This article is spot on… If they get a hot guy to play him, it'll last three or four shows… It wouldn't need more than that unless they *invent* a character and storyline that has nothing to do with Batman, or the comics, or Robin…and thereby needs no connection to it… Reminds me vaguely of what a miserable disappointment the "new" BIONIC WOMAN turned out to be… "Hey guys… let's just ignore EVERYTHING about why the original show was successful and pretty much just use the name?… THAT SHOULD WORK right??… good god where is good TV ??

  13. Melv says:

    Dick Grayson is my personal all-time favorite superhero character. Admittidly, I’m most a fan of his adult incarnation as Nightwing (the solo superhero persona he graduates to from Robin, for the geekily impaired out there) but I see a lot of potential for this show.
    Grayson has always been portrayed as somewhat of an all-around phenom. While Bruce Wayne had to work hard and train a bit later life to develop the skills over years that allow him to become an adult Batman, his mentorship of young Dick Grayson’s accelerated skills has always been presented as something short of extraordinary for his age. This take is also completely necessary story-wise as an explanation of why anyone in their right mind would let a kid run around in bright tights and fight criminals.
    At the very base this character is a young acrobat in a circus family. Imagine Carnivale for the pre-superhero crowd. You can have an immediate cast of colorful circus characters and lots of room to build a mythos around since unlike Smallville, this is relatively uncharted territory. Obviously, the show would have to deviate from the comics since he’s usually portrayed as being 8-13 at the time his parent’s are murdered. Basically we’ll have a character that would likely be in his mid-teens who already has the physicality to fight full grown adversaries if need be. Gymnasts tend to pretty much in peak physical shape and the supporting cast of circus characters could add to his superhero skill base. Maybe there’s a knife thrower he takes some tips from or a circus magician that shows yound Grayson the art of escapism. The travelling circus concept is a great one since essentially only one set is needed but guest characters could easily rotate as you travel from city to city. It would make occasional canon DC comics cameos much more viable than Smallville (the tiny town in Kansas that every major superpowered being/major gov’t agency rears their heads). Conceivably, there’s no reason a circus couldn’t go anywhere and run into the home cities of other famous side-kicks. A young Bruce Wayne series would have to be about a sad and gloomy trust fund kid who travels the world and trains to one day be superhero. Dick Grayson as a circus acrobat/gymnast would have been trained at birth, the death-defying stunts and action could start in the pilot. Maybe the circus travels around and Dick regularly runs into people with some kind of problem that has to be helped and he does, he acts heroically of his own accord and it’s a natural decision for him to follow Batman’s footsteps. The traveling hero scenario worked for both Kung Fu and the Bill Bixby Hulk. As a character Dick Grayson has always been a foil for Batman’s depressed and angsty dead seriousness. It’ll be a welcome change to see an optimistic, fun-loving, confident you superhero in the making after all the recent pathos in superhero media lately (H-wood even managed to make Spiderman a little too emo). Plus, when the tragedy does finally hit and young Dick witnesses his parent’s fall to their deaths in front of 100s of people, there’s potential for so much more drama and impact (excuse the pun) than there ever has been for Robin’s origin. For the first time ever, instead of Dick Grayson just being a tangent to Bruce Wayne’s path, he’ll be a character that people would’ve watched grow into that very moment – at a horrifying instant coming of age – to be a hero he was born to become.

  14. Spydee says:

    It will be better to do a series based on the fan-film movie trailer "Grayson" from Untamed Cinema; a grown-up Dick Grayson dealing with the loss of Batman. Great story idea. Go here if you haven't seen it yet: http://www.theforce.net/fanfilms/nonsw/grayson/

  15. Vic says:

    Ok ….. not only is it a bad idea but does anyone remember Aquaman , Bird of prey , come on this is going to be horrible terrible and ridiculous and that will be the best it has to offer But will I watch it every moment and I will lose IQ points and watch how they will mess with the time line of the Batman universe .
    Just like they did with Superman ! He should have left by now and the worst part is he cant fly yet at this point Superman will have his SSI check be for he goes as for Robin he will not leave the circus !

  16. Sara says:

    What would be interesting would be a show about Dick Grayson after his parents were killed up through his early days as Robin. And hey, much as I love Mr. Grayson, there have been three other Robins with more compelling pre-cape stories. (Or at least pre-Robin stories in Stephanie Brown's case.)

  17. iesika says:

    I forsee much fail. Dick was 12 when his parents died. I cannot imagine a television show about a 10 year old acrobat being terribly intersting. Dick's history before the short-pants is probably more interesting than most people would expect, but not enough to base a tv show on, by any means, and his early life is only made interesting by what comes later (the moral wisdom he picks up from his dad, for example). You could make a great show, or several movies, out of later parts of his life (the whole process of leaving Batman, getting replaced, getting mentored by Superman, becoming Nightwing, etc), but I doubt it would be done as well as we'd hope.
    I'm kind of surprised by the other reactions I'm seeing here, though. I keep seeing "nobody cares about Robin" or "Robin is gay." I don't think I know anyone who reads DC comics with regularity who doesn't love his character. The writers of Infinite Crisis discuss him a bit in one of their notes in the collection – they refer to him as a sort of lynchpin, pivotal character in the DCU. All the heroes know and like Dick. He's been on (and led) nearly every team in the universe, and trained god knows how many heros, young and old (through several incarnations of the Titans and into the Outsiders). He's influential enough to have handed down an ultimatuum that disolved two long-established teams simultaneously. He's even been the inspiration for a handful of young heroes like Tim Drake and Flamebird taking up the mask in the first place. The "Robin is gay" in particular makes me laugh, as Dick Grayson gets more booty than anyone in the entire DCU, hands down, no contest.
    I hope this washes out. And I hope they don't try again with any part of his life. There's no way a tv show could possibly do the comics justice. There really isn't.
    If they want a new angle for a Batman inspired show, they should go with Gotham Central.

  18. Batfan says:

    Interesting comment on Bruce Wayne pre-Batman: This was the original premise for Smallville! The only reason the series (titled, unoriginally, "Bruce Wayne") never happened was that DC wanted to "reserve" the character for the (then) upcoming Batman movie (at that point, I think it was "Batman Triumphant" or "Superman vs Batman").

  19. hunter wolf says:

    well i think that robin is definately not the average kid and even if he was just a normal kid i personaly think it would be nice to know about the kid that probly saved bat man a few times. I would love to know about his life in the circus and how his parents were killed and what the events were that lead to that.

    Oh one more question is the siris still running or did it get cut cause i wanna check it out.
    hopefull robin fan

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