Last week, twitter was all, well, atwitter when artist Sean Murphy tweeted out a loose pencil sketch of Robin — Batman’s trusty sidekick — with an African American teen under the mask. Needless to say, the internet pretty much exploded when the initial tweet went out. Two hours later, though, Murphy and Scott Snyder deflated many a nerd’s bubble when they clarified that this “new” Robin wasn’t actually meant to be “in continuity.” Instead, the sketch Murphy sent out was only meant to be a brief glimpse into an alternate future in one of the anthology pieces in a special issue celebrating the 75th anniversary of Detective Comics #27 next year.
Still, all the swirl around “the first Black Robin” — and the fact that cross-racial casting of superheroes has been a popular topic on the blog recently — got me thinking about comics’ prototypical superhero sidekick. Few headlining superheroes are as indelibly iconic as the Boy Wonder. He’s also one of the few “legacy” heroes — that is, heroes whose mantles have passed down to different characters over the years — who has successfully navigated through several different and distinct identities without losing any of the iconography (while developing ardent fanbases for each version of the character). He’s also one of DC Comics’ most enduring multimedia stars as well, having been portrayed in several incarnations in very different media.