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Dick Grayson: 80 Years of the Quintessential Sidekick

by Jeremiah Monaghan

April 1940. Detective Comics #38 is released in stores. Fans purchase it off comic stands expecting another basic Batman adventure, what they had become accustomed to over the course of the last 11 issues. However, the issue instead saw the introduction of Dick Grayson, a young boy who loses his parents to an angry gangster in a circus accident. After being taken in by Bruce Wayne, Dick becomes the hero known as Robin. Over the course of the next 80 years, we got to see Dick Grayson become the leader of the Teen Titans, grow up and mature into the solo hero known as Nightwing, taking on the Batman mantle when Bruce is gone, joining the Justice League, and more. Through all this time, Dick Grayson has stood the test of time as a hero, with tons of adaptations, hundreds of appearances, and a lasting fanbase that continue to support the character to this day, even in his darker moments. But the question is: why? What sets Dick Grayson apart from any other basic sidekick turned hero?

Dick Grayson courtesy of DC Comics

When Dick Grayson first hit the scene, he was a young, eager vigilante who wanted to help people the best way he knew how. The majority of the time, superheroes were these adults running around protecting people. Bringing in a younger hero resonated with the children reading the comics at the time. Getting to see a daring image of the same age as the person reading it? It allowed readers to personally identify with the hero, seeing him on the same level rather than simply looking up to him. DC could’ve easily kept Dick Grayson as the young crusader while his fans grew up and left him behind. But Dick Grayson went down a different direction than a lot of comic book characters, who end up stuck in the same bubble of personality, age, and behavior, with little change. Dick Grayson got the chance to do something a lot of characters either still haven’t gotten or took decades to receive: mature.

Dick Grayson was allowed to grow up with the people reading his comics. People got to see him become a teenager, mature out of Robin and leave Batman’s side. Dick’s personality was developed accordingly, and he managed to score even more fans as the legendary Nightwing. People even got the chance to see Dick as Batman following Bruce’s “death” in the iconic Final Crisis.

Dick Grayson courtesy of DC Comics

Despite multiple bad decisions regarding Dick Grayson that have been made by DC, such as their most recent blunder with the Ric Grayson storyline, fans continue to stick with and support the character. This is because of the impact that Dick has had on the general public. Kids across the earth deal with the issues of maturity. Struggling to grow up and break out of the shadow and control of the older people around them. Dick Grayson embodies these struggles perfectly. He’s a man who spent half of his life in the shadows of another, being a sidekick. As an adult, he must prove himself more than other heroes. He has to prove that he isn’t just a sidekick, that he isn’t just useful when he’s by Batman’s side. Luckily, he’s more than done that over the years. This can give hope to the children who feel as if they’ll never live up to their parents or siblings, never being able to build their own legacy. Trust me, if Dick Grayson can do it, so can you.

Dick Grayson’s impact has been felt not only in the real world, but all across the DC Universe as well. He’s inspired multiple different heroes who took on his Robin mantle, like Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and Damian Wayne, who all look up to him like an older brother. He’s led multiple superhero teams to victory, giving them hope. Dick Grayson has given people across both fictional and real-world planets inspiration, and it doesn’t look like he has any signs of stopping.

Dick Grayson courtesy of DC Comics

Dick Grayson’s impact across the planet continues to grow as he becomes more and more well-known due to the many iconic adaptations of the character. In live-action, he’s been portrayed by Burt Ward, Chris O’Donnell, and Brenton Thwaites. He’s been portrayed in multiple staple animated series, like in the DCAU by Loren Lester, or in Teen Titans by Scott Menville. He appeared in the Arkham video game series and is set to make an appearance in the newly announced follow up Batman: Gotham Knights, set for a 2021 release from Warner Bros. Montreal. Only time will tell if we get to see him in Matt Reeves’ upcoming Batman universe.

Dick Grayson’s influence has been felt across the globe, and with every passing day of more people discovering the character, that influence will only grow. His impact is more than almost any other superhero, and he’s very easily up in the big leagues of DC Comics, alongside characters like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Flash. Thank you for 80 years of entertainment, Dick Grayson. Here’s to 80 more.

Dick Grayson will return to live-action in Titans Season 3, set for release on HBO Max in 2021.

Follow writer Jeremiah Monaghan on Twitter: @thespeedforces

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