Friday Q&A: Is Robin A Superhero?


Today’s Q&A kickoff comes not from Twitter or email, but rather an existential question unintentionally posed by my 3-year-old son.

Despite having never watched any media involving superheroes, the characters just appealed to him. And, in turn, my house has been overrun with superhero-themed toys in recent months: A Thomas The Train track that doubles as the Batcave; an Imaginext Arkham Aslyum; a Duplo Batman playset, complete with the Caped Crusader, Robin, Poison Ivy and Joker.

The first set of superhero toys I purchased for him was a Fisher Price Little People box of DC Super Friends. Included were Batman (his personal favorite), Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Batgirl and Robin. The team’s been on many adventures, saving his teddy bear from falling off the bed; replacing missing track on his train set; flying off our deck so that I have to go rescue them from the bushes below.

Recently on one of these missions, he asked me to grab a superhero. I returned with Robin, to which he said, “Robin’s not a superhero, daddy.”

Now, he’s obviously never read a comic book. He doesn’t watch much TV as it is, but is especially too young for Teen Titans or the 1966 Batman series. So I wondered two things: 1. How did he come to this conclusion? 2. Is Robin, in fact, not a superhero?

I may never know the answer to the first, as toy Robin possesses many of the same qualities that would suggest “superhero” to a child of three years: He wears a mask and a cape. Done deal.

Apparently, it isn’t so simple.

The argument against Robin seems equally simple. Superman and Wonder Woman are from other worlds, and thus have alien superpowers. Green Lantern is an earthling, but gained alien power when he was chosen to carry his Green Power Ring.

But then, Batman has no superpower — at least, not in the same extraterrestrial fashion as Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman. He wasn’t altered by science like Spiderman or Hulk. He isn’t a mutant like the X-Men. Batman’s a genius and highly conditioned athlete, and no one disputed his superhero credentials.

Perhaps it’s because my first introduction to the character was Burt Ward’s portrayal in the Adam West series — which was a staple of my afternoon TV watching as a child — but I long found the character to be corny. Chris O’Donnell’s portrayal did nothing to dispel my opinion.

That only began to change in the 2000s with the original Teen Titans series on Cartoon Network.

The character’s ripe for a reintroduction to a larger audience, and seems ideal for a CW series in the vein of Arrow. That might help separate Robin from the image of sidekick and establish it as more of a true superhero.

So earlier this week, I penned an ode to my favorite film of all-time: RoboCop.

Though I love sports, honestly, sports films don’t often appeal to me. Many are biopics, and I’d frankly prefer watch a documentary on whatever figure or event being depicted. To that end, I consider Hoop Dreams my favorite sports-related film ever — though documentaries can’t really be compared to other films.

All that said, I do love The Program.

Because sports movies are so often biopics, they have a tendency to sugarcoat their subjects and sensationalize (if not outright misrepresent) actual events. The Progra cannot be accused of sugarcoating college football, and its sensationalizing can be justified because it’s fiction.

With its autumn 1993 release, The Program dropped less than a decade removed from SMU’s death penalty and two years prior to Sports Illustrated‘s controversial examination of Miami football.

Oklahoma had myriad issues, from Brian Bosworth’s steroid use (a subject The Program addresses) to Buster Rhymes’ infamous Uzi incident, to Marcus Dupree’s flame-out (another topic broached in The Program).

Many of the game’s warts were emerging in full public view. The Program succeeded in portraying this underbelly, while at the same time unintentionally predicting future developments.

Heisman Trophy-chasing quarterback Joe Kane’s self-destructive nature played out two decades in Johnny Manziel. Alvin Mack’s uncertain future after sustaining a career-threatening injury sheds fictional light on the very real concerning surfacing more regularly in big-time college sports: How much are the universities and football programs doing to provide a stable future for those who won’t play on Sundays?

It’s rather remarkable how prescient The Program was, viewed with the benefit of hindsight. While it’s not my favorite film ever, it’s in the running for my favorite sports film.