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Batman: The Animated Series
by yo go re

After the success of Batman in 1989, Tim Burton was planning to put Robin in the sequel (to be played by Marlon Wayans, a casting choice whose only evident holdover [other than Wayans still getting royalty checks for Batman Forever to this day] is the fact that the Batman Returns Robin toy was clearly sculpted as a black man and then painted white). But someone - either Burton or Warner Brothers or even just DC themselves - realized that Robin's existing costume was too stupid to use, so it was time to redesign it. DC knew that if they didn't come up with something, the movie company would just change it themselves (which, incidentally, is the same reason Marvel published Origin, so don't think this is just one company's problem).

DC being DC, they went about it in the most roundabout way possible. Rather than just putting a team to work on it, they contacted a dozen of their regular artists and told them to redesign Robin - without telling them why, or that they were competing against other artists. Neal Adams' design was the one that ultimately won, because he managed to guess that this was for the movie and was able to tailor his design to that aesthetic. While Robin didn't end up appearing in the movie, DC still used the design across all properties, which is why BtAS Robin is wearing a simplified version of the same thing.

Adams took Robin's three biggest problems - his bright colors, his bare legs, and his elf shoes - and fixed them all. The green slippers became shin-length black boots. His usual red shirt is now joined by red trunks, while the green that used to be there is now moved down to his legs. He keeps the yellow cape, but only on the lining - the exterior is now black, allowing Robin to wrap it around himself and disappear into the shadows like his mentor. His belt, the clasps on his shirt, and even the ® on his chest are sculpted elements, and he has large flares on his gloves. Granted, there are some elements of the real suit that were too complex for animation, like the little pockets on the gloves and sleeves, but it's still clear what this represents.

Despite this costume belonging to Tim Drake, the Animated Robin was Dick Grayson - Tim was too new to be iconic enough for the role. He does get Tim's hair, though: Neal Adam's design kept the same kind of hair helmet Robin had always worn, but Tom Lyle gave him a spiky 'do appropriate for a '90s teenager. That carried over to the animted series by way of floppy hair-spikes that cascade from his cowlick to his forehead.

The toy has really good articulation. Robin gets a balljointed head and neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, elbows and wrists, swivel waist, H-hips, hinged knees, swivel boots, and swivel/hinge rocker ankles. Those are all the same joints we saw on the figures in Series 1, but none of them broke, and the hips no longer have visible pins sticking through the joint. It's nice that the quality raised this far this fast, but it would be even better if Series 1 had been made to this standard in the first place.

Robin's accessories are very similar to Batman's: mostly just hands. He's got two fists in the package, but also includes a relaxed pair, a gripping pair, and a left hand molded with his grapnel launcher. We also get a loose grapnel launcher, though unlike Batman's, it doesn't separate into two pieces. He has two capes - one falling over his right shoulder, the other pushed behind both - and a weird black thing that's hard to place. It's a bola, as seen in the opening of the episode "Robin's Reckoning," but by making it in it relaxed state instead of "twirling," it's kind of a pointless inclusion that no one will ever recognize.

Like every figure so far (up to and including Man-Bat), Robin comes with a plastic display stand to help hold him upright. Yes, he can stand on his own, but a little more support is never unwelcome, right? The stand is like the sort that dolls come with, with an articulated C-clamp at the top of a plastic arm. The base plate is a little more than 2" x 2½", and the post reaches 3¾" tall. Printed on the white base is black line art of Robin's turnaround model sheet, so you can always keep track of which base belongs to which character.

Robin looks a little bit out of place in this line, since most of the figures so far have been based on the second designs, and by the time that happened, Dick was Nightwing and Tim Drake was Robin. DC is making a "version 1" Batman though, so get this Robin to go with him when he's released. Or just because his design is cool and the toy is well made.

-- 04/16/15

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