Why Does Batman Have Nine Million Sidekicks Now?

I’ll admit I’m a fairly off and on comics reader and until last week hadn’t read a new DC since 2010…

I glanced at some of the newer Batman comics and…wow, they’ve really doubled down on the sidekick thing. I thought it was weird enough that Bruce would get a new Robin and endanger a child’s life after Barbara was paralyzed (I guess she’s not now?) and Jason Todd was killed (he’s alive now?).

Maybe it was having a group of friends that had the same opinion, but I thought it was generally agreed that Batman better when his “family” was limited to Alfred, Dick, maybe a Robin that checks in occasionally, and the Gordons. Or, you know, working alone as in Year One/Long Halloween/Legends of the Dark Knight. Now there seem to be dozens of new unpowered vigilantes that appear without explanation of who they are. What’s with this? Why take responsibility for so many other people in what’s always been a personal war? I mean Robin and Batgirl strained credulity enough. I’m just baffled by it.

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Well, I’m a fan of the Detective team. I might have some bias. I dislike Batman solo, but enjoy his family.

About 15 years ago he found out he has a son with Talia al Ghul. Kid was raised by League of Assassins. He’s now Robin.

Around the same time (maybe a bit earlier) we discovered Ghul decided to save Jason Todd in a Lazarus Pit.

Barbara was returned to the role of Batgirl with the launch of The New 52 about ten years ago.

Donald Trump became president.

It’s been a weird ride. Some people like the changes. Some people don’t.

I’m not sure Batman operates better on his own. This was proved (to a degree) in A Lonely Place of Dying and the rest of the Tim Drake origin story.

Based on his attitude about most of his family I’m not sure Bruce takes responsibility. Read Azrael and Batgirl. He’s just using them in his “one man” war on crime.

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I think the New 52 thing was announced shortly after I stopped reading comics at the time (it was in fact earlier than 2010, I stopped reading during the Batman RIP storyline), so I really don’t know what that’s about. I think I remember it being a reboot but can’t remember if it was a complete continuity reboot or a soft reboot.

I mean I get that people get burnt out on more of the same (lord knows we could retire the Joker for a decade or two with no ill effects) but it’s really hard to get into a story with this many characters. It’s like you’re expected to do homework just to enjoy it. I’d rather they focus on a few strongly written characters rather than a dozen others. There’s are reasons Batman has lasted 80 years and a huge supporting cast of allies is not among those reasons, at least to me.

It’s just disorienting trying to get back in when there are so many extraneous people to keep track of.

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@KingOfTheWickerPeople I think the reboots are designed to help be jumping on points. For what it’s worth I’d suggest choosing the titles you’re interested in and begin with Rebirth. That limits it to four years of print.

I’m a person who likes the homework. I get some kind of satisfaction acquiring the information. The history is part of it for me. I totally understand how off putting it can be.

There should be some titles with less connection. I think the DC Black imprint will make people like yourself please as punch.

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I feel like comics reboots (and I’ve had this problem with Marvel too) never address the problem of why they need to reboot the universes- things get massively convoluted and off-putting to new readers, but once they reboot it they jump right back into convoluting the universe and making it off-putting to new readers.

I don’t mind doing the homework if I’m interested in the characters. But it’s like, if you start Wolfman/Perez’ New Teen Titans from issue 1 you don’t need any prior background on who the characters are. There’s enough personality and backstory written into the story that you don’t need to go back to the Silver Age to read Wally West or Donna Troy’s first appearances to understand who they are, and they’re not rotating characters in the story, the team is the focus of the story. Is it really too much to expect Batman be about Batman and his rogue’s gallery and not just about every person in Gotham City?

I don’t know how to feel about DC Black Label. Putting aside the fact that almost half (9/20) of the titled in the lineup have Joker or Harley Quinn as title characters and I’ve been sick to death of both of them of them for a good while now (I reached a fatigue point of the Joker shortly after TDK put him in movie theaters, and I’ve never liked the Harley Quinn character or her screechy nightmare voice), I’m also pretty sensitive to graphic violence/gore and something that implies “for a mature audience” in comics is setting the alarm bells off with “maybe that’s something that wouldn’t be good for me to read”. Although, I did read White Knight which was less disturbing than some arcs of Legends of the Dark Knight, so who the hell knows.

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Essentially, the other Leaguers don’t have enough Sidekicks, so Batman makes up for it.

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That moment when you realize that was over a decade ago.

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I made a DKR Bane joke and got a blank stare recently and I’m like “Oh yeah, that was 8 years ago.”

I feel the pain.

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It is getting out of hand. With all these sidekicks, Gotham should be the safest place on earth. It actually kind of makes Batman less special.

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Sorry, dude!

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I think it boils down to the fact that Batman has 9 bazillion comics. There are probably the same number of batman comics that all the other characters have together. Thus with a similar distribution, Batman has enough stories to have as many sidekicks as all the other heroes have together. :grin:

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:hugs:

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I like Batman with a crew though. One of my favorite 80’s titles was The Outsiders (with and without Batman.

I figure it’s like this. Gotham is Baltimore level crime, plus meta human bad guys, but with 10 million people. I don’t care how many wonderful toys he has. He’d need a lot of help. Post Rebirth I’ve seen him use…

Barbara Gordon
Tim Drake
Jason Todd
Damian Wayne
Orphan
Duke Thomas
Katana
Azrael (Jean-Paul)
Selina Kyle
Alfred
Jim Gordon
Luke Fox
Lucius Fox
Stephanie Brown
Kate Kane
Dick Grayson
Black Lightning
Clayface

I’m missing people, but my point is he would easily need two dozen people to pull off his impossible task. It works for me.

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I recognize 11/18 of those people. I’m surprised.

However, at this point they’re not heroes anymore, they’re a private army/police force. Heroes are supposed to be special and unique. Not everyone can do what they can do- except in current Gotham, where apparently anyone with access to spandex and a little free time during the week can also be a crimefighter.

Bruce trained for like 10 years to be Batman, acquiring technology, knowledge, and building himself to a physical peak. Are you telling me all of his associates have done the same? And you can have all the heroes you want but it doesn’t matter because Arkham and Blackgate’s bars are made of fine, soft cheeses and that’s a big part of why the supercriminal problem persists. And the thing is, in the past, while many of these people have been around for a while, they also in the past weren’t all operating at the same time.

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Tim, Dick, Jason, Azrael, Barbara, Orphan, Damian, Katana, and Kate would be considered among the most skilled hand-to-hand combatants on the fictional planet.

Tim is as smart (potentially smarter) and is a tech genius. Same for Azrael and Barbara (though Azrael doesn’t really have the sense to use it anymore).

Kate is a tactical genius. So is Damian…when he has his crap together.

They’re all in peak physical form.

As for how people constantly escape from Arkham, well, it is a story from the funny pages. I can’t explain why they always escape except writers don’t want to keep introducing new villains from outside the already massive rogues gallery.

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As I view it I hate Bat family ensemble stories, so just let the fans of them read them while I read the versions I like, one or two sidekicks max. Basically always one of the Robins.

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I would take fresh villains over new sidekicks any day, especially if the new villain doesn’t have to drag all the members of the Rogue’s Gallery in for glorified cameos.

It’s not “Batman” anymore, it’s “Batman’s Sideshow of Sidekicks”. Batman is made less special by having a dozen super-skilled normal humans on his side. Contrast it with one of Batman’s inspirations, The Shadow- who operated a large network of agents, none of which had special powers but all had particular areas of expertise- Harry Vincent was skilled at gaining people’s trust and gathering information, Burbank was a communications expert, Roy Tam was a skilled physician with strong connections in the Chinese American diaspora, etc… The problem with the Bat-sidekicks is that they’re all kind of the same. Most of them are too good at everything and don’t have anything special or interesting about them.

One of my creative writing teachers once told me that if two characters have the same function and can be described in roughly the same terms, they can safely be compounded into one character and it’s better for the audience and the work as a whole.

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@KingOfTheWickerPeople Agree to disagree. I’m fine with the setup. I like the Batfamily. It doesn’t need to be larger, but it shouldn’t be shrunken or sidelined.

One of the things about the Robins is that not one has ever served the same function. More importantly these characters have, or have had very successful solo runs.

Tim Drake had (the very good) Dixon series that ran nearly 200 issues. Orphan was Batgirl for over a decade and had a 73 issue solo series. Azrael had a 100 issue solo (I’m a big fan). Nightwing and Todd too. I think not having them around ignores the the creative talent and the fans who love the solo work.

I think they’re more interesting on their own, and I don’t really care for Bruce solo that much. I hope they keep the family as it is.

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First of all, Batman was a solo act for one year before Robin appeared. One year.

Second, a large Bat Family is nothing new. In the early 1960s, he had at his side (in order of their first appearance) Robin, Alfred, Ace, Batwoman, Bat-Mite, and Bat-Girl. It wasn’t until 1964 (when he got that yellow oval on his logo) that all of those characters except for Robin were either written out or (in Alfred’s case) killed off. And even that didn’t last long.

And then there’s 1983, when he gained both Jason Todd and the Outsiders.

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I understand that. It still seems like it’s gotten excessive to me, and the large Bat Family during the early Silver Age usually isn’t brought up as a positive of that era (although for the sake of giving the great Dick Sprang lots of characters to draw, I can’t fault it).

Most of the better adaptations in other media do away with the bat family entirely or move it to the sidelines. I’m not saying this makes the idea inherently bad, I’m just saying that when people need to start trimming extraneous characters from the narrative, they’re usually the first to go. I know that the comics and television industries are addicted to decompressed, long-form storytelling with dozens of characters but I don’t think that’s necessarily the best way to go. A lot can be learned from the brevity of formats like film, or one-shots, or episodic rather than arc-based stories. Episodes or shorter arcs (yet another reason I love Legends of the Dark Knight’s early run) force the creator to think about what’s important to put in the story. The first Legends arc, Shaman, introduces all the characters it’s going to use within the first two issues and their plots are all resolved by the end of it. I’m getting kind of off topic here, though.

I don’t mind some of the Bat Family. As my icon suggests I’m a fan of Dick Grayson (more as a Titan or as Nightwing, but still) and I think Barbara is great (again, prefer her as Oracle but that’s rather beside the point). My point is there’s not a lot with a lot of the newer characters to differentiate them. “How is character x different from character y”? At some point for a casual or new reader it all falls apart under the weight of its own complexity like a Rube Goldberg Device that can be fouled by a speck of dust on an oiled surface.

I wish I had a specific example to cite, but whenever one of the extended Bat Family members is in an issue with no explanation I always feel like someone has walked up to me and said “Hey, how you doing (Name Withheld)” like they know me and I’ve never met them before and all the way through I’m trying to figure out who they are and then they just kind of disappear to a different story at the end of the issue.

To me it’s almost like there’s a disconnect between two characters. There’s Batman, this lone gothic figure that strikes terror into criminals with only some mission control from Alfred and James Gordon…and then there’s the Bat-Manager, who works as part of a big team of heroes. The only common thread is they’re both Bruce Wayne.