Robin volume 1: Reborn


By Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant, Norm Breyfogle, Tom Lyle & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-5857-3

Norman Keith Breyfogle was born in Iowa City, Iowa on February 27th 1960. Another artistic prodigy, in high school he was commissioned by Michigan Technological University to create promotional comic Tech-Team. In 1977 he submitted to DC a new costume design for Robin. It was published in Batman Family #13.

He studied painting and illustration at North Michigan University while working as a professional illustrator and in 1980 created Bunyan: Lore’s Loggin’ Hero for Book Concern. Moving to California in 1982, he worked as a technical draughtsman for NASA’s space shuttle programme and two years later began his serious attempts to get into proper comics.

Work for DC’s New Talent Showcase led him to American Flagg, Tales of Terror, Marvel Fanfare and others before, in 1986 he illustrated Whisper for a year. He then became regular artist on Detective Comics (1987-1990) where, with Alan Grant & John Wagner, he added to the Dark Knight’s gruesome gallery of foes by co-creating Scarface and the Ventriloquist, Ratcatcher, Jeremiah Arkham, Victor Zsasz and antihero Anarky.

Very much the key artist, he then transferred to Batman (1990-1992) and visually dictated the transformation of Tim Drake into the third Boy Wonder Robin before helming new title Batman: Shadow of the Bat until 1993.

Along the way he also illustrated Elseworlds yarn Batman: Holy Terror and painted Batman: Birth of the Demon, and other DC landmarks such as Flashpoint and The Spectre. For other companies he drew Prime, Black Tide, Hellcat, Bloodshot, Archie comics and many others as well as creating comics, children’s book material and poetry.

In December 2014 he suffered a massive stroke which left him paralysed, and he died on September 24 this year from heart failure.

Despite his massive and wide-ranging contribution to comics. Breyfogle will always be most well-known for his Batman tenure so it’s fitting that we remember him here with the biggest storyline of his career and its aftermath…

No matter how hard creators try to avoid it or escape it, Batman and Robin are an inevitable pairing. The first one graduated, the second died (sort of, more or less, leave it, don’t go there) and the third, Tim Drake, volunteered, applying pester-power until he got the job…

Spanning July 1990 to May 1991 and gathering Detective Comics #618-621, Batman #455-457 and the first Robin miniseries (#1-5), this volume reveals how a plucky young computer whiz convinces the Gotham Guardian to let him assume the potentially-fatal role of junior partner in a cracking adventure yarn that has as much impact today as when it first appeared decades ago.

It all begins with 4-part story arc ‘Rite of Passage’ from Detective Comics. Scripted by Alan Grant with moody art from Breyfogle & Dick Giordano ‘Shadow on the Sun’ finds a very much civilian Tim vacationing with Bruce Wayne in Gotham while his affluent, philanthropic parents visit the Caribbean and fall into the greedy hands of ruthless criminal the Obeah Man.

Tim is fully aware of Wayne’s alter ego and even helps with hacking as the Dark Knight follows a convoluted money trail, but the boy’s nerve is truly tested when his own parents become victims of a ruthless maniac…

Grant Breyfogle, With Steve Mitchell inking the sordid saga continues as ‘Beyond Belief!’ shows that not just money motivates the voodoo lord. He also revels in the worship of his terrified acolytes and is keen to keep them swayed with the occasional bloody sacrifice…

However, his ransom demand soon puts Batman on his trail and as the Gotham Gangbuster heads for Haiti, Tim is forced to consider whether the role of Robin only comes at the price of personal tragedy…

That seems to be confirmed in ‘Make Me a Hero’ as Batman’s hunt takes a negative turn even as Tim’s computer trawls lead him to a pointless confrontation with troubled teen Anarky before the concluding ‘Trial by Fire’ sees young Drake’s worst fears come true…

We resume a few months later with Batman #455 (October 1990).

Identity Crisis’ by Grant, Breyfogle & Mitchell finds the newly-orphaned (or as good as: one parent is dead and the other is in a coma) Tim Drake as Bruce Wayne’s latest ward, but forbidden from participating in the life of the Batman. The kid is willing and competent, after all, he deduced Batman’s secret identity before he even met him, but the guilt-racked Dark Knight won’t allow any more children to risk their lives…

However, when an old foe lures the lone avenger into an inescapable trap Tim must disobey Batman’s express orders to save him, even if it means his own life… or even the new home he’s just beginning to love.

Drake and stalwart retainer Alfred know Batman is off his game but can do nothing to shake his resolve in #456 as, ‘Without Fear of Consequence…’, the hero stalks a resurgent and lethally inspired Scarecrow across a Gotham City experiencing yet another Christmas terror spree…

Concluding instalment ‘Master of Fear’ sees the boy surrender every chance to become Batman’s partner: breaking his promise stay safe and saving the exhausted and overwhelmed Dark Knight from death despite the consequences…

It all works out in the end, as, following on the heels of that landmark saga, Robin got a new costume and a try-out series. …

Eliot R. Brown then provides schematics and diagrams detailing ‘Secrets of the New Robin Costume’ before writer Chuck Dixon and artists Tom Lyle & Bob Smith launch the new sidekick in his first solo starring miniseries. The apprentice hero’s path begins with a program of accelerated training intended to mimic that taken by teenaged Bruce Wayne years previously. In ‘Big Bad World’, Tim journeys to Paris, ostensibly to train in secret, but his underground martial arts dojo is a hotbed of intrigue and before long the kid is involved with Chinese street gangs…

Tracking the ambitious Lynx, Tim falls into a full-on war between disgraced DEA agent Clyde Rawlins, and a mysterious schemer. Thankfully ‘The Shepardess’ is there to give him a crash course in survival…

Sadly ‘The Destroying Angel’ has secrets of her own and the business devolves into a helter-skelter race-against-time, as she is revealed to be murderous martial artist Lady Shiva, coldly leading the lad into ‘Strange Company’ whilst executing her war against the Ghost Dragon Triad and Hong-Kong crime-lord King Snake for possession of a Nazi terror weapon…

There’s a breakneck pace and tremendous vivacity to this uncomplicated thriller that would rouse a corpse as the neophyte paladin heads to Hong Kong for the final showdown and a brush with existential horror in ‘The Dark’

Wrapping up this groundbreaking celebration of the making of a hero are a wealth of art extras beginning with ‘Unused Robin Costume Designs’ by Neal Adams, Breyfogle, George Pérez & Lyle, before Graham Nolan, Adams & Lyle & confirm the ‘Final Batman and Robin Costume Design’, Adams provides a dynamic ‘Robin Poster’ and Brian Bolland pitches in with the original cover to the Robin: A Hero Reborn trade paperback collection.

This book is a lovely slice of sheer escapist entertainment and a genuine Bat-classic. If you don’t own this you really should.
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