WE ARE ... ROBIN: Reinventing the Sidekick Concept

DC Comics August 2015 solicitations
Credit: DC Comics
Credit: DC Comics

In the age of social media, it's easy to write a post of support for an idea. But taking action? That's a whole different level.

In We Are…Robin, the new DC series written by Lee Bermejo, a group of teens who want to help protect Gotham City will put their money where their mouths are — or rather, where their tweets are — as the online "Robin Movement" brings a band of crime-fighting teenagers to action.

The main, introductory character in We Are…Robin will be Duke Thomas, the boy who helped Bruce Wayne during Batman's "Zero Year" arc. (And we should note that Duke is expected to be important in Batman's future, because in Futures End: Batman and Robin, Duke was shown in the role of Robin five years in the future. And in Batman #35, Duke became a superhero named Lark during Bruce's vision of the future.)

Duke will be joined by several other Gotham City youths — including two characters who debuted in Detective Comics: Endgame #1 in March.

The comic will feature more than one artist, including Khary Randolph, Jorge Corona and Rob Haynes. The covers so far have been by Bermejo, who may be writing We Are…Robin, but is best known for his artwork on projects like Wednesday Comics: Superman and the Joker graphic novel. But earlier this year, he launched the Vertigo comic Suiciders as a writer, although he's also drawing that title.

Newsarama talked to Bermejo to find out more about his plans for We Are…Robin.

Credit: DC Comics

Newsarama: Lee, we now know that Batman is assumed dead in Gotham City. Is that the reason these kids get together?

Lee Bermejo: That's something that factors into it. But really, the approach we're taking with the book is to not really give a lot of information about exactly how the movement starts. I think that's something that, as the book progresses, people will get more of an idea about what these kids are hoping to do with this movement.

But yeah, the fact that there's a new Batman will play into the story. It's going to be fun to see it play out.

Nrama: But this new Batman is working with the Gotham City Police Department. Or even within the GCPD. But these kids are vigilantes, right?

Bermejo: Yeah. These kids are taking the law into their own hands. And without saying too much, these kids are minors. So that idea of youth, in a legal sense, will play a part in the book.

That's something that's very interesting to me — the concept of a teenage sidekick. The concept of adolescent heroes in general is an interesting "problem." It asks a lot of questions about the adults who are essentially putting their lives at risk, but it also speaks to the kids and their desire to do what is right.

Another big concept is the idea of legacy, particularly in Gotham — this idea of legacy, of heroes that have come before.

You could say, at this point in time, we've seen a few Robins. So this is something that, in Gotham City, has become a bigger concept than just one particular person. And that's something interesting about playing in this Bat-world.

Credit: DC Comics

Nrama: One of the main characters is Duke Thomas. What can you tell us about him as a character?

Bermejo: Yeah, Duke is a character that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo introduced in Batman, and he helped Batman out in "Zero Year." We've seen him a couple other times as well — particularly when his parents and the Joker had some interactions. The character is pretty well established.

But we don't know that much about who he is. We know who he is in relationship to Batman.

So what's interesting here is that he's going to be our eyes for the story. Through him, the reader is going to be introduced to this movement, into this world inside the Bat-universe. He's a great character to use to introduce people to this new movement of Robins.

You're going to find out more about him in this series.

Nrama: This "movement" — is it tied into the growth of social media sites like Twitter? Where people can connect and very quickly put out a call for action?

Bermejo: Absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, this Wednesday we're going to see an eight-page preview, and that's what you're going to see.

That's a big part of it. You know, Facebook and Twitter and social media in general have made it really easy for people to make broad statements. You know? And they create online personalities for themselves. And there's this concept of what's "trending" on Twitter. And these movements have come about.

But what happens is that people make these broad statements, but they don't have responsibility for those statements that they're making.

It's one thing to say you're part of a movement. It's another thing to actually do it. To live it.

Credit: DC Comics

That's one of the central aspects of this book.

There are a lot of kids who… it's cool to be part of "We Are…Robin." It's this teen movement, this underground, rebellious movement.

They have the best intentions — to keep their city safe. But I think Gotham City is a particular place, known for being one of the most dangerous cities. So you have these teenagers who get to the point where they've had enough. They want to be part of something bigger, to be part of a legacy, to be part of something that does good for the place they live in.

But for a 14- to 17-year-old kid, the concept of what they can do to be a hero, and what defines heroism is something that's interesting to me, looking through the eyes of this book.

We have the chance to tackle a lot of different approaches. It's not just about putting on the domino mask and jumping around. It's about, what can you do to make your city a better place?

Nrama: Will any of the kids have superpowers?

Bermejo: No, they are all non-powered kids, from varying backgrounds.

Nrama: So it's more like… a street-level story?

Bermejo: Yeah. You know, it's become kind of a dirty word to say something is gritty and realistic. I really wouldn't talk about our book in those terms.

But these are kids who aren't experts at what they're doing. They're learning the ropes, and sometimes that's a very, very interesting enterprise.

Credit: DC Comics

Nrama: Teen books can run the gamut from the type of noir thing you're doing in Suiciders to goofy fun stuff like Teen Titans Go. But it sounds like We Are…Robin is somewhere in between? It's realistic, but I assume these kids have fun, right?

Bermejo: Oh yeah! It's important to have that humorous element in the book.

But yeah, it is somewhere in the middle. I'm playing in a world where there isn't anyone with superpowers. All these kids have their own set of problems, and they come from varying backgrounds. And that's where the drama is.

But that's also where the fun is. We're playing with kids that I think readers can recognize.

Readers are already familiar with Duke. They're going to get to know him more. And they're going to be introduced to this central cast of characters in We Are…Robin.

Nrama: I know you're introducing some of them in next week's preview, but can you tell us about any of the characters? Have we met any of them already in other comics?

Bermejo: Yeah, I kind of want people to be introduced to them through the preview. And then discover them as we go.

Credit: DC Comics

But yeah, we did see two of the characters in Detective Comics: Endgame. We saw Dax, and we saw Riko.

Nrama: So they do each have their own unique talents and personalities, because I remember those two from that comic.

Bermejo: Yeah, definitely. Dax is an Irish kid who's a mechanic. That's what he's into.

Rico is more of a cosplayer. She's really into the idea of being Robin. She's a gigantic Batgirl fan, for example. She's into the whole costumed adventurer side of it.

So you're going to see a handful of different kinds of characters. There are kids who are in it for the dangers. There are others who are scared of the danger.

But it's really about what happens when you have to actually put your money where your mouth is, as opposed to just writing hashtag Robin in your tweet.

Nrama: Before you go, Lee, can you talk to fans of your Vertigo series Suiciders? I know you're only three issues into it, but what's coming up? Will we learn more about the mystery of the Saint?

Bermejo: Yeah, Suiciders #4 has more action in it, but it really pushes the plot toward the last two issues of this story arc. It puts the Saint in the position where he's going to have to really change some things. And it also pushes the other character where the idea of making his dreams come true and becoming a Suicider might actually be a possibility. But obviously, it comes with a price.

I'm excited for people to start getting into the final couple issues of the arc, where a lot of these questions are going to be answered.

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