Monday, December 3, 2012

Soviet Style Robins? The Iconic Batman Art of the New 52 #9

In this entry of the Iconic Batman we'll examine an image taken from Batman and Robin #12.  It depicts the various Robins as they stand in awe of the heroic actions of their mentor, Batman.  The Caped Crusader has just rocketed off to intercept a missle launched by the evil doer, Terminus.

What I find fascinating is the posture held by all the Robins.  They are all in profile as they gaze off into the sky.  (In the foreground is the current Robin, Damien Wayne; followed by the Tim Drake "Red Robin"; Jason Todd as "Red Hood" and finally by Dick Grayson, the original Robin, as "Nightwing".)  Their profiles betray the inspiration they are getting from Batman's heroic act and they are joined as one as former and current students of the maestro. 

So, how do they all fit in as "Soviet style"?

The use of the profile is a long held device of the Communist propaganda machines.  The subjects eyes aren't fixed on the viewer but off into the unseen distance as if they are looking far into the future of brighter and better world.  The subjects are always standing together because they are of single purpose and share a common belief.

The profile posture is also used to convey inclusiveness.  In the above North Vietnamese wartime poster a smiling "Uncle Ho" looks beneficently down his female charges.  All are equal in the war effort and all have a role to play for the greater good of the party and society.  In the "Robin" panel above all are equal in the eyes of Batman as they share a common bond to defeat evil.  The "Robins" aren't always on the same page and often there are jealousies involved.  But not when they are bonded by a single cause as inspired by Batman.

There is often a certain dynamic of motion displayed in these propaganda posters.  In the above World War 2 Soviet era poster the soldiers in the foreground move to the front with grim yet determined purpose.  Their weapons are at the ready as the tanks spew fire.  Hovering above them are the ghosts of their forebears, generations of which march alongside them  The message here is that the Soviet soldier of the day fights for the cause just as their ancestors did.

While there is practically no motion in the Robin panel, aside from the urgency of the fist wrapped in the cape of Damien Wayne in the foreground, we still get a sense of generations fighting for the same cause.  Dick Grayson as Nightwing stands tallest amongst the Robins and they follow in size and experience in descending order before him.

Batman is an inspirational figure and the Robins stand at rapt attention.  I would find it hard to believe that Batman or his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, would embrace any aspect of the Communist ideal or the Soviet system.  But he knows heroism when he sees it and it is reflected in the eyes of the young men he often leads into battle.  As for Dick, Jason, Tim and Damien they not only gaze upon the man that is their inspiration but the father figure that has lifted them up to behold a brighter future.