Dick Grayson has died in Forever Evil. It was a strange kind of death because it didn’t seem real. Not because of the way it was delivered, but rather because of our understanding of comics. Everyone knows he’ll be back, probably in the next issue, regenerated as a good Talon or something like that.
So when the Lady and I read those panels – his heartbeat fading away and his face growing greyer – it didn’t seem such a ‘thing’. But then, when we put the comic book down a realisation struck us: a man we loved had died. It doesn’t matter that in four weeks time we shall probably see him again because right now, at this moment, Richard’s life is no more.
Then an unexpected thing happened: Batman appeared in our office. Could he post a few words on Robin? – he asked. To which we replied yes, as though any other answer was ever going to be possible. So here it is, Batman’s letter to Richard Grayson:
I wanted to write you a few words. You know I’ve written letters like this for my mother and father many times, for Jason and for Damian. I just never thought I’d be writing one of these letters for you too. And that says a lot about you, Richard. I’m used to regret, the pain of missed opportunities, but you always wrong-footed me where that was concerned. I’ve got used to you making it through okay. You were my one safe bet; the guy who was going to see it through from start to finish. I thought you were going to be with me forever, but I was wrong.
You were twelve years of age when you came into my life, a baby really. You’d just found out that your mother and father had been murdered, and you were angry and you were vengeful. All you wanted was a chance to put the whole lousy world to rights and you figured that I was the opportunity you were looking for. So there I was, trying to persuade a twelve year-old firebrand not to go vigilante, but all I could see in your eyes was that blue cape and cowl of mine (remember that old thing?), and I knew I was fighting a losing battle. There was no turning you, Richard.
So before I knew what had hit me, I had a twelve year-old for my crime fighting partner. Me – a grown-up scary guy started running round Gotham with a kid. But thing was, it worked. I don’t know how or why, but you and I just clicked, and I have never, in all my seventy-five years, had as much fun as during those years I spent with you. Though I know it was tough and it was cruel and that we spent night after night getting our brains beat in, all I can remember now is how much we laughed. I can hear every one of your lousy jokes in my head and see that cheeky grin of yours as you kick some goon in the shins or worse. That’s all I see – the good times, not the bad, and I don’t want to accept that the good times are never coming back.
You might have just been a kid when I met you, but you were the smart one. You never let the nastiness get to you. I did. When I look in the mirror I can barely recognise myself, I allowed my grief to eat me up inside. But that was never your problem, Richard. The person you were when you were twelve years old lives on inside you. That kid full of hope and promise – he never went away and I envy that. The real me got left behind in an alleyway when my mother and father died. But you somehow managed to find the little bit of child in me that remained. You brought him out from under these black bat wings to play with you in the light. You made me feel and act eight years of age again. That’s why you are the real Boy Wonder.
I should just stop lying to myself and tell the damn truth. And that is I didn’t try very hard to persuade you not to join me. The moment I found you and you started talking to me, I realised that I had found the one person on this planet who could understand what I was going through. So even though you were just twelve years of age, and you becoming my sidekick was the most mindless thing any adult could let a kid do, I still allowed it to happen. And I did that because I am selfish and because I was sick of being on my own. That is the sad, stupid truth of my life. But you know this already. You know everything about me. And that’s why your leaving me hurts like hell.
Barbara sent me this poem which I have to say sums up how I feel much better than all the crap I just posted above. Now – you do know that I love you, right? I know I said it a couple of times when you were growing up, but I never said it enough. You were my little brother, my son and my best friend all in one. So anyway – Barbara likes this and so do I. I think she wants to say these things as much as I do:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
WH Auden, poet (1907 – 1973)