That Laughing Young Daredevil,
Kai Axel Jansson
When considering the idea that the comic-book characters, Batman and Robin, had real-life counterparts on whom their four-color adventures were loosely based (see Asimov's Northwestward), a few questions come to mind. What were their real names? Are any of the later comic-book stories at all based in reality? If Dick Grayson was Robin the Boy Wonder in the early 1940s, what became of him after he became an adult? The former questions will be answered elsewhere, but I'll attempt to explain the fate of the man we know as Dick Grayson after his career as the "Boy Wonder" ended.
According to Batman #10, in the story entitled, "The Isle That Time Forgot!", cover-dated April-May 1942, Dick Grayson was then fourteen years old, as there were fourteen candles on his birthday cake. And according to the 1976 Super DC Calendar, Dick Grayson's birthday is on November 11. Therefore, his date of birth is most likely November 11th, 1927. If Al Schroeder's theory that Bruce Wayne was his true father through a steamy encounter with Mary Grayson is correct, it would likely have been young Bruce's first sexual encounter, considering that it would have had to have happened sometime around February, 1927, two months before his 13th birthday (April 7th)! Bruce Wayne was a very mature young man for his age, though, as it has been pointed out, and it was indeed likely that he could have fathered a child even at the age of 12, two months shy of 13. Although I'll now disagree with a part of Mr. Schroeder's excellent Wayne family genealogical work, it is my belief that Dick's mother Mary was still unmarried at this point, was actually a 16-year-old athletic prodigy since infancy, and was still known by her maiden name, Mary Tracy. It was after she discovered she was pregnant and Bruce was long gone (and still only a child, after all, and had used an alias to boot), that John Grayson, a young circus aerialist who had loved Mary from afar, stepped in and married her. It would prove to be not only a good decision for them, but also for the circus, as they became Haly Circus' star attractions, known as the Flying Graysons. Dick Grayson later became the ward of Bruce Wayne after his parents deaths, in 1939.
If his birthdate is correct, Dick Grayson would then have likely graduated from high school in June of 1945. Rather than go immediately into university, Dick Grayson continued on as Batman's partner in crimefighting during those tumultuous post-war years in the late 1940's. In 1949, however, he finally decided to continue on in his studies, and went on to four years of schooling at the real-life institution known in the comics only as Hudson University, although he made time for his crimefighting activities, both alongside Batman and on his own. In 1953, after graduating from Hudson U., he went to Columbia University to study law. In 1956, he graduated and became a lawyer, opening up a law firm with a friend he met in law school. I'll get back to this shortly.
Due to the nature of the comic-books of the time, it was impossible for Dick Grayson's four-color counterpart to follow the exact details of his life, especially considering that while he aged normally, the Robin of the comic-books remained a teenager for several decades. The real-life Dick Grayson enjoyed reading his comic book exploits since he first appeared in print in 1940, almost a year after his first appearance as Robin in August of 1939. Indeed, he even wrote at least one story which saw print in a Batman comic-book, according to Batman #35, "Dick Grayson, Author!", in which National Periodicals (DC Comics) was referred to by an alias: Crescent Comics.
The problem with trying to discover the truth behind a comic-book character who remains an eternal 14-year-old in print is that you must read between the lines, so to speak, in order to figure out what the real person was up to during those years. Luckily, there have been subtle hints, here and there, as to what Dick Grayson may have been up to.
In Batman #107, "The Grown-Up Boy Wonder!", cover-dated April 1957, Dick Grayson is exposed to a strange gas from a box left in Batman's safekeeping after Superman found it floating in outer space, and he falls unconscious, only to wake up the next morning a fully-grown, adult man. He is unable to assist Batman in his crimefighting due to his costume now being too small, his not being used to his larger size, and the fact that inside he was still a teenager. Nevertheless, against orders to the contrary, Dick decides to use an owl masquerade costume and becomes the Owlman, joining Batman in a battle against a trio of former circus acrobats-turned criminals, who called themselves the Daredevils... By the end of the story, of course, Dick Grayson has resumed the body of a teenager, and all is well again.
Could this story have been a hint of Dick Grayson's true activities at this time? Is it possible that sometime in 1956, after his graduation from law school, he donned a new costume of his own choosing and became a crimefighter, now working independently from Batman? Of course, in the comics he would always be Batman's partner, since that was the winning formula, but the real-life Dick Grayson surely would have become his own man once he had reached adulthood, would he not?
According to stories published in the 1970's and 1980's, the so-called "Golden Age" Robin of "Earth-Two" became a lawyer (and the ambassador to South Africa, but let's not go there), and even worked in a law firm with his half-sister, Helena Wayne. This was indeed the case for the real-life Dick Grayson, but of course this occurred many years later, in the late 1970's and early 1980's. He had been of age to be a lawyer since the mid-1950's, and had a busy career since then.
Another character from the comic-books who was a lawyer, and who was published by Marvel Comics beginning in 1964, was Matt Murdock, known as the vigilante Daredevil. He was basically a blind-man with a sort-of "radar vision" which allowed him to not only "see" but also fight crime and dodge bullets while he was at it -- a unique take on the blind crime-fighter tradition begun by Dr. Mid-Nite in 1941. Of course, if this comic-book character existed in real life, it would be a fatal error for this fact to be revealed to the public, especially in such an entertaining fashion, since his enemies were supposed to be unaware of his blindness. A Marvel Comic entitled What If? explored the question, "What if the world knew that Daredevil is blind?" in issue #8 of its original run. Clearly, it was most likely a gimmick to differentiate itself from the Batman comics, although it made for some great reading. Ultimately, though, and with a good deal of reluctance I must dismiss as utter fiction the idea that Daredevil was actually blind.
The similarities between Dick Grayson and Matt Murdock, once the "blind crimefighter" angle is thrown out, begin to add up. Matt Murdock opened up a law firm with a friend of his from law school, "Foggy" Nelson. His secretary, a pretty blonde named Karen Page became his main love interest for several years. According to the Batman comics of the early 1960's, beginning in 1961, Robin the Boy Wonder's main love interest was a girl his age named Betty Kane, who was the niece of Kathy Kane, and who became the first Bat-Girl of the comics, assisting her aunt, Batwoman.
Dick Grayson certainly kept in touch with Bruce Wayne over the years, at least during this early period, and as I pointed out earlier, some "hints" of Dick Grayson's life crept into the texts. Betty Kane was perhaps one of them. Consider Betty Kane's name next to Karen Page's. If you switch the first or last names, you get Karen Kane and Betty Page. Karen was most likely her true name, and she was very probably Kathy's niece, having gotten the secretary job at Grayson's firm due to her family connection, sometime in the late 1950's. Given that the remaining names we are left with is Betty and Page, you can see why I think the authors of these respective comic books were having their own private joke, considering that Betty Page was the name of a very real nude model and so-called "sex goddess" of the 1950's (who nonetheless bore little resemblance to Karen Kane).
Matt Murdock of the Daredevil comic has red hair, though. However, while I believe Grayson/Murdock to have the same features as he was portrayed as having in the Batman comics (black hair and blue eyes), I think the reason that Stan Lee chose his character to have red hair rather than his true brunette hair was merely the same reason why Julius Schwartz chose Barry Allen and Hal Jordan to have different hair colors than Jay Garrick and Alan Scott: to differentiate them enough for anyone to make any comparisons between Daredevil and Batman. He did it in a clever way, though.
According to the so-called "imaginary stories" of the early 1960's, which portray Bruce Wayne marrying Kathy Kane and having a son sometime in the future, their son Bruce Junior had red hair. If Bruce Junior existed in real life as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson did, then he had to have been born years earlier, rather than sometime in the future. (And I believe his red hair is a clue screaming out the name of his TRUE mother -- NOT Kathy Kane, a brunette like Bruce -- who was Bruce's ex-wife by this time, but I digress.) Bruce Junior did exist, and was born on February 19th, 1951. In fact, the "New Look" Batman and Robin of the mid-1960's was in fact the second Batman and Robin team, Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne Jr., during a time when Dick Grayson was forced to fake his own death and abandon his law practice and his Daredevil identity for a time. Although Bruce Junior did indeed have red hair, in the comics Robin's hair color was still black. Stan Lee, knowing or at least guessing these details, used the red hair for his own character as a nod to the real-life Bruce Junior. Ironically (or perhaps not at all), exactly one month before Daredevil #1 hit the stands, cover dated April 1964, a story called "Robin's New Secret Identity" appeared in Batman #163, cover dated March 1964. In this story, Dick Grayson takes up a new secret identity so that he can openly participate in school sports activities without fear of exposing his Robin identity, by calling himself Danny and donning theatrical makeup and a RED WIG... This story is fictional, of course, but was a nod to the "changing of the guard" when Bruce Wayne retired to marry Kathy Kane in 1963 and Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne Junior became the new Dynamic Duo for a few years, since Bruce Junior was a redhead like his mother, Vicki Vale.
In 1969, Dick Grayson was able to come out of hiding and cleared up the problems he'd had (see Daredevil #'s 51 to 58 for a fictionalized and compressed account of this time), and resumed his law practice and his vigilante activities as Daredevil, while Bruce Wayne Junior left for Hudson University to continue his formal education. (A 55-year-old Bruce Wayne came out of retirement after Kathy Kane was murdered by the League of Assassins in 1969, and remained as the Batman until 1975, when Bruce Junior took over.)
The story from Batman #107, "The Grown-Up Boy Wonder!" was thus a concealed and edited account of his true activities in the fall of 1956. The writer switched the names of the hero and villains, though, probably due to the fact that the name Daredevil was still copyrighted (indeed, the golden age character of that name had only just retired by 1956, and although Dick Grayson asked his permission to use the name Daredevil, Lev Gleason Comics would not approve of DC Comics using one of their trademarks illegally). They thus called the villains "Daredevils," giving them a circus acrobat theme like Dick Grayson's true crimefighting identity, and called Dick "Owlman" because his one of his first and main foes was a villain who called himself "The Owl" (he first appeared in the comics in Daredevil #3, and he had his own "Owl Gang"). The writers were again having their own private joke, while leaving clues to those who might one day unravel them.
As you can see, the speculation concerning the various members of the Batman Family is only just beginning. "Dick Grayson's" true name was not Dick Grayson, nor was it Matt Murdock, but both names hint at the truth. The rest of my speculations concerning Bruce Wayne and his allies will appear at my own site: Literary Archaeology, in the future. While I'm sure I'll make more than my share of embarrassing blunders, I hope to bring more articles like this one to the floor for examination. You may or may not agree with my conclusions, but I hope you enjoyed reading them nonetheless.
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All rights reserved. The text of this article is copyright 2001 by the author, Kai Jansson. No copying or reproduction of this story or any portions thereof in any form whatsoever is permitted without prior written permission and consent of the authors.