Crystal from pop culture website The Uniblog is back to continue her series on all things Batman. You can read Part I here. Over to Crystal...
The Batman Family are the friends of Batman who fight crime with him. One of the more fascinating and contradictory things about Batman are his connections to the people who follow him to a life of crime-fighting. As broody and solitary as he seems, he is constantly surrounded by others who know his secrets.
The most famous of these is Dick Grayson's Robin, the yellow-and-green-donning young man who was at Batman's side for decades. Robin gets a lot of flack for being kidnapped all the time and being pretty much useless, but in reality he's a kid who kicks ass and keeps Batman from falling too far into the darkness of wearing the cape and cowl. He has gone through the same thing as Bruce, losing his parents as a child to violent tragedy, but he doesn't let it consume him. He has since grown up and become his own hero, first as Nightwing and then as Batman himself (long story), but Dick Grayson will forever be known as the most famous side-kick of all time.
Jim Gordon is the Police Commissioner of Gotham and is perhaps Batman's best "friend" who doesn't know his secret identity. It's implied that he's smart enough to unravel the mystery of Batman's identity, but that he chooses not to. Gordon is cool because he is a beacon of honesty and goodness in a department corrupted with dirty cops. He is also a tragic figure, whose first wife leaves him with child in tow because his priorities keep him serving the dark lady that is Gotham, and not his family. Then that same city gets his second wife brutally murdered. I like Gordon best when he is played as a grizzled and tough old man.
Batgirl is Barbara Gordon, Jim Gordon's niece (or daughter depending on the continuity). She is at first a very light character, due to the fact that her backstory wasn't born out of tragedy like Batman or Robin. Initially she's mostly a foil for Robin to argue over who is a better sidekick.
This all changed in 1988 during the famous and controversial "Killing Joke" storyline. During an attempt by the Joker to drive Commissioner Gordon crazy, the Joker shoots Barbara in the spine, paralysing her. In a world of comic books you would think that she could be healed through sci-fi science or magic, but there is no such cure for Barbara Gordon. Rather than letting the character get what happened to her undone, writers chose to revive her as a character living with a disability - the information broker and computer expert Oracle. She is actually empowered by this role enough to become the leader of her own superhero group, the all-female "Birds of Prey".
I am sure you know Alfred Pennyworth as Batman's faithful manservant and butler, but there is a lot more to the British gentleman than that. He is also an actor, an amateur surgeon, a sometimes spy and even a rose breeder. He bounces dry, sardonic humor off Batman in a way nobody else can, and in the sometimes humorless world that is Gotham that is a godsend. He is the closest thing Bruce Wayne has to a father.
There are MANY other members of the Batman Family, including the formerly mentioned (in Part I) Zatanna - a magician who can wield magic by speaking backwards; Batwoman, Kate Kane - a kick ass military brat and the first homosexual to lead Detective Comics; Catwoman, Selena Kyle - who is somewhat reformed and actually has been let in on Bruce Wayne's secret; and more Robins than you can shake a stick at.
One thing Batman does in spades is keep a certain distance from others, but over the years he has accumulated more compatriots in crime than even the usually sunny Superman. Why? I think for somebody as pained as the Dark Knight, you need others to keep you from going over the edge, especially when most of the villains you fight are violent lunatics.
Next Time on The Batman Primer: Batman's Rogues Gallery
Thanks Crystal for the fascinating post!