Chapter 41: Dick Grayson
By Brian Mark
Richard Grayson was born an ordinary boy, in an ordinary house, into an ordinary family. As a child, he looked quite ordinary. He had an ordinary schooling. Most of his friends were ordinary. Then Batman happened ! A man half-Bat, half-man, or so he thought ! What had happened to this man, to give him the abilities and character of a bat ? Who was he ? Where did he live ? And Dick, as he had become known, was one of the few young boys ever to have talked to the Caped Crusader ! Well, that's what he said. As you and I might have figured, Dick was the last boy to learn the true nature of the hideous game played out over Gotham, when Fighter Planes and Apache Helicopters blew large holes in the City !
How Dick wanted to talk to him for real. How he wanted to be like Batman. How he wanted to join Batman ! Batman was anything but ordinary, and what he did was anything but ordinary ! After his brief encounter with his hero, he tried to be where Batman might appear, near burning buildings, or the scene of a crime ! But to no avail.
He almost got his wish one day, at the scene of a fire, but the Man In Black was too busy to talk to him, before finally rescuing three children in front of his very eyes. Batman had arrived in the Batmobile, activated the fire depressant system, before exiting and dashing up to the building. How amazed he was to see Batman use his utility belt, taking the Bat Grappler and firing it roof-wards, then climbing like a monkey up the cable, and along several ledges, until he was able to enter the children's bedroom, then leaping, using the memory mechanism in his cloak !
It was an experience as frustrating as it was inspiring. Batman cared about people, and was prepared to take great risks to help them, and sometimes he took on the bad guys. If ever he was to team up with his idol, he would need to buff up his physique quite a bit, improve his fighting skills ( These were non-existent ! ), and be able to pull off death- defying feats. So Dick took up weight-training, karate and gymnastics !
In his admiration for the Caped Crusader, he was not alone. Bruce Wayne's alter ego had inspired others to take up the cause. There was Hawk, Falcon, Kestrel, Osprey and Eagle, all of whom had only first made their appearance soon after that episode with the American Air Force over Gotham. They always acted as a group, never separately, and started to hit the headlines, just like Batman !
They had started tentatively at first, then had become rather emboldened, especially after beating even Batman himself to the scene of a fire ! But who were these guys ? Certainly Dick Grayson wanted to know. He would give anything to be able to join them, given that Batman was more like an inaccessible dream. … It was only when he had been at Gotham High for a few years, that he was to find out.
He was revising in the Library at the time, and overheard the most fascinating conversation between two final year students. Now, either they were acting out a rather bizarre fantasy, or they were part of the very select group he wanted to join:
- There's something big on tonight.
- Are you sure ?
- Yeah. Hawk says there is a stake-out down at the docks, and, that it is on for tonight ?
- What time ?
- 7.30. Can you make it ?
- Try and stop me !
To say that the young Richard Grayson was intrigued would be an understatement, to say the least ! He decided to go down there himself, that evening, armed only with binoculars, remaining at a safe distance, to see what might happen.
It transpired, that it was a Police Stake-out, and that there was a suspected drugs shipment due to arrive around8.00 pm. Well, he certainly wasn't disappointed, for, rendez-vousing close by the main dock gates were Hawk, Falcon, Kestrel, Osprey and Eagle !
And it wasn't long before he saw some action. … Once the Police began their arrests, the guilty parties spread out everywhere. Some escaped, but Dick felt privileged to see Falcon descend, Batman-like, from the top of a container, land on one, engage in a full-blown fight, then successfully apprehend him. He was soon joined by the others, one of whom had caught a second suspect. They tied the two to the main gates, then vanished into the night !
Well, that was it for Dick. If the two guys were there in the Library next day, he was going to ask to join ! … Well, they were, ... and he did !
- Excuse me. I don't know what you mean, kid.
- But, I heard you talking yesterday. I followed you. I saw you catch those bad guys.
The two heroes look at each other, then one says:
- Okay, Dick. … You certainly look a bit older for your age. We can't exactly promise anything, but give us your number, and if the others say it's okay, then we'll get back to you.
Later that day, Guy Baker ( Hawk ), Jill Easterby ( Kestrel ), Josh Crowe ( Eagle ), Simon Clark ( Falcon ) and Park Yung ( Osprey ) meet, agree that Dick should join them, and give him the all-important phone call ! ( They felt they only had one option, as the identity of two members had already been compromised. )
Richard Grayson couldn't believe it. Things like this didn't happen to guys like him. …. But, when he finally came face to face with the members of the team, he realized that all of them seemed like ordinary guys, just like him, and so they were. All of them had never been given any particular recognition or respect, prior to their new lives as heroes. They had all felt like nobodies, before donning the costumes, and finding adventure in their new roles. Simon and Josh were the guys he had met in the Library at Gotham High. Guy, Jill and Park were all third year students at Gotham University.
Dick would always remember his first day, December 6th, St. Nicholas' Day, snow on the ground, and birds singing in the garden outside.
- ( Hawk ) Okay, Dick, you know the score. You know how dangerous this all is. We have tried to discourage you, and you still are as keen as ever. All that remains is to give you a name. Remember, all we can let you do for now is to be our look-out, to watch our backs, and warn us if anyone gets too close.
Just then, Jill Easterby notices a rather daring little bird land by the window. Perhaps you can guess what sort of a bird it was !
- ( Kestrel ) What about 'Robin', Dick ?
They all agree:
- Yeah, Dick. 'Robin' sounds great !
Dick really iwasn't that happy at all. He had always had in mind a grander kind of name. …. But he couldn't very well argue with a unanimous decision, and reluctantly agreed. And so Robin was born ! It was as simple as that ! It was as ordinary as that !
And they were to have many interesting, sometimes hair-raising adventures. … Suddenly, Dick Grayson didn't feel ordinary at all, even though, of all the heroes and villains in Gotham, his was, by far the most ordinary name !
Dick would always press to be given a more prominent role in their operations. … He had, after all, begun to impress the others with his not insignificant karate and gymnastics skills. Until:
- ( Hawk ) The mission after next, Dick. Then you're on. .. And we might just give you another name !
That very evening, Robin gets a call. Josh Crowe has intercepted a police report about suspicious activity in the Rainbow Plaza. …. They all make their way there, with Dick bringing up the rear as usual. Hawk instructs him to take up a position overlooking the apartment in question.
But, unknown to the group of would-be super-heroes, they are about to interrupt a secret Team Six Operation, on behalf of Harvey Dent himself ! And they've been spotted !
- ( Scribbs ) Boss, we have a problem. … It's Hawk, Falcon and Co. … They're about to compromise the whole op. What do we do ?
- Kill them all !
- Sorry, Sir ?
- I said, kill them, ... akk of them.
- Roger that.
Suddenly, as if played out in slow motion, the young Robin sees masked men, dressed in night combats, emerge from nearly everywhere around his friends, unleashing a hail of bullets, cutting them down one by one ! …. Only his higher vantage point saves him from the attention of Team Six. ….. Approaching Police sirens encourage the sinister S.W.A.T. team to disperse very professionally into the night, leaving Dick in a state of profound shock on a roof-top overlooking the scene. But, even he soon realizes he has to disappear, before the Police fan out to investigate what has happened, and he makes his way home ( He doesn't remember how.) to his parents.
He is absolutely terrified. He can't understand what has happened. And he can't imagine any of his friends surviving the attack he has witnessed. He doesn't sleep at all that night. In the morning, as he switches on the news, his worst fears are realized. All his friends are dead. Jill was still alive at the scene, but was pronounced dead on arrival at Gotham General. It had been a clinical operation, on the part of the killers, reminiscent to the young man of Special Forces operations he had seen rehearsed on documentaries he had watched on TV.
Dick felt so guilty. Everyone was dead, but he had survived. If only he had been more careful, maybe he could have warned his friends.
The newspaper reports read:
Entire Band of Young Heroes Slaughtered !
A Generation Weeps Loss of Heroes
Only Batman is Left Now
A week later, they were all buried together, side by side, in a special part of the Gotham City Cemetery reserved for citizens the City wishes to honor in some way. Dick is there, as is the Billionaire, Bruce Wayne and Assistant Police Commissioner, Harvey Dent !
Of all those in attendance by the graveside for the committals, Bruce notices a young man, no more than a boy, crying uncontrollably, absolutely inconsolable. It strikes a chord with him, to see the boy's reaction to the deaths of these young people. He goes up to him, and places his hand on the boy's shoulders:
- Are you okay, son ? Where are your parents ? Was one of them a friend of yours, family maybe ?
- Look, Mister, please leave me alone.
- I understand. ( Handing him something. ) .. Look, please take this, this is my card. If you ever need a job over the school vacation, why not give me a call.
- Okay, thanks, Mister. …
- Sorry, … my name's Bruce Wayne.
- Dick Grayson. ( He shakes his hand.)