Working towards a Bachelor of Arts, Simran writes articles on modern history, art theory, religion, mythology, and analyses of texts.
Kid by Simon Armitage creatively explores the multilayered relationship between Batman and Robin through recomposing the graphic series Revenge of the Red Hood. The consistent use of intertextual references to the film Batman: Under the Hood, investigates elements of the duo’s relationship.
The establishment of Robin’s superiority in comparison to Batman is utilised through questioning Robin’s sidekick status and Batman’s heroism. Ultimately, through the use of different techniques, Armitage effectively challenges internal, external and fluid identities. There is an image of the full poem at the end of this article.
Internal and External Identity
Robin’s internal locus of identity as an independent young man combats his external identity as a sidekick. The term “boy wonder” is shown to reduce Robin to his status as Batman's apprentice. This suggests that society created a dependent, inadequate external locus of identity for Robin’s name since “wonder” implies that Robin is an idealist rather than a realist. Nevertheless, the phrase “boy wonder’s” definition is a “young man who has achieved more than expected for his age,” creating the question as to why Robin had not yet surpassed his universally viewed sidekick status.
Instead, the term “boy wonder” is overshadowed by the title Kid that Robin combats throughout the poem. This is evident through the persona’s utilisation of alliteration “robin redbreast/roll” and internal rhyme “over/clover.” The techniques stated highlight Robin’s rejection of being identified as a passive sidekick though his hyperactive narrative voice. Thus, Kid ensnares Robin’s attempt to overcome his external identity through alliteration and internal rhyme.
National Poetry Day 2010: Simon Armitage Reads Kid
The multifaceted relationship between Batman and Robin challenges Robin’s external identity as a “kid.” Armitage’s Robin bears parallel links to Jason Todd who is known as the second Robin in the DC universe. In particular, in Under the Hood's Jason Todd (Robin) is referenced as “kid” due to his arrogance. The term “kid” suggests that Batman identifies Todd as immature. This is explicitly revealed through the first two lines where Robin recounts Batman ordering him to “grow up.”
Therefore, Batman played a significant role in diminishing Robin’s external identity to that of a child. Resultantly, Todd attempts to dominate this with his internal identity, “I am the real boy wonder.” This portrays Todd’s struggle to escape the shadow of Batman and the first “boy wonder” (Dick Grayson) since he claims he is the “real” one. Nonetheless, this creates uncertainty since Robin has to remind himself that he is the “real boy wonder” to avoid succumbing to Batman’s constant claim that he is a “kid.”
Furthermore, colloquial language such as “doffed” encompasses strong vowels that imply that Robin harshly spits out the words. This ensnares the frustration that Robin feels when viewed as a "shadow" to the accomplishments of Batman. Ergo, the rejection of Robin’s external identity is a prevalent theme within Kid as demonstrated through the challenging of the title.
Artimage points out flaws within the relationship between Robin and Batman through Robin’s satirical tone. To illustrate, Robin states that his relationship with Batman was superficially based on Batman posing as a father figure. Robin conveys this through his bitter tone, stating he “scotched” their relationship. Robin utilises irony, “[Batman] ditched me, rather, in the gutter,” in order to reconstruct Batman’s persona into the shady character that murdered his parents.
This ironically compares Robin to Batman’s dead parents. This is a satirical stab at Batman since he agonises over the death of his parents instead of saving the current family he has. Thus, Robin challenges his relationship with Batman through ironic and satirical language.
The fluidity of identity is investigated throughout Robin and Batman’s relationship. This is highlighted through the rejection of Robin’s sidekick status. Robin’s statement, “turned the corner” is a significant metaphorical and literal reference to how he abandoned Batman. This is reinforced through this intertextual reference toward Robin’s rejection of Batman after his resurrection.
Thereafter, "turned the corner" symbolises Robin’s belief that Batman had "ditched him in the gutter" when Batman was unable to save Robin or avenge his death. Hence, the reference to his resurrection explores the fluid ways identity changes due to new experiences as shown through consonance, “I’m taller, harder.” Evidently, the use of metaphoric language and consonance clearly illustrates the fluidity of identity.
Batman: Under the Red Hood—The Death of Jason Todd
Kid explores the incompetence of Batman’s external identity. The mention of the pressure cooker is a sensory metaphor for the ticking of a time bomb, alluding to the motif of bombs utilised within the Batman comic books. To illustrate, Todd’s death came at the mercy of a time bomb, which intertextually references Todd’s death.
The sound of ticking alleviates anxiety which demonstrates how Robin attacks Batman’s flaws to diminish his heroic identity. This is supported through the mindset of Todd who believes his demise would have been prevented if Batman had killed the Joker. The dramatic monologue builds into a crescendo of confidence that causes Batman’s heroic facade to become “next to nothing,” beside it. Henceforth, through examining Batman’s characterisation, Robin is able to challenge Batman’s external identity.
Kid’s Robin challenges popular perceptions of Batman by deconstructing his superhero façade. The persona suggests the unreliability of heroic figures that is hidden from a child’s perspective is uncovered through maturing. Robin highlights the irony of classing Batman as a superhero through mentioning his adulterous affair with a married woman, "holy roll-me-over in-the-clover." This suggests that the respect that Robin once held for Batman had been diminished through his moral ambiguity.
This iambic pentameter utilises intertextuality to Batman’s opening theme song's tune, demonstrating the dramatic way that Robin emphasises the irony of Batman’s fame. Furthermore, the iambic pentameter creates a strong rhythm that embodies Robin’s aggressive tone to polarise his identity against Batman. Hence, the use of iambic pentameter becomes a symbol of Robin’s escape from his former life as Batman's shadow.
The Batman Theme Song
The use of bathos challenges Robin’s attempt to escape his external identity. The irony in Robin attempting to establish his “taller, harder,” character is that he can only portray his identity by comparing himself to Batman. This creates an anti-climactic environment that contradicts Robin’s establishment as an anti-sidekick persona. Thus, the triviality of Robin’s contrast between himself and Batman detracts from the seriousness of the poem.
Through interpreting Robin and Batman’s relationship, it is clear that the nature of identity is one filled with complexity. The locus of Robin’s internal and external identity is thoroughly explored through the terms “kid” and “boy wonder” and the inclusion of bathos. Batman’s superhero identity is challenged through flaws such as his inability to save Robin. Kid makes it exceedingly clear that the duo’s relationship is made up of complex elements that continue to fascinate the Batman fanbase today.
- Grant Morrison, Revenge of the Red Hood, Comic strip. DC Comics 2009-11: Volume 1, issues 4-6
- Bruce Timm, Bobbie Page, Scene 1, Batman: Under the Hood directed by Brandon Vietti (Manhattan, New York: DC Comics, 2010), DVD