The Washington Post

An Open Letter to DC Comics: Why not a Nation of ‘Route 29 Batmen’?

Lenny Robinson was unmasked as a volunteer hero at children’s hospitals. Here’s hoping DC, Marvel and other comics publishers are inspired by such efforts. (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

THERE HAVE LONG BEEN real-life heroes among the folks who write and draw and embody our superheroes.

Adam West, best known as TV’s campy Batman of nearly a half-century ago, was known to visit kids in his full Caped Crusader regalia, Batmobile in tow. And back when Stan Lee was running Marvel, he tells Comic Riffs on Thursday, “We would send actors in Spider-Man costumes to entertain kids in hospitals.”

More recently, we can point to people like illustrator Ray Alma, a DC Comics contributor who has worked with St. Mary’s Hospital in New York, as director of the Ink Well Foundation (“Drawing together for children facing illness”). Or crew members of this summer’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” who last year visited the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (the city where the film was partly shot)..

Even among the fans, St. Louis Superman collector Mike Meyer, for example, last year made a notable donation to a children’s hospital.

Something about superheroes — and kids’ love of them — inspires many of those behind the characters to give, and give back.

But Comic Riffs would hope that this week’s Post story of dynamic do-gooder Lenny “Batman” Robinson — the wealthy Maryland businessman who dons the cape and cowl as he gives of his time and funds in visiting children’s hospitals — would inspire many in the comics publishing and superhero industry to do even more.


DC Comics, of course, already gives some of its art and soul to charity work. Earlier this year, for example, DC and parent Warner Bros. announced that they were launching a massive hunger-crisis campaign for Africa — a great effort for an all-too-crucial cause.

But as Disney/Marvel and Warner/DC fill their coffers this summer with the likely blockbusters “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” they might consider the amount of good that larger, coordinated teams of hired Batmen and Iron Men and Wonder Women could do, in children’s hospitals and elsewhere that needs them.

Lenny Robinson wasn’t the first costumed hero to devote so much energy to sick children. But he currently burns as the brightest superhero beacon of what one man — or one Batman — can accomplish.

Comic Riffs mostly hopes his speeding “Batborghini” blazes a fresh path that inspires superhero publishers — and all of us who love comics — anew.


Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.


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