LEE BERMEJO has never been a big fan of the teenage sidekick — a concept he considers a bit outdated.
Youth movements, though, are a different matter. And that is what Bermejo, as writer (and cover artist), is crafting with DC Comics’ new We Are Robin series, which debuts Wednesday.
The series stars a group of rogue Gotham teens — including our protagonist, Duke Thomas — who are influenced by Robin the Boy Wonder, and involves a yet-to-be-revealed mystery man.
Duke “is kind of our eyes and ears into this world, and we’ll be meeting some other characters through him in the first issue,” Bermejo told The Post’s Comic Riffs.
Duke, as some Bat-fans might recall, was introduced as a young aide to Batman in the “New 52” storyline that retold Batman’s origin in “Zero Year,” by the star team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo. Duke most recently appeared in an emotional scene in which he may have lost his parents in the battle between Batman and the Joker, in Snyder and Capullo’s recently concluded “Endgame.”
There is also the “Futures End” storyline, which hinted at a near-future in which Duke could become a future Robin the Boy Wonder himself.
Bermejo says he did not allow himself to be influenced by any suggested future that Duke may have. Instead, he focused on who Duke is right now, and on using We Are Robin to look anew at how teenage sidekicks can be written.
“I wanted to find a way to play with that [teen-sidekick] concept in a different way than we’d seen before. Part of what was exciting to me [about ‘We Are Robin’] was the idea that there isn’t just one possible sidekick for Batman running around,” Bermejo said. “How much of the heroes’ journey can [these kids] explore on their own without having this parental figure or big brother calling the shots for them.
“I like the idea of creating a group of kids who are independently going about this, and that is something that will be addressed as the series progresses –how they can relate to other heroes in Gotham City? — and where they fit into that whole mix.”
Duke, like all those who have Bat-ties, will face a little detective work on his journey as he tries to learn whether his parents survived the chaos of “Endgame.”
“I wouldn’t go so far to say [Duke] is lost, but other parts of his life are slipping because of the fact that his parents are missing, and he feels like a lot of adults have bailed, including Batman [who remains “missing" post-Endgame],” Bermejo said. “That’s something that is explored in the first issue, and I’ll be expanding on as the series goes forward.”
Duke’s “purpose is really to find his parents. That is going to be a factor that directly leads him into having the first interaction with these Robins,” Bermejo teased.
“These Robins” refers to a diverse group. Issue No. 1 of We Are Robin introduces readers to an Italian American boy named Andre and a Japanese American girl named Rico. These two teenagers have their eye on Duke, as they try to decide whether he’s worth adding to their cause.
And what of the recently resurrected “real” Robin the Boy Wonder, Damian Wayne? Now back from the dead, will the son of Batman sit idle while others are running the streets of Gotham with R’s on their chest? Bermejo hints that Damian could have something to say about that.
“Oh, I definitely think that at some point or another, you’ll have to have a reckoning,” Bermejo said. “They just solicited the fourth issue [of We Are Robin] and Batgirl is on the cover, so I don’t think it’s any big secret that [the Robins] will have interaction with some of the [other Bat-family members].”
Bermejo — who serves as the cover artist on We Are Robin while Jorge Corona, Rob Haynes and Khary Randolph provide interior art — says all Robins, whether it be Damian, or the new group of teens running around in honor of the Boy Wonder, have always been about providing some light and hope to an eternally dark city.
“I really like this idea that Gotham City is this drab and dark place. And Robin is always this ray of color and light,” Bermejo said. Robin “almost feels out of place in that world and that city. We’re trying to play with this idea of this gray world, and these piercing yellow, red and green colors that cut through that.”