In his final years as Robin, Dick Grayson teamed up with many heroes outside of Gotham, but his most amazing collaboration before the crisis on Infinite Earths was with NASA. When he’s not working with Batman, Robin is usually associated with Batgirl, especially in the years after Barbara Gordon’s debut. But the time when Dick was a college student opened his world beyond the set of heroes, and with it a number of strange cases, including in the era of space racing.
Dick Grayson made his debut as Robin in 1940 and spent over 40 years as a Child Prodigy before changing his mantle. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Robin transitioned from Boy Wonder to Teen Wonder, and Dick began his first year as a college student at the fictional Hudson University. Robin began to mind his own business, no longer working strictly with Batman and the Young Titans, although at this time he also often teamed up with Batgirl. Many of his cases took place on campus and were relevant in the “real world”, especially given that the space race between the United States and the USSR had become a major national interest.
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In the minor story of Frank Robbins, Bob Brown, Joe Giella and John Costanza from detective comics #398 and #399, there is a Russian exchange professor on Dick Grayson’s campus who plans to accept a fragment of a moonstone from NASA as a peace gesture. The stone seems to turn a fellow student bright green, and Robin works with NASA to help the student and solve the case. Behind all this is a Soviet professor who wants to sow panic about American space research. Not only does NASA help Robin and his fellow student, literally the lunar module saves the day by knocking out the professor, which allows Robin to grab him.
This case is not only typical of Robin Dick Grayson of that era, it also illustrates what made so many superhero comics of the 60s and 70s interesting – the authors of the comics skillfully explored the problems and interests of “real life”. Robin, who works with NASA in this story, corresponds to the international fascination with the moon landing and space exploration during this decade, and even the international policy towards the Russian professor is based on American anti-Soviet sentiments of that time. Simply put, Robin working with NASA is just fun, and it’s a nice change of pace compared to the usual teams of heroes and heroes that readers see. With NASA back in the news with photos from the Webb Telescope, the District of Columbia should think about bringing back the “real world” fascination with space and NASA into its stories.
Dick Grayson’s affable nature means he often teams up with other heroes, from Batgirl to Superman. But when he was Robin and was a college student, the list of organizations he worked with expanded. In these stories from Detective Comics #398 and #399, he collaborates with NASA, but he also investigates student protests, drama students, and a whole host of other entities unrelated to superheroes. Robin’s world went beyond Gotham, Batman and Batgirl in the 60s and 70s, and his collaboration with NASA proves how wonderful these stories can be.