While reading the book description, you had a hunch. While reading the first chapter, you had an idea and if you’ve made it to the last page, then you should outright know that Kid Silver: Alone is inspired by the Dark Knight and the Boy Wonder. While describing Kid Silver: Alone, I commonly referred to the book as Batman and Robin with the serial numbers filed off. I’ve had a lot of weird ideas about Batman and Robin, foremost being the relationship between Bruce Wayne and the various Robins.
One day, in the late summer of 2012, I was watching Justice League: A New Frontier on cable. There’s this scene, in which Robin makes a cameo, bounding in while Batman has a conversation with Superman. Superman notes Batman’s new clothes, (he had traded in his black and gray costume for a blue and gray one.) and that he had a kid running around the cave.
“What’s with the kid?” Superman asks.
“It’s my job to stop criminals. Not to scare children.” Batman replies grimly. I should mention that this statement is in reaction to an earlier scene where Batman is rescuing a child from a Doomsday cult. Batman had beaten the cult members to a bloody pulp with the aid of two detectives, one of whom becomes The Martian Man-hunter. The child recoils from Batman and one of the detectives, Jon Jones’s partner, scolds him, saying “ Give him some room. You’re scaring the kid.”
We all know the origins of the first Robin or, at least, we know a version of the origin. We know that Robin’s parents were performers in the circus and that they were murdered, much like Batman’s parents. Batman and Robin, sort of, bond over their shared tragedies and Batman teaches Robin how to be a hero. When Batman said, “It’s my job to stop criminals. Not to scare children”, the Robin origin changed into something dark and interesting. In this incarnation, Batman had made Robin into a tool, like his new blue suit. He was using Robin to make himself appear less intimidating to children, which was actually the DC’s reasoning for creating the Robin character. Batman had been growing darker and more authoritative in children’s eyes, so they created a character, a child character, garbed in bright red and yellow.
There are deeper tones to the Gray Knight and Kid Silver relationship than one of a man using a child as a tool, but that’s how the idea began and I couldn’t help but keep that dynamic for a little while. The Gray Knight gives orders to Kid Silver in the same way that someone might give orders to an iPhone 5. ‘Maxwell, get rid of the body.’
I turned to the Internet, asking the question: Do you think Batman loves Robin? The Internet hadn’t disappointed me, giving me a slue of disgusting suggestions, but among the notions of Robin’s sexual slavery, I had gotten answers referring to Batman’s and Robins relationship as being brotherly rather than a relationship between a father and a son. Although Robin is called a sidekick, they consider Robin to be a partner to Batman, instead.
The seeds of Kid Silver: Alone had also begun with a half-formed three-panel joke for a comic strip I had thought up. The joke made its way into the end of the book when Boss Vincent is speaking with Maxwell. Batman and Robin race into an abandoned Planetarium (because they apparently fucking have those). Mr. Freeze has turned the lens of the Planetarium’s giant telescope into a freeze ray and he threatens to throw Gotham into a new ice age. Mr. Freeze’s henchmen aren’t scientists. They’re guys who get paid to hit other guys. I doubt that they’d know how to work a freeze ray. They’re just there to get in Batman and Robin’s way while the freeze ray warms up (or cools down. I’m not sure how a freeze ray works.) In a lot of cases, Robin is there to keep the henchmen busy while Batman goes after the main bad guy. In this case, that’s Mr. Freeze. Technically, in this scenario, Robin and the henchmen can just go home, nothing they can do will change the outcome of this fight…or will it? That’s where the joke falls apart. I could easily see the henchmen running out to grab a beer while everything gets figured out, but I can’t see Robin doing that. Even if Batman were to have his neck broken in front of Robin, I think Robin would stay and fight. Robin is called a sidekick, but I think he knows what it feels like to be a hero, to be a real hero, to fight when you had no hope of winning.
This sparked an idea inside of me. I was curious how Alfred would feel about Robin looking to finish the work of the slain Batman. Dr. Sparks and Alfred don’t exactly maintain the same role, but Dr. Sparks was born out of the reaction I expected out of Alfred. If Batman and Robin had a brotherly love, who was their father? In my opinion, that would be Alfred. One of the major problems with new writers writing Young Adult fiction is that they forget that the main character is under-aged, therefore there lives are governed by a parent r guardian. There has to be a reason why the parent or guardian is allowing the main character to go on the adventure.
For Harry Potter, his parents were dead and his guardians didn’t care about him. With Ender of Ender’s Game, his parents didn’t have a choice in the matter. The government wanted Ender and his parents couldn’t say anything about it. In The Hunger Games, the main character’s father was dead and her mother didn’t have a choice. In the case of Kid Silver: Alone, Harry Garrison forced him into this adventure and Dr. Sparks tries his hardest to stop the adventure from happening, but can’t. I imagine that Alfred would have tried to stand in Robin’s way if he could. He would have lost one sudo-son. He wouldn’t have been able to lose another one. He wouldn’t allow Robin to risk it.
Next, let me ask you a question. Is Altruism real? Do you believe that it is possible to do a good deed without any reward what so ever? Something you may have noticed in this novel, is that there are no classic hero moments. No instances where a wide-eyed beauty clasps her hands together and says, ‘Oh, you’re my hero’ to Maxwell. It’s a half-explored concept that I can’t take all the credit for, but every heroic act Maxwell engages in is tinged with some sort of major failure. In the first chapter, where Maxwell and Harry seek to save a rich man’s daughter, they find her long dead and Maxwell remarks on how all the criminals would probably end up back on the street because he and Harry hadn’t been cops. They hadn’t read anyone their Miranda Rights.
Think about being a hero who can only fail, who is always a few moments too late to save the girl. How long do you realistically think you could keep fighting crime when you know that people are going to die anyway. How long before you walk away?
If I were to make another Kid Silver novel, Maxwell would not be Kid Silver anymore. Part of it is obvious. He had been arrested for Aggravated assault on a Police Officer and Assault with A Deadly Weapon on a Police Officer. He’s not getting out of jail anytime soon. Therefore, he wouldn’t be a Kid Anything, anymore. The other part is that Maxwell had seen too much failure as a hero. The victims will cry out, but he would learn not to listen.
Throughout Kid Silver: Alone, Maxwell tears his life apart to save the day. To stop Alan Sown, he had to lose Elena, his first love. He had to turn on Dr. Sparks, his only positive father-figure. He had become a fugitive, sacrificing his own identity as a hero. Ultimately, he even loses his freedom. With each knick and tear, he could have stopped. He could have walked away, but instead he raged forward like someone crawling across broken glass and barbed wires to save another’s life.
Like I said, I hadn’t thought this concept out completely. Most of it happened on accident, but while editing it, the question kept arising. When Harry was kidnapped, I asked myself if I would save him. When Maxwell had been beaten unconscious by the villains of North City and Dr. Sparks takes him to New York, I asked myself if I would go back. When Elena died, I asked if I would still think the city was worth it. Maxwell is the ultimate Altruist, in my eyes because he doesn’t even get to have the feeling that he was right in his actions. He gets absolutely nothing from his adventure except for the peace of jail cell.