A ‘Very Special Issue’ of Robin


TV comedies, particularly American ones, have quite a history of ‘Very Special Episodes’ which tackle a serious theme in a serious manner, often very badly.  The term is usually applied in a mocking fashion, and seems inappropriate to use in conjunction with an episode that actually succeeds at doing more than preach.  Science fiction and fantasy often get away with tackling more of those serious issues than comedy or even ‘straight’ drama can do, as you can wrap things up so much in metaphor, pretending that since people with bumpy foreheads or pointy ears aren’t really human, we can examine their oddly-familiar prejudices and foibles more objectively.

Anyway, the world of comic books is not immune to the ‘Very Special Episode’ phenomenon, though in this case it’s a ‘Very Special Issue’.  AIDS is now a common subject, as are the many and varied forms of prejudice.  Sometimes this works magnificently (there was bucketloads of social commentary in Green Lantern/Green Arrow back in the 1970s, for instance) and sometimes it’s even more stilted and preachy than television manages.  This month sees an example of a very good ‘Very Special Issue’, in the form of Robin Vol. 2 #156

The title character has not had a good time in the last eighteen months or so.  Some of those closest to him have died, often quite horribly, while others have ‘turned to the dark side’ as it were, and several bystanders have been hurt when Robin feels he could have/should have saved them.  In this issue, the weight of all these concerns is weighing heavily on the young man when he sees someone standing on the edge of a tall building’s roof.  And so two young men talk.   Just talk.  No super-villains, no car chases, no fireworks, no frills.  Writer Adam Beecher and artist Freddie Williams II give the readers a remarkable sense of two young men, disappointed in different ways by themselves and their world.  The situation, and what it means for Robin’s character, fits perfectly in with this stage in the overall story of the series and it manages to avoid being stilted, preachy or embarrassing.  The only thing that could mark it out as a ‘Very Special’ issue, either in marketing or the issue itself, is a small panel at the end giving the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  A beautifully written and drawn issue with many plaudits due to all involved.

Maybe it’s my history of mental illness which makes me view this issue so positively and to endorse its ‘conclusions’ so heartily.  Or maybe it isn’t, I don’t know.  But just in case anyone’s reading this and is wondering – no, suicide really isn’t a good option.  It’s not going to help you.  It’s not going to solve any problems.  And it really won’t make things any better for anyone else, either.  Situations in life and chemical imbalances in the brain can make it seem like an attractive option, so seductive and alluring.  It can present itself as the cure to all ills, an end to all physical pain and emotional turmoil.  But it’s not.  Suicide is not painless, for you or for anyone else. 

You may feel alone, but there really will be at least one person you can trust, who cares, and who would be devastated.  Talk to them.  Or if you can’t, talk to someone who doesn’t know you.  In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is on 1-800-272-8255 and in the United Kingdom, the Samaritans can be found via 08457 909090.  Please, if you are at that low ebb, call them.  Take it from someone who has been there – it’s a hard thing to do, but it is by far the best option.

  1. When Jim and I were taking foster parent training, there was a whole class on recognizing suicidal kids and what to do about it. Thanks for bringing this sad and pervasive problem to our attention.

    Our instructor referred to suicide as “the ultimate temper tantrum.” There is something to that description.

  2. For whatever reasons the stuff you have been posting in the last few weeks is absolutely top notch and on such varied themes. Well done for writing this piece, and the advice offered for people. I hope you get a massive readership to appreciate, and use, the advice.

  3. Well, thank you. *blushes* I’m glad my ramblings are enjoyed. And I hope they can be of use to someone – just one person is enough of a ‘massive readership’ for me in this particular instance.

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