The Flash will feature the much-anticipated return of Michael Keaton’s Batman, and with this, a potential payoff to a canceled idea from Batman Returns. Michael Keaton’s iconic performance as the Dark Knight in 1989’s Batman and its sequel, Batman Returns, helped initiate the superhero blockbuster movie genre, though both films, while deservedly beloved by viewers, took notable liberties with the comic source material. In addition to eschewing his no-kill rule, the two Burton Batman movies also omitted Robin, Batman’s sidekick and one of his most important supporting characters in the comics. Thanks to the Batman ’89 comic series, Robin will finally make his Burtonverse debut, allowing for a potential reference to the Boy Wonder in The Flash.
There were several attempts to bring Robin into the Burton Batman continuity, beginning with Sam Hamm’s initial script. Nearing Act 3, Dick Grayson’s parents would be killed by The Joker, leading to his adoption by Bruce Wayne and his inevitable first outing as Batman’s sidekick Robin by the finale. However, as a result of there being such a strong focus on Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale’s character development, Robin was written out of the final film. Sam Hamm’s script for the sequel tried to introduce a comic-accurate Robin once more, but the story was drastically rewritten by Daniel Waters, resulting in a significantly different film.
In Waters’ rewrite, Robin was still initially set to appear but was heavily reimagined into a redeemed street criminal at first, then a young car mechanic who becomes an ally of Batman’s. With the Waters script already featuring a plethora of major characters, this new version of Robin, who would have been played by Marlon Wayans, was removed from the final film. The upcoming Batman ’89 comics, however, will officially continue Burton’s Batman universe, and finally introduce the reimagined Robin, which could well also serve to bridge the gap between Batman Returns and The Flash.
The Burton Batman films appear to have a branching timeline, with the two Joel Schumacher movies continuing the story in one branch, and the Batman ’89 comics and The Flash in the other. With Bruce Wayne reportedly taking on a mentor role to the inexperienced Barry Allen, he may reference Robin in some way. This will likely come in the form of a reference, with Robin possibly having grown up and become a hero in his own right (such as Nightwing), or dying in his crime-fighting endeavors. Though unlikely, Robin could even appear in person.
In the first two cases, Robin would have a notable impact on Bruce’s attitude towards Barry, especially with Batman mentoring him. If Robin were to have grown up and become a new hero, he would leave Bruce with confidence and experience at training up-and-coming heroes, and he’d likely readily take on the challenge of mentoring Barry. If Robin died, however, Bruce would likely be a reluctant mentor to Barry, citing his aversion to endangering anybody else in his crime-fighting endeavors, and perhaps only tutoring the young hero due to his advantage of having superpowers.
A genuine appearance of Robin in the film would be a pleasant surprise for viewers, especially if he were to be played by Marlon Wayans as originally intended. The variant covers and concept art for Batman ’89 strongly imply that the unrealized Wayans iteration of Robin will be introduced to the Burton continuity in the upcoming comic series. Wayans himself is in his late 40’s, so while he’d no longer be Batman’s kid sidekick, he could have a surprise cameo as an older and more experienced Robin (or perhaps Nightwing) in The Flash, adding to the lore of the classic Burton Batman universe and making good on a canceled concept from Batman Returns.