If things had turned out a little differently at DC Comics in the 1980s, Batman's third sidekick would've been a former nemesis.
Life was rough for Batman in 1988 and 1989. The second Robin, Jason Todd, was brutally murdered by the Joker during the story arc A Death in the Family, and the death weighed heavily on Batman. Despite his grief and anger, though, he still had a city to protect, and among the threats waiting for him in Gotham City was a new villain called Anarky. The creation of Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle, Anarky first menaced the Dark Knight in the fall of 1989, in the pages of Detective Comics #608.
One issue later, Batman discovered that the man behind the Anarky mask was really just a boy: 12-year-old prodigy Lonnie Machin, a brilliant young man with a fierce belief in radical philosophy who was driven to punish the corrupt and unjust through often excessively violent means. Anarky's vigilante methods put him at odds with Batman, but even as he fought to bring young Lonnie to justice, the Caped Crusader admitted that he couldn't completely disagree with the kid.
So, we've got a young man skilled at fighting evil (even if he doesn't do it in the most delicate way), with a brilliant mind and an ideology that Batman can at least have some respect for. Then we've got this image of Jason Todd woven into a discussion about Anarky between Batman and Commissioner Gordon.
It turns out that, while it might not have been part of DC's larger plan at the time, Alan Grant was sowing the seeds of a future team-up between Batman and Lonnie Machin, and hoped to eventually make him into the third Robin. So why didn't it happen? Well, it turns out that editor Denny O'Neil and writer Marv Wolfman were already sowing the seeds of a new Robin over in the pages of Batman. Grant later confirmed this in an interview with Italian fan site DC Leaguers.
"I had originally hoped, when I wrote the first Anarky story, that Anarky would eventually end up as the new Robin. But, unknown to me, Denny was already working in secret with Marv Wolfman to create Tim Drake."
By the end of 1990, Tim Drake was in a new costume and fighting alongside Batman as Robin, a role he would hold for the next two decades. As for Anarky, he never got a high-profile place in the Batman family, but he's still hanging around the DC Universe today.
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