Carrie Kelley in The Dark Knight Returns
|First appearance||The Dark Knight Returns (1986)|
|Created by||Frank Miller|
|Alter ego||Caroline Keene "Carrie" Kelley|
Caroline Keene "Carrie" Kelley is a fictional character from Frank Miller's graphic novels Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and its sequels Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again (2001-2002) and The Dark Knight III: The Master Race (2015-2017). She becomes the new Robin in The Dark Knight Returns when she saves Batman's life. Later in The Dark Knight Strikes Again, she adopts the identity Catgirl, and in The Dark Knight III: The Master Race, she adopts the identity Batwoman. She was the first full-time female Robin in the history of the Batman franchise, though Julie Madison had passed off as Robin for a brief time in a Bob Kane story published in Detective Comics #49 in March 1941.
According to Frank Miller, the idea to create Carrie Kelley was sparked by a conversation of him with superhero comics veteran John Byrne while they were flying to an Ohio comic convention. When Miller told Byrne he was writing a Batman story featuring an old and crankier Batman, Byrne recommended him to make Robin a girl and drew him a sketch. Miller liked the concept so much and ultimately included it into The Dark Knight Returns.
Fictional character biography
The Dark Knight Returns
Carrie Kelley is a 13-year-old schoolgirl and scout whom Batman saves from a sadistic group of Mutant gang members on the night of his return from retirement. Idolizing the Dark Knight, she then spends her lunch money on a Robin outfit, sets out to attack petty con-men and to find Batman in the hope of becoming his partner. Kelley uses a slingshot and firecrackers as weapons. She also wears green-tinted sunglasses in lieu of a black harlequin mask. Like most of the young characters in the book, she speaks in a futuristic slang that Miller credited colorist Lynn Varley with helping to create.
Unlike most versions of Robin, Kelley is not an orphan, but she appears to have rather ignorant and neglectful parents who are never actually seen – one of them mutters "Didn't we have a kid?" while their daughter is witnessing the fierce battle between Batman and the street gangs known as the Mutants. It is hinted through their dialogue that they were once activists and possibly hippies during the 1960s, but have since become apathetic stoners.
In the series, the government's banning of superhero activities and Jason Todd's death had led to the Dark Knight's retirement, but Batman accepts her as Robin when she saves his life just as he is on the verge of being killed by the Mutant Leader by jumping on him from behind and tearing at his eyes. She half drags him back to the Batmobile and makes a sling for his arm out of part of her cape and a piece of pipe. He often threatens to fire her but she shows considerable ability and improvisation which impresses him enough to give her a stay of dismissal even when she disobeys his orders. The police, now led by newly appointed Commissioner Ellen Yindel, takes a very poor attitude to Batman and his methods and issues a warrant for his arrest. When she sees Batman with Kelley leaping in mid-air and barely catching a passing hang-glider, Yindel adds child endangerment to the growing list of charges against Batman.
As Robin, Carrie plays a crucial part in tracking down and confronting the Joker who (at a fairground) has poisoned several children and planted a bomb on a roller coaster. While Batman goes after his age-old nemesis, Carrie manages to dispose of the bomb but gets into a tangle with Fat Abner, Joker's accomplice. As they grapple together, Abner is decapitated by an over-hanging section of the track, driving Carrie momentarily into shock and tears, but recovering enough to rescue a seriously injured Batman from capture by the police and help heal his wounds with Alfred Pennyworth. Unnerved by Batman's activities, the United States government sends Superman to bring the Dark Knight down. As the big battle is about to start, Carrie delays Superman's arrival using the tank-like Batmobile and a slingshot, to which the Man of Steel simply replies "Isn't tonight a school night?". Using a variety of powerful weapons, including self-made kryptonite, Batman manages to defeat Superman but "dies" in the process. It later emerges that he had faked his own death and Carrie unearthed Batman from his grave soon after he revived. They then go underground to the Batcave where, with Green Arrow, they set about training various teenage street gangs into an army that is to deal with "worse than thieves and murderers".
The Dark Knight Strikes Again
Three years later, Kelley has begun calling herself "Catgirl". She still remains Batman's able second-in-command. She wears a skin-tight cat costume with a leopard pattern, and is now trained extensively in combat. Her equipment includes motorised rollerskates and an arm cannon that fired batarangs. Catgirl's main duty is to oversee an army of Batboys to help save the world from a police-state dictatorship, led by Lex Luthor and Brainiac. She leads them into battle, liberating imprisoned heroes such as the Atom and Flash. But she also causes serious injury to a Batboy who exceeded her orders by maiming and killing a couple of police officers. She beats him up and tells the others to treat him but not bother with anesthetic. Once alone, however, she breaks down in tears but is offered a comforting hand by Batman. She has been referred to as "The daughter [Batman] never had" but also as "jailbait".
Carrie eventually comes into conflict with a supernatural man resembling Joker and attempts to kill the man with arrows, thermite, acid and C4. However, the man still returns to make an attempt on her life in the Batcave, turning out to be a now-homicidal Dick Grayson having resented her because he had been shoddily treated and dumped by Batman. Her lips are badly lacerated and several of her bones are broken in the fight. Thinking that she is about to die, she tells Batman that she loves him, with Batman later reflecting that he feels the same (Frank Miller clarified in an interview in the book Batman through the Ages that Batman saw Carrie as a daughter, meaning Carrie most likely saw Batman as a father figure). Batman, however, arrives and stalls Grayson long enough for Ralph Dibny to get Carrie to safety. It was noted that Carrie was developing feelings for Atom.
The Dark Knight III: The Master Race
Three years after being missing, Batman makes some appearances in Gotham for the first time. After a confrontation with the GCPD and Commissioner Yindel, Batman is apprehended and unmasked revealing it is Carrie Kelley under the cowl. She claims Bruce Wayne is dead. Later, Kelley tells Yindel the story about Batman passing on his bed after been beaten by a villain. While being transferred to Blackgate prison, Kelley remotely activates a tank that attacks the convoy and helps her escape, then she reunites with Wayne at the Batcave.
Kelley and Wayne see the news on the Kandorians, led by Quar, giving mankind three days to surrender to their demands and accept them as gods. Bruce and Carrie go to the Fortress of Solitude and wakes Superman, who has been sitting and covered by ice for three years, up. Carrie reunites with the Bat Boys Army while Batman and Superman defy Quar. After being defeated by Lara, Superman is encased in black matter by Quar, who turns to Gotham and demands them for Batman to be handed over to him or face obliteration. Bruce presents Carrie, as “graduation present”, a green and purple Batgirl gear and sent her on a mission to engage Aquaman’s help to find and free Superman.
After the Kryptonians are defeated, Carrie is attacked by Baal. She defends herself and using a slingshot and a small kryptonite rock she disfigures Baal’s face. Lara confronts Carrie and it’s about to kill her when Diana stops her. Carrie witness the fight between Diana and Lara, impressed by the power both of them show. Later, Batgirl finds out that Batman was killed by Quar before escaping. She talks to Yindel at the destroyed batsignal and tells her to get a new one to stay in touch. While discussing with The Flash in the Batcave, a younger Bruce comes back after being immersed by Superman in the Lazarus Pit.
While following a lead on a crime, Commissioner Yindel is captured by Bruno and the Jokers but is saved by Batman and Batgirl. They then head to the desert where the Kryptonians are joining forces again and use a band of bats to confuse them, causing to disparately attack themselves, the rest are eliminated by the four remaining Quar’s children. Superman, Batman and Batgirl then attack them but they go nuclear and are about to explode when The Atom appears and reduces them in size so the explosions are insignificant.
Two months later Superman is nowhere to be found and Bruce wonders where he could be. Carrie shows up with a new black suit and formally becomes Batwoman.
The New 52
In September 2011, The New 52 rebooted DC's continuity. In this new timeline, Carrie Kelley makes her first appearance in Batman and Robin #19 (titled Batman and Red Robin). She is a college student and Damian Wayne's acting instructor. As a homage to The Dark Knight Returns, she wears a Robin costume as a Halloween costume on her first appearance.
In Batman Annual #2, in a world where Batman and Catwoman have grown old together, Carrie is among those of the Bat family standing by Bruce's bedside as he dies.
- In The Batman & Robin Adventures #6, a tabloid spreads the rumor that Batman is seeking a new partner to serve as Robin, resulting in several imitators donning the Robin costume and taking to the streets in attempts to impress Batman. Among them is a redheaded female who uses a small bomb to interrupt a meeting between Batman, Robin, Commissioner Gordon and Detective Bullock, and announces her name as Carrie. Carrie tails Batman for the rest of the issue, continually causing problems with the kidnapper of another Robin pretender who expects a solitary meeting with Batman.
- Carrie Kelley appears in the Ame-Comi Girls books as the Robin of that universe. In this continuity, she is the cousin of Barbara Gordon to whom she acts as a sidekick. When Batgirl is kidnapped by Duela Dent, Carrie enlists the aid of Steel and the Flash in order to help rescue Batgirl.
- In Batman: The Brave and the Bold #13, the Phantom Stranger summons all of the Robins, including Carrie, Stephanie Brown, Nightwing, Tim Drake, Damian Wayne, and Jason Todd to save Batman. Throughout the issue, she constantly uses slang words from The Dark Knight Returns, like "shiv", or "billy." Nightwing notes that Carrie may not have as much physical strength as the other Robins, but she makes up for it in enthusiasm and attitude.
In other media
- Carrie Kelley makes her animated debut in The New Batman Adventures episode "Legends of the Dark Knight", voiced by Anndi McAfee. She is a young girl in the present time that describes what she (as Robin) envisions Batman as being like.
- The Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "The Knights of Tomorrow" features a futuristic version of Batman (Damian Wayne) seen ready to bring down a group of Mutants with his own son (voiced by Sebastian Bader) that slightly resembles the Carrie Kelley version of Robin.
- The Carrie Kelley version of Robin appears in the Teen Titans Go! episode "The Best Robin", voiced by Scott Menville. She is part of a team of Robins that eventually becomes consumed by competition to determine which Robin is the best one.
- In the Unikitty! episode BatKitty, Dr. Fox dresses up as "Girl Robin" which is similar to Carrie Kelley.
- Carrie Kelley was confirmed to appear in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice by director Zack Snyder via his personal Vero social network account, played by an uncredited actress. Jena Malone was rumored to be portraying Kelley, this was later revealed not to be the case as Malone ended up playing Jenet Klyburn in the film's Ultimate Edition. Malone was also rumored for the role of Barbara Gordon. In the Ultimate Edition home release of the film, a red haired young woman with distinctive goggles appears during the "Knightmare" dream sequence, helping Batman battle an enemy army of Parademons, until she is killed. Director Snyder also confirmed she was Batman's sidekick Carrie in that dream sequence and would have been so if the dystopic, possible alternate reality of the DC Extended Universe continuity depicted in said scene had come to pass.
- The Carrie Kelley version of Robin appears in the two-part animated adaptation of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, voiced by Ariel Winter.
- Carrie Kelley/Robin appears in a one-page article in Comics Collector #8 (Krause Publications, Summer 1985), predating her first comic book appearance.
- Betancourt, David (February 22, 2016). "Frank Miller on his 'Dark Knight Returns' 30 years later: 'I was rooting for Batman all the way'". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.
- "Comic book artist and writer Frank Miller," Fresh Air (November 14, 2002): "Frank Miller: 'The whole thing actually comes by way of Lynn Varley and her brothers. . . . It was a way that they spoke in their neighborhood in Livonia, Michigan. It's simply a reverse way of speaking in patterns.'"
- Esposito, Joey (April 5, 2013). "The Dark Knight Returns' Carrie Kelley is Back". Retrieved April 6, 2013.
- The Batman & Robin Adventures #6
- Ame-Comi Batgirl #1
- Ame-Comi Duela Dent #2
- "Zack Snyder Planned to Introduce a Female Robin into the DCEU". Comic Book Resources. July 31, 2018. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
- ""Dark Knight Returns, Part 1" Debuts Action-Packed Animated Trailer". Comic Book Resources. 2012-07-31. Retrieved 2013-12-09.