So this is pretty cool. Artist Sean Murphy (The Wake, Punk Rock Jesus) is working with longtime Batman writer Scott Snyder on a story for next year's Detective Comics #27, a special 96-page book celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Dark Knight's first appearance in the 27th issue of that series' original volume in 1939. A character in that piece will be a new Robin who will be the first African-American to wear the iconic "R" badge.

"First black Robin in Detective #27! From me and Scott Snyder," Murphy tweeted earlier today. He followed up with the above image, captioned "Loose pencils of the first black Robin!" There was much rejoicing. Then a couple of hours later, Murphy returned to Twitter, saying, "Thanks everyone for your excitement about the new character! Just to clarify, this isn't an official new Robin--my story with Scott Snyder is is set in an imaginary future. Sorry for the confusion, I should have been more clear."

It is gratifying to see a young black man wearing the Robin costume, but an unhappy feeling to realize it's only happening for the first time in 2013. There have been numerous versions of Batman's Boy Wonder since the sidekick's introduction in 1940, but to the best of our knowledge none of them have been black. Certainly none of the so-called "in-continuity" Robins, who've all been white heterosexual males -- with the obvious exception of Stephanie Brown, a white woman, and Damian Wayne, who everybody but those of us with names like Khouri seems to forget is of Middle Eastern descent. (They did of course kill one of those white Robins but three or four wasn't enough so they had to bring him back to life -- I guess we'll see if the Arabic Robin rates a resurrection)

Murphy and Snyder's Robin is part of a favorable trend in superhero diversity that our own Andrew Wheeler has written about extensively. Given the quality expected from collaborations by the creators of The Wake (both distinguished Batman authors in their own rights), it seems a shame to bench this new Robin after a one-off story. But given DC's history of pulling future events and characters out of seemingly non-canonical sources. How much of the DCU has been borrowed from The Dark Knight ReturnsKingdom Come and The Golden Age? Damian Wayne himself has roots in the non canonical Batman: Son of the Demon. There could yet be far more to this new hero than anyone knows.