Any great heroic journey relies just as heavily on the characters surrounding the protagonist as the scale of the story, and with Batman: Arkham City, Gotham’s dark knight will be accompanied by more than a few familiar faces. While Robin the Boy Wonder won’t be joining Batman in the singleplayer portion of the game, the artist behind the character’s new design has opened up about the classic sidekick’s new look, and his brand new backstory.

When we got our first look at Robin, it was clear that Rocksteady Studios had done a great deal of work making the campy sidekick fit into the much darker and gritty reality of Arkham City.

A black and white piece of advertising artwork can only do so much though, and now the developer has given a few more details on the reasoning behind the pre-order-bonus Robin’s rougher appearance, and what distinguishes their version from what fans may be used to.

Comic book fans are notoriously set in their ways, so there’s a good chance that the new incarnation of Robin will raise a few eyebrows among the hardcore. But let’s be honest, in Rocksteady‘s horrific and ghoulish version of Arkham City, the standard orphan-acrobat archetype just wouldn’t ring as true as the rest of the fiction.

While Robin was initially created as a character for young comic book readers to identify with, the developer’s Senior Concept Artist Kan Muftic has now explained that they had very different intentions this time around:

“We wanted to create a Robin that players would identify as a contemporary character and move away from the traditional “Boy Wonder” image that most people know. Our vision of Robin is the one of a troubled young individual that is calm and introverted at times but very dangerous and aggressive if provoked. The shaved head is inspired by cage fighters, because we thought that Robin might be doing that in his spare time to keep him on his toes. Still, we kept all the classic trademarks of Robin’s appearance, such as the red and yellow colors of his outfit, the cape and the mask.

“We really hope that people will discover our Robin as one of their new favorite characters in the Batman universe. He is back and he means business.”

With many fans already voicing their disgust with Robin’s shaved head, it goes without saying that the idea of him being a cage fighter will receive just as mixed a reaction. But Rocksteady’s work so far has been overwhelmingly promising, most recently with their new vision for the Penguin.

In case you’re unconvinced that the classic inspiration for Robin has been completely eradicated, the newest bit of concept art released shows the final colored costume. It may be new, but there’s still plenty of nods to the original design. Have a look:

Batman Arkham City Robin Costume

It’s one thing to make serious changes to the appearance and context of a superhero, but if the developers have any plans to expand Robin’s role in future games, it will be interesting to see how they weave this new fiction into the current storyline. Arkham City may be restricting the Boy Wonder’s role to challenge maps alone, the explanation for the design choices imply that the developers may have larger plans in mind.

We know that Catwoman will be a playable character, so it’s not much of a stretch to think of Robin playing the same role in  a potential sequel. That will likely depend on how well fans react to the new sidekick, but we can’t help but think that at this point. Rocksteady has earned the benefit of the doubt.

What are your thoughts on the idea behind this new version of Robin? Are your initial concerns lessened with a fully-colored and hooded costume? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.

Batman: Arkham City will be released on October 18 for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.