DC Comics is making mainstream media news with the release of “Batman Inc #8.” The events of the issue have been spoiled by news outlets from coast to coast. The events have to do with Batman’s partner Robin aka Damian Wayne. But isn’t Robin really Dick Grayson? Wasn’t Robin killed in the 1980s? This list looks at the various incarnations of Batman’s sidekick over the last 73 years.
Almost since his introduction in 1938 the adventures of Batman have been associated with his partner, Robin the Boy Wonder. But do you know that since the Dynamic Duo was formed in the April 1940 issue of “Detective Comics” (issue number 38), that there have been at least six different characters aiding Batman in his quest to protect Gotham City?
The original Robin, Dick Grayson, is by far the most famous. Appearing in countless cartoons as well as the campy 1960s Batman television series played by Burt Ward Dick Grayson was the Boy Wonder for generations. In the comic books, Dick was Robin up until 1984 when he graduated from the role to assume a new one in the comic books.
Batman was left without a partner and it is a position that he has had some difficulty keeping filled.
The original is always the greatest. From 1940 to 1984, Richard John Grayson played the roll of Robin Boy Wonder. He was a wave of color paired with a Dark Knight.
Created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson, the character debuted in “Detective Comics #38.” Grayson was the son of the “Flying Graysons”, the husband and wife acrobat team that wowed crowds for their death-defying aerial maneuvers. When the mob got involved with the circus they performed in, The Flying Graysons could defy death no longer.
Bruce Wayne took the young Grayson into his home as his legal ward. Bruce had suffered a similar tragedy losing his parents to senseless crime.
Dick would become Batman’s partner Robin donning a colorful costume reminiscent of the performance costumes his parents had worn. His acrobatic prowess was second to none and he became a valued ally in Batman’s war on crime.
As the character got older he sought his independence. Robin’s adventures with the Teen Titans took him further and further from Batman’s side. In “Tales of the Teen Titans #44” Marv Wolfman and George Perez had Dick “graduate” from the role of Robin to that of Nightwing. Nightwing’s adventures continue in the pages of “Nightwing”.
But without Robin, Batman had to find a new partner.
With Dick Grayson going off on his own as Nightwing and becoming a more active member of the Teen Titans, Batman needed to find a new partner.
What he found was a young street orphan trying to steal the tires off the Batmobile. This orphan was Jason Todd who eventually came to help Batman stop a gang of thieves. After intense training the street tough, who was not as good as Dick, became Robin. His life was marred by tragedy as his mother was a drug addict that had died of an overdose, and his father was hired muscle of the villain Two Face who disappeared after a failed caper.
As Robin, Todd was more rebel than hero. He often went against Batman’s wishes and often found himself in hot water. This did not help him much when he found himself on the wrong end of the Joker’s crowbar.
The rebellious Robin had failed to win the hearts of Bat-fans across the world. He was often seen as whiney and paled in comparison to Dick Grayson. His lack of popularity caught up with him in a controversial story.
In “Batman #428”, Jason Todd had run away from Batman believing his mother was still alive. He found her working for the Joker. In “Batman: a Death in the Family”, Jason found himself caught by the Joker and with Batman nowhere near to help him.
The death of Robin was the outcome voted on by fans in a 1-900 number that was posted in “Batman #427”. Fans could call one number for Robin to live and the other number for Robin to die. By narrow margin the fans chose death. In 1988, Batman was left Robin-less yet again.
Death being what it is in comics, nothing is permanent, Jason found his way back to the land of the living in 2003. But he gave into his darker urges and was more suited to playing the outlaw role as the Red Hood. Now he fights his own fights as an anti-hero in the pages of “Red Hood and the Outlaws.”
We go from the least popular Robin in Jason Todd to the fan-favorite Robin in Tim Drake. Timothy Jackson Drake was slowly worked into the Batman mythos. Introduced as a spectator at the circus where original Robin Dick Grayson’s parents were killed in the pages of “Batman #436” (the issue is a retelling of Dick’s origin).
That night had left an impression on Drake for years to come. He had seen the deaths of two high performing acrobats, a hero he had looked up to in Dick Grayson had lost the most important people in his life and he saw Batman in person.
Drake followed the exploits of Batman over the next few years. He pieced together the knowledge he had of Grayson and the timing of Robin’s first appearance. He knew that Dick Grayson was Robin and that Bruce Wayne was Batman.
After the death of Jason Todd, Tim Drake noticed Batman becoming harsher and more violent. He determined Batman needed Robin to mellow him out and keep him steady. He first went to Dick to plead with him to be Robin again. But Nightwing had moved on from being Robin.
Taking matters into his own hands, Drake wore the costume of Robin and saved Batman from Two Face. With the original Robin, Nightwing, and Batman’s loyal butler Alfred vouching for Tim, Batman agreed to train Tim as his new Robin.
For what he lacked in physical prowess Tim made up for in smarts. A detective in the vein of Batman he was one of smartest heroes going.
DC Comics not being fools spun the new Robin into three mini-series before launching an ongoing “Robin” series. Tim’s adventures lasted for 184 issues in the Robin series not counting specials and mini-series. Tim Drake was popular.
But even Tim felt the need to move on from being Robin. For a brief time he quit the role to spend time with his sick father, but he came back. When it looked like Bruce Wayne had died he donned a new costume identity, Red Robin.
Today Red Robin serves the role of leader to the Teen Titans much like the original Robin had done before him. You can read those adventures in the pages of “Teen Titans.”
When Tim Drake quit being Robin, Batman found a new one in Tim Drake’s girlfriend Stephanie Brown. Introduced in “Detective Comics #647”, Stephanie set out to “spoil” the plans of her father the Cluemaster. She became the Spoiler and would move on to become a romantic foil for Tim Drake in his solo “Robin” series.
In “Robin #126”, Stephanie became Robin much to Tim Drake’s chagrin. He tried to stop her but Batman took her under his wing. Despite his careful training, Stephanie is too undisciplined to be Robin and Batman fires her.
Unhappy that she lost her job as Batman’s sidekick, Stephanie sets out to prove Batman wrong and unwittingly ignites a gang war in Gotham City.
In the “War Games” storyline, Stephanie is captured, tortured and murdered by Black Mask.
Stephanie’s death was faked by a one-time ally of Batman to teach him and any other youth a lesson about what happens when you get involved in Batman’s war on crime.
Stephanie was not finished and with the encouragement of the original Batgirl she becomes the new Batgirl, but as a result of the New 52 the adventures of Stephanie Brown as Batgirl came to an end and she has yet to be seen in the new universe created in September 2011.
Stephanie Brown was not the first female to play Robin. That honor goes to Carrie Kelly who in the pages of “The Dark Knight Returns” by Frank Miller becomes the Robin of the future.
Carrie’s parents were not killed by some enemy of the Batman, rather she was neglected by them. She ends of saving Batman’s life and is welcomed into his war against the mutants.
In the sequel to “The Dark Knight Strikes Again”, Kelly returns as the new Catwoman leaving her Robin days behind.
Damian Wayne’s status as Robin may be up in the air after the events of “Batman Inc #8” by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham. But this current Robin is actually the son of Bruce Wayne.
Bruce had a love affair with the daughter of his enemy Ra’s al Ghul, Talia. The two shared a romantic affair in the pages of “Batman: Son of the Demon” by Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham in 1987. A child was born, and then in 2006 the child was reintroduced in “Batman #655”.
Having been raised as the grandson of one of the most deadly terrorists in the world, Damian was skilled in many disciplines of fighting. At age 10 he is more dangerous than any of the previous Robins.
Damian became Robin when his father seemingly died in the events taking place in “Batman RIP.” He became Robin while the original Robin, Dick Grayson, became Batman.
A far more arrogant Robin than any of the priors his personality gets him into more trouble. Originally put in the role of Robin so Dick Grayson could keep on eye on him, Damian grew into the role and when his father returned as Batman he began fighting by his father’s side in the pages of “Batman and Robin” and “Batman Inc”.
As Damian finally seems to be catching the same popularity as Robin that was reserved for Dick Grayson and Tim Drake it looks like DC Comics is about ready to shake up the Batman mythos once again.