Batman's Boy Wonder(s)
Batman is synonymous with Robin, Since Burt Ward first pulled on the lycra to play the hero alongside Adam West’s Batman he has been a fan favourite and has even appeared in the main films, originally portrayed by Chris O’Donnell alongside George Cloony and then in a lesser more discreet way by Joseph Gordon-Levitt at the epilogue of the Dark Knight Rises which perfectly set up a way to continue the films that never came to fruition.
But what about in the comics? Many people have been “Robin” and the reason for a new hero to take the mantle haven't always been the most positive. Today we’re going to explore Robin and who, in the main continuation of DC comics, has carried the title.
Dick Grayson was an 8-year-old acrobat and the youngest one in his family circus act called the "Flying Graysons". The leader of a gang called Boss Zucco was extorting money from the circus and sabotaged the trapeze equipment used by the Grayson’s to teach the circus a lesson when they tried to defy him and not pay him. After this happened the Billionaire Bruce Wayne had the youngster put into his legal care as his ward, and together they investigated Zucco and collected evidence to ensure justice was served.
During his very long run as Robin he was known as the “Boy Wonder” for almost 30 years when in the 70’s he started being referred to as the “Teen Wonder”. During the 1980s The character was given a new lease of life during the New Teen Titans where after over 40 years he steps out of Bruce and Batman’s shadow becoming Nightwing.
Dick later took the mantle of Batman for himself with another of the later Robins when Batman/Bruce had “died” and was time travelling after Final crisis.
DC were reluctant to change Dick to Nightwing and replace Robin and this is easily seen with how the second Robin was introduced to readers.
Jason Todd the son of some acrobats in a circus whose parents were killed by a criminal (Killer Croc this time) and was taken in and adopted by Bruce Wayne. Originally a redhead and started fighting crime in his circus outfit, he was presented with a Robin suit by Dick Grayson and dyed his hair black to look more like the original.
Then. Crisis on infinite Earths happened. And we don’t have time in this article to explain what this was all about but for those that don’t know, just think “reboot”.
So Dick Grayson’s origin and move to being nightwing didn’t change much at all BUT Jason’s origin changed completely. Now a homeless street urchin who Batman caught trying to steal the batmobiles wheels and then placed into a school for troubled youths by Bruce Wayne, Jason later proved his worth by helping Batman catch a gang of robbers and was offered the now vacant position of Robin by Batman.
DC didnt feel that readers had really taken to Jason as Robin and in the late 80s they created a poll which ended in the storyline “A death in the family”. The Poll was “Should Jason Todd be killed” and it was close in results (5343 to 5271). Regardless of the closeness of the results Jason was murdered by the Joker by a beating with a crowbar and leaving him tied up in a warehouse with a bomb. New Robin needed once again.
In later comics Jason is resurrected and comes back as the criminal the Red Hood, later again as a hero with the same moniker.
With the results of the poll being so close DC were confused if people a) didn’t like Robin, b) didn't like Jason or c) just wanted to see if they would actually kill a main character. Since the 1989 Keaton Batman film did not feature a Robin, DC felt they didn’t have to rush on the decision.
Tim Drake, the soon to be 3rd Robin was introduced in a flashback in Batman #436 in 1989. Tim was a young boy that followed the story of the Flying Graysons murder and the adventures of Batman and Robin which was something that DC hoped would link the characters and help readers accept this third iteration. Tim was shown to have extremely special detective skills and whilst following Bruce and Dick’s adventures he works his way round to their true identities.
Waiting to be the “world's greatest detective” a title that was held by Batman at the time, Bruce admits that Tim would surpass even his skills. Tim was not the best fighter, nowhere near the ability of Dick but still shown to be superior to Jason, this Robin was smack bang in the middle of the impudent Jason and the Goody goody Dick.
Later after Final Crisis and Dick became Batman, Time took the mantle of Red Robin.
During the New 52 2011 event (again major reboot”) DC decided that Tim was NEVER known as Robin as it was apparently inappropriate after Jason’s death and instead was always Red Robin.
Anyway he was still alive when he resigned as Robin and reformed the Teen Titans.
Just a quick entry for Stephanie and she didn’t last long. Stephanie was Tim’s girlfriend and volunteered herself as Robin when he resigned.
After two occasions when she refused to follow Batman’s orders she was fired. To prove herself she stole some plans of Batman’s that was to control Gothams crime, the plans were not complete though and this resulted in a gang war and whilst trying to end the war she started she was caught and tortured by the black mask, whilst managing to escape she later died of her injuries… or did she?
No, although for many years that was the belief, it turns out that her death was faked with help to protect her and she ended up being Barbara Gordon’s replacement as Batgirl after years being known as Spoiler.
The story of Damien Wayne is quite disturbing at the start. The child of Bruce Wayne and Talia Al Ghul was conceived after Bruce impregnated Talia al Ghul, After Talia drugged and seduced Bruce with the intention of creating a fetus. Yes that's correct Bruce was date raped.
Damian was carried in an artificial womb so that Talia didn’t have the burden. After being put into contact with a piece of the Chaos shard (something for another day once again), Damian quickly aged, aging 4 years in the space of a normal 12 months. Bruce was unaware that he had a son for many years until Talia left Damian in Bruce’s care. At this time Damian, After being trained by the league of assassins as a master killer and was lacking in discipline and morality. Batman however had vowed to never kill.
Damian’s conception and birth had a really dark reason, to become the vessel for Ra’s Al Ghul's soul and to become a pawn against Bruce. Bruce halted this as Damians fate forced Ra’s to use his own son's body for his soul.
It would be a while before we would see Damian as Robin though and this would only happen after Batman “died” during the final crisis. During the event “battle for the cowl” and in a very convoluted way where all iterations of Robin were involved, Alfred Pennyworth hands Damian a Robin costume and tasks him with rescuing Tim Drake. Damian becomes Robin to Dick Grayson’s batman at this time.
Damian gave up the title of Robin temporarily during the new 52 and became Red Bird after Talia put a price on his head, later died by being killed by an aged clone of himself, then resurrected by Batman using the Chaos Shard.
So there you go, a brief history of Robin in the main comics universe.