It’s not just a name: it’s a responsibility and a call to action. Being Robin doesn’t signify weakness or youth, but rather, loyalty and teamwork. Throughout the years, only a small handful of candidates have ever deemed themselves worthy of the title of Robin, Batman’s right-hand partner in the fight against crime. If you have ever thought of Robin as a less-important part of the Batman Universe…think again. We decided to take a look at each Robin, and the skills and abilities that they each brought to the pages of Batman comics.
First, there’s the original classic: Dick Grayson. Without question, Dick is the greatest Robin to ever wear the red, green, and yellow. Without Grayson, it’s highly doubtful that any of the latter Robins would have followed. In many ways, Dick Grayson brought the most to the table, and had the most struggles to deal with. First and foremost…he had to convince Batman to break from his mold and take a partner under his wing (pun intended). Bruce Wayne’s reclusiveness and desire to fight alone have often made him the rogue of the DC Universe.
Simply put, Batman hates working with others. But then…something changed. In Detective Comics #38, 1940…an 8-year-old boy was left orphaned by a mad-man, and guess who came to investigate? In that moment, Batman felt something that he hadn’t felt in a long time: empathy. He sympathized for Dick Grayson, this spirited child who had all of the joy taken away from him in the blink of an eye. Bruce Wayne knew that feeling all too well, and took it upon himself to be the legal guardian of young Dick Grayson. Dick was Batman’s first child, in many ways. Working with Alfred, Bruce was able to raise Robin and turn his life around. Shortly after, Dick earned his wings (again…pun intended) as Robin, the Boy Wonder! Working alongside Batman, Robin quickly became a force to be reckoned with, and a poster-child in the world of Superhero sidekicks. Dick’s wittiness and acrobatic abilities made him the perfect match for Batman. The rest is history.
When Dick Grayson got older, he decided it was time to leave the “sidekick” title behind, and adopted the superhero persona, Nightwing. It took DC quite some time to finally “graduate” Dick Grayson…over 40 years to be specific. But in Batman #357, 1983, Batman met a boy with a very familiar backstory. Jason Todd was the son of circus acrobats, who, like Dick Grayson before him, was left orphaned after Killer Croc murdered his family. Batman, having an empty mansion once again, decided to take Jason in. Soon enough, you guessed it, Jason Todd was wearing his own Robin costume. Batman had a brand new young ward at his side, with a similar set of skills and a similar disposition for justice.
But Jason’s personality swayed more on the verge of recklessness. Often, Jason’s anger would get the better of him, and Batman was forced to intervene. Jason Todd’s story is one that changed Batman in many, many ways when Bruce Wayne’s second son/sidekick made one of the most meaningful and heartbreaking sacrifices in comic book history. In the now infamous A Death in the Family storyline, Jason Todd and his true birthmother are captured by The Joker. Trapped in a room rigged with bombs, Jason — in a brave and selfless effort to save his mother — sacrifices himself as the bombs go off. Jason Todd’s death is Batman’s greatest failure to this day. His grief and guilt as a result of Jason’s death fueled rage and frustration within Batman’s already troubled mind. Nearly as infamous, however, was Jason’s resurrection years later…as the anti-hero known as the Red Hood. The story arcs that followed are a testament to the relationship that Jason and Bruce had shared, now tarnished and frail.
After Jason Todd’s death, Batman’s recklessness and anger had driven him to a point of near no-return. However, a new young boy came along who would change all of that: Tim Drake. An avid fan of the circus who had witnessed Dick Grayson and Jason Todd before him — and studied their tricks and acrobatics — introduced himself to Batman and asked for a chance to be the new Robin. In a lot of ways, Tim Drake’s Robin mantle was the most difficult to earn, as Batman forced Tim to prove himself in a series of rigorous training exercises and tests. Ultimately, Batman deemed Tim worthy, and gave him the suit he had been looking for. Tim Drake brought a unique and determined personality to the character of Robin that hadn’t existed earlier. In his older years, Tim “evolved” his persona to the more mature, adult hero, Red Robin.
Tim Drake’s girlfriend, Stephanie Brown, was next to take on the Robin persona. Yet her eagerness to fill the heavy shoes before her — and to please the man who had given her the chance to become Robin — ultimately led to her downfall. Her inability to follow orders and her desire to prove herself on her own resulted in her deliberately disobeying Batman on numerous occasions, and as a result, Stephanie was the first Robin to be fired by Batman.
Stephanie had worked hard at becoming Robin, and she decided to try one last time to take one of Batman’s unfinished plans to bring peace to Gotham into action. However, she accidently set up a gang war that ultimately led to her untimely death. In recent years, it was revealed that Stephanie Brown actually faked her own death, and now she fills the role of Batgirl.
Batman has had many lovers throughout the years, and even a few biological children (depending on your sources), but none are as famous as Damien Wayne, son of Bruce Wayne and Talia Al’Ghul. Bruce did not know about Damien until Talia introduced them, when the lad was already a young pre-teen trained in the ninja arts of the League of Shadows. Damien’s name was no coincidence, as he soon proved himself to be a handful, but Bruce still allowed him to become the next Robin. His aggression and desire to kill in the name of justice constantly clashed with Batman’s ideals, and the two often had to hash out the right and wrong way to do things. Damien had to learn Batman’s ways, which was tough after being raised in such an aggressive environment.
Damien still fights crime alongside Batman in the current scope of the DC Universe, but only time will tell how well Damien’s experience as Robin will end up and what the future of Damien Wayne has in store. In some future storylines, Damien Wayne ends up taking over the Batman mantle for Bruce, but only time will tell if that future holds true.
While there have been 5 Robins in the main Batman storylines, several other Robins have come and gone via alternate Universes, alternate Earths, and various other storylines. Perhaps most well-known from those stories is Carrie Kelley, Batman’s young ward in The Dark Knight Returns series by Frank Miller. Carrie actually saves Batman’s life — resulting in him taking her under his wing and passing the Robin mantle down to her — and eventually became a fan-favorite. Carrie is renowned for technically being the first female Robin in print — and for being the only Robin with living parents (aside from Damien of course). Rumor has it we’ll be seeing her in next year’s Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, so make sure you look for her.
The time we could devote to this awesome list of individuals is endless but what you really should get out of this article is that being Robin is one of the most prestigious honors in the world of comic books. The several faces who have represented that title have given it their all, and have proven their eagerness and ability in so many ways. Do yourselves a favor and read more about these awesome personalities. Their stories just might change the way you think about the notion of sidekicks.