Who is Robin?
Robin is arguably the most famous superhero sidekick in comic book history. Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson originally created Robin back in 1940, in an attempt draw in a younger demographic. It worked and Batman comic book sales almost doubled.
Bill Finger, the writer of Batman comics, used Robin as Batman’s Watson. Sherlock Holmes was able to use Watson as a way to express his thoughts and Bill was looking for a way to break the tediousness of having Batman’s dialogue constantly be his thoughts. Robinson, the artist designed look of Robin after the medieval costumes in The Adventures of Robin Hood.
From 1947 to 1952, Robin was given a solo feature in Star Spangled Comics #65-130. Although Robin would continue to have solo adventures throughout his career, he is famously known for his partnership with Batman. Their bond is so strong that the names Dynamic Duo and Caped Crusaders are instantly recognizable. Robin is a permanent fixture in the larger Batman family. However, there have been different people behind the mask. Here we will look at the individuals who have taken on the role of Robin within the main continuity.
Dick Grayson is the original Robin and first appeared in the 1940 issue of Detective Comics #38. Much like Bruce Wayne, his parents were killed while he was a young child. When gangster Boss Zucco wanted to send a warning to the circus about trying to oppose his extortion fees, he sabotaged the trapeze equipment. Dick was the youngest member of his family’s Flying Graysons trapeze act. He escaped death, but watched his family die from the tampered equipment. Bruce Wayne was obviously hit hard by the similarities from his own childhood and took Dick in as his legal guardian. They investigate the incident and brought Zucco to justice.
Bruce Wayne losing his parents at a young age not only traumatized him, but also caused him to be raised without a mother and father family structure. This explains why Bruce thought it was a good idea to take an 8 year old Dick Grayson and let him fight crime as his sidekick Robin. Dick would continue his career as Robin for decades. In comic book time, this was through his college days at Hudson University.
Dick would eventually break out on his own and join The New Teen Titans. To show his independence from Batman, he started operating under the name Nightwing. Dick was still part of the Batman Family and would work with his former partner on several occasions. He even filled in for Batman, when Bruce Wayne was thought dead, but actually traveling through time.
The second person to take on the role of Robin was Jason Todd. He was created by writer Gerry Conway and artist Don Newton for the 1983 issue of Batman #357
Jason Peter Todd was clearly used to keep the Robin character as consistent as possible, when Dick Grayson became Nightwing. Jason was also part of a family acrobat troupe. This time, Bruce Wayne adopted Jason, after his family was murdered by Killer Croc. Jason and Dick were not exact copies. Jason had red hair and was extremely cheerful. When he first started fighting crime, Jason wore his circus costume. I am not sure how well this actually would have hidden his secret identity. Dick Grayson would later give Jason an official Robin costume and fully endorse Batman’s new partner. Jason went even further and dyed his hair black, to match Dick’s.
The Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline reimagined Jason’s origin, so that his character would be completely different from Dick Grayson’s. Todd was changed to an orphan with naturally black hair. He crossed paths with Batman, when he was trying to steal the Batmobile’s wheels. Rather than throw him in jail, Batman put him in a school for troubled children. Jason was asked to be Robin, after Grayson became Nightwing.
Unfortunately, readers didn’t connect with Jason. DC comics gave fans the option to kill or save Todd by calling a 1-900 number. Readers voted 5,343 to 5,271 in favor of killing Jason off. Jason Todd was killed off in A Death In The Family storyline. DC didn’t pull any punches either. The Joker beat Jason with a crowbar and then blew him up in a warehouse.
Rarely does a character stay dead in the world of comics and Jason is no exception. With the use of Ra’s al Ghul’s Lazarus Pit, Jason would come back to life and assume the identity of the Red Hood. He lost his cheerful personality and was much more brutal in his tactics. In one of the multiple Earth storylines, Jason briefly took on the persona of the Red Robin. He returned to the Red Hood, when everything went back to normal.
After Jason’s death, Batman editor Denny O’Neil wanted to bring Robin back into the comics. Writer Marv Wolfman and Artist Pat Broderick would then create the third character to take on the Robin mantle. Timothy Drake first appeared in the 1989 issue of Batman #436. He would not become Robin until Batman #442.
Tim Drake had been following Batman and Robin since seeing the Flying Graysons killed. He was a natural detective and deduced the Dynamic Duo’s secret identities. After Jason was killed by the Joker, Tim noticed Batman becoming more reckless and violent. Knowing his secret identity, Tim intervened and tried to help. Batman was hesitant to take on a new partner, but he finally agreed to allow Tim to become the new Robin. Batman made sure to have him train with several fighting masters and gave him an armoured costume, that added more protection. Tim was not as skilled in combat as Dick, but better than Jason. However, it’s his detective skills that have put him above other Robins.
DC once again rebooted their comics and Tim was given a new origin to fit their New 52 Universe. Timothy is now an athlete and computer genius. He came close of figuring out Batman and Robin’s secret identities, but never completely put the pieces together. After Jason’s death, Timothy approaches Batman to become his new sidekick. He is rejected, so devises a plan get Batman to come to him. He hacks into the Penguin’s bank account and donates the money to charity. This provoked the Penguin into attacking him. His plan worked to well and the Penguin came after him and his family. Batman saved them, but Tim’s parents are put into the Witness Protection Program. His parents wanted a better life for Timothy and ask Bruce to help. Wayne adopts Timothy and names him Tim Drake. When Tim is accepted as Batman’s partner, he takes on the name Red Robin. He does not use the name Robin to show his respect for Jason Todd.
Stephanie Brown was created by writer Chuck Dixon and artist Tom Lyle for the 1992 issue of Detective Comics #647. Unlike previous incarnations of Robin, Stephanie was not originally created to take on the responsibilities of Batman’s sidekick. She was the daughter of Batman’s enemy the Cluemaster. However, rather than being a criminal like her father, she became an amateur superhero called the Spoiler. She did not take on the role of the Girl Wonder until the 2004 issue of Robin #126. Stephanie would be the first female to adopt the Robin persona within the regular Batman continuity.
Stephanie Brown was dating Tim Drake, when his father forced him to quit being Robin. She tried to cheer him up, but thought she caught him cheating on her. (He wasn’t.) In anger, she makes her own Robin costume and insist Batman take her on as his new partner. Batman reluctantly agrees. He put her through an intensive training program and fashioned her a better costume. Stephanie’s time as Robin was extremely short. Batman was not only concerned with her skills, but also angry that she continually disobeyed his orders. After Batman fired her, she attempts to to prove herself by initiating one of Batman’s unfinished plans to rid Gotham of its gangs. She accidentally sets off a gang war and is captured by the Black Mask. The Black Mask then tortured her to get more information on Batman’s plans. She escaped, but dies from her injuries anyway. It was later discovered that Dr. Leslie Thompkins faked Stephanie’s death to save her and discourage other kids from trying to be superheroes. This clearly didn’t work, because other children would continue to take on the responsibilities of Robin and Stephanie herself would later operate as the Spoiler and Batgirl.
The events of Flashpoint would erase Stephanie’s time as both Robin and Batgirl from the DC continuity.
Damian Wayne was originally conceptualized by Mike W. Barr and appeared as an unnamed baby in the 1987 Batman: Son of the Demon graphic novel. The character was utilized in several DC storylines, but it was writer Grant Morrison and artist Andy Kubert who realized the character the world would know as Robin. He was revealed to be Damian Wayne in the 2006 issue of Batman #655 and took on the role of the Boy Wonder in the 2009 issue of Batman and Robin #1.
Bruce Wayne was unaware that he had a son with Talia al Ghul, until she left Damian with him. Bruce felt a strong paternal bond with his son, but had many obstacles to overcome in raising him. Damian had been trained by the League of Assassins to kill and was supposed to be the new host for his grandfather Ra’s al Ghul’s soul. This experience detached Damian from a moral code and caused him to struggle with discipline. Despite these emotional struggles, Damian did feel an affection toward his father. When Batman appeared to die during the Final Crisis storyline Talia left Damian in the care of Dick Grayson and Alfred Pennyworth. At the conclusion of the Battle for the Cowl storyline, Alfred bestowed the title of Robin to Damian. His first mission was to rescue Tim Drake. When Dick Grayson officially filled in for Batman, while Bruce was traveling through time and dead to the world, he kept Damian on as his Robin. At 10 years old, Damian was only a couple years older than Dick Grayson’s original incarnation. Dick trained him, as he felt Bruce would have done. After Flashpoint, Bruce Wayne returned and reclaimed his position as Batman. For the first time, biological father and son were the dynamic duo. Damian would used the identity Red Bird for a short time, because his mother had placed a bounty on him. Sadly, Robin is a dangerous occupation and Damian would die while fighting a swarm of Leviathan henchman and his older clone Heretic. Damian was stabbed in the heart, while protecting an unconscious NIghtwing. The loss of his son would send Bruce into an even darker descent, than when he lost Jason Todd.
This list does not cover the Robins in other Earths or Elseworlds.
Those will be presented in a different article.
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