"The Robins" Author: Ricky Chruch (Follow RICHARDCHURCH16)
Date: April 19, 2015
This year marks the 75th anniversary of Robinís introduction into the world of Batman and comics, the longest time any superhero sidekick has existed in the industry. Robin, however, hasnít remained one person throughout this time, but became his own symbol in Gotham City. Many have taken up the mantle of The Boy Wonder through the years so letís have a look at who has donned the mask.
Without a doubt the most famous of the Robins, Dick Grayson was first introduced in 1940 as Bruce Wayneís ward and nocturnal partner-in-crime-fighting. Originally conceived as a simple marketing tool to draw young readers in, Dick Grayson has grown into a remarkable character.
Dick grew up with his parents as a family of travelling trapeze artists, The Flying Graysons, with Halyís Circus. When the circus manager refused the offer of a mobsterís Ďprotectioní, the mobsters sought to make an example of the circus and toyed with the trapeze wires. Dick was fortunate enough to be on the landing when the wires snapped, but it resulted in his parents plummeting to the ground. Unfortunately he was now an orphan, but luckily for him, another orphan was sitting in the audience. After witnessing the Graysonís untimely deaths, Bruce Wayne took pity on the young boy and offered to let him stay at Wayne Manor.
Dick immediately brought a sense of energy to the manor that hadnít been felt since Bruceís parents were alive, but he was still drowning in his own anger and depression over his parentís murder. Eventually Bruce revealed his secret to Dick in an effort to help him cope with his despair and so became Robin, a nickname his mother used to call him, wearing the suit and colours of his family in a way to honour them.
Dick excelled at his training, but still had trouble following Batmanís orders in the field from time to time. As he grew older, he began to resent the control Batman enforced upon him (just like any teenager with angst would). Eventually he left Gotham City and established his own superhero persona, Nightwing. He became a capable crime fighter on his own and further earned Batmanís pride and respect at his skills.
Dick Grayson as Nightwing
Recently Dick took up the Mantle of the Bat when it was believed Bruce Wayne had died at the hands of the intergalactic tyrant Darkseid. During that time, he displayed he was worthy of wearing the cowl, though heís currently faked his death to join break up a secret spy ring.
Thereís little doubt Dick is the best and most popular Robin, seeing as how he has been in the two 1940s BATMAN serials, the 1960s BATMAN television series and film, two of the Burton/Schumacher films (BATMAN FOREVER, BATMAN AND ROBIN), several episodes of the BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, and in a couple of episodes of BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. Hopefully he can become Nightwing again sooner rather than later.
Not long after Dick left, Batman came across a young boy trying to steal the tires off the Batmobile. As a street orphan who lost his parents to drugs and crime, Batman wanted to prevent Jason from joining the criminal element and help channel his rage. Jason, however, proved to be too far gone in his anger as he acted more recklessly than Dick ever did. He displayed questionable morals as he often pondered if the city would be better off if they killed thugs and nearly avenged his fatherís death by coming close to killing Two-Face.
His most (in)famous moment, however, came at the hands of Batmanís archenemy, The Joker. As the Dynamic Duo followed The Joker across the world, Robin was captured and beaten to near death with a crowbar by Joker. Realizing Batman would be very upset at Robinís beating, Joker concluded it would be better if there simply was no body to find at all, arming an explosive to blow up the building theyíre in. Batman barely makes it in time to rescue Robin, only finding his corpse. Batman regarded this as his greatest failure that haunted him for years afterward. (Though technically, the fans killed him through a voting process where they could decide if Jason survived the explosion or not)
Nearly 20 years after his death, through a series of convoluted plotlines and retcons, Jason Todd was resurrected and harboured a grudge against Batman for not avenging his death and killing The Joker. He donned the identity of the Red Hood, a reference to one of Jokerís possible origins, and fought crime in Gotham with much more ruthless methods that left bodies in his wake. During Batmanís supposed death, Jason tried usurping the mantle to become the new Batman. After Bruceís return, they eventually reconciled, though he continues using the Red Hood identity.
Jason Todd as The Red Hood
Most fans today agree than Jason was judged too harshly by the fans, seeing him as a bad replacement for Dick Grayson and unworthy of being The Boy Wonder. Since his return, he has become a more nuanced character as he seeks to conquer his darker urges. Interestingly, Jason has never directly appeared in any of the animated series, but only referenced. He finally appeared in the animated film BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD, an adaptation of his death and return depicted in the comics, but his backstory was used for Tim Drake in THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BATMAN.
After Jasonís death, Batman went without a Robin for a couple years, deciding he would not put another young man in danger. That changed on the day Batman met Tim Drake, a young, intelligent teenager who, much to Batmanís surprise, had deduced his and Nightwingís identity.
Batman was initially reluctant to bring Tim on, but Nightwing, after witnessing Timís abilities, endorsed the idea along with Alfred. Their argument was that Batman will always need a Robin. Batman put Tim through an extensive training period to make sure what happened to Jason would not be repeated and was very impressed with Timís intelligence as his new protťgť proved he was a quick learner. Unlike Dick or Jason, Tim put just as much effort into planning his attack just as Batman did. His deductive skills also grew to the point where he was considered the next best detective after Batman.
Tim didnít get praise just from Batman, Alfred and Nightwing either. Even Raís al Ghul recognized Timís potential and offered him the role of his heir after Batman refused so many times. This wasnít just an effort to upset Batman either, it was a sincere courtship for Tim to take Raísí place as leader of the League of Assassins.
Tim eventually followed In Nightwingís footsteps by relinquishing the role of Robin and became his own hero, named Red Robin. For a long time Tim was also considered the leader of the Teen Titans, a group of young sidekicks and heroes wishing to become members of the Justice League. While he has yet to appear on screen, he was the Robin of THE NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES and the second season of YOUNG JUSTICE.
During a brief time when Tim Drake had stepped down as Robin, Stephanie Brown, super-heroine Spoiler and Timís ex-girlfriend, wanted to become Robin. Batman decided to train her, but, though she was quite skilled, she was not on Timís level and disobeyed Batmanís orders on some missions. Batman decided to fire her after that, but Stephanie was quite zealous and stole some of Batmanís plans to destroy the mob in one blow in an effort to prove herself capable to Batman.
Due to her inexperience, the plan backfired and she ended being captured by mobster Black Mask. In a very controversial move, Stephanie was tortured extensively for information by Black Mask and, though she escaped to a hospital, died from her injuries. Before passing, Batman sat by her deathbed and told her she was indeed a Robin.
Fans were upset with how she died and how much of DC management seemed to consider she was never truly a Robin despite what their writers thought. Eventually she was brought back to life through a retcon where Leslie Thompkins, Batmanís close friend and physician, had faked Stephanieís death to protect her from further reprisals by Black Mask and other villains since her identity was discovered. She then became Batgirl for a time, but was taken out of the DC Universe when the company rebooted their comics with The New 52, once again angering the fans. It wasnít until recently she appeared in The New 52 under her Spoiler guise.
The latest person to become Robin, Damien is actually the biological son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul. Trained by the League of Assassins, Damien was bred to be the most dangerous and powerful person in the world. As the Son of Batman and Heir to the Demon, his potential was limitless.
Damien was introduced as a spoiled little brat consumed by his jealousy of the previous Robins. He could not understand why Batman would hold a set of orphans higher than his own offspring and even attempted to murder Tim Drake. Growing up in the League of Assassins, Damien also had no problem killing criminals, something which Batman is obviously strong against. Denied of a real father figure, however, Damien was desperate to impress and willing not to kill people in order to earn Batmanís respect.
During the time Bruce was thought to be dead, Damien became Robin under Dick Graysonís tutelage. They had a rocky start, but eventually worked very well as a team. When Bruce returned, the Batman and Robin relationship took on a new dimension as it was truly a father-son dynamic. Bruce worked hard to curb the Leagueís training and Damienís killer instinct, but Damien also found it impossible to live up to the near-impossible standards of the Batman.
Recently, Damien was killed in the climax of Grant Morrisonís, his creator, long story arc. This put Batman into a terrible depression; not only did he lose another Robin, but he had lost his son. That was until his corpse was recently stolen and he was resurrected, this time with apparent super powers.
Though she is an out-of-continuity Robin, Carrie Kelly has proven to be quite popular among Batman fans for her role in THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.
As the first-ever female Robin, Carrie wasnít an orphan or trained by Batman for months before donning the costume. Carrie was simply inspired by Batmanís return to Gotham City and dressed as Robin, saving Batmanís life from a narrow defeat. From there, Batman implicitly trusted and began training her. Upon faking his death at the storyís end, she went with him to continue her crime fighting training and career.
Recently she made her debut in The New 52 as a friend of Damienís, but hasnít appeared in a while or officially donned the Robin costume. Though she hasnít appeared on screen, a prevalent rumor among BATMAN v SUPERMAN is she will make a cameo appearance. Carrie also made a cameo in an episode of THE NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES as a group of kids told conflicting stories about Batman. She was one of the kids to tell a Batman story which, appropriately enough, was based on THE DARK KNIGH RETURNS. The character was featured proximately in the animated film adaptation of TDKR.
Robin John Blake
Though Robin John Blake is not a traditional Robin or a character from the comics, his role in Chris Nolanís THE DARK KNIGHT RISES was a pivotal one which took the place of The Boy Wonder. Blake helped restore Batmanís faith in the city and his place as its protector. By the movieís end, Blake would (depending on who you ask) also take his first steps to becoming the next Batman.
Blake is also a combination of the three most popular Robins: He has Dick Graysonís day job as a cop, Jason Toddís troubled childhood and discovered Batmanís identity on his own like Tim Drake. The role of Blake was also helped by a great performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitz which really spoke to the legacy of both Robin and Batman. - Ricky Church