HISTORY OF THE BATMAN
“Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot.
So my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts.
I must be a creature of the night.
I shall become A BAT!” --
Bruce Wayne, DETECTIVE COMICS #33 (November 1939)
(DETECIVE COMICS #27, May 1939, Art by Bob Kane)
In each version, Robin's bright appearance and youthful enthusiasm have served as a contrast to The Batman's brooding, dark demeanor.
Originally, The Batman was a very dark character (as he has been since a revamp around 1970) that wasn’t very assessable to younger readers. It is been said that Robin was added in 1940 as a means to “lighten up” the Batman comic books and make them more “kid-friendly.” Bob Kane himself preferred the solo Dark Knight. Nonetheless, a sidekick was added and heroes having a younger partner became a staple in comic books for many decades.
ROBIN I -- Richard John "Dick" Grayson
The original Robin was Richard “Dick” Grayson (Grayson as Nightwing, see left). Grayson was part of a family trapeze act known as The Flying Graysons. Like Bruce Wayne, Grayson’s parents were murdered in front of him when he was a child. A gangster named Anthony "Boss" Zucco is responsible for killing Grayson's parents, John and Mary, by sabotaging their trapeze equipment. Bruce Wayne was attending the circus the night of the murders, and eventually took in young Richard as his ward. Later, Bruce adopted Dick and raised him as his own son.
Bruce eventually put the boy through a rigorous training -- teaching him physical, fighting and detective skills. Donning the orange, yellow, and green costume of “Robin,” he became The Batman’s crime-fighting partner and is the best known of the Robins. He has been known as both “The Boy Wonder” and “The Teen Wonder” during Grayson’s Robin career.
Today, Grayson is known as Nightwing. In 1984, the Grayson version of Robin switched crime-fighting personas in TEEN TITANS #44 after a falling out with his adopted father and mentor Bruce Wayne.
Grayson has also served as leader of the aforementioned superhero group, The Teen Titans, as both Robin and Nightwing.
Grayson’s origin as Robin and his relationship with Bruce Wayne/The Batman has remained virtually unchanged in DC Comics continuity since he first arrived in the comic books in 1940.
ROBIN II -- Jason Todd
There have actually been two versions of Jason Todd (pre and post CRISIS). The original version was virtually a carbon copy of Dick Grayson: a circus acrobat whose parents were murdered in front of him. He too was adopted by Bruce Wayne and fought crime in his circus costume, until Grayson presented him with his own Robin suit.
After the DC Comics continuity was revamped in the 1980s in the mini-series, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, the Jason Todd character was completely changed. He was now an orphan living on the streets. The Batman first encountered him when Todd was trying to steal tires off The Batmobile! Todd was then placed in a home for trouble youths.
Eventually, after Dick Grayson became Nightwing (as he remains today) and Todd proved his crimefighting worth by helping The Batman catch a gang of thieves, Bruce offered Todd the “position” of Robin. Todd’s Robin suit was identical to the one previously worn by Grayson.
For some reason, readers never really liked the Jason Todd Robin. In 1988 during “A Death in the Family” storyline, the Jason Todd Robin was murdered by The Joker -- beaten with a crowbar and left in a warehouse rigged with a bomb (The Batman finds Jason - see pic right).
Readers of Batman comics were “Robin killers” as well. They were allowed to vote via a 1-900 number whether or not Todd would survive. By a vote of 5,343 to 5,271, boom goes the dynamite. Readers gave a thumbs down to Todd and the character was killed off.
Or so it seemed for the last 18 years.
Recently, Jason Todd has returned from the dead due to the INFINITE CRISIS storyline affecting all of the DC Universe (It seems that an alternate Earth version of Jason Todd who was not supposed to die, had his consciousness transported into the “real“ Todd, bringing him back to life). A vigilante showed up in Gotham known as The Red Hood (Todd as The Red Hood -- see pic left) and was subsequently revealed to be Jason Todd.
ROBIN III -- Tim Drake
After the Jason Todd Robin was eliminated, the head honchos at DC wondered whether or not to bring in a third Robin, or keep Batman a solo crime fighter. Eventually, Tim Drake was introduced and would go on to be the third and current version of Robin (The Tim Drake Robin -- see pic right).
Unlike Grayson and Todd, Drake was not an orphan. In fact he had a fairly normal life and family. Drake followed the career of The Batman and Robin ever since he himself had witnessed the murders of the Flying Graysons. Drake figured out their secret identities with his amateur but inherent detective skills and followed Gotham’s heroes closely.
Eventually, Tim confronted Dick Grayson/Nightwing hoping to convince Grayson that The Batman needed a Robin -- to remind Bruce what he was like before his parents were murdered. Ultimately, Bruce agreed to bring Tim on as Robin, albeit on a “temporary basis.”
Despite his original “temporary” status, Tim Drake has been Robin ever since.
While Drake originally wore the classic Robin costume, it has since been altered. The first change was made in the early 90s and the “elfish” qualities of the suit were eliminated. Recently, Robin has showed up in DETECTIVE #817 during the “ONE YEAR LATER” DC Comics storylines wearing a suit more inline with that of The Batman’s (Robin's new and current suit -- see pic left). The green color has been eliminated all together (Sometimes his black is "black/blue" and sometimes it seems to be "black/green"). His cape is now scalloped and his gloves sport “fins” like The Batman’s.
In the recent BATMAN comic books -- post INFINITE CRISIS -- Bruce Wayne has offered to adopt Tim Drake as his son. Tim's father was killed some time back, and like both Bruce Wayne and Richard Grayson (the first Robin), he had lost both his parents.
This occurred during the final part of the recent “Face to Face” storyline. Based on Tim’s reaction to Bruce’s offer, Tim will accept. And it will obviously make for an interesting dynamic in the BATMAN comics -- Bruce Wayne, father.
ROBIN IV -- Stephanie Brown
I guess you should count Stephanie Brown (Brown as Robin -- see pic right) as one of the in-continuity Robins. Brown was once known as The Spoiler. When Tim Drake resigned/quit/was fired as Robin for a time, Brown was offered the “position” by The Batman.
Brown, who was always impetuous and careless, was fired by The Batman after a short three-month stint as “The Girl Wonder.”
Even though she was given her pink slip by The Dark Knight, Brown tried to prove her worth to The Batman. She was captured and beaten by the Gotham crime lord known as Black Mask. She escaped, but died not too long afterwards due to her injuries and the lack of treatment by Dr. Leslie Thompkins.
ROBIN ON FILM
Robin has appeared in each on screen film incarnation of The Batman.
In the 40s serials, he was portrayed by Douglas Croft in 1943s BATMAN and by Johnny Duncan in the 1949 serial BATMAN AND ROBIN.
The most famous live-action Robin is probably Burt Ward. Ward played a teenage version of the character in the campy BATMAN TV series of the 1960s -- as well as the one live-action movie based on that show, BATMAN (1966).
During Warner Bros. “Burton/Schumacher” Batman film series (1989 - 1997), Robin made his debut in 1995s BATMAN FOREVER. He was portrayed by Chris O’Donnell (Chris O'Donnell as Robin in BATMAN FOREVER c. 1995 -- see right) and was supposed to be around the age of 17 or 18. He was actually set to appear in the two previous Bat-films, BATMAN (1989) and BATMAN RETURNS (1992), but was cut from the final shooting script each time.
In 2005, the BATMAN film franchise was given a reboot in the fan and critically acclaimed BATMAN BEGINS. Robin did not make an appearance and it is doubtful if he’ll show up any time soon. Director Christopher Nolan is on record saying that he doesn’t plan to include Robin in his Bat-films. Christian Bale, the new Batman, has also said publicly that he wouldn’t want to include Robin in the films. Director Christopher Nolan has also stated that he doesn't intend to use the Robin character.
Robin has appeared with Batman in every animated adaptation. His most famous inclusion is during the two (and related) animated Batman series during the 1990s: BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS (Robin in B:TAS -- see pic left). He was originally voiced by Loren Lester as the Grayson version of the character. He only appeared from time to time because he was supposed to be off at college. Later, Grayson became Nightwing and a Tim Drake Robin was added and was voiced by Mathew Valencia. Even though Robin was Drake, he actually had much more in common with the comic book Jason Todd Robin.
In the new animated series THE BATMAN, Robin has yet to show up, but is set to appear during season 4.
Robin one of the main characters of Cartoon Network’s TEEN TITANS series. Although it has never been stated in the show (but confirmed by creators), this Robin is evidently the Dick Grayson version of of the character.
Robin is set to appear in THE BATMAN animated TV show on The Kid's WB this upcoming season.
1. Daniels, Les. BATMAN: THE COMPLETE HISTORY.