As a Batman obsessed child and now adult my love for the Caped Crusader himself is immeasurable, I didn’t have much use for Robin when I was a kid mostly because I thought I should be Batman’s side kick. As I have grown up and continued to read comics I have fallen in love with Robin just as much. The wonderful thing about Robin is that even if at one point reading the comics he got on your nerves a bit there have been so many different characters to don the costume that there has to be one that you would enjoy. As there are so many who have helped Batman along the way I find myself calling them the Bat kids or the Batfam. Watching the Bat kids grow up and become independent heroes/anti-heroes is one of my favorite aspects of reading those comics and I have more Bat kid comics than I do Batman comics! Lets take a look at the different people who have worn the reg, green, and yellow (which is not the color of a robin…) most of the people on this list have suffered the kind of tragedy that only Bruce Wayne could help you get through.
Dick Grayson was the first to wear the outfit and has been around about as long as Batman himself. Dick is the son of acrobats who were died during a performance, because a mobster named Tony Zucco sabotaged the wires. Bruce Wayne adopts Dick and after a couple run ins with Batman, Bruce reveals himself to Dick and trains him. They fight crime and bring Tony Zucco to justice. This duo worked together for decades until Dick was too old to work side by side with Batman, he needed to spread his wings (haha) and go out on his own. Pre Crisis this was a smooth transition where Dick hands the mantel off to his replacement with some insightful words, post Crisis they rewrote the second Robins story and Bruce and Dick don’t leave on such wonderful terms. One of my favorite Dick as Robin moments actually takes place in the Cartoon Network Young Justice. Dick had always aspired to be Batman, and after a training exercise goes terribly wrong Dick realizes that he still wants to be a hero, but does not have the same thing in him that drives him to do whatever must be done like Bruce does. I think one of the most importation distinction between Dick and Bruce is that the darkness inside Bruce drives him to do what he does while it is the goodness and light in Dick the makes him the hero that he is.
Dick went on to become Nightwing, he has headed up the Teen Titans and was in charge of the Young Justice team for a while. He is a natural leader and all around good guy, his time with Bruce for sure shaped the person that he currently is. Dick has the habit of thinking the weight of the world rests on his shoulders completely, he doesn’t share his burdens well which is trait straight from the Bruce Wayne play book. Dick spent a lot of time in New York as Nightwing with the Teen Titans and then on a mission to help Batman Dick goes to Bludhaven. The corrupt police force and crazy high crime rates make him stick around and Nightwing becomes the hero of Bludhaven. I don’t think I could ever pick one or two moments of Dick as Nightwing as my favorite because Dick is everything I love about comics. His wit is legendary, his leadership is unrivaled, and he is truly one of the most respected heroes in the DC universe not only but the public, but by the rest of the heroes.
Jason Todd is the next Boy Wonder, he first appeared in the early 80’s and was killed off by the late 80’s. Post Crisis Jason is discovered by Batman on the streets of Gotham trying to steal the wheels off the Batmobile. Bruce tries to get him help outside the life of crime fighting but the inevitable happens, when Bruce finds a broken bird he trains them as child soldiers! He was not as well received as he was not the most pleasant hero, he was rough around the edges and very impulsive. His rage fuels his desire for justice and Bruce decides early on that if he doesn’t go about turning him into a hero he would eventually join the bad guys. Jason fights with himself as often as he does the villains, his time on the street has left him with a questionable sense of right and wrong. In A Death in the Family Jason discovers that the woman he thought was his mother was in fact not his biological mother. He tracks her down to and finds her in Ethiopia, she is being black mailed by The Joker to provide him with medical supplies. She hands him over to the Joker where he is brutal beaten and then both he and his mother are killed when a time bomb goes off. Bruce does not arrive in time and is left to find the broken lifeless body of Jason in his Robin costume. Jason’s death was brutal and one of the strangest things in comic history as DC left it up to the readers on if the second Boy Wonder would die, there was a phone poll and the outcome was that he would die. It seems crazy to me that comic fans would want a child to be killed, but that is how it went down. Jason’s time as Robin was a brutal one and it would be hard to pick a favorite, the impact of his death still haunts Bruce and the rest of the Bat fam.
After a series of events that could only take place in DC comics Jason is returned to life. His new life is consumed by the fact that Bruce did not kill the Joker for killing him. At the urging of Talia, who let Jason take a dip the the Lazrus Pit, Jason travels the globe training in many of the same places Bruce did in his quest to become Batman. When he returns to Gotham to get vengeance for his death he assumes the identity of The Red Hood. Jason takes the anti-hero path, he has no qalms about killing bad people or working with terrible people to get what he wants. He decides to end the violence in Gotham he must become the head of crime, him and Batman trade blows around several times and he also confronts the newest Robin at the Teen Titans head quarters. At the end of their battle Jason has a begrudging respect for the new Robin. In more recent times Jason has dialed it back enough to work with the Batfam on several occasions and has a pretty funny relationship with the rest of the Bat Boys. Jason’s humor is a little darker than that of Dick and he loves to remind people he died. Under The Red Hood is one of my favorite comics so one of my favorite Jason moments comes from the end of the book when Jason finally has his show down with Bruce and The Joker, he is so tortured by his death and his love for Bruce that you can feel it coming off the page.
Jason is often pretty brutal to Batman, as he believes Batman failed him which is ironic as Batman also believes he failed him, it is like a big guilt party they both always live with. The inner resentment manifests in some sick burns on Jason’s part, one of which came from an issue of Dick’s most recent series Grayson,
Tim Drake is the third Robin and I would consider the smartest of the Batfamily. When Tim was very young his family attended the circus he got to meet the Flying Graysons before the show and got a picture with the family. Tim and his family witnessed the death of Dick’s parents and as his family was rushing him out of the tent he caught a glimpse of Batman comforting a young Dick Grayson. A few years later while watching footage of Batman and Robin apprehending Penguin Robin does a special flip that Tim remembered that only The Flying Grayons preformed. Realizing that Robin was in fact Dick Grayson meaning that Bruce Wayne was Batman. Not many people have figured out Batmans identity and Tim did it at age 9. He continued to follow all the Batman & Robin coverage. After Jason’s death Tim saw a change in Batman that alarmed him, he was becoming darker and more brutal, Tim decided that Batman needed a Robin to maintain his sanity. He seeks out Dick and convinces him that Batman needs help and that help needs to come from a Robin.
After lots of crazy events that included Dick and Bruce being kidnapped and Tim saving them in a Robin costume with the assistance of Alfred. Bruce agrees that Tim can become Robin after lots of training, first by Alfred, then Dick, and finally Bruce himself. Right before Tim gets his costume his parents are kidnapped and poisoned, Tim’s mother does not survive and his father ends up in a coma. Bruce is reluctant to allow him to be his side kick after that due to his fear that his rage will turn him into another Jason. Tim goes on to be a member of the Young Justice as well as The Teen Titans. He and Dick are very close and their relationship is one of my favorites of all the Batfam. Tim as Robin is more detective than acrobat like Dick had been. He works incredibly hard at all of his skills and does not settle for anything less than perfection. After a bizarre issue where Batman and Robin body swap Tim is left feeling that he may not be good enough and is struggling with not telling his Young Justice friends his true identity. After a sit down with Dick Tim has some clarity. It is one of my favorites as so many of the Batfamily are not capable of sharing their problems and coming out the other end making a wise choice.
After the events of Battle for the Cowl Dick reluctantly takes on the mantel of the Bat, but Tim is crushed to realize that Dick does not intend to have him continue on as his Robin but instead selects Damian Wayne. Dick tells Tim that he is his equal not is protege, hurt by the choice Tim takes on a new identity of Red Robin. He refuses to believe that Bruce is really dead and goes out on his own to find him. Tim indeed ends up finding proof that Bruce isn’t dead, his time as Robin made him a fantastic hero in his own right. Tim has several run ins with Ra’s al Ghul and they are not found of each other. One of my favorite Red Robin moments is when Tim out smarts Ra’s, he thinks he has him pinned that he will have to let him go in order to save everyone, but Tim out thinks him and it is beautiful!
Stephanie Brown is the fourth Robin and the only female to appear on this list, Bruce has had several Batgirls but Stephanie is the only girl in the current time line to have been Robin, in the future we get Kerry Kelly but I am not time traveling yet! Stephanie is the daughter of the terrible villain Clue Master, after he is released from prison and is supposedly on the straight and narrow Stephanie finds out he is up to his old tricks. She assumes the identity of Spoiler and spends some time fighting crime with Robin. She leaves clues for Batman and the police to apprehend her father and send him back to jail. Stephanie and Tim Drake had a relationship that was rocky at best, after Tim’s father makes him hang up his cape Stephanie shows up at his school to surprise him and sees a girl trying to get with him she cuts off all ties and decides to focus on better things. She makes a home made Robin’s outfit and sneaks into the Batcave and demands Bruce train her as the new Robin. He agrees which is odd as he was not fond of her as Spoiler, but after two missions that Stephanie disobeys an order from Batman he takes her costume and kicks her out. To prove her worth she tries to execute one of Batman’s big plans to end crime in Gotham all together. It goes very poorly and a huge gang war happens in which she is kidnapped and tortured by The Black Mask, she escapes but dies from the injures while Bruce sits by her side. This death was as painful as Jason’s for me in true DC fashion though she eventually comes back to join the dead Robin’s back to life club.
Damian Wayne is the fifth and current Robin, he is the son of Bruce and Talia al Ghul. He was born in a lab and spent the first 10 years of his life with his mother being trained by the League of Assassins. Talia appears to Bruce informs him he has a son and he will be staying with him for a while. Damian is angry, spoiled, and ultra violent, he was taught at an early age that to win you kill. The first time Damian is officially Robin is not with his father but with Dick Grayson, the two start off rather rocky but are one of my favorite teams. When Bruce and Damian suit up together there is a lot of head butting as the two are very similar in a lot of ways. They struggle with the father son dynamic that neither of them quiet know what to do with and Bruce desperately wants Damian to feel like a real person not just the killing machine he was raised to be. Neither of them quiet know how to accomplish this and it was rather funny to watch unfold.
Damien is not the easiest to love and most people that come across him make it know that are not overly found of him, that includes most of the Batfam. My favorite thing about Damien is he loves animals, relating to people is hard for him, but his animals never let him down. He loves his dog, he also has a cat, and after a mission where some cows were tainted Damian adopts a cow and calls him Bat Cow,
Damian is killed by a clone of himself but is of course resurrected being the third dead and back again Robin. Damian gets the best deal though as when he comes back he has super powers for a short time, being the only of the Batfam to have super powers. When he comes back he finds out that while he was dead Dick also died, he is devastated by this as the two have a special bond. In an issue of Grayson Dick comes homes and has to tell everyone that he faked his death to infiltrate spiral, as you can assume everyone was rather displeased. At this time Dick find out that Damian came back so the two realizing the other aren’t dead is truly one of my favorite series of panels ever! Damian outwardly shows affection for his brother and Dick is thrown off by it, but is so happy.
Now that was a lot to take in, but the history of Robin is vast! I could literally write a book about each of these crazy kids, but I think I already went over board. These kids have saved the world so many times and saved Batman even more times. Without a Robin Batman is someone even the good guys don’t want to be around.