Welcome to the 2021 A to Z Challenge! My theme this year is DC Comics. And that’s mostly because of my undying affection for the comic book characters and stories that I grew up reading in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. So stay tuned all month to (maybe) learn a little something about 26 corners of the DC Multiverse.
Plenty of characters whose names begin with R. But if I go with Robin, then I can cover six different characters all at once.
And I’ve already talked about Dick Grayson in my Nightwing post, so really, if you want to skip the next few paragraphs and get the full story on that guy, click back on that link.
So you’ve got Dick Grayson who was the original Robin. As a child, Dick was a member of the Flying Graysons, a family of acrobats and trapeze artists with Haley Circus. When the Graysons are killed in a mob hit, Dick is taken in by Bruce Wayne, who begins training him as his sidekick.
I mentioned it in the previous post, but I just don’t understand the thought behind a guy who dresses all in black to be stealthy in the night and then brings along a ten-year-old on his nightly vigilante adventures and dresses the kid in super bright colors. Batman seems like he’s turning Robin into the easy target.
Anyway, Dick Grayson is the Boy Wonder for more than 40 years. Then, in the pages of The New Teen Titans, Dick sheds his old costume and grows up a little, taking on the role of Nightwing.
This left Batman without a sidekick. And who is Batman without a Robin?
Enter Jason Todd. I don’t recall what Jason’s pre-Crisis origin was. However, after Crisis on Infinite Earths he was kind of a brat. If memory serves, Batman meets Jason when he catches the kid trying to steal the wheels off the Batmobile. I mean, as criminal acts go, that’s pretty bold.
Again, Bruce takes in this kid, trains him up, then starts calling him Robin. But that doesn’t really last too long. As we approach the 90s, we have more and more instances of creators feeling the need to shake things up in the most dramatic ways possible. This brought us to the now classic storyline, “A Death in the Family.”
It’s been a while since I read through the entire story, but what you really need to know is that this version of Robin was brutally murdered by the Joker. And as an added bonus, DC Comics left Robin’s fate up to the fans. At the end of the issue that finds the Joker beating Robin with a crowbar, his life is on the line and it’s unknown what will happen until the next issue. So DC provided readers with a 900 number that they could call and vote… Should Robin live or die?
It was a close call… But they voted for Robin to die. RIP Jason Todd.
It should come as no shock that Jason was eventually resurrected. He currently enjoys his own vigilante career as the Red Hood, which is a nod to the Joker’s origin in which he was once a criminal known as the Red Hood. Jason is what the fans often refer to as an anti-hero. He’s pretty much one of the good guys, but he doesn’t follow Batman’s rules, if you know what I mean.
Not long after Jason’s death at the hands of the Clown Prince of Crime, Batman was confronted by a kid named Timothy Drake. Tim, even at an early age, was a brilliant detective. In his spare time, he had discovered that Dick Grayson was the first Robin. He figured that out because he had seen Dick perform at Haley Circus years prior. I don’t remember where he would have seen Robin moving around in Gotham City, but he was able to put together that Robin made a lot of the same acrobatic moves that young Dick Grayson was famous for.
From there, it certainly wasn’t difficult to piece together that Batman was Bruce Wayne under the cowl. Tim continued watching and studying Batman following Jason’s death and decided that Batman needs a Robin. That sidekick helps to keep him grounded. Robin keeps Batman from going too far into the dark side.
At first, Tim approached Dick about his returning to the role of Robin. But Dick was an adult by this point. He wasn’t about to go back to the costume he wore as a kid. Not that Dick wasn’t sympathetic, he just wasn’t on board with Tim’s plan. So Tim took it upon himself to become Robin. Broke into the Batcave (I think) and stole Jason’s costume which was on display in memoriam.
Batman came around to Tim being his new Robin eventually. And Tim was pretty much the Robin I knew growing up. Tim’s background was different in that he came from a stable home. Unlike Dick, both of Tim’s parents were still alive. Unlike Jason, his parents were reliable supports so he didn’t have to fend for himself on the streets. But, over time, those difficulties were introduced in Tim’s life. I could be wrong, but I think his mother died of cancer in the 90s. Then, in the early 2000s, his father was murdered by Captain Boomerang during the Identity Crisis event.
Following this, Bruce adopted Tim, officially making him part of the family.
But hang on… Gotta backtrack a minute. Before Tim’s father was killed, he found out that Tim had been Robin for years. So Tim stepped away from the role for a while.
During Tim’s absence, another Gotham vigilante stepped up and volunteered to be Robin. Stephanie Brown was Tim’s girlfriend and was popularly known as Spoiler. She really didn’t wear the Robin costume very long as she was killed during the “War Games” storyline. It would later turn out that she faked her death at the behest of Dr. Leslie Thompkins, a long time ally of Batman. Leslie was trying to teach Batman a heavy handed lesson about his use of young people in his war on crime. I’m pretty sure Stephanie was brought back because there was an outcry by the fans who demanded her return.
Tim stepped back into the role until it was discovered that Bruce Wayne had a son with Talia al Ghul, the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul. At the age of nine, Damian Wayne was introduced to the world. As a self-entitled brat who had been raised by the League of Assassins, he was violent and hard-headed and really did not like the fact that Tim was Bruce’s adopted son and trusted partner.
Eventually, Damian softened a bit and Bruce took him under his wing, so to speak. Damian remains the current Robin.
What happened to Tim, you may ask? He’s still around, but he now uses the name Red Robin. Yummmmm.
I said I’d cover six characters. That’s only five… That’s because there’s still the out of continuity Robin, Carrie Kelley from Frank Miller’s masterpiece, The Dark Knight Returns. While Stephanie was the first female Robin in the main continuity, Carrie was the first published female Robin.
The various Robins have seen plenty of screen time over the years. Burt Ward portrayed Dick Grayson in the 60s Batman series. Dick’s version of Robin also featured heavily on Batman the Animated Series. Although, in later seasons, Dick has become Nightwing and Tim is in the Robin costume. Several Robins also play important roles in the Young Justice animated series.
Unfortunately, on the big screen, the only Robin we’ve experienced is Chris O’Donnell’s version of Dick Grayson. And I don’t mean that as a slam against Chris O’Donnell. It’s more of an issue with the quality of Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. That’s just my opinion, feel free to disagree in the comments.
Although, we were treated to a memorialized Robin costume during Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I think Zack Snyder has gone on record as saying this costume belonged to Dick who was killed by the Joker.
That’s all I’ve got for the Boy and/or Girl Wonders. Did I leave anything crucial out? Let me know what you think of Robin down in the comments!