Robin: A Comic Book Legacy
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There is a staple of the Batman mythos that even those who have never read a comic in their life know about, his sidekick Robin. It was in the tales of the Dark Knight that the super hero tradition of having a teenage sidekick was born; this came about as a way to give the young readers a stand in during Batman’s adventures. The move also tamed the then reckless vigilante giving Batman a sense of responsibility. Over the years the role of Robin has evolved into that of being a grounding force for Bruce Wayne; giving him someone to care about and to keep him from going over the edge in his quest for justice. Throughout the 70 years of Batman history many different people have taken on the mantle of Robin and have been trained by the Dark Knight and here is a rundown of all of them how they held up in the role.
Dick Grayson: The original Boy Wonder. To many who are out of the loop he is still wearing green trunks and pixie boots while fighting crime with a smile on his face. But those of us who know better realize that he is the Robin who has evolved the most over the years. At the beginning he was an orphan taken in by Bruce Wayne and trained to help in his mission, yet like many of his fans he grew up and throughout the years he took on the leadership role in the Teen Titans and later leaving the Robin identity behind to become, Nightwing. Dick Grayson accomplished the ultimate goal of all teenage sidekicks to grow and mature and to become a hero within their own right.
Jason Todd; When the time came to put a new character into the Robin suit it was bound to be a lightning storm of controversy; and with the choice of Jason Todd, the controversy sent him to an early grave. In the Pre-Crisis DC Universe he was given the same origin as Grayson, yet that was changed after Crisis on Infinite Earths, making him a delinquent that Batman sought to reform. During the following years Todd’s irreverent and disrespectful attitude became grating to fans thus DC decided to let the fans ultimately choose his fate. In the now famous story arc, Death in the Family, readers called in and decided that the best thing for the future of Batman is for the Joker to murder the kid without mercy. For over twenty years, Jason Todd stood in comic book history as Batman’s greatest failure but since it is comic books inevitably he returned from the grave. Needing a new identity Todd took on the Joker’s old alter ego as the antihero, Red Hood and currently he leads his own team on dangerous missions in the DC Universe.
Carrie Kelly: In a dark and violent future, Batman has returned after a decade long retirement in order to wage one last battle against the evils which held Gotham in a shroud of chaos in the classic tale, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. In these dark times Batman is pushed to his breaking point and needs a Robin more than ever, luckily a streetwise kid named Carrie Kelly, the first female Robin, is there to fill the role. Rescuing Batman from a battle with a mutant gang leader she was immediately appointed to the role that any teenager in the DCU would want. Though she went onto a new identity, that of Catgirl, her place as a Robin is still a high mark in Batman history.
Tim Drake: Much like Dick Grayson before him, Tim Drake will forever be associated to the role of Robin by an entire generation of fans. While everybody else was trained to have a keen detective mind, Drake had it from the get go. Instantly enduring himself to fans, he made his first appearance by revealing that he knew the secret identity of Batman and that he had noticed that the Dark Knight was becoming much more dark and brooding and once again needed a Robin to balance him out. Inevitably he was promoted to the role of Robin, and made history as the first Teen Wonder to sport a redesigned and very modern costume which took off with fans. With his iconic staff he remained in the role until he was forced out by Dick Grayson, who saw him as an equal, the ultimate compliment from the original Robin. Not fit to resign the super hero lifestyle he adopted the identity of Red Robin and continued to fight evil, much like his predecessor Grayson, he is currently uniting teen heroes to be a new group of Teen Titans.
Stephanie Brown: While Drake spent some time on hiatus it was his friend and on-and-off again romantic interest, Stephanie Brown who took on the role. Steph began her career as a way to atone for the crimes of her super villain father, despite a lack of training she had enough heart for twelve Robins. Being promoted to Robin was seen as the highlight of her life, yet she never took to Batman’s tough style of mentoring and through means of a convoluted fake death she left the job. Fortunately for her fans she eventually found a super hero role that she thrived in. After spending years trying to find her place in the Bat Family she finally found herself as the perfect fit as, Batgirl.
Damian Wayne: After playing a paternal role to all those who took on the role of Robin, Bruce Wayne has had a tougher time with his biological son and current Boy Wonder, Damian Wayne. Many fans were unsure what would become of the murderous brat who was Batman’s long lost son, yet when Dick Grayson took on the role of Batman, Damian was his first choice as sidekick. When Bruce Wayne returned and sought to reestablish himself as the one true Dark Knight, he kept to Grayson’s judgement and retained Damian. Being the polar opposite of Bruce in his views on stopping crime has provided for a great story in the current, Batman & Robin series. His attitude has been seen as a negative trait by many, yet many see it as reminiscent of Jason Todd in a way giving Batman a second chance with a rebellious Robin who has the potential to be great.
Stay tuned Batfans! G-FUNK is busy putting together the next chapter of the Ultimate Batman Reading Guide with a section on the Essential Robin Stories! In the meantime, read up on Part 1 HERE!