Birds of A Feather
Throughout his storied history, the Boy (and sometimes Girl) Wonder has built up quite a legacy. With various heroes spending time in the red, green and gold and more than a few deaths and resurrections, Robin has never ceased to entertain and surprise. Now, over 80 years old, we thought we'd take a look back at Robins past and present in a new reader friendly 101.
Robin is the alias of several superheroes appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. The character was originally created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson, to serve as a junior counterpart and the sidekick to the superhero Batman. As a team, Batman and Robin have commonly been referred to as the Caped Crusaders and the Dynamic Duo.
The character's first incarnation, Dick Grayson, debuted in Detective Comics #38 (April 1940). Conceived as a way to attract young readership, Robin garnered overwhelmingly positive critical reception, doubling the sales of the Batman titles.Robin's early adventures included Star Spangled Comics #65–130 (1947–1952), the character's first solo feature. He made regular appearances in Batman-related comic books and other DC Comics publications from 1940 through the early 1980s, until the character set aside the Robin identity and became the independent superhero Nightwing.
The character's second incarnation, Jason Todd, first appeared in Batman #357 (1983). He made regular appearances in Batman-related comic books until 1988, when he was murdered by the Joker in the storyline "A Death in the Family" (1989). Jason later found himself alive after a reality-changing incident, eventually becoming the Red Hood. The premiere Robin limited series was published in 1991, featuring the character's third incarnation, Tim Drake, training to earn the role of Batman's vigilante partner. After two successful sequels, the monthly Robin series began in 1993 and ended in early 2009, which also helped his transition from sidekick to a superhero in his own right. In 2004 storylines, established DC Comics character Stephanie Brown became the fourth Robin for a short time before the role reverted to Tim Drake. Damian Wayne succeeds Drake as Robin in the 2009 story arc "Battle for the Cowl."
The current and former Robins always feature prominently in Batman's cast of supporting heroes; Dick, Jason, Tim, and Damian all regard him as a father. In current continuity as of 2021, Dick Grayson serves as Nightwing, Jason Todd is the Red Hood, Stephanie Brown is Batgirl, and Tim Drake has picked up the mantle of Robin again after a stint as Red Robin. Damian has left behind the title Robin, but remains the title character of the Robin comic book. In recent years, Batman has also adopted new sidekicks in the form of Bluebird, whose name references Robin, and The Signal.
Dick Grayson: The First Robin that grows up to become Nightwing and even dawns the cape and cowl a few times.
In the comics, Dick Grayson was an 8-year-old acrobat and the youngest of a family act called the "Flying Graysons". A gangster named Boss Zucco, loosely based on actor Edward G. Robinson's Little Caesar character, had been extorting money from the circus and killed Grayson's parents, John and Mary, by sabotaging their trapeze equipment as a warning against defiance.
Batman investigated the crime and, as his alter ego billionaire Bruce Wayne, had Dick put under his custody as a legal ward. Together they investigated Zucco and collected the evidence needed to bring him to justice.
From his debut appearance in 1940 through 1969, Robin was known as the Boy Wonder. Batman creates a costume for Dick, consisting of a red tunic, yellow cape, green gloves, green boots, green spandex briefs, and a utility belt. As he grew older, graduated from high school, and enrolled in Hudson University, Robin continued his career as the Teen Wonder, from 1970 into the early 1980s.
The character was rediscovered by a new generation of fans during the 1980s because of the success of The New Teen Titans, in which he left Batman's shadow entirely to assume the identity of Nightwing. He aids Batman throughout the later storyline regarding the several conflicts with Jason Todd until he makes his final return as the "Red Hood".
Grayson temporarily took over as Batman (while Wayne was traveling through time), using the aid of Damian Wayne, making his newish appearance as "Robin", to defeat and imprison Todd. With Bruce Wayne's return, Grayson went back to being Nightwing.
Jason Todd: The Second Robin that is killed off and brought back as the Villain turned Anti-Hero, The Red Hood.
DC was initially hesitant to turn Grayson into Nightwing and to replace him with a new Robin. To minimize the change, they made the new Robin, Jason Peter Todd, who first appeared in Batman #357 (1983), similar to a young Grayson.
Like Dick Grayson, Jason Todd was the son of circus acrobats murdered by a criminal (this time the Batman adversary Killer Croc), and then adopted by Bruce Wayne. In this incarnation, he was originally red-haired and unfailingly cheerful, and wore his circus costume to fight crime until Dick Grayson presented him with a Robin suit of his own. At that point, he dyed his hair black.
After the miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths, much of the DC Comics continuity was redone. Dick Grayson's origin, years with Batman, and growth into Nightwing remained mostly unchanged; but Todd's character was completely revised. He was now a black-haired street orphan who first encountered Batman when he attempted to steal tires from the Batmobile. Batman saw to it that he was placed in a school for troubled youths. Weeks later, after Dick Grayson became Nightwing and Todd proved his crime-fighting worth by helping Batman catch a gang of robbers, Batman offered Todd the position as Robin.
Believing that readers never truly bonded with Todd, DC Comics made the controversial decision in 1988 to poll readers using a 1-900 number as to whether or not Todd should be killed. The event received more attention in the mainstream media than any other comic book event before it. Readers voted "yes" by a small margin (5,343 to 5,271) and Todd was subsequently murdered by the Joker in the storyline, A Death in the Family, in which the psychopath beat the youngster severely with a crowbar, and left him to die in a warehouse rigged with a bomb.
Jason Todd later returned as the new Red Hood (the original alias of the Joker) when he was brought back to life due to reality being altered. After the continuity changes following the New 52 DC Comics relaunch, Jason becomes a leader of the Outlaws, a superhero team that includes Starfire and Arsenal who had spent years with Grayson in the Titans.
Time Drake: The one that takes over after Jason is killed. He has also gone as Red Robin after Damian became Robin.
DC Comics was left uncertain about readers' decision to have Jason Todd killed, wondering if readers preferred Batman as a lone vigilante, disliked Todd specifically, or just wanted to see if DC would actually kill off the character. In addition, the 1989 Batman film did not feature Robin, giving DC a reason to keep him out of the comic book series for marketing purposes. Regardless, Batman editor Denny O'Neil introduced a new Robin. The third Robin, Timothy Drake, first appeared in a flashback in Batman #436 (1989) as a preadolescent boy, introduced by writer Marv Wolfman, interior penciler Pat Broderick, and inker John Beatty.
Drake's first name was a nod to Tim Burton, director of the 1989 Batmanfilm. The character first donned the Robin costume, and became associated with the third version of Robin, in the acclaimed "A Lonely Place of Dying" sequel storyline, which culminated in issue #442, written by Marv Wolfman.
In the comics, Tim Drake was a late preadolescent boy who had followed the adventures of Batman and Robin ever since witnessing the murder of the Flying Graysons. This served to connect Drake to Grayson, establishing a link that DC hoped would help readers accept this new Robin. Drake surmised their secret identities with his amateur but instinctive detective skills and followed their careers closely. Tim stated on numerous occasions that he wishes to become "The World's Greatest Detective", a title currently belonging to the Dark Knight. Batman himself stated that one day Drake will surpass him as a detective. Despite his combat skills not being the match of Grayson's, his detective skills more than make up for this. In addition, Batman supplied him with a new armored costume for his transition to the adolescent Robin.
Tim Drake is the first Robin to have his own comic book series, where he fought crime on his own. Tim Drake, as Robin, co-founded the superhero team Young Justice in the absence of the Teen Titans of Dick Grayson's generation, but would then later re-form the Teen Titans after Young Justice disbanded following a massive sidekick crossover during which Donna Troy was killed. Tim served as leader of this version of the Titans until 2009, at which point he quit due to the events of Batman R.I.P.
Following Infinite Crisis and 52, Tim Drake modified his costume to favor a mostly red and black color scheme in tribute to his best friend, Superboy (Kon-El), who died fighting Earth-Prime Superboy. This Robin costume had a red torso, long sleeves, and pants. It also included black gloves and boots, yellow stitching and belt, and a black and yellow cape. Tim Drake continued the motif of a red and black costume when he assumed the role of Red Robin before and during the events of The New 52.
Tim Drake assumes the identity of the Red Robin after Batman's disappearance following the events of Final Crisis and "Battle for the Cowl" and Damian Wayne becoming Grayson's Robin. Following 2011's continuity changes resulting from The New 52 DC Comics relaunch, history was altered such that Tim Drake never took up the Robin mantle after Jason Todd's death, feeling that it would be inappropriate. Instead, he served as Batman's sidekick under the name of the Red Robin. However, in DC's Rebirth relaunch, his original origin was restored.
Stephanie Brown: The short lived Spoiler turned Robin turned BatGirl turned Spoiler again…
Stephanie Brown, Tim Drake's girlfriend and the costumed adventurer previously known as the Spoiler, volunteered for the role of Robin upon Tim's resignation. Batman fired the Girl Wonder for not obeying his orders to the letter on two occasions. Stephanie then stole one of Batman's incomplete plans to control Gotham's crime and executed it. Trying to prove her worthiness, Brown inadvertently set off a gang war on the streets of Gotham. While trying to help end the war, Brown was captured and tortured by the lunatic crime boss Black Mask. She managed to escape, but apparently died shortly afterwards due to the severity of her injuries.
Tim Drake keeps a memorial for her in his cave hideout underneath Titans Tower in San Francisco. She appeared alive and stalking Tim, after his return from traveling around the globe with his mentor. It turned out that Dr. Leslie Thompkins had faked Stephanie's death in an effort to protect her.
For years she operated on and off as the Spoiler, but was then recruited as Barbara Gordon's replacement as Batgirl. She had her own series, as well as making appearances throughout various Batman and Batman spin-off series. Her time as the Spoiler, Robin, and Batgirl was retconned to have never occurred after the Flashpoint event, with her being reintroduced having just become the Spoiler in Batman Eternal. However, her history as Robin was later restored.
Damian Wayne: The child of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, thus the grandson of the immortal Ra's al Ghul. Batman was unaware of his son's existence for years until Talia left Damian in his care. Damian was violent and lacking in discipline and morality, and was trained by the League of Assassins. Learning to kill at a young age, Damian's murderous behavior created a troubled relationship with his father, who vowed never to take a life.
Originally conceived to become a host for his maternal grandfather's soul as well as a pawn against the Dark Knight, Batman saved his child from this fate, which forced Ra's to inhabit his own son's body, and thus, Damian was affectionate to his father. After Batman's apparent death during Final Crisis, Talia left her son under Dick Grayson and Alfred Pennyworth's care and Damian was deeply affected by his father's absence. In the first issue of "Battle for the Cowl", Damian was driving the Batmobile and was attacked by Poison Ivy and Killer Croc. Damian was rescued by Nightwing, who then tries to escape, but was shot down by Black Mask's men. Nightwing tried to fight the thugs, but the thugs were shot by Jason Todd. After a fight between Nightwing and Todd, Todd eventually shot Damian in the chest. In the final issue of the series, Alfred made Damian into Robin. Damian's first task as Robin was to rescue Tim.
After "Battle for the Cowl", Grayson adopted the mantle of Batman, and instead of having Tim (whom he viewed as an equal rather than a protégé) remain as Robin, he gave the role to Damian, whom he felt needed the training that his father would have given him.
Following the Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne and Flashpoint events, Bruce Wayne returned to his role as Batman, while Dick resumed as Nightwing. As of The New 52, Damian continued to work with his father, but temporarily gave up being Robin (as his mother had put a price on his head), and went under the identity of Red Bird. Damian met his end at the hands of the Heretic, an aged clone of Damian working for Leviathan, bravely giving up his life. Despite his status as deceased, Damian starred in his own miniseries, Damian: Son of Batman, written and drawn by Andy Kubert, set in a future where Damian is on the path to become Batman after his father fell victim to a trap set by the Joker. Batman eventually started a difficult quest to resurrect him, returning Damian to life with Darkseid's Chaos Shard.
Carrie Kelley: Another Short lived Robing from the mind of Frank Miller
In Frank Miller's non-canonical The Dark Knight Returns, the role of Robin is filled by Carrie Kelley, a 13-year-old girl. She becomes Robin, and is accepted by Batman after she saves his life. Unlike the previous Robins, Carrie is not an orphan, but she appears to have rather neglectful parents who are never actually depicted.
It is hinted through their dialogue that they were once activists and possibly hippies during the 1960s, but have since become apathetic stoners. She was the first female Robin and the first Robin with living parents. In the sequel, Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, 2001, Carrie dons the identity of Catgirl, but still works as Batman's second-in-command.
She was also featured in an episode of The New Batman Adventures entitled "Legends of the Dark Knight". She then appeared in Batman: The Brave and the Bold's episode entitled "Batman Dies At Dawn!" along with Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, and Damian Wayne. Kelley joined the New 52 DC universe in Batman and Robin #19, in a story titled Batman and Red Robin.
Bruce Wayne - A few comics told of a young Bruce Wayne being Robin while he assists a detective that he looked up to. There was also that time that he and Drake switched ages.
The Toy Wonder from the 853 Century - a robotic sidekick to Batman of that Century
Earth 2 Robin - Grayson who becomes a lawyer and The Robin after the death of Batman
Elseworlds: Elseworlds versions of DC characters are ones that exist in alternate timelines or realities that take place in entirely self-contained continuities.
In Elseworlds, Robin has been:
a German immigrant during World War II named Richart Graustark,
Bruce Wayne Jr. (the son of Julia Madison and Bruce Wayne),
a genetically enhanced ape named Rodney,
a samurai named Tengu,
a pirate's cabin boy,
a girl traveling via space ship to a far-off colonial planet,
Bruce Wayne's nephew Thomas Wayne III,
MI-6 agent Alfred Pennyworth,
Bruce Wayne's sister during the Reign of Terror in France,
and a Native American named Red Bird.
We Are Robin!: Robin has become something more than a person. It’s become an idea.
In WE ARE ROBIN #1, Gotham City teenagers band together to fight crime on the streets in the name of Batman’s iconic sidekick, Robin.
Intuitive, smart and resourceful, but largely untrained and completely unsanctioned by Batman, these would-be heroes succeed due to street smarts and simple strength in numbers.
Rather than one Robin, there are now hundreds of them, each with his or her own unique set of skills and traits, as well as their own particular chip on their shoulder.
While a handful of these new Robins came to the forefront as the series unfolded, We Are Robin envisions the Boy Wonder as a movement rather than an individual hero.
The Faces: There have been almost as many, if not more, live action Robins than there have been Batman actors, in the live action world.
Douglas Croft - 1943
Johnny Duncan - 1949
Burt Ward - 1966 - today
Christopher O’Donnell - Dick Grayson in 1995 and 1997
Joseph Gordon Levitt - “Robin” in The Dark Knight Rises