Due to the recent death of Robin (acceptable reactions are ‘again?’ and ‘no one ever dies in comics’), we at Geekenstein thought it would be the bees knees to delve into the history of the character of the Boy Wonder and see how many different incarnations there have been.
Who is Robin?
Robin is a character in DC comics who is the crime-fighting partner of Batman. Introduced by creators Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and illustrator Jerry Robinson in Detective Comics #38 in April 1940, Robin was created in the hopes of bringing in younger readers who could imagine themselves going on adventures with Batman as the character.
Robin proved to be a huge success, and has seen many incarnations and has been several different people over the last 72 years.
Comic Robins at a glance
*Due to the sheer number of variations of Robins that exist within the alternate worlds and timelines, we at Geekenstein have decided to keep the list to the five Robins that have existed within the continuity of the Batman comics.*
Robin #1: Dick Grayson
First appearance: Detective Comics #38 in 1940
Easily the most popular Robin, everybody is familiar with young Richard Grayson’s origin. Dick was part of The Flying Graysons, a family of acrobats in Haley’s Circus. One night while performing on Gotham, young Richard overheard crime lord Tony Zucco threaten Mr. Haley if he didn’t pay him extortion money, he refused. Later that night, Dick witnessed his parents’ murder, whose high wire act was sabotaged, sending them falling to their death.
Bruce Wayne was among the crowd that night, and after seeing a bit of himself in the now orphaned Grayson, took him under his wing as his ward. Eventually, Dick discovered that Bruce is Batman, and was offered the chance to fight crime alongside him as Robin.
Dick eventually grew out of the Robin persona, and began to fight crime as Nightwing, and even had a brief stint as Batman when Bruce was presumed dead. Dick has returned to his Nightwing persona in The New 52.
Robin #2: Jason Todd
First appearance: in Batman #357 in 1983
The character of Jason Todd started out as a blonde, happy go-lucky, and enthusiastic clone of the original Robin, but after Crisis on Infinite Earths was written to be a brash, reckless, angry little snot-head.
Fans know the latter version of Jason Todd the best because he was famously voted to die by those very fans in a call-in ballot in 1983. The votes – 5343 to 5271 – spelled death for Jason Todd by the hands of the Joker in Death in the Family.
Jason would later come back to life in 2005 in the well-received Under the Red Hood, where Jason Todd becomes the next Red Hood, and an antihero who is willing to kill his enemies.
Robin #3: Tim Drake
First appearance: Batman #436 in 1989
Tim Drake witnessed the deaths of Dick Grayson’s parents as a toddler. As Tim Drake grew to the age of 9 and was becoming very intelligent, he saw a news story showing Robin using a gymnastics maneuver that Drake recognized as a move only a Flying Grayson would know. It didn’t take long for Drake to deduce that Robin was Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne was Batman.
After the death of Jason Todd, Tim Drake became increasingly concerned that Batman was becoming more and more depressed and psychotic over his guilt, that Tim Drake decided to become the new Robin, however reluctantly by Batman.
When Bruce was presumed dead and Dick became the next Batman, he chose Damian to be Robin. Tim was not happy with Dick’s decision, and chose to investigate Bruce’s death as Red Robin, which he remains as in The New 52.
Robin #4: Stephanie Brown
First Appearance: Detective Comics #647
Daughter to Arthur Brown, a C-List villain known as Cluemaster, Stephanie donned the persona of Spoiler as a way to help Batman and the GCPD catch her father. Stephanie also had a thing for Robin (Tim Drake), and they eventually began to date.
When Tim’s father discovered that he was Robin, and was forced into retirement, Stephanie made a DIY Robin outfit and snuck into the Batcave, demanding to become the new Robin. Bruce begrudgingly accepted.
Her career as Robin was short lived, as she was fired for disobeying orders and Batman’s general distrust with her. Wanting to prove her worth to Bruce, and stole one of his plans to wipe out Gotham’s entire criminal underground. This resulted with her accidentally starting a gang war, and she was tortured to death at the hands of Black Mask.
BUT WAIT! It turns out that Stephanie didn’t die, and she returned as Spoiler before becoming the next Batgirl.
She has not made an appearance in The New 52.
Robin #5: Damian Wayne
First appearance: Batman: Son of the Demon
A long time ago, Bruce did the horizontal Monster Mash with Talia al Ghul, daughter to the seemingly immortal Ra’s al Ghul. Unknown to Batman, Talia was with child, who she raised to genetic perfection and trained since birth to be the ultimate killing machine. One day, she revealed Damian to Bruce and left him in his care in order to disrupt his plans.
Damian was more or less like Jason, and became Robin alongside Dick’s Batman, but felt that he was more deserving of the cowl. They eventually became good partners before Bruce returned. Bruce and Damian’s partnership had a rocky start as well, but they bonded as father and son through crime fighting.
Batman (1943 Serial)
The Batman is a 15-part serial released in 1943 by Columbia Pictures was the first filmed version of Batman and Robin. The first actor to play Robin (Dick Grayson) was then 16 year old Douglas Croft.
The film is also notable for introducing iconic recurring themes of the Batman universe such as the Batcave, and the Grandfather Clock entrance to the Batcave from Wayne Manor.
In the serial covers Batman and Robin’s mission to stop a Japanese mad scientist named Dr. Daka. Though fairly racist by today’s standards for the portrayal of the Japanese (this was filmed during WWII), the earliest attempt to bring Batman and Robin to the big screen is interesting and fun, and well worth a watch.
Batman and Robin (1949 Serial)
Another serial, this time with Johnny Duncan filling the tights of Robin (Dick Grayson), have the Dynamic Duo facing off against the villain Wizard, and his electrical device that can control cars and other electrical machines.
Possibly less racist than the first serial.
Batman (1960s Series)
Arguably the most famous actor to play Robin (Dick Grayson), Burt Ward, is probably best known for his catch phrase ‘Holy (insert noun here), Batman!’
Burt Ward’s portrayal of Robin, along with the rest of the series, was to be over the top and campy. This was due to the comics following the same vein of goofy adventures to attract a younger audience.
This portrayal of Robin is said to be a direct influence on the next live action Robin.
Batman Forever/Batman & Robin
The fourth live action portrayal of Robin (Dick Grayson) and almost the last was played by Chris O’Donnell in the wonderfully campy Joel Schumacher directed Batman films.
After Dick Grayson’s acrobat family is killed by Two-Face, Bruce Wayne takes him under his wing, only for Dick to discover the Batcave and become Robin. After a hammy scene of Dick wanting revenge on Two-Face for his family’s death, Robin realizes that killing him is not the answer, and kills him anyway by accident.
Then there was the mess known as Batman & Robin, where Robin found a love interest practically every character except for Alfred (Though we do have our suspicions).
The Dark Knight Rises
Joseph Gordon-Levitt played the latest live action portrayal of the Boy Wonder. Officer John Blake was a cop turned detective that managed to deduce Batman’s true identity of Bruce Wayne, because he had a certain look to his face only orphans could detect somehow. Blake helped Batman save Gotham from being nuked by Bane and is set up to inherit the mantle of Batman at the end of the film.
But how is he Robin, you ask? Well, in the last five minutes of the movie it is revealed that John Blake wasn’t his full name, it’s Robin John Blake. Yeah…
Dick Grayson from Super Friends
Robin (Dick Grayson) from the Super Friends (voiced by Casey Kasem) was basically the cartoon version of the Adam West style Batman series.
Dick Grayson and Tim Drake from Batman the Animated Series
Robin (Dick Grayson) from Batman the Animated series on the other hand, was the first cartoon Robin to be portrayed as a wise-cracking, and often times troubled young man. Because of the heavy censorship restrictions by FOX during the 90’s, Robin’s age had to be changed to over 18.
This changed Robin’s character of a fun-loving kid to an adult who was getting tired of being bossed around by Batman, and wanted to become his own man. This would lead to many conflicts between himself and Batman, with the eventual falling-out and Robin becoming Nightwing in the sequel series on the Warner Bros. network, Gotham Knights (BTAS Season Four).
During the Gotham Knights run of BTAS, Tim Drake replaced Dick Grayson. His character was a combination of the comic book versions of Tim Drake and Jason Todd (without the grisly murder at the hands of the Joker), and since the WB had lenient censorship rules, was allowed to be written as a young boy.
Dick Grayson from Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go!
Though Robin’s identity is a mystery to the viewers and the supporting characters alike, it is hinted that the Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go! Robin is indeed Dick Grayson. A strong hint that this Robin is Dick Grayson is an episode where Larry, the Robin from the 5th Dimension, states that his true name is “Nosyarg Kcid”, and on another episode where his future self has taken on the mantle of Nightwing.
Dick Grayson from The Batman
Another Dick Grayson, this Robin was also written as a young boy, with a snarky attitude a little closer to Jason Todd, but without the absolute petulance.
Dick Grayson and Tim Drake from Young Justice
Three Robins (Dick, Jason, and Tim) make their appearances in Young Justice. Dick and Tim are prominently featured throughout the series, though Jason makes a very brief cameo in an episode.
Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne from Batman The Brave and The Bold
Robin (Dick Grayson) is portrayed as the happy go-lucky kid he was in the Silver Age, as well as his growth into Nightwing. Dick even dons the cowl as Batman himself, with Damian Wayne as Robin.
Well, there you have it, all the basic Robin information in one pretty package! Anything we missed (No, we thought of Carrie Kelly too, look at the disclaimer at the beginning of the article.)? Be sure to add any comments/concerns/diatribes/fun-facts about Robins past, present and possibly future in the comments section below!
[Written by contributors Marco Villalpando and Matthew Papayanopulos]