The Many Lives of Robin: Boy(?) Wonder

Phew, I can tell you are totally relieved.  What was that crap about Pulp Fiction anyway?  Well here you go, my dedicated (or soon to be dedicated) readers, a bit to read about some characters from the more well known comic book franchise of the last 71 years.  One day years ago (before I was born) in 1940, Dick Grayson (The first Robin) was introduced as Batman’s “sidekick”.  That’s a lot of info to take in I know…  Something I’ve always thought was weird about comics in the early days was this overwhelming interest in many superheros requiring a child sidekick.  Dick Grayson was like 10 when he started fighting crime with Batman (Bruce Wayne, but you guys hopefully know that by now thanks to the films).  I guess the 40’s were a more innocent time, but gangsters still had guns and definitely killed people. His involvement with Batman begins when his parents were tragically killed in a sabotaged trapeze act by a gangster named Boss Zucco (a pretty minor character in the grand scheme of things, he still has his importance as the hand of fate creating the first Robin: Boy Wonder).  So, Dick Grayson as Robin is born, because Bruce (Batman) decides that this child’s anguish is comparable to his own.  Bruce lost his parents to a tragic robbing after leaving a theater performance one night (by the crook Joe Chill who was small potatoes and probably strung out on heroine or something).  Readers think Joe “accidentally” pulled the trigger on Papa Wayne, killing Mama Wayne right after, leaving little Bruce alone.  Anyway, back to Dick Grayson, his parents are killed, and Bruce witnesses it.  He feels so strongly for the boy’s anguish that he takes him under his (bat)wing (ha! couldn’t resist).  Batman and Robin pal around for quite a while (30-40 years), until the writers and fans found that Dick Grayson needed to grow up.  They gave he and Bruce abrasive personalities and moved him to New York where he assumes the identity Nightwing.

Dick Grayson has ALWAYS represented the physical aspect of Batman.  He is a master of combat and combat tactics.  Where he lacks in ability to actually detect, he makes up for with in-the-moment wit and genius battle techniques.  Dick eventually (and currently) becomes Batman when Bruce Wayne dies (subject to change)  during the Final Crisis series.

Original Robin: Boy Wonder (Dick Grayson).

Moving on to Robin number two, Jason Todd.  Writers of the 80’s were afraid to change the story too much so Jason was similar to Dick in his background.

He comes from a circus family.  Will writers never learn?

Realizing their mistake (apparently they will!), the creators of Jason Todd felt it in their best interest to revise his character.  They took away his acrobatic parents, and turned him into a street orphan.  Jason Todd is a character raised by the streets of the 1980’s (not as bad as it should have been) and was introduced to Batman by trying to steal tires off the Bat mobile (probably the coolest thing Jason Todd ever did).  Readers never really got into Jason Todd (not really his fault, blame the writers obviously). In fact, he was kind of boring.  In 1988, DC decided to be adventurous and let readers decide via a 1-900 number whether Jason Todd should die or not.  The numbers were close, but Jason was killed by the Joker.  A very expected ending to an experimental character, Jason Todd dies, but you have not seen the last of him (muhuhahahaha?).  Jason Todd comes back more recently during the infinite crisis story arch by means of another dimension (what?).  Anyway, he comes back kinda evil, willing to do the killing that Batman was never able to do and kind of making him an enemy of everyone.  Jason Todd, now a ruthless vigilante, is much more interesting than when he was Robin, so I approve of his historical progression.

Readers voted for Jason Todd to die because he was kinda lame…

The third Robin to exist (and my personal favorite), Tim Drake hits the scene in 1989 as a witness to the murder of Grayson’s parents death.  Tim Drake finds himself the next Robin with his superior detective skills.  He finds out that Batman and Bruce Wayne are the same person (gasp!) all by himself and is taken in by Bruce.  Where Dick Grayson was the physical representation of Batman, Tim Drake is the mental.  He is by far the most potential candidate for greatest detective alive (after Bruce teaches him of course).  Tim Drake goes through a lot: his dad is killed by a D-list villain, The Boomerang, during Identity Crisis, his girlfriend (posing as Robin for a very brief time) is killed by gangsters, his best friend Superboy is killed by an alternate dimension Superboy (if I’m losing you, please, let me know).  Anyway, the point is, this kid hurts inside.  The first Robin to have his own comic series, he is the known leader of the Teen Titans and works to fight for control of Batman’s mantle in the Battle for the Cowl series.  Bruce Wayne dies (subject to change), and a lot of people begin to beat each other mercilessly to gain control of the image.  Eventually, Tim is severely injured by Jason Todd (who is also fighting for the Batman name) leaving Dick Grayson to become Batman.  Tim Drake leaves as Batman’s sidekick and becomes Red Robin (letting him do his own thing, a nice touch if i do say so myself).

Tim Drake, in a black and red Robin uniform commemorated to the now dead Superboy.

Wow, this is a long post…  So, then we get to the current Robin.  Damian Wayne (yes, Batman’s biological son with Ra’s al ghul’s daughter, Talia al ghul) takes up the mantle of Robin and Dick Grayson’s current sidekick.  Damian is arrogant, head strong and sloppy.  He has been raised to believe himself the most perfect human ever conceived, and he isn’t afraid to tell people he is better than them (all the time…).  Damien gets hurt a lot and constantly puts strain on battle scenarios, allowing for the bad guys to get away.  He is learning to be a sidekick the hard way and reluctantly listens to Dick Grayson (now Batman), yet still bosses around their butler, Alfred Pennyworth.  Damian, and his story as Robin, is now just beginning to get good, so there is little more I can say about the guy other than I hope they don’t screw him up.

Son of Bruce Wayne, and current Robin to Dick Grayson’s Batman. Readers have high hopes for Damian.

We have made it so far!  There is only one more Robin I’d like to talk about, and SHE is not talked about a lot.  In an effort for fan-girls around the world (and those very closely influenced by me), Carrie Kelly was once a Robin herself.  In Frank Miller’s graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns, Miller writes in a new Robin for an out-of-retirement Bruce Wayne of the future. He’s fighting crime in his 50’s, it’s so crazy that it has to work!  Bruce takes in Carrie pretty much because she forces herself into the position.  He doesn’t recruit her, she pretty much shows up one day and is Robin.  Carrie is an underdog Robin who deserves a lot more credit than is given to her.  She improves greatly throughout the book and saves Batman’s life.  She becomes an important character to Batman, and in Miller’s sequel to the book, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, she takes on the image and name Catgirl.

Carrie Kelly, the last Robin of them all, appearing in Frank Miller’s Batman out-of-retirement series.

That’s it, I’m done for a day or two at least (I need the break).  I hope you enjoyed this installment of the brief history of Robin.  Any questions you may have, please, comment. You will get a reply.

Word of the day: Sidekick -noun- a person who is generally inexperienced in crime committing or crime fighting and is taken as an apprentice/protege to learn and assist an experienced master.

“Charles totally acted as my sidekick in that political debate. He is getting there, but still definitely needs guidance.”

Your humble servant,

Tucker Paul Stempler

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    • Jazz
    • April 6th, 2010

    Bruce Wayne gets around alot. I believe he had a daughter with Catwoman also…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huntress_%28Helena_Wayne%29#Return_in_Infinite_Crisis

  1. Yeah… Bruce sure does (a hell of a lot in Miller’s recent All-Star Batman and Robin). Yet, as much as Huntress may be Bruce’s daughter do you think she represents a Robin?. I’d love to devote a post to inconsistencies of the crisis series from beginning to end, that would be a huge undertaking that I’m not sure I’m ready for it.
    Thanks for reading Jazz,
    TPS

    • Laura Ammon
    • April 10th, 2010

    This is great – I now understand a great deal more about the role of Robin(s) in the Batman series and can jump in with some knowledge about the canon. I definitely want to read more about Carrie Kelly’s transformation from Robin to Cat Girl. I am off the buy the sequel to Dark Knight Returns.

    This blog is the highlight of my blog list — keep up the excellent and fun work. I love your sense of humor peeking through, too.

    • kailey
    • April 12th, 2010

    good work, tucker!

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