The History of Robin: The Significance of Superhero Sidekicks

Detective Comics 38
Robin’s first appearance in April 1940.

In superhero comics, there are certain character roles a reader would expect. The hero, the super villain, the love interest, and the sidekick all come to mind. Unlike the hero, villain, and love interest, the sidekick was not and is not always in the picture. The sidekicks were created for two very simple reasons. One, the hero needed someone to talk to. Two, publishers were seeking a way to appeal to young readers, their biggest demographic. Thus the sidekick was born. The most obvious and lasting hero/sidekick pairing would have to be none other than Batman and Robin.

While the popularity of the superhero sidekick has faded with time, sidekicks are unquestionably a huge part of comic book history. Robin, especially, plays a significant role not only in the history but the future of the Batman mythos. Unlike Batman there have been many characters who have held the title of Robin and for a very simple reason. Batman needs a Robin in a way no other superhero needs a sidekick. Robin keeps Batman from going to the dark side. Robin ensures Batman never forgets why he chose to be a vigilante in the first place. For these reasons and more Robin, regardless of who holds the mantle, has a rich history. This article will explore the Robins to point out each individual’s unique narrative and how they relate to the bigger Batman picture.

Dick Grayson

The character of Robin made his comics debut in Detective Comics #38 in April of 1940. This incarnation was named Dick Grayson and is by far the most famous. He held the mantle of Robin all the way until the 1980s when he crafted his own superhero identity, Nightwing. Dick Grayson and the Robin persona were created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson. He was introduced as “Robin the Boy Wonder” and took visual cues from the acrobats of the day and Robin Hood the legendary character. Finger later said that in the early stories Robin was meant to be the Watson to Batman’s Sherlock Holmes. With these characters in mind Dick Grayson was imagined as a boy who came from a family of acrobats. Together with his parents they formed the “Flying Graysons,” the stars of what would eventually become the Haly Circus. A gangster boss named Boss Zucco has been extorting money from the circus and sabotages the Graysons trapeze act, causing young Dick to be orphaned at eight years old.

Dick Grayson meets Batman for the first time.
Dick Grayson meets Batman for the first time.

Batman, who had come to investigate the crime, saw himself in the boy, and as Bruce Wayne took him on as his ward. He promises the boy his parents would receive the justice his parents never would. He trained Dick in martial arts, detective work, and in gadgetry. Dick had a natural aptitude for it and together they investigated Zucco and found incriminating evidence against him. Impressed by Dick’s detective work and skill Batman crafts a costumed identity for his young ward. The costume consists of a red tunic, yellow cape, green gloves, a domino mask, and green briefs with his own utility belt, a huge visual departure from Batman’s classic black and blue color scheme.

The arrival of Robin changed the tone of the comics drastically. The first of the Batman stories were incredibly dark, and the character of Batman was far more violent and even used a gun. Robin brought out the lighter side of Batman, and cast him as a father and confidante and not an unforgiving vigilante. Throughout the forties and fifties the two were inseparable. They became the Dynamic Duo or the Caped Crusaders. But Dick didn’t always need Batman by his side to sell comics. He had his own solo adventures in Star Spangled Comics from 1947 to 1952.

Psychiatrist Frederic Wertham, author of the book Seduction of the Innocent, said the closeness of the two could be read as pedophilia. The reason for this was Robin often played the role of damsel in distress, a role usually reserved for love interest back in the day. He constantly needed to be rescued by Batman and was often tied up and helpless until Batman came to save the say. DC Comics stated that was not the intention of the relationship at all, and it was always meant to be a father/son relationship.

In 1964 in issue #54 of The Brave and the Bold, Robin introduces his own superhero team in which he was leader. The team consists of fellow sidekicks such as Aqualad and Kid Flash. The three of them put a stop to the evil schemes of Mister Twister without the help of the adult team, the Justice League of America. This was just the start of Dick and his team becoming their own men. The junior team did not have proper name until issue #60 where the three joined Speedy (Green Arrow’s sidekick) and Wonder Girl. From then on the team became the Teen Titans. Thanks to his training from Batman, Dick was a skilled tactician, well versed in martial arts, and a natural leader. He continues to lead the Teen Titans even when he leaves Gotham to attend Hudson University. At this point Robin was only in Detective Comics sporadically. The comics began to revisit its darker roots with writer/editor Dennis O’Neil at the helm.

Throughout the seventies and early eighties Dick/Robin was most successful in the Teen Titans. Writers Marv Wolfman and George Perez brought the character to new heights and gave him a whole personality outside of Batman. Still, DC Comics wanted to bring Robin back to the Batman title. Wolfman feared this would undo his work with Dick in Teen Titans. So Wolfman and his team had Dick having a falling out with Batman, and he renounced the name Robin entirely. He became Nightwing. With the name of Robin now free of an occupant DC began to envision another character to fill the role.

Jason Todd

Shortly after Dick Grayson gave up Robin, a new character by the name Jason Todd came to replace him in 1983. In his original incarnation, Jason Todd was nothing more than a carbon copy of Dick Grayson created by Gerry Conway and Don Newton. A bit later he was re imagined to be a troubled street kid whom Batman took on as his ward. At first though, Jason is the child of another acrobat family similar to the Flying Graysons. His parents are also murdered right before his eyes. The only real thing that can be distinguished between the original Jason and Dick is Jason’s strawberry blonde hair. Slowly, certain traits began to appear that differed from the original Robin. Jason was prone to jealousy and feels left out when Catwoman makes frequent appearances. He also has surrogate mother relationship with the villain Nocturna, for a while.

Jason's rage can be hard to quell.
Jason’s rage can be hard to quell.

After the universe wide reboot called Crisis on Infinite Earths, Jason’s origin was rebooted to be an orphaned street kid who attempted to steal the tires off the Batmobile. Jason’s father had been henchmen for Two-Face and left Jason and his mother. His mother was a drug addict who had overdosed resulting in Jason living on the streets in Crime Alley. Under the Bruce Wayne guise, Batman assures Jason was sent to a home for troubled youth. The home turns out to be a School of Crime for budding thieves. With Batman, Jason apprehended the gang of thieves residing in the home. Batman then revealed his identity, and Jason became the second incarnation of Robin.

Jason/Robin did not have the acrobatic skill or natural athleticism that Dick, had but he was a dutiful study. He has a lot of suppressed rage similar to Batman. Batman believed if the boy could just channel that rage into something productive such as crime fighting, Jason would be better off. While this theory proves to work, Batman does detect a certain rebellious streak in Jason. He has a disdain for authority, even Batman’s authority on several occasions. In Batman issue #424, a serial rapist named Garzonas is caught by Robin with Batman still on the way. Garzonas falls to his death before Batman can get there. Robin says that Garzonas was spooked and fell to his death, but it can be implied that Jason pushed him. He later says to Batman, “Would it be such a loss if I had killed him?”

Writer Dennis O’Neil wrote a story in 1988 entitled A Death in the Family, in which the fans could decide the fate of Jason. All they had to do was call a 1-800 number with their vote. The stunt was intended to bring more readership. The idea was fans would be more invested if they could be part of the creative process. In the story, Robin found out the woman who raised him was not his biological mother and went off globe-trotting to find his “true” mother. When he found her it turned out she was being blackmailed by the Joker. She turns her son in to the Joker, who beats Jason brutally with a crowbar, leaving him and his mother in a warehouse with a ticking bomb.

Batman pulls his solider from the wreckage.
Batman pulls his solider from the wreckage.

Before the conclusion of the story, readers called in the 1-800 number to cast their vote. It was decided Jason would die. Batman is on his way when the warehouse blows, killing Jason and his mother. Today, it is debated rather or not the voting was rigged. Regardless, the second Robin’s death still haunts Batman to this today. He considers Jason’s murder his greatest failure and Jason’s costume remains on display in Batcave. Frank Miller, the writer of the famous Batman story The Dark Knight Returns, considers it a turning point in comics. Before then Miller believes comics were never so cynical. But like most comic book characters, Jason comes back to life in a story line called Under the Red Hood.

Jason originally came back to life thanks to the villain Superboy Prime, who had punched his way out of a pocket dimension, sending a ripple effect through the multiverse causing Jason to come back to life. He was then placed in Ras Al Ghul’s Lazarus Pit to restore his mind. Since then his resurrection has been changed to simply being dropped in the Lazarus Pit by Ras in later continuity. Now under the alias the Red Hood, Jason still operates as a vigilante only this time around he has no problem using lethal force. The next character to hold the name of Robin came in 1989.

Tim Drake

The third incarnation of Robin was Tim Drake in 1989. Unlike the first two Robins whom were orphans and taken in by Batman, Tim had riddled out Batman’s secret identity. Of all the Robins he is the most like Batman in terms of personality and life goals. Tim was created by Marv Wolfman and Pat Broderick and made his first comic appearance in Batman #436. Tim had been present at the circus the day the Graysons fell to their death and had followed the escapades of Batman and Robin in the paper. He manages to figure out Bruce Wayne is Batman and that Dick Grayson was the original Robin. Tim is not an orphan like Dick and grew up in a stable home. After Jason’s death, Tim notices that Batman has become more reckless and violent. Afraid of what his hero is becoming, Tim decides to offer his services as a Robin. Batman is reluctant to take on another young partner so soon after the last Robin’s death. But after Tim gains permission from both Nightwing and Alfred, Tim receives intensive training from Batman and many others.

Tim was the first Robin since Dick Grayson to receive his own independent comic title from 1989 to 2009. Tim/Robin took care of Gotham solo for a bit while Batman was forced to retire after Bane broke his back in Knightfall. He also joins the Teen Titans like Dick did before him. His intellect paired with his combat training makes him a prime candidate for leader among the Titans team. His whole reason for becoming Robin was not due to some personal trauma like Bruce or Dick. Nor is it to quell some inner rage like Jason. Tim becomes Robin because he believes it’s the right thing to do. He has seen the good Batman and Robin has done for the city and wants to be part of the solution, despite his father’s misgivings about it.

Like the other Robins before him, Tim eventually became an orphan in the storyline Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer. Tim’s father was murdered by Captain Boomerang and Batman formally adopted the boy. Tim also began dating a fellow teen vigilante Stephanie Brown who will come into play later. After Batman’s apparent death in Batman RIP, Tim distanced himself from Nightwing and other members of the Bat family, believing Bruce to be alive somewhere. During this time Tim becomes Red Robin and challenges the League of Assassins, and other Batman foes such as Hush.

Tim as Red Robin.
Tim as Red Robin.

In the New 52 relaunch in 2011 it was decreed that Tim always worked under the alias of Red Robin. He also makes himself a new costume that more resembles Batman’s cape and cowl rather than Robin’s tunic. This outraged many fans who believed Tim had earned the right to be an official Robin. Speaking of earning the right to the name, another Robin named Stephanie Brown was also stripped of the title much to fans resistance.

Stephanie Brown

Stephanie Brown originally had a superhero name of her own before she became Robin. Stephanie is the daughter of Gotham criminal Cluemaster and crafted her own identity as the Spoiler. After a romance with Tim went down the drain she took up his identity as Robin only to be fired from the position early on. Stephanie was created by Chuck Dixon and Tom Lyle as a plot device character. But the fans loved her so much they continued to bring her back in the Robin title. Stephanie’s father was in jail for the majority of her childhood and when he wasn’t, he was never really around. When he comes back to Gotham he claims to be rehabilitated. Stephanie finds this to be lie and crafts herself a purple costume with a black mask and begins leaving clues leading to her father’s capture. Tim/Robin eventually began to catch onto her scheme and helped her stop Cluemaster and throw him in jail.

Stephanie and her many crime fighting identities.
Stephanie and her many crime fighting identities.

Stephanie finds herself enjoying being a crime fighter and continues to don her Spoiler costume when the need aries. On her nightly patrols she begins to run into Robin more than once and she eventually develops a crush on him. Robin, Tim Drake, likes her too but can’t tell her his secret identity out of loyalty to Batman. When Tim disappears on a secret mission to Tibet, Batman approaches Spoiler to learn where Tim has gone. He offers his training to her as a way to improve her skills. In 1988, Stephanie finds herself pregnant from an ex-boyfriend. This was first time in comics that teen pregnancy had been addressed, and as result the Robin title received much praise. Stephanie decides to give up the baby for adoption with Tim by her side throughout this difficult time. She remained an important part of the Robin title despite her reprieve from costumed heroics. 

She resumes her Spoiler identity until Batman told her she was not crime fighting material. Despite the fact she no longer received training, she continues to patrol as Spoiler. When Tim’s father finds out his escapades as Robin he forces him to retire. During this time Stephanie and Tim have a falling out. As a result Stephanie makes her own Robin costume and approaches Batman demanding he take her on. Batman reluctantly agrees as he feels Tim’s absence on the streets is becoming evident. Despite vigorous training, Batman feels Stephanie is after all not a suitable replacement. After she defies his orders twice he fires her, fearing what happened to Jason might happen to Stephanie. In order to prove her worth to Batman, Stephanie steals his plans to deal with Gotham’s criminal underbelly. She accidentally starts a gang war and finds herself captured and tortured by Black Mask, a story which took several issues to solve. She manages to escape and get to a hospital but is not administered the proper treatment. She dies with Batman by her side.

Stephanie’s death was met with outrage by fans who saw her death as unnecessary and part of the Woman in Refrigerators trope. This trope, coined by comic book writer Gail Simone, refers to female characters, usually the girlfriend of a hero, who die a gruesome death without a fight, only to further advance the male hero’s character arc. The male hero in question being both Batman and Tim Drake in this case. It was revealed later that her death was faked and she returns to Gotham to continue her role as Spoiler and later Batgirl.

Damian Wayne

Damian Wayne, the current Robin, is the son of Batman and his former flame Talia Al Ghul. He came into the mantle after the Battle for the Cowl storyline in 2009. Raised by the League of Assassins, Damian has a lot to learn about life and morality under his father’s and Dick Grayson’s tutelage. Damian was created by Grant Morrison based on the unnamed son of Talia and Batman who, briefly appeared in the non-canonical story Son of the Demon. Damian did not start out as likable character. He was selfish, egotistical, with a complete disregard for human life. Talia leaves him with Batman in the story Batman and Son, while she continues her father’s crusade. Batman feels it his duty to start the boy down the right path, despite not completely sure if Damian is his in the first place. Desperate to impress his father, Damian tries to continue his dad’s work in Gotham with fatal results.

Damian does not take kindly to Robin.
Damian does not take kindly to Robin.

Damian appears while Tim is still in the role of Robin and nearly kills him to steal Jason Todd’s old Robin costume. He then murders a criminal Batman was after, and Batman is furious. Talia soon takes her son back after Batman confronts her about Damian’s true identity. Although his time with his father was short, it seems to have had effect on the boy’s mind. It is revealed that Damian was bred so that Ras Al Ghul could have a new body, as his body was deteriorating. Talia was unaware of this and manages to save her son from his grandfather. Damian finds his way back to Gotham and after some misunderstandings Tim, Batman, Nightwing, and Damian resume a battle with Ras Al Ghul. This was just the start of Damian’s journey to become a hero.

Damian becomes Robin after his father’s apparent death when Dick Grayson became Batman. Under his adopted brother’s care, Damian becomes a kinder more compassionate person. When his father comes back to Gotham he continues his role as Robin and the two of them become close. Then, like other Robins Damian is killed by the Heretic, a clone his mother created. After all the people he’s lost, Batman decides to do something about it. He sets himself on a journey to resurrect Damian. He succeeds with a mystical item called the Chaos Shard. Now resurrected, Damian gained superpowers such as flight and invulnerability, the first Robin to do so.

That’s five Robins down, but that is still not all of them. Outside the main continuity there have been two other Robins; Carrie Kelley of the Dark Knight Returns and Helena Wayne from Earth 2 continuity. Carrie became Robin to a much older Bruce Wayne who at the age of fifty resumed the mantle of Batman. Helena Wayne is the daughter Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle in an alternate universe. She would eventually become Huntress in Earth 2. But why are there so many Robins? Are Robins necessary to the Batman mythos?

Robin was created for practical purposes. Batman needed someone to talk to and they needed kids to identify with someone. But as time would tell Robin provides Batman with a family, something that he desperately wants and needs. Dick lightened the Batman universe in 1940. He prevented Batman from going too far and reminded him why he chose to fight crime in the first place. Jason mirrored Batman’s own rage and shows him a glimpse of what he could have become if his morals weren’t so rigid. Tim mirrors Batman’s need for justice and assures him what he’s doing is worthwhile. Stephanie reminds him of what recklessness can cause. And Damian shows Batman that he has future despite how bleak the world may look.

The Robins have also made lasting impression in the comics medium. Heroes began to have sidekicks from time to time, eventually creating the Teen Titans. Some writers have looked at the Robin’s track record and decided that sidekicks aren’t a good idea after all. The Robin title even took up the taboo subject of teen pregnancy with sensitivity. But most importantly each Robin was their own character with their own story. It would have been easy to keep using Dick Grayson over and over but they allowed him and the other Robins to grow. The legacy of Robin will continue to expand over the years; hopefully it will continue to go in a positive direction.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Aaron Hatch

    I find it interesting that there using Carrie Kelley’s Robin in the Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. While I’m a little sad to not have Dick Grayson of Tim Drake in the movie, I still love the idea of Carrie being the new face of Robin.

  2. Natalie Sheppard

    The batfamily and rogue’s gallery are honestly the best part of the batman universe. Robin has always been vastly more interesting (to me, anyway) than Bruce himself.

    Well done.

    • Thank you very much! I initially didn’t like Bruce much myself either, but now he’s one of my favorites. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Tim Drake was my favorite Robin, but I also like him as Red Robin. It’s interesting to me that “Robin” is a gateway superhero. Dick became Nightwing, Jason became Red Hood, Tim became Red Robin, Stephanie became Batgirl, in an alternate future, Damian becomes Batman, Kerry becomes Catwoman, and in New 52, Helena Wayne (Bruce’s daughter from an alternate universe) becomes Huntress.

    • I’ve never thought of Robin as a gateway superhero. But you’re right! It makes perfect sense.

  4. OMG im a die hard DC fan especially for Nightwing and Robin but Dick grayson is probably one of the best no doubt about it. BTW nice job pretty much covered it all!

  5. My casting choices for(most of) the Robins:

    Dick Grayson/Nightwing: Jake Gyllenhaal
    Jason Todd/Red Hood: Shia LaBeouf
    Tim Drake: Josh Hutcherson
    Stephanie Brown: Annasophia Robb
    Damian Wayne: No clue.
    Carrie Kelly: Joey King

  6. Great explanation for people who do not know the origins of any of the robins.

  7. Favorite Robins:
    1. Dick Grayson
    2.Tim Drake
    3.Damian Wayne
    4.Jason Todd
    5.Stephanie Brown

  8. Do the history of NightWing

  9. I still think Dick Grayson was my favourite.Without him, there may not have been any Robins, PLUS there wouldn’t be the Teen Titans or Young Justice.

  10. Jason Todd was my first exposure to comics and batman, and my favorite DC character. one of the reasons he was brought back is because after years it came to light that Jason Todd had not truly been voted dead… since one A-hole rigged his computer to dial the number and vote to kill him.

    Being that the evidence is not certain, facts have been presented to prove that it is a very possible truth. to amend and indulge the story of one man voting him to death Judd Winick decided to bring him back.

  11. Hyacinth

    I prefer Tim Drake, he was a lot like Dick Grayson in a way. However he seemed to rely more on his intellect(Tim drake), which I always found fitting since his mentor, batman is literally the worlds greatest detective. Also when batman supposedly “died” in the comics, he was the only one who searched and believed he was still out there somewhere, unlike dick. Which really shows how devoted he is, he even kept robin in his name when he went solo. I think as dick as more of an ally than a partner, however he is my second favourite.

  12. It’s weird but growing up with Batman and Spiderman, I always liked Robin. Dick Grayson/Nightwing is my favorite DC character, I love the Red Hood movie, and I think it’s awesome that Tim Drake becomes the Red Robin. But Dick is my favorite because he’s kind of a cross between the two heroes I grew up. The talent and skills of Batman but then the athleticism of Spiderman.

  13. Do history of the batmans!

  14. So Younger

    The original robin is the firsth one!I hate when DC makes copy of original character!!The original robin is DICK grayson!He becomes nightwing.

  15. the robin i like is Tim Drake he’s so awesome

  16. Espinal

    Omg, I lost track of robin a long time ago D: I sure missed a lot!

  17. I wish Damian Wayne didn’t die. He wasn’t that bad of a character.

  18. Burroughs

    Robin = Shit
    Bob, Bill and Jerry only invented him so that he would attract kids. Robin is one of the most STUPID characters ever.
    But without him we wouldn’t have gotten Nightwing and Red Hood, so I guess he served a purpose.

  19. I want to catch up and read the origins/history of Robin(s). What comics should I read? Or Origins comics.

  20. I never liked non of the Robins until they broke away from Batman. Like nightwing was awesome.Red robin never really liked or tim drake all together, even and the Arkham city game.jason todd was a bad ass, as Robin and red hood.Damian Wayne was cool as Robin too.his back story was retarded tho.Dick and Damian was the only ones that really matterd to me.

  21. Dick and Damian are my favorite Robins w/ Carrie coming behind them, I like Jason Todd more as Red Hood rather than Robin along with Stephanie as Batgirl or Spoiler. Sorry people Tim Drake is not for me.

  22. basically Tim Drake was a major batman fanboy.

  23. Frances

    I know a lot of people do not like Damian Wayne, especially after injustice but he is my favorite Robin with Tim Drake right behind him.

  24. I love Robin but Nightwing is BOSS!

  25. I loved this article. It was well done and provided great information about the lineage of my favorite sidekick.

  26. Silverman

    man I wish Damian didnt die so soon, I was beginning to like him too. Talia you are a cold cold mother 

  27. Arry Road

    Tim Drake’s updated origin in the New52 was not for the better they essentially made him a super genius who’s an acrobat. He also tries so hard to win approval of Batman that he marks himself and his family for death by the hand of the Penguin and his parents are sent away in Witness Protection while Tim is secretly guarded by Wayne and no one assumes anything. That’s horsecrap and completely ruins the Tim character who used to be someone who while intelligent simply uncovered Batman and Robin by watching TV and using a specific fighting technique with that of a acrobatic performance he saw. That Tim was smart enough to attract Wayne’s attention by enlisting the help of Dick Grayson who could talk to him reasonably. 

  28. Quinonez

    People call Robin Batman’s ‘sidekick’ but he’s not!

    Tim (and all the other robins) are Batman’s partner! Even in one comic cat woman said “you beat me even without your sidekick!”

    And Tim thought (cuz he is undercover and that would blow his cover) “I’m his partner! Not his sidekick! How hard is it to remember that?!”

  29. fawn pullen

    its funny how people talk about who was the best robin, there will never be a better than the original, nightwing is the closest thing to batman and without the tragedy of the grayson family im sure there would never even be a robin, technically he made the rest of them.

  30. I Like Tim Drake And Dick Grayson as Robins

  31. I always wondered why Robin has flashy colors next to Batman who is more stealth….

    • He’s the distraction to keep the criminals’ attention off of Batman so he can take them out from the shadows.

  32. Red Hood is my personal favorite do to the fact is life wasn’t easy and that he needed to fall completly into darkness so that one day he conic reach the light. He isn’t a bad person as whole. Just missed guided, sad, and angry. Beaten to near death then dies in an explosion. Though he maybe arrogant and hotheaded; he wanted to make a difference in a more effective way. Red Hood is one big mess but someone I can respect for trying even though his way of things is out of line. Then there is NightWing……the one who set the standard for all Robins. He is my second favorite because he also wanted to make a difference and made his own path.

  33. Should be an animated film on dick grayson/nightwing its anoying he only ever has minor roles or at least a film based on the evolution of all robins up to demian’s era as robin

  34. Roseanna

    Damien = best and most awesome Robin!! Hands down! 

  35. they should make a series with Jason Todd as a good Robin and he has a team Like Teen Titans but instead of Dick it is Jason in a different universe where he is less violent and more friendlyand probably call it the fallin justice

  36. Dobbins

    Dick Grayson is THE BEST Robin! Nothing beats THE ORIGINAL. Plus out of all the Robins, he’s the closest thing to Bruce, Dick even BECAME Batman and we all know Bruce just doesn’t choose anyone, you have to deserve it. Batman has even said Dick is one of the few people that can defeat him if he ever went rogue 

    • Nilsa Koonce

      I actually like tim drake the best because a lot of his skills are self taught like his detective skills. Dick is close though. Knightwing is one of my favorite characters but as knighwing… I believe he hae actually beat batman in a fight before?

  37. Adnan Bey

    I love how you portray Robin. A lot of y family doesn’t like Robin, thinking he’s too kiddish and very few people understand that’s exactly WHY he exists. My favorite has to be Dick Grayson but I also love Damien. I actually don’t know much about Stephanie Brown but your article was very informative. Thanks for this.

  38. Very interesting post. Robin has quite the back story. It seems to me that sidekicks humanize the heroes in which they support. Yes, they provide the hero someone to talk to but also a reason to keep going.

  39. Both an interesting commentary on the role Robin has in Batman mythos and the history of each of the Robin characters. Stephanie Brown is one of my personal favourites.

  40. The Bat family always intrigued me in the myriad of existing superhero/vigilante families. The Robins are crucial to the Batman mythos, giving human elements to Batman’s badassery. Each Robin grows and earns their respective roles in the Bat family, whether it is fighting alongside Batman or fighting under his shadow.

    Now let’s continue along the Bat family and talk about the Batgirls.

  41. dhananandini

    Really loved the explanation for the origin of Robin series!!!


    This is a great article; I love anything that explores the Bat family mythos, and anything that can correct some of the assumptions that are made about the Batman and Robin dynamic. It’s always been interesting to me that people so often dismiss Robin as a part of the Batman mythos, yet there has rarely ever been a time when Batman has existed without a Robin. Even in his first comics, it was not even two years before Dick Grayson was introduced to the Batman series. So it’s nice to see that this article points that out. It’s also great that you included Stephanie Brown among the Robins! Often she is forgotten in the lineup since her role didn’t last long. I am pleasantly surprised to see that she was remembered in this article.

    I have a lot of love for the Robins and the role they play over the decades, so I hope you don’t mind if I add a few tidbits of information here.
    Something people often don’t realize when talking about the original Robin uniform is that it wasn’t actually a shirt and shorts. Instead the outfit was supposed to be a green leotard with a red tunic over it. You can see this a couple of times when Dick Grayson actually takes off the tunic or has it slightly undone. That’s why the sleeves of the costume are green, and not red. Makes quite a bit more sense than scaly panties, doesn’t it?

    Since you mentioned Frederic Wertham, I’d like to talk about him a bit. Despite many people not realizing it, this is where we get the cultural impression that Bruce Wayne adopting Dick Grayson was somehow ‘creepy’ and ‘inappropriate’. However, it may surprise many people to know that Frederic Wertham didn’t actually even read the Batman comics. As a matter of fact, he didn’t read comics at all! Instead he was a part of the population that was against comic books, and looking to get them banned within the United States. So he decided to publish a book saying that heroes relationships with sidekicks were encouraging homosexuality and pedophilia in order to attempt to accomplish this goal. So the very man that started this idea not only misinterpreted the relationship, but he did so purposely, without ever having read a single comic, to accomplish an anti-comics agenda.

    I also have a quick question I’d like to ask: You mention that Wolfman’s team wrote the ‘falling out’ between Dick and Bruce, but was this actually the case? I can’t remember for certain, but I had thought that the original split between Dick Grayson and Batman was rather amicable? After Dick was hurt in the field Bruce finally said that he didn’t believe he could train his partner as Robin anymore, and they split as equals. I thought it was only later retcons changed the story to a formal ‘falling out’ for the sake of drama? However, I could certainly be getting my timelines confused, considering the story has been done several times.

    Also, thank you for actually doing Jason Todd a good amount of justice in your summary. So often the character gets labeled as the “bad” Robin in an attempt to justify his death. Something to keep in mind though: While Jason did have a lot of anger, he actually managed to rein it in for the most part, before the Felipe incident it was really only when confronted with Two Face that he truly lost his temper. And it wasn’t until after the Felipe incident that he really showed much in the way of ‘rebellion’ against Bruce’s authority. It might also be worth noting that Jason was very personally invested in the Felipe case, and was the one to find that the victim they had been assisting had committed suicide. So Jason’s anger in the case didn’t come from nowhere.

    He was also benched not long after the incident, so he didn’t exactly go ‘globe-trotting’ to find his mother. Instead he stowed away when Batman had to head to Ethiopia, and was reinstated for the mission. When he was captured by the Joker, he had thought that he was rushing to his mother’s aid, but instead rushed right into a trap.

    And you are right, a lot of people do suspect foul play for the voting that decided whether Jason lived or died. As a matter of fact, while it can never be fully confirmed, a man claimed that he called a multitude of times to vote ‘yes’, just to see if DC would really do it. The voting came down to I believe less than a hundred votes for killing him. It’s also interesting to know that DC actually had had plans to kill off Jason Todd before this, but they were scrapped last minute. All of it makes the whole ‘voting’ idea seem very suspect.

    Bruce also didn’t accept Tim Drake with ease. In fact it was a miracle he accepted another Robin at all. It took a lot of convincing on behalf of Dick, Alfred, and other heroes. It took Bruce realizing his own downward spiral in order to take hold of his grief, and allow Tim to take on the role of Robin. Even then though, Tim Drake had to go through very rigorous training. It wasn’t until he showed that he had the skills to survive in the field that Bruce was truly convinced to take him on.

    It might also be worth mentioning that Tim Drake, much like Dick Grayson, started up his own team before joining the Teen Titans. In his earlier days as Robin, Tim, Superboy, Impulse, and the second Wonder Girl all started a new team called Young Justice. It was very popular and served as a staple in many of Tim’s connections and friendships.

    The only other thing I might add to this article is that you perhaps don’t want to mix Damian’s New 52 and Pre-Flashpoint stories. When Bruce came back, he and Damian didn’t automatically hit it off, and Dick didn’t go back to being Nightwing. Instead Bruce’s relationship with his biological son was rocky, and he allowed Dick to remain as Batman to continue working in Gotham and teaching Damian. The New 52 is an entirely new continuity, and it gets rid of a lot of staples within comics and the Bat family specifically, so to mix it with the Pre-Flashpoint continuity doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    But thank you for writing this! It was a great read, and it does a good job of summarizing the five main Robins. By any chance do you have any interest or want to do a Batgirl article? It would definitely be fun to read, especially considering that Cassandra Cain was adopted by Bruce Wayne as well.

  43. Love the article. Robin is one of my favorite DC figures and his role as levity for Batman’s darkness is incredibly important to appreciating Batman’s story. As someone just getting into DC Comics, this was incredibly helpful.

  44. I feel as if what makes the Robins so interesting is that all of them are so completely different. The creators of these characters did an excellent job in diversifying them and exploring new traits, and it’s always intriguing to see these different personalities and how they either mesh or clash with Bruce’s ethics.

  45. JLaurenceCohen

    Cool article. I don’t think Robin is necessary if there are other strong supporting characters.

  46. It’s interesting that there have been so many Robins and that only one movie franchise (live action) decided to incorporate him fully.

  47. Emily Deibler

    As a huge fan of the Batfamily, I commend you on the excellent article. 🙂

  48. I thought that aqualad, kid flash, speedy and robin (dick) formed young justice, but that may just be because I watched the netflix series 😛
    Love this article, I was unsure about how many robins there were because I’ve seen many different characters don the costume.

  49. The evolution of the “Role of Robing” in the Bat-narrative has always fascinated me. From a surrogate figure for youths to empathize with in the 40’s, to teenage angst in the 80’s, to internet-savy, hip youth in the 90’s and finally as a meta-antithesis to the original vision in the late 00’s. Great article!

  50. Good stuff. I don’t think we need to go so far as to read the relationship between Batman and Robin as paedophilia in order to figure that there is a sexual dimension to it. Robin is an iteration of the Ganymede archetype, wherein a beautiful boy is brought up to heaven to be Zeus’s cup bearer.

    Batman needs Robin, both aesthetically and psychologically. He not only needs a child he can be responsible for, but needs to engage in distinctly adult activity (crime fighting) with that child, forming an intimate bond between them. Of course, we can only presume that Robin, whoever (s)he is at a given time, is having the time of his/her life. But I don’t think Robin needs Batman as much as the reverse.

    I don’t mean we ought to be uncomfortable with the relationship. I only mean to argue that it shows us a kind of bond that we are generally uncomfortable with admitting into the mainstream of our storytelling culture.

  51. Robin Hickman

    My name is Robin..I was told to read this because without knowing any of this it was stated to me you are the “Real Robin” I didn’t know what the person meant at this time. I had run across a person who I met by chance and this person would always say “it’s you” those eyes “it’s really you”. I to this day do not know why or what his thinking was he would never say. I knew only the first name of the individual but I am a researcher. I knew he had issues with his hands but wasn’t sure why but one day in speaking with him I learned he had been in a horrible motorcycle accident. He told me in a deep conversation that he sees things has visions (he did not elaborate) I only listened for he wouldn’t speak if people quizzed him) he spoke to me and I was intrigued. I am the opposite of most individuals who confide in me. I am the light and put the light in their darkness. One day he said something while speaking that gave me enough to find out what his last name is. So I researched and did just that so I googled his name having no clue what I would find. I knew the character of Robin and have always been the sidekick and often go by Batman as a joke on profiles when people see they always say “oh I get it Batman and Robin” back to my story. I found his name was Frank Miller and when I read the story of Frank Miller it was almost chilling and I had to study so deep to even determine was there some connection. I phoned one person we had in common and told her she knew his name and his story but for some reason Frank was drawn to me. I was not from the same world Frank was from he knew it and I in dark times was peace. I was a safe place and I did not ask questions I only listened. I was drawn to Frank because he mentored me as to how the world around me has changed and I felt that good was now considered bad and bad was considered good. I said when did the world change and my nickname was actually “Bubble Girl” and people would say I didn’t know there were any of you left or someone like you actually existed. This confused me why would I be alienated for being a good person. I was unaware to the dark world due to my being a work aholic and I was afraid to do things that were wrong. I was shy so unless I met you in a work environment very few people became close to me. I was the responsible one so I always had people come to me seeking advice or just wanting to talk. I am 5’1 and 104 pounds and one day a friend who had stopped speaking to me sent a text that said “you better get up here or there is going to be a killing” I was shocked when the text came thru read it and started my car I happened to be in my car and it wasn’t started. It went through my mind a million things and I drove as fast as I could and drove my SUV down the rough rode almost to the point I felt air borne at times and pulled up jumped out and I carried a pink lipstick tazer on my keychain. I had it ready and barged in to the home without knocking and into the situation. Although it was a relationship dispute she was not even a part of she was stuck in the middle due to rising with the person. I stood there with 3 people looking at me and did what I do “I was the voice of reason and diffused the situation” all parties spoke and I took control and it ceased. I asked why of all people would she call me she hadn’t spoken to me in 6 months. She stated “because I knew you would show up” “I knew you would do whatever it took to help the situation” that moment was a moment I felt like I actually meant something. That maybe just maybe I do make a difference being me. I’m told who are you so much and that people have never met anyone like me to the point it actually wore on me that I was like an alien. I fit in no where but In time of need I fit in everywhere. People only remember me after I am gone and miss me to the point of depression but while in my presence can’t value my qualities. So I was told I needed to read this because I try to save people. Super hero Sunny D who puts the sunshine back in everything. Although when I hear this hear I come to save the day it’s Sunny D it’s someone telling me you are doing it again because they want to see negative. Frank Miller to this day speaks to me in a way that is unlike anyone ever has. He sees something in me that no other he has met and he still says its you. It’s always been you.

  52. Steve falletta

    Is the idea for another robin character open for the public to use please email with answer

  53. Fabiola Meza

    It is for these similar reasons that I find Robins so much more interesting than Batman! I love the Christian Bale movies for what they are, but it usually portrays the type of Batman that I sometimes tire of– always angry and brooding. Imagine being raised by Batman– *shudders*
    The Titans TV show seems to be doing an okay job of showing this, although it seems to be rushing through a lot without proper explanation. But that’s a thought for a different type of article, right?
    Btw, Dick Grayson is my favorite

  54. Favorite Robin of All Time: Tim Drake

  55. As I recall, Robin was originally an instrumental character; not what was seen in the original Batman television show.

  56. This was a really interesting read. I had no idea that Robin kicked off the sidekick trope in comic books. I love the ending statement where each Robin did have a purpose and was allowed to grow and be fleshed out as their own character.

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