Nerd 101: A History of the Robins
Rumors have been circulating about the possibility of a Nightwing movie. And while this gets me super excited, it made me realize that there are people out there who don’t know who Nightwing is. So, I decided to take it upon myself to educate the masses on the Robins.
First and foremost, Robin (as in Batman and Robin) is not just ONE person. This isn’t a Highlander situation where “there can only be one!” (Although, it kind of IS in some ways…) Also, Robin is a TITLE, not the NAME of a person. This is why the ending of The Dark Knight Rises bothered me so much. IT’S NOT HIS NAME, CHRIS NOLAN. IT IS A TITLE THAT IS EARNED.
So, without getting too nerdy (although I may slip up a few times), here’s a list of Robin’s (in the simplest of terms) throughout the years.
1. Dick Grayson (Robin; the Boy Wonder; Nightwing; Joker….that’s a long story…)
Dick was in the circus with his parents as the acrobatic trio known as The Flying Grayson’s. Then is parents were murdered and Batman took him under his wing. Literally. Dick Grayson became his ward and they solved his parents murder together and became the Dynamic Duo.
“You’re parents are dead…MY parents are dead…We’re gonna be great friends. Now put on this leotard.”
Eventually, after fighting by Batman’s side for so many years and establishing the Teen Titans, Dick grew up and decided that being a grown man in a leotard taking orders from another grown man in a bat suit was weird and became his own superhero: Nightwing. He still worked with Batman occasionally, not as his sidekick, but as equals, and continued helping the Teen Titans as well.
2. Jason Todd (Robin; Red Hood)
After Dick left, Batman got super depressed. He missed his Boy Wonder. So, he did the creepiest thing ever. He saw a kid trying to steal the rims off of the Batmobile…and just took him home. He was like “You’re the new Robin now. Put on this leotard.” To which Jason said “I’ll only wear the leotard if I get to wear tights, because a half-naked child running around with a grown man is weird.”
But while the writers tried to make Jason a suitable replacement for Dick as the new Robin, Dick Grayson and Jason Todd are two very different people. For one: Dick fought crime because it was the right thing to do. He subdued criminals for the police to take to jail and receive swift justice.
Jason, on the other hand, also fought crime because it was the right thing to do…but also liked to rough up the criminals with his own brand of justice before the cops got to them. He had some underlying anger issues that he took out on criminals.
Dick grew up in a loving family. Jason grew up on the streets. He grew up with the worst of the worst of Gotham and knew exactly what criminals were capable of in the worst ways. Therefore, he gave the criminals what he thought they deserved.
Because of this the writers didn’t think that the audience was connecting with Todd and didn’t know if they should kill him off or not. So they posted a 1-900 number in the comics and had the readers call in to vote to kill or keep Jason Todd (I’m not kidding).
In the end it was a close call, but the voting total was 5,343 to 5,271 in favor of killing Jason Todd.
And who got the privilege of killing Jason Todd? The Joker of course. And this wasn’t just a one-and-done killing, oh no. The Joker tortured Jason, beat him with a crow bar, and then left him tied up in a building rigged with explosives. Jason didn’t make it out before the bombs went off, and Batman was just a few seconds too late getting to the building to save him.
“A Death in the Family” ended up being one of the most popular issues of the Batman comics, and still is to this day.
Later, we find out that Ra’s al Ghul stole Jason’s body and took it to the Lazarus Pit to resurrect him (Lazarus Pit = Magical Life Restoring Hot Tub). Jason then became the Red Hood and dealt his own kind of justice for the scum of Gotham: by just straight up murdering them.
Eventually he became the head of the Outlaws with Arsenal and Starfire...but I digress…
3. Tim Drake (Robin; ; Red X; Red Robin)
Tim Drake was the Robin that didn’t want to be Robin.
Tim Drake was a Batman and Robin fanboy. Not an obsessive “I HAVE YOUR POSTERS ALL OVER MY WALL AND DREAM ABOUT YOU EVERY NIGHT” fanboy. He looked up to them and their detective work. You see, he too wanted to be a great detective. And he was. Because he deduced the true identities of Batman and Robin as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson.
Tim did kind of stalk them a bit whenever they were ‘on the case’, but he ended up being valuable to their investigations by providing his own intel that he found.
After the death of Jason Todd, the writers didn’t know if they audience wanted to go back to just a stand-alone Batman series with no Robin, or if they should try to find a new Robin that the readers would enjoy.
Tim Drake was a happy medium between Dick Grayson’s “goody-two-shoes” and Jason Todd’s “street tough” style that the audience actually enjoyed.
When Tim eventually took up the mantle of ‘Robin’ he didn’t do so because he wanted to, he did it because he felt that he had an obligation to help the people of Gotham and Batman. It was less of a “Oh boy! I get to be Robin!!!!” and more of a “Well…I might as well…”
He would later go on to form Young Justice and re-form the Teen Titans.
4. Stephanie Brown (Spoiler; Robin; Batgirl)
When Tim retired as Robin, he girlfriend stepped up to the plate. But Batman fired her because she wouldn’t listen to him and follow his rules “to a ‘t’”.
Trying to prove that she was worthy of the title of Robin, Steph accidentally set off a gang war (it was an accident, okay??) and died in the process of trying to end it.
OR DID SHE???
Turns out she faked her death, and returned to continue her role as Spoiler and later as Barbara Gordon’s replacement as Batgirl.
5. Damian Wayne (Robin; Red Bird)
Son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul and spawn of Satan. Okay, I made that last part up, but he is a little sh*t. He was trained by the League of Assassins and “lacks discipline and morality”. He fought all the past Robins to prove that he was “the best Robin”.
His storyline with Batman gets kind of complicated and I don’t really have to time to explain it all to you… Like, ‘zombies, clones, dying multiple times, and going into outer space’ complicated…
You just need to know that he is a tiny murderer. Like, Jason Todd x10 without emotions. Except anger and disgust.
6. Carrie Kelley (Robin; Catgirl)
While Tim was a detective fanboy of Batman, Carrie Kelley was just a straight up fangirl. She spent all of her lunch money to buy a Robin costume and followed Batman around until he eventually caved and was like “FINE! You’re Robin!”
During one of the many “Damian is dead” periods is when Carrie takes up the role of Robin.
She later becomes Catgirl.
And THOSE are the Robins. In the simplest of terms. I failed to mention the alternate universes, flashpoint storylines, and Earth-2 Robins…because that gets complicated. But if you MUST know:
1st Robin: Dick Grayson
2nd Robin: Jason Todd
3rd Robin: Tim Drake
4th Robin: Stephanie Brown
5th Robin: Damian Wayne
6th Robin: Carrie Kelly
Earth-2 Robin: Helena Wayne/Bertinelli- Daughter of Batman and Catwoman on a parallel Earth.
Dead Earth Robin/Future Robin: Tris Plover- lives on a farming space station in the future.
Thrillkiller Robin: Barbara Gordon -Alternate noir storyline set in the ‘60s.
Reign of Terror Robin/Past Robin: Rochelle Wayne- Younger sister of Bruce Wayne. Set in the days of revolutionary France.
…like I said…complicated.
But now I have properly educated you on the world of Robin.
So GO! Spread your nerd knowledge!