Comicbook: Robin

The whole flock.note 

The Boy Wonder. The Heart of the Bat Family. One half of The Dynamic Duo. THE Kid Sidekick.

Robin is a DC Comics character created as Batman's sidekick in 1940 and best known as the Trope Maker and Trope Codifier of the Kid Sidekick archetype. There have been many, many different Robins throughout the character's publication, but most of them have common elements. With only a few exceptions, they are usually orphaned teenage males with some sort of acrobatic or martial arts prowess and wear a brightly-colored costume (typically red, green and yellow).

Robin was originally conceived as a vehicle to draw younger readersand it worked, doubling Batman's sales figures from his first appearance onward. Afterward, Robin became a staple of the Batman franchise's humor, as well as being a Foil against his mentor and providing the Dark Knight a character to whom he could exposit his many heroic feats. Unfortunately, this also had the side-effect of making Robin into a Distressed Dude who barely contained a tenth of the skills or competence of his partner.

As time went along, the implications regarding a rich adult who lived alone with a traumatized teenage orphan boy (Alfred would not become part of the Batman home until sometime later) garnered negative media attention. Comic books were blamed for everything from juvenile delinquency to homosexuality to communism, and the "indecent" relationship between Batman and Robin is often cited as one of the major reasons for the creation of The Comics Code that spelled the end of The Interregnum and the dawn of The Silver Age of Comic Books. Robin's reputation as a character suffered its greatest blow in this period, and the repercussions are still felt to this day (such as in parodies like the Ambiguously Gay Duo). Outside of comics, new media involving the two has tended to split them apart. Batman has remained consistently popular and has been subject to many darker reimaginings, but Robin has found more success away from his/her mentor's shadow.

Despite their usual role as a supporting character, the Robins are well-known for several events which helped modern comics to their current form—all of which will be noted below, in the description of the Robin they pertain to. It's also notable that the individual Robins often become popular in their own right. Out of the five Robin characters, four are currently in print, although none of them are currently using the identity of "Robin".

Compare and contrast Bucky Barnes, Marvel's take on the classic Kid Sidekick later updated for modern readers.

Dick Grayson

The most famous Robin is the original, Dick Grayson, who held the identity from 1940 to 1984. Grayson, however, gave up the name to forge a new career as the hero Nightwing. Since then, the mantle has been passed several times, although other media usually use Dick Grayson in the role.

Dick Grayson had his own solo feature in Star-Spangled Comics from 1947 to 1952, and an additional feature (billed as "Robin, the Teen Wonder" throughout most of the 1970s, usually as a backup in Batman or Detective Comics. The latter stories typically featured Grayson as a college student at Hudson University. He has also been a staple member of the Teen Titans since the group's inception in 1965, typically acting as team leader and The Smart Guy. It was in this series that the character really grew into his own, especially when the book was retooled as The New Teen Titans with the inclusion of four new teen heroes who were not conceived as sidekicks to adult heroes (although Beast Boy was a Transplant from another series). It was in the pages of The New Teen Titans that Nightwing was originally born.

It's worth noting that Dick Grayson was Robin from 1940 to 1983— 43 years, by far the longest tenure. Jason was Robin from 1983 to 1988 (5 years, with a reboot in the middle), Tim from 1989 to 2009 (20 years), Stephanie for one story arc, and Damian from 2009 to 2013 (four years).

More information can be found on the Nightwing page.

Jason Todd

After Dick Grayson, a new character named Jason Todd was introduced as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute (right down to origins as an orphaned circus acrobat) until he was Retconned to be a former teen delinquent to distinguish him from Dick Grayson. Todd was unpopular with those who had grown up with Dick Grayson (including his writers— when editorial wanted suggestions for a character that could be killed in an AIDS storyline, Jim Starlin put his name in), so he was Killed Off for Real by The Joker in the infamous A Death in the Family storyline in 1988. This death was significant in a number of ways: first, whether he would live or die was put to a readership vote (via a hotline number: 5,271 votes for him to live, 5,343 votes for him to die). Second, just like The Night Gwen Stacy Died, this was a tragic event which codified The Bronze Age of Comic Books. Third, this would top The Joker's list of most heinous crimes (following the shooting of Batgirl by only a couple of months) and cement his status as one of the most despicable villains in comics' history. (And as a bonus, some people thought his death was... a bit TOO mean.)

For a time, the most famous thing about Jason Todd was that he (like his Captain America counterpart Bucky Barnes), had remained dead. Since then, however, he has come Back from the Dead and has re-adopted several identities which were once used by other characters: the Red Hood (originally used by The Joker), Red Robin and Nightwing (both originally used by Dick Grayson). Since his return, Jason Todd has become even more of an Anti-Hero than ever and is even sometimes cast as a villain for both Batman and Nightwing, standing in opposition to their Thou Shalt Not Kill ideology.

He's gained a new fanbase since his resurrection, both for being the one who will do what Batman won't and because All Girls Want Bad Boys. Since the 2011 reboot, he's become a lot more stable and while he remains an Anti-Hero, he's slowly becoming less antagonistic towards his father and brothers. His fans think this is great, his haters think that he should have remained a villain, and the rest of his haters want their money back for that hotline call.

Jason's also notable for his part in what is considered a monumental achievement of DC animation: Batman: Under the Red Hood. Written by Judd Winick, who originally pitched and wrote Jason's resurrection in the comics, he took the movie as an opportunity to revise and vastly improve on the original story, tightening up the plot and, most notably, changing the method of Jason's resurrection from a gimmicky tie-in to an event crossover to the Lazarus Pit, a well-established element of the Batman mythos. Even those who want their hotline money back would rather consider it canon.

Tim Drake

The third Robin was Tim Drake, who broke the mold of the previous two in several ways. One, he was not an orphan (his father was still alive when he took the mantle). Two, he was not as light-hearted or whimsical as either of his predecessors. And three, being Robin was only a part-time thing and he only saw it as a temporary necessity, planning to go back to his normal life after he put in his service. He was also the first Robin to maintain a long-lasting solo series (lasting from 1993 to 2009) and, after Dick Grayson, is the second-most famous person to hold the role. Tim was also a founding member of Young Justice, along with Superboy and Impulse, where he played a similar role that Dick Grayson had played within the Titans.

Tim's status quo was changed forever in 2004, after the death of his father, whereupon Batman adopted Tim as he had done with his predecessors. The tragedy continued with the seeming death of his girlfriend Stephanie Brown (on this very list as Robin IV), the death of his best friends Conner Kent and Bart Allen, the institutionalization (and THEN death) of his stepmother, and ultimately the death of Batman himself. Following this Trauma Conga Line, Tim retired as Robin to become the third Red Robin.

Following the New 52 reboot, Tim still leads the Titans and was still Jason's successor as Batman's ward, but he never actually used the Robin name, having used the Red Robin name for his entire career. On top of that, his parents are still alive and he's no longer actually called "Tim Drake" either, as Batman gave him this name after his parents were placed into Witness Protection following Tim stealing a large sum of money from the Penguin.

Stephanie Brown

In 2003, Tim Drake briefly retired as Robin to pursue an ordinary life. His supporting character (and Love Interest) Stephanie Brown was picked by Batman to become the new Robin. Stephanie's tenure as Robin was rife with controversy, including the insinuation that her promotion was a Batman Gambit (by the Trope Namer himself no less) to anger Tim Drake into returning as Robin. Stephanie was fired from the role for a relatively minor mistake (compared to the blunders previous Robins had done) and then unceremoniously killed off in 2004. It was later revealed through Word of God that Stephanie's role as Robin was never meant to be permanent and was only meant to make her death more dramatic and shocking. This has later been cited as a textbook case of Stuffed into the Fridge, especially since after her death, Stephanie was barely mentioned by the other Bat-family characters and she received no monument (as Jason Todd had upon his death). Stephanie was revealed to be in hiding in 2009 and took the role of Batgirl. When the DC universe was relaunched after the Flashpoint storyline in 2011, early reports stated that she would return to the Spoiler identity, but her only appearance so far has been in Batman: Leviathan Strikes, which is explicitly stated to take place in pre-Flashpoint continuity.

Steph is unique among the Robins in several ways, being the one with the shortest term, the only (canonical) female, the only one to begin as a co-star in another book series, the only blonde, and the only Robin to never be adopted into the Wayne family. Following the New 52, Stephanie's status is still unknown, with numerous writers requesting and being denied even mentioning her. Eventually, Scott Snyder was allowed to use her in one of his Batman issues, which served as a preview of his Batman Eternal series, in which Steph plays a key role in the story. The daughter of Cluemaster, she accidentally stumbles in on a supervillain meeting of sorts, led by her father, which leads to him trying to kill her. While she does like to drop the word "spoil" and "spoiler" a lot, she has not yet adopted a costume or codename.

Damian Wayne

The 1987 story Batman: Son of the Demon concluded with the birth of a boy to Bruce Wayne and Talia Al Ghul (daughter of Batman foe Ra's Al Ghul). The canonicity of the tale was questionable. In 2006, the existence of the son was confirmed. He was named Damian and had grown up to late childhood. Whether he is a result of mutual intercourse, a Child by Rape, or a Designer Baby created from Batman's genes is left ambiguous and many sources outright contradict each other. Damian was raised by his mother in the League Of Assassins. After Bruce Wayne "died" and Tim Drake permanently retired as Robin in 2009, Dick Grayson and Damian served as the new Batman and Robin respectively. As of 2013, Damian is dead, and is no longer Robin, although his father has returned to his mantle. Damian was killed in early 2013 while doing battle with The Heretic, an accelerated growth clone of himself. However, as of 2014, DC confirmed that Damian is coming back as Robin, albeit with a set of superpowers.

Tropes associated with Robin in general

  • Animal-Themed Superbeing: Although they are not exactly "super".
  • Badass Normal: Like their mentor, none of the Robins have superpowers. Damian is the first to break this mold.
  • Catch Phrase: "Holy (fill in the blank)!" Now used mostly as Self-Deprecation and Mythology Gags.
  • Continuity Snarl: One of the policies of DC's New 52 timeline is that the timeline goes back no further than five years. However, Batman (and Green Lantern) were so successful at the time of the reboot that DC left its continuity as is - meaning that in the span of five years, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake all managed to become Robin and then graduate to their "adult" identities as Nightwing, Red Hood, and Red Robin.
  • Distressed Dude / Badass in Distress: Can't forget your roots now can we?
  • Distressed Damsel: For Stephanie and Carrie.
  • Foil: To Batman, in various way. Dick's upbeat attitude made him a far more beloved and respected crimefighter than his mentor; Jason was a criminal before becoming Robin, and took the darkest aspects of Batman's goals while ignoring its benevolent spirit; Tim took a more pragmatic and functional approach to crimefighting, detaching it from his personal life instead of Becoming the Mask; Finally, Damian was raised to fight crime ruthlessly and without any tragedy to guide his conscience.
    • With respect to their upbringing, Dick adjusted to life without his parents far better than Bruce; Jason never knew his parents and finding out his mother was alive led to his death; Tim's father was alive when he decided to become Robin; and Damian was raised in privilege like Bruce, but trained to be an assassin and killer.
    • Also of note, Damian was a foil to Dick Grayson's run as Batman, being the serious sidekick to his light-hearted superhero.
    • If you've noticed from all the examples above, each Robin either surpassed Batman in their own specialities, or are indicated to surpass him in the future.
  • Happily Adopted: Dick and Tim, at the very least. Jason is very Tsundereish about it, and Damian is blood-related to Bruce. Stephanie was never adopted.
  • Heroes Fight Barehanded: Notable exceptions include Tim Drake and Dick Grayson, both former Robins who now fight crime as Red Robin and Nightwing respectively. Tim uses a Bo staff and Dick a pair of Escrima sticks, presumably because their focus on agility over strength compared to other barefist DC fighters means the weapons give them the 'kick' they need.
  • Kid-Appeal Character: What Robin started as, and continues to be.
  • Kid Hero: One of the earliest superhero examples, although Spider-Man would become the Trope Codifier for comics.
  • Kid Sidekick: The Trope Maker and Trope Codifier.
  • Legacy Character: Taken Up to Eleven in that all of the Robins (save Damian) later graduated into another Legacy Character.
    • Dick Grayson became the second Nightwing,note  and upon Bruce's "death" became the third Batman.note  Dick was also belatedly revealed to not even have been the first Robin, as Bruce Wayne himself assumed the role for a brief time in his own youth.
    • Jason Todd became the Red Hood II,note  Red Robin II,note  and even became Nightwing V for a while.note 
    • Tim Drake eventually became Red Robin III.
    • And Stephanie Brown became Batgirl IV.note 
    • Even Damian Wayne was revealed to have become the sixth Batman in a Bad Future.
    • According to Marv Wolfman, around the time Jason Todd was introduced, one of the Batman writers wanted to de-age Dick Grayson and return him to being Batman's sidekick. As writer on The New Teen Titans, DC's hottest property at the time, Wolfman wielded a lot of power, and, not wanting to have Dick's Character Development undone, suggested that instead, Dick Grayson could move on to a new identity and a new Robin could be introduced as a publicity stunt (since that sort of thing had never really happened before).

Tropes associated with Dick Grayson

  • The Ace: When Dick pops up in a Bat Family Crossover, he usually fills the pages making everyone else look bad.
  • Ambiguously Gay: One of the most infamous examples, and also a subversion. The relationship between Batman and Robin was speculated to be not-so-platonic for many, MANY years and tends to be the butt of jokes even to this day.
  • Big Brother Mentor: To the other Robins—especially Tim and Damian. So much that he provides the picture in the page.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Happened to him with the Titans a few times not to mention many others.
  • Chick Magnet: He was even this before becoming Nightwing, and came this close to marrying an alien princess.
  • The Leader: Unique in comics as Dick Grayson was one of the first teen sidekicks to lead his own team, and he became so good at it that by the time he became Nightwing, he was acknowledged as the most capable leader in the DC Universe! Seriously, even Superman has stepped aside to let Nightwing take command at times, and Batman has said that Dick Grayson has vastly surpassed him in terms of maintaining strong connections with virtually every superhero in the community. In the comics fandom in general, Dick Grayson is usually seen as the second-best leader in the entire superhero genre, second only to Captain America!
  • The Load: He usually subverts this, but not always. Let's just say there's a reason the Boy Wonder is sometimes called the Boy Hostage.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: In the very first issue of The New Teen Titans Volume 2 (1984), Dick Grayson and Starfire are shown waking in bed. Both are barely covered by bedsheets. This scene became controversial both as the first display of a young couple post-coitus in a comic and as the first overt display of Dick Grayson's sex life. Since then, most writers have just run with it.
  • Sidekick Graduations Stick: His promotion to Nightwing has never been reversed. And while he is no longer Batman, he's proven that he's the heir apparent for the cowl.

Tropes associated with Jason Todd

Tropes associated with Tim Drake

  • Bumbling Sidekick: Deliberately averted. After the death of Jason Todd, writers like Denny O'Neil knew they had to come up with a damn good reason why Batman would take on another Kid Sidekick. Making him a hindrance to Batman in any way was shot down because of this.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: The reason Tim is now an orphan and permanently dedicated to crime-fighting.
  • Distressed Dude: Averted. Unlike Dick Grayson constantly needing to be rescued or saved, Tim was deliberately kept out of danger for a long time after putting on the costume. Initially, he operated as Batman's Voice with an Internet Connection so that they could slowly introduce him to danger.
  • Foil: To Dick Grayson. He is everything Dick Grayson was not, by design. Instead of the whimsical, lighthearted sidekick who spouted catchphrases and said "Golly" a lot, he was an extremely serious and dedicated crime-fighter.
  • Grade School CEO: For a time after Bruce's death, Tim Drake (as one of his legally adopted sons) had significant control over Wayne Enterprises as one of its owners. He is apparently still a co-owner along with his father and brothers, despite being a teen.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Enforced Trope. Tim Drake was deliberately portrayed as extremely competent (even moreso than Batman in some ways) in order to justify why Batman would allow another kid to become his sidekick.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Tim never wanted to be a crime-fighter permanently. He just wanted to be Robin for a while until he could retire and go on with his life.
  • Jack-of-All-Trades: To quote Fabian Nicieza:
    "What I love about Tim is that he shares some of the strongest traits of various Bat-family members. The intellect and detective skills of Bruce, the ability to lead others and be a friend to others like Dick has and even the ability to make cold, harsh decisions like Jason does."
  • Jumped at the Call: He became Robin because he figured out who Batman was and recognized Bruce's Sanity Slippage without a teen sidekick to keep him honest.
  • The Smart Guy: Most Robins play this role on teams, but Tim is the Smart Guy amongst Smart Guys. It's usually acknowledged that he's the most intelligent of all of the Robins, and even Batman himself has said that Tim will one day make a better detective than him.
    Fabian Nicieza: He is 'the smart one' of the Bat-family, the thinker and planner. I mean, of course Bruce Wayne/Batman is what he is, and Tim isnít quite there yet, but Tim at 17 has a more developed intellect than Bruce at 17 did. Thatís not to say Dick Grayson or Barbara Gordon are dumb, of course theyíre not, but Timís level of thinking is a bit... thicker... than theirs. For me, Dick is about superior reflexive thinking, Barbara about superior operational thinking and Tim is about superior comprehensive, or all-encompassing, thinking."
  • Missing Mom

For Tim Drake's Robin (1993-2009) and Red Robin (2009-2011) series, go here.

Tropes associated with Stephanie Brown

  • Affirmative Action Legacy: The only canonical female Robin.
  • Abusive Parents: Her father was the Batman villain, the Cluemaster, and he was very abusive toward her.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: What killed her, after hours of being subjected to it.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him
  • Gendered Outfit: The only Robin to wear a skirt.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Not only does her hair color fit the Robin color motif quite nicely, but she's probably the one with the most human heart. Dick and Tim are genuinely Nice Guys, but they're also the most naturally gifted. Stephanie is a sweetie, despite having no inherent talents and growing up in a depressingly abusive household.
  • She's Just Hiding: Invoked. Her death was retconned to be this.
    • Also doubles as either I Knew It or Ascended Fanon, since fans posited the theory almost immediately after her death.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Not exactly what happened between her and Black Mask, but as Atop the Fourth Wall mentions, there are some very unfortunate camera angles of a teenage girl's rear while she's being tortured to death.
  • Informed Flaw: Officially, she wasn't as competent as the other Robins, and its why she was fired and, subsequently, killed. However, besides being taken hostage (because that's never happened before), she wasn't any less competent than the others. She lacked Tim's genius and Dick's experience, but during her appearances outside the book at the time, and prior to the event, she was able to keep up and kick butt with the rest of them.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Though even Gail Simone admits the term is over-applied in many cases, few examples are as blatant as this. She was promoted to Robin, fired, used to start a gang war, captured, tortured, killed, and refused medical attention by an otherwise heroic member of the Batman family. After her death, she was never given a monument, she was barely mentioned by other characters, and Word of God went on record to say that she was "never really Robin".

Tropes associated with Damian Wayne

Alternate Versions Of Robin

The following Robins are not specifically associated with any of the characters above.

Carrie Kelley

The Robin that appears in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Technically, the first female Robin, although she is not considered canonical. She later becomes "Catgirl" in The Dark Knight Strikes Again. She is also featured in Ame-Comi Girls as the Robin of that Alternate Universe.

She also exists in the New 52, but not as Robin. However, she did appear at a Halloween party dressed in her Robin outfit.

  • Aborted Arc: She appeared in two issues of Batman and Robin, and one of the following issues according to the trend adopted after Damian's death was originally renamed Batman and Carrie Kelley, but that never materialized. Fan theory at the time was that she was going to be the new canon Robin, but she's not been seen or heard from since.
  • Legacy Character: To both Robin and Catwoman.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": It's Carrie Kelley, but "Kelly" is ubiquitous among fans.

Robin of Earth-2

The Dick Grayson from the Pre-Crisis Earth-2. Distinguished from the mainstream Dick Grayson in that he never stopped being Robin, even after becoming an adult with his own superhero career.

Teen Titans Robin

The Robin appearing the animated series Teen Titans, created as a mix of the first and third Robins.

  • Composite Character: It's intentionally left ambiguous which Robin he is. Most people assume that he's Dick Grayson, since most of the clues point to it—the biggest of which being an Alternate Universe counterpart with the name Nosyarg Kcid.
    • The episode How Long Is Forever? makes it very blatant that he's Dick Grayson, as Starfire visits a Bad Future where the Titans split up, and he's grown up and into his role as Nightwing.
    • The Teen Titans Go! comics, based off the series, also have Robin as Dick Grayson and explore his backstory.

Helena Wayne

The New 52 Robin of Earth-2, currently operating as the Huntress. The circumstances of her tenure will be expanded on in Worlds Finest.

John Blake

Appearing in The Dark Knight Rises, this is the Robin of The Dark Knight Saga though rather than becoming Batman's sidekick he's implied to have become the new Batman after Bruce Wayne's supposed Heroic Sacrifice. In fact, Robin is the character's legal first name.

DCAU Robins

In the original Batman: The Animated Series, a college-aged Dick Grayson was Robin, and generally true to his roots. However, when the show was revived and revamped as The New Batman Adventures, they decided to shake up the status quo, graduating Dick to Nightwing and introducing a young Tim Drake as Robin. They skipped Jason Todd due to the character having some baggage that isn't exactly family friendly, but given that Jason Todd had an excellent origin story, the decision was made to combine the two into one.

In this universe, Dick Grayson never quite reconciled with Bruce after their initial falling out. They could get along and work together, but were permanently estranged at some point.

Meanwhile, Tim Drake had his career as Robin cut short after being brutalized by and accidentally killing The Joker. He grows up into a successful engineer with a wife (who, according to DVD extras, is meant to be an older Stephanie Brown) and kids.

  • Big Brother Mentor: Dick to Tim.
  • Composite Character: Tim Drake in this universe is a composite of the comics Tim Drake and Jason Todd. From Jason, he gets his attitude, his origin story as the child of a crook who got Batman's attention by messing with him, and victimization by the Joker. From Tim, he basically gets his name and, judging by his future job as an engineer, his intelligence.
  • Kid Sidekick: Tim was much younger than in the comics due to the writers wanting to explore the kid sidekick angle after having Dick around as an adult.
  • Legacy Character: The concept of Robin as a legacy had never been explored outside the comics before.

Robins of Earth-16

Earth-16 is a modernized "young" DC universe, depicted in the cartoon and comic series Young Justice. In this universe, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake are all known to be or have been Robin, while Stephanie Brown cameoed in one episode.

The show has been praised for returning the relationship between Dick and Batman to its roots— in other words, they get along. Dick becoming Nightwing here is not because he and Bruce can't see eye to eye, but simply because he's grown up.

Jason Todd has only been seen in a memorial and named only in promotional materials for the video game, while Tim was a supporting character in season two. Another notable thing the show did was give all three Robins unique costumes easy to tell apart. This is the first TV series to acknowledge the existence of all of the first four Robins.

  • Big Brother Mentor: Dick to Tim, and Word of God is that he and Jason were close.
  • Composite Character: YJ's Dick is often accused of being one of comics Dick and Tim Drake, but showrunner Greg Weisman points out that the only traits he has in common with Tim are his computer skills and long pants, both of which were felt necessary for a modern reinterpretation of the character.
  • The Smart Guy: Dick and Tim both, whatever squad they're on.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Tim is the Technician to Dick's Performer when it comes to crimefighting. Dick generally has more fun doing it and is extremely confident in his skills thanks to years of practice, but he hates the responsibility of leadership, though doesn't shy from stepping up, while Tim is a much more serious student of crimefighting and less confident in himself, but would like to try his hand at leading.