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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 readers—and 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 and is 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). 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 remain in print, with only one currently using the identity of "Robin".
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 adaptations 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.
More information can be found on the Nightwing page.
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 a Jerkass however, and when he proved to be unpopular, he was Killed Off for Real 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.
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.
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.
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, she returned to her Spoiler identity.
She is the most unique of all the Robins, 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.
The 1987 story Batman: Son of the Demon concluded with the birth of a boy to Bruce Watne 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 2012, Damian is still the current Robin, although he now serves under his father, who has returned to his mantle.
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.
- Catch Phrase: "Holy (fill in the blank)!" Now used mostly as Self-Deprecation and Mythology Gags.
- Distressed Dude / Badass in Distress: Can't forget your roots now can we?
- Distressed Damsel: For Stephanie and Carrie.
- 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 (the first was Superman), Jason Todd became The Red Hood II, Red Robin II, and even became Nightwing V for a while (Power Girl was Nightwing IV). Tim Drake eventually became Red Robin III and Stephanie Brown became Batgirl IV.
- 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.
- 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 entire DC Universe! Seriously, even Superman has stepped aside to let Nightwing take command at times, and even 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!
- 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
- Always Second Best/Always Someone Better: How he feels about Dick Grayson. It was part of his motivation for impersonating him as Nightwing.
- The Resenter: Was especially hostile towards Tim Drake as well due to Jason having insecurities that Tim did a better job at the role.
- Identity Impersonator: As The Red Hood and Nightwing.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Jason's most controversial act as Robin was an offscreen murder of a rapist. At the time, it wasn't clear if he'd actually done the deed or not, and he denied as such, but since his return as Red Hood, it's become clear that he not only did it, but isn't against murder at all.
- Missing Mom: Eventually he found her. And then she sold him out to The Joker.
- Nineties Anti-Hero: He's a Ur Example, being part of the Darker and Edgier Bronze Age, including the incident described in Kick the Son of a Bitch above. Ironically, though, he actually missed The Nineties completely.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: In A Death in the Family #3, the Joker's henchmen pummel him viciously, and then the Joker lays into him with a crowbar.
- Then years later, in Batman #634 he returns the favor on a washed-out Joker.
- The Unfavorite: He believes this is how Batman views him amongst his sons.
Tropes Associated With Tim Drake
- The Call Knows Where You Live: The reason Tim is now an orphan and permanently dedicated to crime-fighting.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him
- Gendered Outfit: The only Robin to wear a skirt.
Tropes Associated With Damian Wayne
- Defector From Decadence: Became Robin to get away from his mother's teachings and embrace his father's.
- Grade School CEO: Along with his father and older brothers, Damian is a co-owner of Wayne Enterprises.
- Heel Face Turn
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: The youngest Robin yet, but no less badass.
- Sociopathic Hero/Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Played for Drama at times and Playedfor Comedy at others. Damian's upbringing with the League of Assassins has given him a superiority complex and some very disturbing perspectives.
Alternate Versions Of Robin
The following Robins are not specifically associated with any of the characters above.
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.
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
- 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 New52 Robin of Earth-2, currently operating as the Huntress. The circumstances of her tenure will be expanded on in Worlds Finest.
- From left to right: Dick Grayson, Stephanie Brown, Tim Drake, Damian Wayne, and Jason Todd.