Thu
Dec 6 2012 2:00pm

Lesser-Known Comics: The Robins, Part 1

In previous posts, I talked about a Batman story featuring the history of Gotham and a great caper story featuring Catwoman.

Now it’s time to talk Robin. Well, Robins. Plural.

Because in the last ten years, there have been five different Robins running around the DC Universe.

They come in all flavors. There’s sexy acrobat, resurrected rebel, brainy hacker, bubbly optimist, and smug brat. To use their proper names: Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, and Damian Wayne.

The four male Robins, in various guises, are still in current monthly DC Comics. The lone girl, Stephanie, is a bit of a special case right now, as the mere mention of her seems to trigger some sort of angry reflex from the DC powers-that-be. Even the suggestion of her blonde hair has been censored. But she was dead once, so she may be back again.

I could go into a long explanation of the complicated history of the Robins, complete with their current origins and identities. But that’s confusing to write and difficult to understand. For example, Jason Todd has had three different origin stories.

It’s much simpler to talk about the best stories featuring these characters. I’ll save Stephanie and Damian for Part 2 and focus on the trio of young, dark-haired men who struck out on their own after training from Batman: Dick, Jason, and Tim.

Dick Grayson is, of course, the original Robin and the one most familiar to someone who’s never read a comic. He’s been in practically every Batman television series made, at least one (awful) movie, and he dates back to the Golden Age of comics. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that there were some great solo stories featuring Dick as Robin.

Dick is the fun Robin, the least haunted by tragedy, the one everyone likes because he’s just a very good, smart guy.Jason Todd as Robin

My all-time favorite Dick Grayson is Teen Titans: The Judas Contract which describes Dick’s coming of age as he leads a team of young heroes and morphs from the sidekick Robin to Nightwing.

Later, after Nightwing went solo, there’s Nightwing: Year One by Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty, Scott McDaniel, and Andy Owens. There’s also the collection of stories, Nightwing: A Night in Bludhaven, that began his solo series as Dick becomes the guardian of Bludhaven, a city even more corrupt and desperate than Gotham.

Then there’s Jason Todd. If Dick was the good kid, the one everyone liked and respected, Jason is the opposite, someone who was trouble from the start. In his current incarnation, he’s a former street kid who Batman tried to reform but Jason proved too volatile and was eventually killed. Through comics’ magic, he came back to life, as sullen as he was before and far more likely to flout the rules.

Still, he’s been part of a DVD movie released by Warner Bros. Batman: Under the Red Hood which is an excellent tale based on the comic story of the same name. If you like your Robins rebellious and on the edge, Jason’s your guy. And if you want to read the story in which he dies, not only at the hands of the Joker but by those who called in a 900 number to DC and voted him dead, there’s Batman: A Death In the Family.

Next came Tim Drake. He was originally the nice kid who noticed Batman was without a Robin after Jason’s death and offered to fill the role. Tim’s always been an independent sort who wanted to learn from Batman but also had his own life with people who loved him. His first appearance is in Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying and it’s a fantastic story featuring not only Tim but Dick and Bruce as well as they cope with Jason’s death. Tim had a long-running solo series written by Chuck Dixon and it was kicked off by Robin: A Hero Reborn. I recommend the entire series.

It was in the pages of Tim’s series that Stephanie Brown made her first appearance. We’ll get to her in Part 2.

Images: all copyright DC Comics


Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, thought not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom Blog on Wired.com (www.wired.com/geekmom) and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.

Read all posts by Corrina Lawson for Criminal Element.

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3 comments
1. Nicholas Winter
Though not part of the accepted canon, Carrie Kelly in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns was actually the first female Robin. Indeed she will show up in Batman: The Animated Series in their homage to The Dark Knight Returns, and obviously is in the new animated treatment of The Dark Knight Returns.
Deborah Lacy
2. DeborahLacy
Love this post. I never knew so much about Robin. How fun.
Corrina Lawson
3. Corrina Lawson
Oh, definitely, Carrie Kelly is a Robin but there are so many elseworlds in DC that I didn't include any of the elseworlds Robins.

There's a rumor that Carrie could be the Robin in the current comics soon, due to events happening over in Batman Incorporated. Or that we might see a newly introduced female character as a new Robin as well.

--Corrina
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