Lesser-Known Comics: The Robins, Part 2

Spoilers ahead!
Spoilers ahead!
In contrast to the first three Robins, who were created specifically to fill the role of Batman’s sidekick, no one ever expected these last two Robins to wear the red and green.

Stephanie Brown was supposed to be a one-off character created for a Batman story arc. She was the teenage daughter of the obscure supervillain Cluemaster and donned a purple costume to spoil her father’s crimes, hence the code name “Spoiler.” She quickly became popular as Robin III’s (Tim Drake) on-again, off-again girlfriend and then it was decided to make her Robin when Tim and Batman became estranged.

This is where her story gets strange. Her time as Robin was preordained to end in tragedy as editorial decided she should be killed off as part of a big Batman crossover story. On one cover, she could be seen in the Robin costume sprawled and bloody. She was tortured and then she died.

And Steph might have vanished save for a vast reader outrage at the gory manner of her death and how it was done only to cause angst for the male characters in her life. That DC even released an action figure of the villain Black Mask complete with the power tools used to torture and kill Steph was adding insult to injury.

The Spoiler, Girl Robin, Batgirl: I think this girl just likes to wear masks!
The Spoiler, Girl Robin, Batgirl: I think this girl just likes to wear masks!
The website girl-wonder.org was born, and it became a stopping place not only for Steph fans but for a lot of female comic fans and creators. It all seemed a happy ending when Stephanie returned from the dead and took on the identity of Batgirl, the third to hold that title.

Those are the Steph books that should be read and enjoyed, starting with Batgirl, Volume 1: Batgirl Rising. It’s the story of a young woman having a good time fighting crime, even if she’s often in over her head. She’s optimistic, determined, and just plain fun.

Unfortunately, she’s gone again, retconned out as of last year, when DC rebooted its comic universe. Even a planned appearance in the Smallville season 11 digital comic was cut out as her identity as that series’ Nightwing was swapped out for Barbara Gordon. Similarly, a blonde Batgirl had her hair changed in the Lil Gotham digital comic. I only hope this mention of Steph doesn’t cause this post to spontaneously disappear.

You’re a little emo thing, aren’t you, Damian?
You’re a little emo thing, aren’t you, Damian?
Damian Wayne, the current Robin, is Steph’s exact opposite, a sullen, arrogant child who has been trained by his mother and her League of Assassins. Dick Grayson brought him on board as Robin to redirect his training to the hero side and now Batman and his biological son fight crime together.

In the 1987 Batman: Son of the Demon by Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham, Bruce Wayne romanced and wed Talia, the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul. (Those who saw The Dark Knight Rises will be familiar with both these characters.) Things in the relationship went sour, as they do when a villainous father-in-law lurks in the wings, but it was revealed at the end of the story that Talia gave birth to Batman’s son. Nothing was done with that story for about twenty years, until Grant Morrison decided to bring it back in 2006.

Fan opinion is decidedly mixed on Damian, as he’s not a character that inspires warmth but he’s fascinating in his snotty but emotionally lost way. His best story is as Robin to Dick Grayson’s temporary Batman in Batman & Robin: Volume 1, Batman Reborn.

Will there be future Robins? Well, there have already been a number of Robins in Elseworlds stories, like Carrie Kelly in The Dark Knight Returns. So we’ll have to wait and see.

Images: copyright DC Comics. Stephanie Brown as Robin; Damian Wayne as Robin from Batman Incorporated #1, Second Series.

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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