Working to fight and rid the streets of the DC Universe of crime and corruption is obviously not an easy job, and the vigilante superhero known as The Batman needs all the help he can get to filter out the superstitious and cowardly. Fortunately his seemingly lone crusade turned much brighter and more optimistic, as The Dark Knight welcomed a crime fighting partner into his mission with the introduction of Robin – a defining chapter in the Batman legacy that would endure and evolve for years to come. With various teenagers and young characters adopting the mantle over the years, the role of Robin would serve as a foil to Batman’s dark nature, giving younger readers something to relate to and root for during the adventures of the team that would forever come to be known as “The Dynamic Duo” of the DC Universe.
However the role of sidekick also entails danger and risk (with no hazard pay either), and Batman’s suffered his fair share of tragedies and woes with his family of Robins. In fact, the position is currently vacant in The New 52, as the last Boy Wonder, Damian Wayne, was killed in the line of duty to protect his father, family, and do what was necessary to save the day.
However, resurrections are not a strange occurrence in the comic book world, and DC Comics has an ongoing storyline happening in the pages of Batman and Robin that sees The Dark Knight fighting to recover the body of his deceased son… Now in the hands of Glorious Godfrey and the forces of Apokolips on a mission for Darkseid. The storyline, aptly titled “Robin Rises”, began with the one-shot “Robin Rises: Omega #1” last July and is currently running through the regular Batman and Robin title, which is expected to culminate with another one-shot issue this December called “Robin Rises: Alpha #1”.
It’s important to note that a NEW Robin is coming… But who will it be exactly? The obvious choice would be Damian again, but could DC be pulling a Red Herring with the resurrection storyline and ACTUALLY plan a new replacement? In fact, this month’s Batman and Robin: Future’s End #1 one-shot will actually give a glimpse into a possible future, and somebody NEW is in the role now. We’ll get more into that bit later, but for now let’s run the gamut and list down characters that have officially served and are recognized as Robins/ sidekicks in the DC Timeline… And yes, it includes Pre-New 52 continuity and alternate universes as well.
From the first to the last person to wear the tights and domino mask, Robin has served as the “baptism of fire” for most of the kids fortunate to work alongside Batman. Some started and were born to be on the role, while others simply served as substitutes and placeholders until a worthy candidate appeared or old face returned to reclaim the mantle.
The first and original Boy Wonder. Dick Grayson was the one who started it all, and is arguably the “Prodigal Son” to succeed Bruce Wayne in everything that he does. First appearing in the pages of Detective Comics #38 in April of 1940, the world was introduced to the original incarnation of Robin The Boy Wonder, who lost his parents to senseless crime much like Bruce Wayne. Without any family left, Wayne took the boy as his legal ward, and soon found himself in the position of mentoring him to become a crimefighter much like himself. Soon, Dick took on a costume himself and became Robin, working together with Batman as well as other heroes in the DC Universe. After age caught up with him and he grew older, Dick left his mentor’s shadow to become a hero on his own, adopting the identity of Nightwing after being inspired by a tale told to him by his other hero figure, Superman. Dick would even serve as Batman for two occasions, once after the Knightfall saga and then when Bruce Wayne was thought dead during the events of “Batman: Reborn“.
Dick returning to the role of Robin seems more unlikely given his status as of late. In The New 52 event known as “Forever Evil“, his identity was publicly revealed to the world, literally tarnishing his Nightwing persona and almost killing him in the process. Fortunately, he remains alive and well but dead to the world, working incognito for Batman to infiltrate the mysterious organization known as Spyral and simply going by the codename “Grayson“.
Arguably the “Black Sheep” of the Batfamily, Jason Todd was a street kid who met Batman in a very precarious situation – stealing the tires of The Dark Knight’s signature vehicle “The Batmobile“. After Dick Grayson departed and struck out on his own, Bruce Wayne saw some fight in Jason’s eyes that told him to bring the lad under his wing and channel his anger into something positive by becoming the new Robin.
Unfortunately things didn’t proceed as planned, as Jason proved to be a more unruly and aggressive Robin than his predecessor. Bending the rules and refusing to listen to Batman’s instructions, the new Boy Wonder soon met his demise at the hands of The Joker, who brutally beat him up with a crowbar before leaving him to die with his supposed mother in a warehouse rigged with explosives. Batman arrived too late to save Jason, and this event marked a pivotal shift in The Dark Knight’s resolve to work alone for quite some time.
However, death would not be the end for Jason, as the DC Universe changing event “Infinite Crisis” soon saw him resurrected and brought back to the land of the living. After gaining his memories back by way of Ra’s Al Ghul’s Lazarus Pit, the former Robin was hell bent on revenge at both Batman and The Joker – the former for not killing his enemy and the latter for killing him. He soon took up the identity of the “Red Hood” – an identity previously held by many including The Clown Prince of Crime before his transformation. However after a brief stint as an anti-hero, Jason soon found himself dangling on the side of the angels once more. After the DC Universe rebooted itself with “The New 52”, Red Hood found himself working with Starfire and Arsenal as “Red Hood and the Outlaws“, and occasionally assists his mentor Batman and The Batfamily whenever the situation calls for it.
At this point, the likelihood of Jason become Robin again is pretty slim. True to his other occupation, he’s always been the outsider, and prefers to work beyond the rules as represented by his preference for firearms and explosives.
As one of the longest serving Robins to don the costume and work alongside Batman, Tim Drake was literally someone who worked his way to becoming the third Boy Wonder, earning the honor by first discovering both Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson’s identities at a young age, and then training under The Dark Knight’s watch to hone his skills and become a superb crimefighter at the same time. In many ways, Tim is the successor to Batman’s legacy – equally talented and gifted as a detective like his mentor is.
First appearing in Batman #436 in August 1989, Tim filled the dark void that Batman was inhabiting after becoming more ruthless and violent following the loss of Jason Todd. It was the young boy’s idea to bring Dick Grayson back to the batcave after a period of estrangement with his mentor, and convince him that “Batman needs a Robin” to try and get the original Dynamic Duo back together again. Unfortunately Dick already was his own man as Nightwing, and decided he’d help his mentor but not step back into a role he already outgrew. It was through fate then that Tim decided to become the next Robin and help Batman in his crusade, but not after The Dark Knight gave his blessing and guidance to train the lad and make him for what comes next.
For more than 20 years, Tim worked tirelessly as Robin, becoming a prominent figure in The Batfamily as well as an established member of the Teen Titans like his “brother” and predecessor Dick Grayson was. Eventually in 2009, he was forced to leave his role as Robin to search for a time-lost Bruce Wayne, and donned the costume of Red Robin – which was previously worn by Jason Todd and Ulysses “Anarky” Armstrong before him. Eventually warming up to his new identity, Tim Drake became his own man as well, and still maintains a close relationship with Batman and all of his allies.
Thanks to the changes instilled in The New 52 DC Universe, Tim Drake is acknowledged as NEVER having used the Robin identity, and started firsthand as Red Robin while serving as Batman’s third sidekick. Whether this means he’ll be the new Boy Wonder or not remains to seen, but like Dick Grayson, Tim’s very much his own man now.
As the one Robin in the official timeline list that got the short end of the stick (twice even), Stephanie Brown is a female crimefighter who was introduced as a rival and later love interest of Tim Drake in the pages of Detective Comics in 1992. She first adopted the identity of Spoiler to thwart the plans of her criminal father known as the Cluemaster, before eventually falling into the pages of Tim’s own Robin ongoing series. She became a teen mom in one pivotal storyline in the late 90’s, before eventually serving as Tim’s temporary replacement and becoming the new Robin in Robin #126 in July 2004. However, she was soon fired by Batman after failing to follow orders on the job, and Tim Drake eventually came back to the role at this point as well. In a desperate bid to prove her worth, Stephanie erroneously instigated one of Batman’s contingency plans to thwart a mob meeting, which jumpstarted the storyline “Batman: War Games” that saw her untimely demise at the hands of Black Mask… Or so we thought.
Four years after in 2008, Stephanie’s “death” was revealed to be a ruse, and she came back to Gotham after spending time in Africa with Batman’s ally, Dr. Leslie Thompkins. She would resume the role of Spoiler and work alongside Robin once more, but fate once again played its part in giving her new shoes to fill. After Cassandra Cain, the fourth Batgirl, leaves under mysterious circumstances, Steph dons the mantle of Batgirl and gets the attention of the original heroine and Oracle herself, Barbara Gordon. Deciding to take the young woman under her wing, Babs gives Steph a new costume and her blessing, and officially becomes the fifth Batgirl in comic book history.
After the reboot happened with The New 52 Universe, Steph was notably absent and erased from Batman continuity, including her history as Robin and Batgirl. As a result, fan reactions to her disappearance was overwhelming and cries for her return were in the numbers. At long last, DC Comics relented and brought Steph back into the picture, starting with this past April’s Batman #28, where she is seen back in her Spoiler persona and captured as Catwoman’s prisoner. Her origin story was then fleshed out anew in the currently ongoing Batman Eternal weekly series, which sees her hunted by her own dad Cluemaster and other criminals. Determined to fight back, Stephanie adopts her crimefighting identity for the first time, with a newly designed costume to boot to reflect the New 52 status quo.
Since she’s starting out as Spoiler now, it’s too early to tell if Steph’s got the chops to be Robin, especially since there’s a long list of other candidates worthy for a shot at the title now.
Batman’s own biological son by a night of passion between him and Talia Al Ghul, Damian’s existence is the brainchild of writer Grant Morrison’s tenure in the Batman books starting in 2006, where he reintroduced the concept of the child’s conception from the classic 1987 storyline Batman: Son of the Demon. As heir apparent to both the Wayne and Al Ghul names, Damian was raised by his mother and the League of Assassins in a laboratory, then trained in the art of war to be a merciless killer and warrior. By the time he was a young child, he was put in the care of Batman, which proved to be a strenuous meeting between father and son. Since Damian has no apprehensions of killing, his philosophy clashed with The Dark Knight’s strict “no-kill” policy in fighting crime.
However the time came to choose sides, and ultimately Damian grew to care for his father’s code and admired his honor and commitment to fighting injustice. When Bruce Wayne was thought lost and dead to the world, Dick Grayson took over his mentor’s role as Batman and bequeathed the mantle of Robin to Damian to keep an eye on the boy and train him. This partnership would prove to be fruitful and mold the Son of Batman into something better, which continued on even as Bruce returned from his time displacement situation. Eventually father and son teamed up as the Dynamic Duo when The New 52 rebooted the DC Universe, and Batman literally took it upon himself to watch and guide his own offspring to the path of righteousness.
Unfortunately, Damian gave his life in the pages of Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #8 to help his dad and fellow Batfamily members against the evil organization Leviathan, which was led by none other than his own mother Talia. His body is currently in the hands of Darkseid’s forces, which a very pissed off Batman is determined to get back by whatever means necessary in the currently ongoing storyline “Robin Rises”.
While it remains to be seen if he’ll be resurrected and return as The Boy Wonder, alternate realities do exist where he survived. In one possible future, Damian actually succeeded his father and Dick Grayson to become the new Batman.
And now we come to candidates that haven’t officially served as Teen Wonders in DC Continuity proper, Pre-new 52 or otherwise, but these characters have appeared as supporting characters, and some of them have been Robins in possible futures.
As the first fully serving female Robin in a possible future setting and in DC Comics history, Carrie Kelley first appeared in the pages of Frank Miller’s seminal Batman story, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. She is a 13 year old scout who finds herself inspired by a now 55-year old Bruce Wayne’s return to crimefighting, and takes it upon herself to don a Robin costume and follow his example. After his fight with The Mutant Gang, Carrie helps an injured Batman back to the Batcave, where he officially takes her under his wing as the new Teen Wonder to help him in his crusade. In the 2001 sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Carrie takes on the new identity of Catgirl and still acts as Batman’s second in command with his new army raised to fight crime using his methods.
After Damian’s demise, Carrie was properly introduced to the main DC Universe New 52 continuity as a college student who’s also Damian’s acting instructor. Whether she works alongside Bruce Wayne and his allies is still up in the air, but a nod to her origins was referenced on her first appearance in Batman and Red Robin #19 with her wearing a Robin costume for Halloween.
In a possible future that’s one of the many one-shot stories going on this month under the “Future’s End” event label, Batman and Robin: Future’s End #1 introduces us to a potential candidate recently introduced in the just finished “Batman: Zero Year” storyline – Duke Thomas. In that story that retells Batman’s origin for The New 52 continuity, Duke is a young African-American boy who helps a newly emerging Bruce Wayne as Batman to fight against Riddler and take back Gotham City. It seems that because of the event, he earns his place in Batman’s trusted allies list, and gets his shot as Robin in this possible reality. Whether that comes to pass in canon remains to be seen, but here’s a sneak peek of the issue via Newsarama.
This one’s a stretch, since she adopts her own heroic identity, but Harper Row is a tech savvy gadget expert who falls under the stubborn and restless category that eventually earns Batman’s attention. First appearing in the pages of Batman #7 in The New 52 continuity, Harper is a street smart electronics expert who escapes from a life of abuse from her father to strike on her own with her brother Cullen. During the Court of Owls saga, she manages to help a flatlined Batman back to life, and despite The Dark Knight’s insistence that he does not need her help, her stubbornness proves to work the other way around. Eventually, she teams up with Red Robin in the currently ongoing Batman Eternal weekly series, and it is through this event that she becomes an official ally of the Bat, taking on the name Bluebird as first seen in Batman #28.
How that comes to play and why she didn’t accept the role of Robin remains to be seen. That could also be a role her brother Cullen could play, but that seems unlikely.
And that’s pretty much the likely candidates who could be Batman’s new Robin in the months to come. Either way, DC could choose one of these people, bring Damian back, or simply run with someone NEW that we haven’t seen before. Barbara Gordon is sticking to Batgirl, and while Cassandra Cain has yet to appear in the saga, she has made her official first appearance in a possible future seen in Batgirl: Future’s end #1 as one of many Batgirls alongside Stephanie Brown and Tiffany working under Babs. Those two girls never took on the Robin role either, so it wouldn’t fit their personalities at all.
We’ll just have to find out how it goes down when Robin Rises: Alpha #1 hits this December.