The Evolution of Robin: From Boy Wonder to Superhero
The Caped Crusaders loyal sidekick has been around for seventy two years and
in this article I have a look at how the Boy Wonder has gotten from there to here.
As I was writting my 'Batman through the ages' article (http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/IncoRamble/news/?a=63613) I quickly came to realize that the Boy Wonder deserves an anthology of his own.
Ever since his introduction to the DC universe, Robin has been an ever faithful sidekick to the Dark Knight. Though many young prodigies have taken the mantle of the Boy Wonder for themselves the importance of Batman's apprentice has remained the same. Acting as an anchor to the Caped Crusader, Robin has, at his core, kept Batman from being lost to the darkness he so despises. Acting as a focus for Bruce Wayne's attention the Boy Wonder keeps him from immersing himself entirely into the Bat.
While Robin may have come from slightly comical origins, he has now become a serious character and hero in his own right. And so, without further ado, here is my article on the Evolution of Robin: From Boy Wonder to Superhero.
Where it all began:
Debuting in Detective Comics#38 in 1940 Robin was originally conceived as a way to attract young readership, much like the caped crusader however he quickly gained positive reception and became a regular character. Originally based on the Errol Flynn movie 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' the characters name has since become associated with 'Robin' the Bird instead.
In the seventy two years since his first appearance there have been five incarnations of the Boy Wonder. All of whom have made the character their own and each added something new to the persona of Batman's Padawan learner.
1: Richard 'Dick' Grayson
"The Batman taught me, guided me, trained me. What I am I owe to him. What more can I say?"
The youngest in a family of acrobats known as the "Flying Graysons," Dick watched a mafia boss kill his parents in order to extort money from the circus that employed them.Bruce Wayne, who had witnessed the tragedy from the audience took him in as his legal ward and eventually as his sidekick, Robin.Throughout Dick's adolescence, Batman and Robin were inseparable. However, as Dick grew older and spent more time as the leader of the Teen Titans, he decided to take on the identity of 'Nightwing' to assert his independence.
Batman's first recruit in his war on Gotham's underbelly Grayson has studied under him the longest, trained in combat and as a detective he became as good a crime-fighter as his mentor. He see's his fight against injustice as more than just a crusade for revenge, it is what he has trained his whole life for. After becoming 'Nightwing' Dick grew as a superhero becoming his own man, though he never forgot his roots. As a man he has twice assumed the cowl of Batman first in the 'Batman:Prodigal' story line and more recently in the 'Batman RIP' story arc where he has assumed the identity of the 'Bat' after his apparant death and currently mentors the current Robin.
2: Jason Todd
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"You can't stop crime! That's what you never understood! I'm CONTROLLING it! You want to rule them by fear but what do you do to those who aren't afraid?! I'm doing what YOU won't! I'm taking them out!"
As a young street orphan Jason Todd first encounters the Dark Knight while attempting to steal the tires of the Batmobile. Bruce Wayne sees to it that Jason is placed in a school for troubled youths. but after helping Batman apprehend a gang of thieves Jason earns the mantle of Robin.
Unlike Dick, Jason is impulsive, reckless, and uses excessive force to subdue criminals. In the story arc 'A death in the family' The Joker beats Jason brutally with a crowbar, and then leaves him and him in a warehouse with a time bomb. Batman arrives too late to save them and is only able to hold Jason's lifeless body in his arms. Batman see's this as his greatest failure.
Jason returns during the 'Red Hood: The lost days' storyline and eventually becomes the Red Hood. In 'Batman vs the Red Hood' He Kidnaps the Joker and uses him to lure Batman to crime alley, the site of their first meeting. Jason asks Batman why he has not avenged his death by killing the Joker, and Batman explains that it is not too hard for him to kill the Joker, it would be too easy; he has never once not fantasized about taking the Joker somewhere private and torturing him for maybe weeks before finally killing him, but refuses to go to that place.
After the death of Batman Todd assumes the mantle of caped crusader for a while even building his own Batcave where he tortures and starves criminals to death. He is later defeated by Dick and gives up the cowl resuming his Red Hood identity and recruting a side-kick of his own (Scarlet) and continued to fight crime using his extreme methods.
While Jason may have left the path of crimefighting Batman set out to teach him he has none the less become more than capable at fighting the scum of Gotham.
3: Tim Drake
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I'm young, devilishly handsome, in good health and partners with baddest, coolest guy on earth"
As a toddle Tim was present with his parents at the circus when Dick Grayson's parents were killed. At the age of nine, Tim saw footage of Batman and Robin apprehending the Penguin. Witnessing Robin perform a quadruple somersault, (a rare maneuver that only Dick Grayson and a few others could perform.) and learning Grayson was the ward of Bruce Wayne, he came to the conclusion that Grayson was Robin and Wayne was Batman. Tim continued to follow the adventures of the Dynamic Duo, afet the death of Jason Todd as Robin he began to notice a drastic and almost psychotic change in Batman's behavior. Tim became convinced that Batman needed a Robin to maintain his sanity.This led Tim to follow Nightwing and after helping Dick solve a mystery at Haly's Circus, convinced him that Batman needed help.Dick intended to help Batman as Nightwing, but Tim remained convinced that Batman needed Robin more. When Dick and Batman were captured by Two-Face, Tim donned the costume of Robin, at only thirteen years old and with the help of Alfred Pennyworth, was able to rescue them. Batman then, although extremely reluctantly, accepted Tim as the new Robin on a trial basis. He was trained over several months, first by Alfred, then Batman, and finally Nightwing before ever being allowed to wear the costume again or go into the field. After the death of his mother and paralysis of his father at the hands of Obeah Man Batman began to reconsider Tim for the role of Robin, fearing that,just as Jason had been, Tim was now fueled by Rage. Tim, however, became more driven by his desire to do what was right, rather than petty revenge.
Tim distinguished himself from Jason Todd by being far more reserved in temperament and from Dick Grayson by being more of a detective and less of a great acrobat. Though Tim began his solo career after the 'Kightfall' story arc it wasnt until Dick at last agreed to take on the mantel of the Batman. Much to Tim's shock, Dick did not ask him to continue as Robin. Stating that Tim was more his equal and ally than protege. Tim came to the belief that Bruce was still alive somewhere in the world. As such, he left Gotham behind in order to begin his search. But as he was no longer the Boy Wonder, he took on the mantle of the Red Robin.
Probably the most intelligent of all Batman's protégés Tim has the potential to become the worlds greatest detective someday surpassing even Batman.
4: Stephanie Brown
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"No, not Stephanie. Not even Spoiler. From now on you can call me Robin"
Born the daughter of one of Gothams third rate villains 'Cluemaster' Stephanie made a costume for herself, and called herself the Spoiler. She knowing where her father was hiding out, she found out his plans, and left clues so that the police and Batman could stop him. Robin (Tim Drake) tracked her down, and she joined in on the capturing of Cluemaster. She also became attracted to Robin, and it annoyed her that he knew her identity but she did not know his.
When Robin disappeared from Gotham for several days (he was off in Tibet on a secret mission) Batman approached Spoiler and offered to train her. Spoiler began to train with Batman, and also the Birds of Prey (although they were a bit more reluctant). Stephanie also began a friendship with Batgirl who helped train her in-exchange for reading lessons.Batman decided she wasn't really hero material told her to hang up her costume but when Tim's father upon finding out he was Robin forced him to hang up his cape she snuck into the Batcave in a homemade Robin Costume and demanded Batman train her as Tim's replacement. After several months of training he accepted her as the new Robin, only to strip her once more for disobeying orders. In an effort to prove herself to Batman she stole one of his plans for ridding the city of criminals and set it in motion. The result was a city wide gang war in which she apparently died. Later,upon returning to Gotham she resumed the mantle of Spoiler until the death of Batman when she became Batgirl and is now mentored by Barbara Gordon.
5: Damian Wayne
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I don't want to end up like Ducard... without a moral compass... I don't want to turn into a NoBody... I want to be like you. I've always wanted to be like you...
Damian is the child of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul and thus the grandson of Batman's villain Ra's al Ghul. Genetically perfected and grown in an artificial womb, Damian was intended to be a formidable warrior.
Raised by Talia and the League of Assassins he becomes a talented martial artist by the time he is a pre-teen. Talia reveals Damian's existence to his father and leaves him in Batman's custody in an effort to disrupt his work. Due to his childhood Damian is Precocious, spoiled, and violent, he battles Robin (Tim Drake), whose place he wants to usurp as his father's sidekick. Grounded by Batman, he escapes, dons a variant Robin costume made of Jason Todd's old tunic and assorted League of Assassin gear. While out in Gotham Damian gets into a fight with and decapitates the villainous Spook. Although misguided and malicious, Damian seems to genuinely want to change his ways and aid his father's war on crime.
After his fathers apparent death Damian Stays on in Gotham and is offered the mantle of Robin by current Batman Dick Grayson who feels he needs proper training to ensure they don't run the risk of seeing him turn into a killer. Damian proves to be a much different Robin than Tim or Dick were, being in many ways similar to Jason Todd. Argumentative and arrogant, Damian often disputes with Dick and undermines his authority as Batman, even going so far as to claim he is unworthy of the Batman mantle. As time went on however, Damian began to respect and admire Grayson, and when they began to figure out that Bruce Wayne was about to return, Damian even seemed a little letdown, afraid that he and Dick weren't going to be a team anymore.
The Wonder of Robin:
Though there have been many incarnations of Robin, each with their own style and persona's, at the core the character remains the same. He is the lighthearted side to the batman coin. His presence keeps Batman afloat, allows him to keep going when it seems bleakest. Robin, at times, becomes Batman's sole reason to keep going.
The Caped crusader fights a battle he cannot win. At least not in his lifetime. His only ray of light is that these soldiers he trains will continue the fight when he is gone. That maybe someday they can save Gotham from itself. This is why Robin keeps him from becoming as bad as the scum he hunts, he knows that his example will inspire his protégé into continuing what he has started, that if he can show someone that things can be done without the loss of life then his goal can be achieved.
Batman tries to save Gotham and Robin tries to save Batman.
Imagine swooping from the rooftops and rushing into peril alongside a dark-cloaked crusader! Imagine crushing criminals while having the time of your life. Such is the appeal of Robin the Boy Wonder, Batman's death-defying Apprentice. It is not hard to see how Robin snared the imaginations of a generation of adolescents.
Touted as "the sensational character find of 1940" in his inaugural appearance Robin, who premiered only eleven months after his crime battling mentor, has spawned a legion of imitators throughout the years, including Captain America's Bucky, and Green Arrow's Speedy.
While his comical routes may always be a subject of mirth, Robin the Boy Wonder is truly a Hero in his own right.
Well, thats all folks. I hope you enjoyed this brief article on one of the unsung heroes of the DC universe (or at least in my opinion).
"The effect Bruce has had on my life is profound. There's no question that knowing him had changed me, changed my relationship to the world, profoundly. I'll admit that there were times when I felt restrained somehow... bridled. There were times when the mission seemed like alot to carry... Times, even, when I wondered if the whole thing didn't go against my essential nature. More often though,this work that I've done with Bruce has felt like an advocation, a perfect expression of everything I've ever been capable of becoming."(Nightwing #100, 2005)
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