The myth of Batman being a lone crusader against crime and injustice, popularised in more recent cinematic excursions, is far from the reality of everyone’s favourite cowled crime-fighter, Batman has always had a cadre of partners and fellow costumed combatants to rely upon.
In fact, Gotham City is almost overrun with willing aides and allies in his ongoing mission, Batgirl, Batwoman, Huntress, and Ragman, are just a few of the other heroes working alongside the Dark Knight to keep the city safe from the assorted maniacs and criminal organisations who plot the city’s downfall on a daily basis. Of course the most famous and loyal of the Caped Crusader’s partners against crime has always been a young plucky teenager, dressed in a red and green outfit, and named after a small passerine bird that originates from Europe.
Robin was created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson in 1940, making his first appearance in Detective Comics #38. Though various characters have donned the mantle of Robin over the years, the original, longest running (and still most popular) of these is Dick Grayson. Grayson was originally a member of The Flying Graysons, a family of famous circus acrobats. His life as a crime-fighter begins on the night of his parents’ death, after a young Dick Grayson overhears two criminals attempting to extort money from the circus owner, the owner refuses, and in retaliation the criminals sabotage the trapeze wires resulting in his parents plummeting to their deaths, in front of Dick’s eyes (a close parallel to Batman’s own tragic origin)
In 1984 Dick left the role of Robin, all grown up he decided to go his own way and took on the secret identity of Nightwing, naming himself after the famous hero of Krypton’s Kandor city. Taking over the role of Batman’s sidekick was Jason Todd, a wayward youth who Batman takes under his wing to help stop the vicious cycle of crime that he feels Jason is heading for, if left alone to fend for himself.
Jason made his first appearance in Batman lore in Batman #357 in March 1983. Initially not well received by the fans (though he has always been a personal favourite of mine), he was a very different character to the well loved Dick Grayson. Moody, angst ridden Jason was ultimately murdered by the Joker in 1988’s Death In The Family storyline, after DC Comics opened up phone lines for a fan vote on whether the character should live or die. The result was close, but the votes for his death won by a very slim margin.
15 years later Jason was resurrected through R’as Al Ghul’s Lazarus pit, angered by his death at the hands of the Joker and that Batman (in Jason’s opinion) had failed to avenge him, he came back to Gotham as the violent and deadly vigilante Red Hood. Clashing with not just the criminals of Gotham but also Batman himself on several occasions, Jason continues to bring his own form of brutal punishment to the Supervillains of DC’s universe, and is now an extremely popular character amongst bat-fans.
Robin #3 is Tim Drake, who took over the role in Batman #436, published in August 1989. Tim was a child prodigy, a highly intelligent young man, who by the age of just 9, had managed to deduce the secret identities of both Batman and Robin. He petitioned both Nightwing and Batman to give him a chance to fill the role of Robin after the death of Jason Todd. In the beginning Batman is wary about taking on another partner after the death of his former ward, but eventually accepts him into the role. After Batman’s apparent death at the hands of Darkseid, Tim takes on a new identity as Red Robin, and not believing that his mentor has died, heads off in search of evidence to support his theory.
The current holder of the title Robin, is Batman’s biological son Damian, mothered by Talia al Ghul (daughter of foe R’as al Ghul). Damian’s first ever appearance was as a baby in the 1987 story, Son Of The Demon. He didn’t appear again until 2006 in Batman #655, introduced as Batman’s son Damian Wayne, it wasn’t until 2009 that he fully took up the role as Robin.
Other characters have also occasionally taken on the role of Batman’s iconic partner, though usually only temporarily or in non-canon stories, Carrie Kelly from Frank Miller’s fantastic 80’s Dark Knight Returns mini-series is probably the most fondly remembered of the part-time Robins (and it is rumoured she may play a part in next years Batman v Superman film, portrayed by actress Jena Malone).
To celebrate 75 years of the world’s most famous sidekick, DC Comics are releasing a hardcover anthology that collects some his greatest ever stories, which also includes his adventures as leader of Super-team, The Teen Titans. This tremendous tome is brought to you by some of the greatest artists and writers in comic-book history including the likes of, Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, Dick Sprang, Chuck Dixon and Bill Finger amongst many, many more.
Robin The Boy Wonder: A Celebration Of Seventy Five Years, will be available to purchase from the 13th of May, weighing in at a respectable 400 pages.