Eighty years old and still as sprightly as ever. Robin was created in 1940 by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson, the team behind Batman, to appeal to younger readers. He’s the original sidekick, faithful, true, and level-headed. He also served as a counterbalance to the grit and darkness of Batman. Robin, across 80 years, however, has had several incarnations — going from a character to becoming a mantle for several avatars. Some of these characters have died, some just thought they did, some have become independent superheroes, and some are fairly terrifying. One even took over Batman’s duties when Bruce Wayne was travelling through time. Hey, the DC universe is a complicated place. Take a look…
The gentle circus boy: Dick Grayson first appeared in Detective Comics #38 in 1940 as the teenaged hero Bruce Wayne takes under his wing. Grayson is a great Shuriken thrower, has immense stamina, can run at 30 mph and hold his breath for 7 minutes. He’s a keen detective. He cuts quite a figure on his Batcycle and is partial to redheads. By the ’80s he had graduated to become the independent superhero Nightwing.
The angry orphan: Jason Todd, the second Robin, appeared in Batman#357, in 1983. He was an orphan, like Grayson, but with anger issues. He wasn’t as clean-cut as Grayson either. With him, the lines between right and wrong stayed blurred. In 1988, DC ran a poll to decide whether he should live or die. Jason was left for dead at the hands of the Joker in Batman #427. Batman’s grief at his death served to humanise the superhero, taking the tale in a new direction.
The girl scout: The first full-time female Robin made her appearance in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Vol 1, in 1986. Carrie Kelley was a literal girl scout. She met Batman when he rescued her from muggers. He easily slipped into the role of father figure. She helped him defeat the Joker. Three years after her first appearance, Kelley graduated to Catgirl. Her weapons of choice: slingshots and firecrackers.
The ace detective: A much-loved Robin first appeared in Batman #436 in 1989.What set Tim Drake apart was that he didn’t want to be Robin. The teen detective signed up, eventually, out of a sense of service. Batman was still blaming himself for Todd’s death, he trusted Drake, and Drake had already figured out who he was. This was also a Robin who had a face-off with another Robin. Todd, who didn’t die after all, returned as Red Hood to fight Drake.
The all-rounder: Damian Wayne is angry, agile and brainy, combining the strengths of the three Robins that preceded him. Most importantly, he is Batman’s son, born out of Bruce Wayne’s relationship with Talia Al Ghul — the daughter of League of Assassins supervillain Ras Al Ghul. Wayne first appeared in Batman and Robin Vol 2, in 2011. He’s vegetarian and loves his pets — Goliath the dragon-bat, and the bat-cow. He paints, can fight with bow as well as sword, and can hack into a computer. But he spent his early years with the League, so he’s a bit wild.