It’s April: spring has finally kicked into full gear, and what symbol ushers in the great thaw more than Robins? That’s a capital R— we’re not writing about the fluffy little birds at the park, but the Boy (and Girl) Wonders who have historically kicked ass alongside the most popular comic book character of all time, Batman.
Robin first appeared way back in Detective Comics #38, released in April of 1940, but let’s all remember—you’re never too old to wear tiny, green booty shorts. With a reputation of being profoundly uncool in certain comics circles, Robin experienced something of a revival in 2015, with the 75th anniversary of the character bringing about new books like We Are Robin and Batman and Robin Eternal, introducing new players and new stories. In the spirit of spring, please enjoy this guide to the many girls and boys who have flown the colors and flown the coop as Robin.
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Detective Comics #38, April 1940
The Original Robin. Dick Grayson has cycled through the mantles of Robin, Nightwing, and even for a time, the Dark Knight himself. Most recently, he survived a stint as a secret agent man in the pages of Grayson. In a very real way, Dick Grayson is the heart and soul of the entire DC Universe, a boy who grew to be a man at the knee of two incredibly powerful men. (When Superman and Batman aren't fighting, they're co-parenting the World's Finest hero.) In Infinite Crisis, it's the possibility of a world without Dick Grayson that causes Batman to reject Superman's desire to fuse two universes. Often imitated, never duplicated, Dick Grayson stands as the first wingman and most enduring characters of the DC Universe.
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Batman #357, March 1983
The Betrayed Robin. When people talk about comics being "gritty," the death of Jason Todd is the apex of that dark evolution. In an act once called outright 'ugly' by the legendary Grant Morrison, child soldier Jason Todd, a plucky kid who got his start stealing the tires off the Batmobile, was murdered by the Joker with a crowbar. Or more to the point, he was murdered by a bunch of fans. DC Comics held a phone-in poll to decide whether or not the publisher should murder a beloved child character.
It gets better: Todd returned as the hyperviolent, gun-toting Red Hood, mad as Hell at Batman, and even once captured the new Batman and Robin. How does he determine their fate? A phone-in poll, duh.
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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, February 1986
The Future Robin. In The Dark Knight Returns, Kelley's presented as a Batman fan and child of horrible liberal parents (yes, Mr. Miller, we see you) who sneaks out to save Batman's life in a Robin costume purchased with her lunch money. He's hurt enough to mistake her for Dick Grayson when he first sees her, and it's only later, after the painkillers wear off some, that he realizes she's not. Oops. Oh well. Welcome to the Robin gig, kid.
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Batman: Son of the Demon, January 1987
The Antihero Robin. It's been said that the hardest part about having kids is watching them grow up and flaunt all of your worst traits. Enter Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne's violent, headstrong son conceived through a…really questionable encounter with the assassin queen, Talia al Ghul. A sort of Alexander the Great-meets-miniature ninja, he's ten feet of murder in a four-foot-tall package, who takes his 'rightful' place by Batman's side with swords and kidnapping. Batman forgives him. He's like that.
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Batman #436, August 1989
The Wholesome Robin. A classic 'Boy Detective' character, Tim Drake is the Robin one usually sees smiling at Nightwing's side. (Trust me: the other ones aren't usually smiling.) He got his start by uncovering Batman's identity—not to pester him, but to save him after the brutal loss of Jason Todd pushes Bats a bit too close to the edge. For the longest time, Drake was well-adjusted; he had a girlfriend, actual pants instead of green, scaly panties and living parents. That didn't last. Superheroes don't get parents. Now he's Red Robin, and seems to have very recently retired the literal, goofy wings that were a longtime part of his costume.
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Detective Comics #647, August 1992
The Determined Robin. Originally introduced as Tim Drake's girlfriend, a series of CW-worthy dramatic teen misunderstandings causes her to react in the coolest way possible, taking over her boyfriend's superhero gig. While Drake politely pleads a case for Brown's Robin suitability, Stephanie marches into the Batcave in a homemade costume and starts making demands. Her original, heartwrenching death during the events of War Games is later revealed to be faked (okay, comics) and Stephanie returns as a purple, smart-mouthed Batgirl.
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Batman #21, August 2013
The DIY Robin. Duke was first foreshadowed as Robin in a Futures End tie-in, and then was next seen in We Are Robin, taking command of a Gotham-based gang of kids seeking to communally accomplish what Robin's done for years: help Batman protect his city. The group's emergence coincides with a weird time for Gotham: Jim Gordon is piloting a mech suit as Batman, and Damian Wayne's off on a vision quest. But when Bruce Wayne returns to the cape and cowl, he recruits Duke into full-time duty.