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Robin vs. Robin
Which DC Comics "Robin" is the Best?
The Boy Wonder, perched silently along the rooftops of Gotham City while observing events below. He has become a legend and known fixture to the nesting criminal element within its borders. Whether he stands alone or wingman to The Dark Knight, the villains have taken heed; when Robin appears, there is trouble to follow.
Consider, though, the ones who have worn the mask: which Robin should be feared the most?
Do you know how many characters have assumed the guise of the infamous avian? Did you know one of them was a girl? Everyone has their favorite, but which one is yours? Are you inclined towards Batman's original sparring partner or his newly acquainted son? Do you prefer green and yellow? Or does the brilliant and dark red put a gleam in your eye?
And that's only some of the questions that should be on your mind as you peruse this article. Below, you'll be introduced to the "Robins" - that is, each character who has donned the mantle and taken a place at The Caped Crusader's side. Every one of them will be well-detailed and discussed, and then, later on, you'll be able to decide once and for all which is the greatest.
It's Robin vs. Robin: you decide.
General Robin Info
The Basics Behind Batman's Partner
Just in case you're new to Robin - the other half of the Dynamic Duo - there are some fundamental concepts they share that needn't be repeated. You see, Bruce Wayne is very particular about his progeny; while each of them are unique, he looks for qualities that sets them apart. But more specifically, he wants to be certain that they can fulfill the general role.
In the beginning, it was basically about physical training. Batman spars with his partner on a daily basis, and when he's unavailable or in the middle of his own business, he sends his sidekick off to receive tutelage from many other masters of various designs. In all cases, each "Robin" is trained in acrobatics and martial arts. This is the most adamant requirement for the team. Every one of the them will know more than a handful of the hand-to-hand, close combat, and weapon techniques associated with those styles.
Later, Batman realized sleuth study was equally important. And to support that notion, every one of the Robins is ardent with the basic detective skills. They will also know how to pick locks, take fingerprints, and study a crime scene. Awareness and perception of crime has become a very useful tool in survival as well as getting Batman out of a jam.
Lastly, with the coming advances in technology, we've seen that Batman indoctrinates every Robin with computers and piloting. We're not talking about programming or hacking specifically, but the ability to access information from a terminal or pilot any of the Bat-transports.
In summary, with all these skills in mind, understand that each person below has undergone military-style disciplines coupled with rigorous special forces training. They've been taught to adapt to any situation and been given the knowledge to do so. These aren't your run-of-the-mill sidekicks; as Robin, he or she is expected to react like a super-agent of espionage.
Robin #1: Dick Grayson
The Original Robin
If you've ever heard of Batman and Robin, then the likely name that escaped your lips was ..."Dick Grayson". From his first appearance in Detective Comcs #38 (1940), he's been the iconic sidekick of the Dark Knight. He has also been represented in the Batman Movies from the late 80s and 90s. For that and many other reasons, Grayson is considered the "quintessential" Robin, even though he left Bruce Wayne's side decades back and moved on to other things.
One of Dick Grayson's greatest abilities (acrobatics) comes from his origin as a member of "The Flying Graysons". The youngest of this family, he was a gifted trapeze artist and traveled with them in the circus until they were murdered by Tony Zucco. From that moment forward, Batman saw a kinship with the youth and inducted him to fight by his side. To this day, only Grayson can perform a quadruple somersault, separating him from all other superheroes and athletes.
Later on in his career, Grayson left the team, cited by disputes with his mentor. (Batman has always had a very cautious and restrictive attitude with his Robin students and it tends to create problems every time.) Adopting many of the Wayne Technology gadgets, he took the name Nightwing, performed solo, and also led supergroups such as The Outsiders and The Teen Titans.
Besides his unique acrobatic talent, Dick also excels in the use of Aikido, which is his preferred form of martial arts, and his twin Eskrima sticks. To accommodate his techniques, he wore the traditional yellow cloak with green gloves and boots. He also sported the green "trunks" and red-breasted vest with the "R".
Special Notes: Dick Grayson is the one Robin which temporarily replaced Bruce Wayne as Batman. This is seen in The Battle For The Cowl story arc.
Nightwing - Grayson's Solo Career
Dick's retirement as Robin was due to some considerable hazards on the job. Tied to a platform, Batman had to helplessly watch as Two-Face gave his partner a severe beating. Later on, The Joker would shoot The Boy Wonder in the shoulder.
This, coupled with their arguments over Batman's secrets and his inability to let Dick have more independence, ended their duo.
Grayson was already part of the Teen Titans, but was asked to give up the Robin Identity. After some interaction with Superman, he soon adopted the name Nightwing, officially his own man. In the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline, it should be noted that the separated on better terms.
Both Dick and Bruce still interact to this day, and after many adventures and crossovers, Batman now accepts Grayson as a worthy ally in crime-fighting.
Robin #2: Jason Todd - The Excessive Robin
His full name is Jason Peter Todd and he first appeared in Batman #357 (1983). While his backstory is a bit skewed nowadays, originally he was also part of an acrobatic family, except his folks were murdered by Killer Croc. This would be later revamped, turning him into a street urchin who tried to strip the Batmobile.
Todd's rise in the Batman family happens after Grayson has already moved on; with his skills and some luck, he helped Batman catch some thugs.
Jason Todd's story is one muddled with controversy. Never living up to Grayson's legacy, his character was the only one killed off over a telephone poll held by DC Comics. (The results were to kill him by a narrow margin.) What concerned the writers and editors was that he was never really well-liked; to represent this in the comic books, Batman and he were at constant odds. And finally, in Batman #427, it happened; tricking Jason, The Joker kills him. (This storyline was from 1988 and called Batman: A Death in the Family.)
But as with most heroes, death is hardly the final chapter. Later on, it would turn out that Talia al Ghul recovered the body and immersed it in The Lazarus Pit. When Todd returned to Gotham, he took on the name The Red Hood (which, incidentally, was the first criminal name used by The Joker.) An antihero by all designations, his main trademark is his willingness to exact justice through lethal force and weapons, a trait that often puts him at odds with Batman.
Unlike the other Robins, Jason's stint was probably the most rough. He was never much of a "sidekick", never showed a unique proficiency in any skill set, and had barely any differences in his costume choice; most often he would be seen smoking and drinking, fighting authority, and getting out of hand. During his duo missions, Bruce soon realized that he would go into a rage in battles, which led to excessive force. (Seen in Batman #424.)
Special Notes: Todd has later appeared wearing versions of the Nightwing and Batman suits. In those roles, though, he continued his excessive, sometimes murderous, ways and would later content the true originals. Somehow he's managed to escape the role of the villain and has lately gained popularity.
The Red Hood
The Evolution of Jason Todd
Once readers learned that Jason Todd was alive - that's when his popularity started to grow. (To explain how he survived - here's how it goes - Superman Prime "punched" reality, causing it to shatter. In turn, this cause Jason to wake up with amnesia.) He became a figure of Dark Justice - even darker than Batman - and assumed the title of The Red Hood. What separates him from other superheroes is that he has no reservations about killing.
After being revived, he continues and furthers his training, increases his access to high-tech resources, and creates a wave of fear in the criminal underworld. Using his unorthodox methods, this also pits him against Batman and the Bat Franchise on many occasions.
As The Red Hood, Jason's favorite weapon is his Kris Dagger, a gift he received from Talia al Ghul. His acrobatic skills have excelled and he couples all his training and techniques with dangerous, military-grade weaponry.
Jason's story is commemorated in story arc called Batman: Under The Hood (2005). At the time, no one could conceive that the dead Robin was returning.
Nowadays, The Red Hood is starring in his own 2011 title called Red Hood and The Outlaws, with Starfire and Roy Harper.
Robin #3: Tim Drake - The Genius Robin
The third incarnation of Robin was received more favorably after Jason Todd died; he would show up in the form of Tim Drake in Batman #436 (1989). Instead of a rebellious lifestyle, though, he was a fan, and out of all the Robins, so far he has demonstrated the greatest appreciation and loyalty.
Tim's background literally starts out as a follower. Studying the performances of Dick Grayson and his family, this youth taught himself many of the techniques. The son of wealthy parents, he was able to show this to Grayson in person when they first met. And it was through this acquaintance that Dick sponsored Tim's training, making him Todd Jason's replacement.
In terms of the Robin apprenticeship, Tim has shown himself to be less of an acrobat, but more of a genius and deductive thinker. At the age of nine, it was this mental sharpness that allowed him to figure out Wayne and Grayson's identities. He is, therefore, considered the most brilliant of the Batman franchise, a skilled programmer and hacker, and a critical thinker. (To cover for his lack of physical prowess, he attempts to out-think his opponent.)
Tim has always known he was filling big shoes; in that manner, he vowed to live up to Grayson's legacy and was always looking for Wayne's approval. And although he was never Dick's equal as an acrobat, he mastered the Bo Staff and Bojutsu to overcome his deficiencies.
Eventually, like the other Robins, Drake would move on, fighting with Young Justice and The Teen Titans. Once his relinquished the title, he took the name Red Robin, a characteristic color which identified his crimson-styled original outfit when he was Batman's sidekick.
Drake Fulfills His Role as a Teen Titan
Drake's newest role as Red Robin garnered him his own series in 2009. During the saga, his main goal was to find Batman alive. His red-schemed costume as accented with ebony and a black mask.
In the coming days of 2011, however, DC launched their New 52, and he has become the central character in the Teen Titan's story. His purpose there is to bring together many of the super-powered youth who are being hunted by a group called NOWHERE.
As can be seen in the picture, now Drake wears a modified version of his last costume and has switched back to the Robin-archetypal mask. Instead of a cape, he's sporting a tech-harness wing set that allows him limited flight and gliding.
Special Note: One big aspect of Tim Drake's career is that he has had more than a few romantic relationships. One of them, ironically, turns out to become the 4th Robin.
Robin #4: Stephanie Brown - The Girl Wonder
It's still up to fans to decide if they like Stephanie Brown or not. Her first appearance came as Tim Drake's girlfriend, which started in Detective Comics #647 (1992). What makes her unique is that she's the daughter of a crimelord called Cluemaster. She soon starting showing off her acrobatic skills as "The Spoiler", with a pink, sometimes purple-colored costume that she wore to ruin her father's various schemes.
Once her identity was surmised, Batman eventually offered to train her as a Robin, making her the 4th incarnation of his sidekick and the first as a girl. That, however, didn't work out well; Bruce Wayne anticipated that Stephanie was flighty and lacked the seriousness to complete missions. Soon, he withdrew his offer.
As one of the Robins, Stephanie has had an on and off partnership with The Dark Knight, The Birds of Prey, and Batgirl. In the beginning, her advancement was halted due to behavior. She was also believed to be untrustworthy. Eventually, though, she managed to coerce Batman to take her back and they ran missions for a few issues. All went well until she was believed dead at the hands of Black Mask.
In 2009, we learned that she survived the injuries and would attempt to take on the role as the new Batgirl.
Most of Stephanie's "Robin" career is unmarked, however she is the only girl to fill the role. Her costume is much like the original robin outfits except that she wore a skirted version over her leggings. She was also notorious for using a collapsible staff and an invisibility device which she acquired from the Penguin.
Batgirl - Stephanie Brown's Next Role
In 2009 Stephanie decided to take up the Batgirl mantle from it's last owner, Cassandra Cain. This lasted a few issues until she drew the attention of the first Batgirl, Barbara Gordan. (Barbara's career ended when The Joker handicapped her to a wheelchair. She went on to use her crimefighting skills as a programmer, coordinator for the Birds of Prey, and leader in the Batman franchise. Soon after showing sincerity in the field, she decides to mentor Stephanie again and passes along her costume.
In recent events, Stephanie still works within the Batman family, but has no specific role. Barbara Gordan is able to walk again and has resumed the identity of Batgirl.
Robin #5: Damian Wayne - The True Son of Batman
And so we come to the last person to wear the Robin suit. As it turns out, this character is one of the youngest and one of the strangest to take on the job. For in fact, this is none other than Damian Wayne, who we have been told is Batman's true son.
Damian first appeared in Batman #655 (2006). At the time, his name was basically formless and only in recent times can we identify him. Unlike most other ten year-old boys, his infancy was spent in a laboratory only to be later trained by his mother, Talia al Ghul and The League of Assassins.
Having actual blood relation with Bruce Wayne, Damian now resides as the current incarnation of Robin. His costume looks mostly like the rest except that he wears a black, protective bodysuit and has a hood he can pull. His fighting skills are therefore exceptional and he is one of the most deadly youths, now learning to hold back on his killing blows.
Aside from traditional training with Batman, Damian seems to possess an inherent knowledge of engineering and has the gift of mimicry, the ability to make his voice and speech patterns sound like others.
In 2011, Damian is part of the Batman and Robin duo. The current interaction between the two is one of a father attempting to retrain his son from a killer into a champion of justice.
A Choice of Costumes - They May Seem Alike...
...but not all Robin's look alike. In this poll, please pick the Robin costume that you thought looked the best. If you can remember a specific issue or variant you liked even better, leave a message in the guest book.
Which Robin costume did you like the best?
Which Robin did you like the most? - Someone has to be the best.
Above: The Batman Franchise shows many of the characters who were former Robins. Can you name all of them?
You can like all the Robins, but in this poll, we'd like to know which one you thought was the best. This is an overall comparison between all the characters, for any reason.
Which Robin was the overall best?
Brains or Brawn? - Robin needs your advice.
In the world of the Robin, there's only so much training to go around.
So here's your mission. If you were to build a Robin, what type of training would you emphasize and why? Basically it boils down to two disciplines; either you work one his mental acuity and his ability to think his way through situations...or you work on his physique and constitution, giving him the cutting edge in combat.
You can skew this discussion any way you want. (It's all for fun, right?)
Of the Robins, there are two main variants. Which is the most important?
Batman: Battle For The Cowl
The Main comic books of this story are:
The Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1-3
Battle for the Cowl: Commissioner Gordon
Gotham Gazette: Batman Dead?
Azrael: Death's Dark Knight #1-3
Oracle: The Cure #1-3
Battle for the Cowl: Arkham Asylum
Battle for the Cowl: The Underground
Battle for the Cowl: Man-Bat
Battle for the Cowl: The Network
Battle for the Cowl: Secret Six
Gotham Gazette: Batman Alive?
The Battle for the Cowl is the Batman storyline where Bruce Wayne is now dead and someone has to take up his position in the superhero world. This epic draws all the main characters in a showdown as they try to unravel a solution.
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