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Who is Robin? Part 2 Alternate Realities
DC comics has struggled with continuity issues for decades. They have created multiple Earths and written stories to alter timelines in an attempt to fix inconsistencies. Often times these solutions create their own set of problems. (You can read more about these reboot storylines in my hub DC Comic Reboots.)
The great thing about Elseworlds and alternate reality stories are that writers don’t have to worry about continuity. They are able to imagine a self contained world.
*The following are characters who took on the role of Robin within the comics. This article will not discuss different versions of Dick Grayson, Jason Todd and the others who have been Robin in the regular continuity or characters to appear in other forms of media.
Batman: Dark Allegiances was a 1996 Elseworlds title that put Batman in World War II . In 1940, the OSS recruits Batman, Catwoman and Alfred to fight behind enemy lines and work within Nazi Germany. The main mission in the story was to stop an assassination attempt on President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Alfred Pennyworth is assigned the codename Robin.
DC had some fun with their characters in 1982. The New Teen Titans #16 had a special insert which told the story of Earth-C-Minus and its animal superheroes. These animal heroes were based on the popular characters in the main DC Universe. Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew would get a short lived series afterwards. This comic may not have been in print long, but the funny animals created a lasting impression and still make cameos in today’s stories. The Dynamic Duos parallel animal characters were the Batmouse and Boyd, The Robin Wonder. As you can probably guess, the Robin character was an actual robin bird and wore a variation of Dick Grayson’s Robin costume.
In the 1950s, DC had a young Bruce Wayne honing his investigative skills by studying with detective Harvey Harris. In order to prevent Harris from discovering his true identity and possibly discouraging Bruce from his plans of becoming the Dark Knight, Bruce called himself Robin and dressed accordingly. However, this did not fit in with the accepted canon of Bruce Wayne not wearing a costume until he assumed the identity of Batman. In the 1980’s DC erased this story from their history.
Sins of Youth: Batboy & Robin
Bruce Wayne did take up the Robin identity within the accepted continuity in the Sins of Youth: Batboy & Robin comic. Bruce Wayne and Tim Drake are the victims of dark magic and have their ages switched. This forces them to swap costumes. Tim Drake is now dressed as Batman and Bruce Wayne dons the Robin costume.
Bruce Wayne Jr.
Bruce Wayne Junior does not require a lot of imagination, so there have been several versions of this character.
In the 1960 issue of Batman #131, Alfred writes an imaginary story about a “Second Batman and Robin team”. Bruce Wayne marries the original Batwoman, Kathy Kane, and starts a family. When Bruce retires as the Dark Knight, Dick Grayson becomes his successor. Bruce Wayne Jr. had been secretly training and seized the opportunity to put his skills to use. Dick took him under his wing as the new Robin.
In the 1997 JLA #9, the supervillain Key puts the Justice League in a dream word. In the dream world, Batman saw himself married to Catwoman. Bruce and Selina Kyle trained their son to be a superhero. Bruce Wayne Jr. was made Robin, when Tim Drake took over for Bruce Wayne Sr. as Batman.
Comic book artist and writer, John Bryne, created two versions of Bruce Wayne Jr. The first was for a 1996 Batman/Captain America crossover story. The story has Batman and Robin fighting alongside Captain America and Bucky during World War II. Captain America is frozen in ice again, but when he wakes up in modern times Batman has retired. Dick Grayson is now Batman and Bruce Wayne Jr. is his partner Robin. Robin appears briefly in the epilogue with red hair and has a similar appearance to Carrie Kelley.
Superman & Batman: Generations
John Bryne used the character of Bruce Wayne Jr. for a second time in his Superman & Batman: Generations comics. This limited series of Esleworlds books placed popular heroes in a particular point in history. It then followed them as they grew older and were replaced by their successors.
In the 1969: Changing Times storyline. Dick Grayson is the new Batman and Wayne Jr. is his partner. Dick Grayson is killed in a trap set by the Joker, who is breaking out of Arkham Asylum. Wayne Jr. quickly changes out of his Robin costume and puts on the cowl, so that the Batman legacy will continue.
Bruce Wayne Jr. was used again as Robin in the 1964: Children’s Hour storyline. In this story, Bruce Wayne Jr. has been training to follow in his father’s footsteps for year, but his mother will not let him fight alongside Batman until he is 18. Dick Grayson was the current Batman and supported his mother’s decision. Wayne’s friend Supergirl helps him by using the loophole that she is not Batman. Wayne Jr. gets suited up in his Robin costume and they go out to fight crime with their teenage superhero friends. These kids eventually form the Justice League.
For this series, Bruce Wayne Jr. has a very complicated storyline. However, it does not involve him being Robin, so I will let you read that on your own.
Carrie appeared in the critically acclaimed 1986 The Dark Knight Returns mini-series, written by Frank Miller. The story follows a 55 year old Bruce Wayne, who went into retirement after Jason Todd was killed. Bruce put the cowl back on, but superhero activity is now banned and the Gotham police and U.S. government are no longer on his side.
Carrie is 13 years old when she saves Batman from a group of mutant gang members. She then creates a Robin costume and attempts to prove herself worthy to be Batman’s sidekick. Batman agrees to let her fight by his side. He continually threatens to fire her, but he was constantly impressed with her abilities and kept her on. She was instrumental in helping Batman find and defeat the Joker, as well as helping him fake his own death in a battle against Superman. Carrie would later assume the identity of Catgirl, but was still fighting by Batman’s side.
Carrie was the first female to take on the role of Robin. However, she does not get credit, because it was not within the main continuity. However, the New 52 universe created by Flashpoint has put her in the main cannon stories.
The 1992 comic The Blue, The Gray and The Bat put Batman in the American old west. It is 1863 and Batman is protecting a gold shipment, that President Lincoln needs for the Civil War. Captain Bruce Wayne is assisted by Redbird. Redbird is a Native American whose family was killed by white men. Redbird would wear war paint in the design of a domino mask until he exacted his revenge.
ThrillKiller was a 1997 Elseworlds title set in the 1960’s. In this timeline, the Waynes were ruined during the Great Depression and Bruce Wayne is a detective for the Gotham City Police. Barbara Gordon has taken over his mansion and is living there with her boyfriend Richart Graustark. Richart is using the name Dick Grayson to hide his German ancestry. He also had the backstory of being part of the Grayson’s family acrobatic troupe, but now their deaths were caused by him being Robin. He and Barbara Gordon were working as Batgirl and Robin, to fight crime and the corruption going on within the Gotham Police. Richart’s responsibility for his family’s death caused him to be reckless and killed.
Robert Chang was Robin in the 1990 Batman: Digital Justice graphic novel. The book was written and illustrated by Pepe Moreno. It was more of a gimmick utilizing the emerging computer graphic technology and not a commercial or critical success. The story takes place in the distant future when Bruce Wayne and all those from his time era have passed away.
Commissioner Gordon’s grandson, Detective James Gordon, is Batman. He is attempting to save Gotham from a sentient computer virus that was created by the original Joker. Robert Chang is a teenage street-punk and an informant for the Gotham City police. James has Robert assist him as the new Robin. Robert was made to resemble the Jason Todd character appearing after the first Crisis on Infinite Earths.
In 2006, DC released a 4 issue miniseries called Batman: Year 100. The story takes place in 2039 and Gotham City is practically a police state. The police are harassing the city’s citizens with unwarranted search and seizures, as well as fighting Federal agents searching for Batman. There is not a lot of backstory for these character, but rather than an alias, Batman’s sidekick is actually named Robin. Like previous incarnations of the character, he is adopted by Batman. They tried to add a little diversity by making his skin darker. Robin is also the mechanic for the high-tech motorcycle currently being used as the Batmobile.
In 2001, DC Comics released a 104 page Elseworlds Hardcover called JLA: Riddle Of The Beast. The book turned the DC Universe into a Lord of the Rings/Dungeons and Dragons adventure. Robin Drake is a young boy living in a peaceful section of a world filled with warring factions and monstrous creatures. He sets out on a quest to bring peace to the land. His journey takes him through realms like the haunted Crags of Gotham, Amazonia and Kryptonia. He meets and assembles many of DC comics well known characters, reimagined to fit in a sword and sorcery world.
Detective Comics Annual #7 came out in 1994. This Elseworlds annual titled Batman: Leatherwing was set in Jamaica during the 17th century. The story featured Batman as the pirate Leatherwing. Robin is known as the “Prince of the Urchins and Bloody Terror of the Kingston Docks”. The reality is he’s an orphan stealing to feed himself and the other homeless children in Kingston. He dreams of being a pirate and when Leatherwing’s ship, the Flying Fox, docks at the Kingston Port, Robin sneaks on board and hides himself on board. While hiding, Robin overhears plans for mutiny and reveals himself to inform Captain Leatherwing of the plot. Leatherwing makes Robin a buccaneer on his ship, despite him being a stow away.
In 1998, Elseworlds took Batman out of Gotham and put him in Paris, France during the French Revolution. The book was called Batman: Reign of Terror. It had Captain Bruce Wayne was fighting against the revolution by day, but protecting the innocent and supporting the revolution by night. When Bruce Wayne’s sister discovers his secret, Rochelle Wayne designs her own Robin costume and joins him in his quest for what is right.
Batman: Dark Knight Dynasty was a three part graphic novel written in 1997. The story follows a feud between the Wayne family and the immortal Vandal Savage from the 13th to 24th century. Dark Past focuses on the knight Joshua Wainwright during the crusades. Dark Present used a current version of Bruce Wayne to fit the present day. Dark Future had Brenna Wayne ending the feud as Batwoman. The distant future is envisioned with Gotham being a floating city and humans are living side-by-side with intelligent apes. (I guess they did not rise up and rebel in this future.) When Vice-President Brenna Wayne suits up at Batwoman, she has the ape Rodney suit up as her sidekick Robin.
Stan Lee's Robin
Stan Lee is well known for the long list of characters he has helped create for Marvel, but in 2001 Stan Lee did a series of comics for DC. The Just Imagine series had Stan Lee reimagine many of DC’s most iconic superheroes.
For Robin, Stan worked with John Byrne to create a story in which Robin was a villain. The main antagonist in the Just Imagine series was Reverend Darkk. Stan kept Robin as an orphaned teenager, but made him more bitter than previous versions. Robin was forced by Reverend Darkk into a life of crime. When he was assigned to Kill Batman, the Dark Knight was able to show Robin the true side of Darkk. Robin then joined Batman and fought by his side. However, the ending revealed Robin was still working for Darkk.
One of DC’s many attempts to fix their continuity was the idea of Hypertime. In 1999, they created a comic series in the hopes of fixing all the discrepancies in the DC Universe and according to Mark Waid make “It all true.” This means, every story in the comics, movies, television, radio show and so on would have its place in the DC continuity. The Hypertension story arc had Superboy fighting Black Zero through multiple realities. In one of these realities, Superboy was the current Robin.
Superman & Batman: Generations Recap
The last story of Generations 1 (Discussed earlier with Bruce Wayne Jr.) is titled 2929: Nineteen Twenty Nine. In it, Superman and Batman are extremely old. Batman has slowed his aging process down by using the Lazarus Pit and they are discussing their past together. It is revealed that at one point Superboy had partnered with Batman and was wearing a prototype Robin costume.
Robin Annual #3 was released in 1994 and used as an Elseworlds story. It was titled The Narrow Path and placed in 16th century Japan. An unnamed warrior is raised by the Bat-Samurai. A female Cat-ninja gives him the nickname Tengu, after the bird-spirits. His mentor is slain in battle, but Tengu must continue on and carry out his masters dying request.
Robin 3000 was taken from a story created by P. Craig Russell in 1986. They took his story Tom Swift 3000 and rewrote it in 1992. The mini-series has a futuristic Earth being controlled by aliens. Thomas Wayne is the descendant of Bruce Wayne XX, who was the current Batman. However, when Bruce was killed by the aliens, Thomas continues his fight against the Skulps as Robin.
In 1998, DC comics did a crossover series that ran through most of their major titles called DC One Million. It was based on the idea of what would their characters look like at issue #1,000,000, if they had a regular publishing schedule since their first comic Action Comics #1 was released in 1938. This put them in the 853rd Century between 85201 and 85300 A.D.
In the future, Batman had a robot side-kick. Robin the Toy Wonder had Batman’s personality as a child programmed into it. Batman hoped that the optimistic robot would help him keep perspective and avoid being consumed by the darkness he had shrouded himself in. It was also helpful to use a robot, instead of an actual minor. Many of Batman’s darkest moments were caused by the death of his young partners.
In 1996, 26 DC annual comics took part in the Legends Of The Dead Earth storyline. The story imagined a future where the Earth has been long dead and its inhabitant scattered across the universe. The superheroes we knew have been dead for ages, but their stories and inspiration live on. Robin Annual #5, The Iron Sky, takes place aboard an interstellar ark. The generation ship is searching for a new world to call home. A fascist group called the Proctors have taken control of the ship and those not part of their group have basically been reduced to slaves. If you are not a member of the elite, then you are executed on your 30th birthday. This is done in an attempt to conserve resources. Tris Plover is 29 and joins the rebellion against the Proctors. She crosses paths with the famous rebel Batman. He gives her the name Robin and they fight for freedom together. (Yes, Logan’s Run was probably an inspiration for this storyline.)
Talon is the parallel version of Tim Drake’s Robin in the Earth-3 timeline. He is a member of the Teen Titans and the sidekick of Owlman II.
I debated putting Talon in this list, because he does not fit the criteria for characters who have taken on the role of Robin. However, I will give him honorable mention, because some people would consider him a Robin character.