So, at long last, I’m back for part two of my exploration and deliberation into whom (I think) is, or was, the best Robin. As said, I’ve decided to explore this question from a range of angles and, from there, I’ll try to reach a conclusion and reveal who I think has been the greatest all round Robin (though that may prove difficult). Last time I focused on both physical and mental ability. Here I decided that Dick Grayson has shown the most flair for combat whilst Tim Drake has proven to be a master of deduction. However, after some deliberation, I decided that Dick Grayson has proved himself as being the best all rounder, in this respect, during his stint as Batman’s Robin.
In part two I want to look into what was leant from their time as Robin. Here I’ll be looking into the skills and experience gleaned that has since been used in their personas outside the mantle of Robin. Though, whose experiences have taught them the most and who has made the most spectacular, or surprising, of transformations?
The mantle of Robin is one that all, save Damian (though we may not have seen the last of him) ultimately outgrew. At some point in every teenager’s life they want to rebel and spread their own wings (hah!) and this is no different in the DC Universe. The mantle of Robin has served as an excellent boot camp for some of the fledgling heroes of the DC Universe. All have reinvented themselves in their own right, though, that said, none have flown too far from the nest.
At the times when Batman, and Gotham, have needed them most, these former protégées have been close at hand. In the pre-52 Universe they strived to maintain order in the streets of Gotham when, all but Tim Drake, thought Batman was gone. In the current Universe they have shown loyalty by being members of Batman Incorporated and, most notably, showed true loyalty and bravery during the ‘Night of the Owls’.
So evidently they have displayed true strength and capability when fighting alongside, or for Batman, but how do they compare when on their own? The majority have appeared in their own standalone series . Dick Grayson has featured as’ Nightwing’, Jason Todd as ‘The Red Hood’, Tim Drake as ‘Red Robin’, and Stephanie Brown as ‘Batgirl’’. So clearly, they are all well rounded and capable enough to actually merit a full series of their own. Although Damian did have a brief stint as ‘Redbird’, against his father’s wishes, I don’t feel it was enough of a shift of persona to really merit a thorough deliberation in this section. So, from those remaining, which one underwent the most notable transformation and who displays characteristics that best represent the teachings of their former mentor?
As Dick Grayson was the first Robin, it is his character that was the first to make the transition from Robin to a new self-made persona. As Dick was becoming older he was also growing out of his role as Robin and, at 18 years of age, he no longer wanted to be an understudy but instead wanted to prove himself a capable hero, outside the role of Robin. Dick invented and took on his new role as Nightwing, one that has lasted until very recently (though I won’t go into that yet).
As Nightwing, Dick has clearly illustrated that he possesses the strength and solidarity necessary to patrol and protect. He still maintains the control that he learnt from his former protégée and displays an unwavering loyalty when he gave up the guise of Nightwing and took on the Cowl after the “death” of Batman and the events of ‘Battle for the Cowl’. Dick Grayson managed to both live up to the role of his mentor, and also made it his own. Since his origins as Robin, Dick has always been one of the more likeable and admired members of the Bat-Family. Where Batman tried to almost intimidate Damian into acting as his subordinate, Dick adopted a more tactful approach (after a shaky start) and treated Damien as more of an equal than just a mere sidekick, an approach that earned Damien’s (rather reluctant) respect. Dick has always proven his worth as a leader in both the ‘Teen Titans’ and ‘Young Justice’, a quality that truly reflects an ability to win respect and trust, much like his predecessor.
One who followed a very parallel bath to their former mentor was Jason Todd as the ‘Red Hood’. Killed at the hands of the Joker in ‘A Death in the Family’, Jason was forcibly removed from the Bat-Family, though that was until ‘Superboy-prime’ altered reality from the confines of his prison.
Jason returned to Gotham as a murderous vigilante, intent in ridding Gotham of it’s crime syndicate permanently. He is still at odds with Batman as he feels betrayed that Batman never avenged his death and continuously goes against Batman’s code by adopting lethal weapons such as guns and daggers. However, traits of loyalty and experience gleaned from his time as Robin are still evident. For one, he is never too far away to help those in need, especially when Gotham is at risk. He also, like Dick Grayson, demonstrates a penchant for leadership, such as his stint as ‘Wingman’ and his continued leadership in the pages of ‘Red Hood and the Outlaws’.
Another who has proved his ability to lead is Tim Drake. Tim had a brief stint as leader of the new ‘Outsiders’ and is currently the leader of the Teen Titans, much like his fellow Robin Drake. In the new Universe his origins have been altered and it has now been established that Tim Drake was never Robin and instead (out of respect for Jason Todd) was introduced as ‘Red Robin’. Although I love the new-52 Universe, I think this is one of the few things I can’t accept. In my mind (and I’m sure in the mind of a lot of you) Tim was and always will be, a former Robin. So, following this line of thought his transformation from Robin to ‘Red-Robin’ was one that was almost forced upon him. When Damian Wayne joined the Bat-family and, rather quickly, proved his worth, Tim had to find himself a new, and more mature ego. In the end he donned the guise of ‘Red-Robin’ and, as previously mentioned, cuts himself off from the rest of the Bat-family in his quest to find the, then thought dead, Batman. Do to so he uses all his detective skills, skills that have developed over years of following the world’s greatest detective. These skills are further illustrated in the new-52 Universe where Tim is shown to be a computer genius, able, for a time, to fight crime from behind a computer screen.
Finally, it’s the turn of Stephanie Brown. Stephanie seems to have undergone more transformations than her other counterparts. Out of all the Robins, hers was the shortest stint. Having given up her guise as ‘Spoiler’, she donned her own home-made Robin costume and eventually convinced Batman to take her on as the new Robin. However, this was extremely short lived as Batman cast her out after failing to follow orders in two missions. This action led to the events of ‘War-Games where, at the end, Stephanie seemingly dies in a hospital bed with Batman by her side. Much later Stephanie returns as ‘Spoiler’ and reveals that her death was faked as her identity was now known and was thus a risk to Batman. When Cassandra Cain seems to all but lose her mind over the supposed death of Batman, it is Stephanie that takes up the mantle of Batgirl. Stephanie, out of all the over Robins, seems to show the most progress as she manages to take anything and any role thrown at her. Upon Batman’s return he, without her knowing, watches Stephanie and admits that she is now fit to be Batgirl, and thus part of the Bat-family, however this has not carried through to the New-52 Universe (though that is for another day and another article).
So, from all that, it is clear to see that these former Robins have a lot under there belt, besides their time as Robin. In terms of who has learnt the most I would say that honour goes to Stephanie Brown, despite her absence (for the most part) from the New-52 Universe. Stephanie started off as being almost a hindrance to Batman, taken on to only prove a point to his preferred Robin, Tim Drake. However, after facing near death, returning to help as ‘Spoiler’ and proving her worth as Batgirl, it is clear (in my mind) that Stephanie shows more growth and determination than all the other Robins.
In terms of the most surprising of transformations, I would say that this would, undoubtedly, fall to Jason Todd. His transformation all but goes against the training and creed of this former mentor. He arrives back in Gotham a gun toting anti-hero, nearly on power with the criminals he aims to eradicate. However as his introduction back into the DC Universe continues his morals and concept of right and wrong develop, so maybe there’s hope for this former Robin yet.
So, although it seems that both Stephanie Brown and Jason Todd are the victors of this section, it seems clear that they are both more notable outside of the guise of Robin. For one, Jason Todd was ousted from the role of Robin when, in 1988, a public vote decided that they wanted the character killed off, whilst, Stephanie Brown was never truly Robin and was more notable as both ‘Spoiler’ and ‘Batgirl’. It therefore seems that Jason and Stephanie are all but out of the contention for the mantle of the best Robin, though this is no reflection on their contribution to the Bat-family which (with the introduction of Batman Eternal) continues to this day.
So, thus far, it seems that Dick Grayson is still in the lead for the title of best Robin. There is still a lot to play for with Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and Damian Wayne still in contention, though don’t be surprised if (in true Jason Todd style) the Red Hood returns. So yeah, tune in next time for round three where I’ll look into who is the most deserved of the Cowl if Batman ever truly dies and, at long last, reveal the winner of this debate (*ding, ding, ding* FIGHT!!)
Categories: Comics/Graphic Novels