The Replacements: Dick Grayson And The Legacy Of Robin
Since the dawn of the Silver Age, legacy characters have been a staple of superhero fiction, and having a new character step into a well loved role can open up new opportunities for writers and artists to tell different kinds of stories. In The Replacements, we’ll look back at the notable and not-so-notable heroes and villains to assume some of the most iconic mantles in the superhero genre.
The first truth of Batman is that he was never alone, he always had help, and he's almost always had a Robin by his side. Bruce Wayne has always needed the lightness of Robin to balance the darkness of Batman, and despite some tragedy along the way, the title of Boy (and Girl) Wonder is one of the most enduring legacies in the DC Universe.
When Jason Todd was first introduced, there wasn’t much to separate him from Dick Grayson, and in many ways he was just a carbon copy of the previous Robin. Jason was re-invented post-Crisis on Infinite Earths as a street punk who was caught trying to steal the wheels from The Batmobile.
Batman took him on as his new Robin, but Jason proved harder to teach and more aggressive than Dick Grayson ever was, and on one occasion when a criminal fell to his death Batman was left with the question of whether or not Jason pushed him. Jason was later captured by The Joker, beaten with a crowbar and killed in an explosion, a story resolution decided at the time by a public telephone vote.
Depending on the incarnation, Jason returned to life either via Lazarus Pit or by Superboy Prime punching on the walls of reality, and assumed The Joker’s former mantle of Red Hood, becoming a gun-wielding vigilante that often clashed with the Bat-Family. He tried to get revenge on Batman for letting him die at the hands of The Joker, and he was usually portrayed in an antagonistic light.
In more recent years, Red Hood has mended fences with Bruce Wayne and the Bat-Family and even adopted the insignia into his own costume. He formed his own team of Outlaws along with Arsenal and Starfire, and briefly joined Batman Incorporated under the guise of Wingman, before returning to the tried and true Red Hood identity.
Carrie Kelley was a thirteen year old girl living in the near future who was saved from muggers on the night The Batman came out of retirement. Inspired by the vigilante, she set out to become his new Robin, donning a costume of her own design, and when she saved Batman’s life from the Mutant Leader, he accepted her as his new Robin.
Alfred was against Batman taking on a new teenage sidekick after what happened to Jason Todd ten years prior, but Carrie proved herself during training, although often didn’t stick to her orders while out in the field. Following Batman’s climactic fight with Superman that resulted in his apparent death, Carrie went underground with Batman to continue their fight against the growing police state of America.
Carrie eventually graduated to her own identity as Catgirl, and continued to work alongside Batman as the leader of his army of Batboys. During Batman’s final fight with a Joker-inspired mad Dick Grayson, Carrie put her body on the line and nearly died for Batman, but was rescued and swept to safety.
A contemporary incarnation of Carrie Kelley was introduced in the wake of Damian Wayne’s death, when Bruce Wayne discovered his son had been paying her to be his acting coach. Unable to tell her the truth as to why Damian had vanished, Alfred offered her the job of dog walker to Damian’s pet, Titus.
Tim Drake was an incredibly bright teenager who was a huge fan of the Flying Graysons, and witnessing footage of Batman and Robin in action, he figured out Dick Grayson was the first Robin, and that Bruce Wayne was Batman. Following Jason Todd’s death, Batman became isolated and aggressive, and Tim — believing that Batman needs a Robin — put himself forward to be the new Boy Wonder.
Batman was initially hesitant to introduce another child into his dangerous world, but Tim proved himself and Bruce Wayne took him on as the new Robin. Although athletic and agile, Tim’s greatest skill was his analytical mind and of all the Robins, he was the greatest detective.
When Bruce Wayne was stranded in time by Darkseid’s Omega Effect, it was only Tim that believed Batman wasn’t dead, and he graduated from Robin to become Red Robin. Tim remained convinced that his mentor was still alive, and his investigation led to the Justice League and Time Masters rescuing The Dark Knight from the timestream.
Tim’s history in The New 52 is much different because, following Jason’s death, Batman didn’t want to take on another Robin, so Tim has always gone by Red Robin. His parents were forced to go into witness protection, so Tim was left in the care of Bruce Wayne but eventually struck out on his own as a hero and leader of the Teen Titans.
Stephanie Brown was the daughter of C-list Gotham supervillain The Cluemaster, and when he reverted to type and began committing crimes again, Stephanie became furious with her father. She donned the identity of The Spoiler with the intention of spoiling her father’s criminal plans and alerting the police to his activities.
As Spoiler, she became close with Tim Drake, and they dated on and off, but she was often frustrated with his refusal to reveal his true identity outside of Robin. When she became pregnant by an ex-boyfriend, she carried the pregnancy to term and put the child up for adoption, with Tim Drake there to support her through the toughest experience of her life.
When Tim Drake was forced to retire as Robin by his father, Stephanie took over the role, but she was fired by Batman for disobeying orders even though doing so saved his life. In order to prove herself to him, she accidentally triggered a citywide gang war that saw her abducted, tortured, and killed by Black Mask.
Stephanie returned later after it was revealed that Dr. Leslie Thompkins faked her death and took her out of the country. She briefly resumed activity as Spoiler, but took over as the fourth Batgirl, working alongside Oracle and finally proving herself as a worthy member of the Bat-Family.
Damian Wayne was the result of a one-night affair between Bruce Wayne and Talia Al Ghul, and was raised by The League of Assassins as heir to Ra’s Al Ghul. Bruce Wayne first discovered Damian’s existence when Talia left their son in his care, and Bruce struggled to keep Damian under control, as the child was aggressive and eager to earn his father’s approve without understanding the why of Batman.
After Bruce Wayne was thought dead at the hands of Darkseid, Damian Wayne became Robin alongside Dick Grayson as the new Batman, and their relationship was tumultuous at first. Damian didn’t initially believe that Grayson was worthy of his father’s title, but they soon developed a close bond.
Upon his father’s return, Damian stayed on as Robin as a member of Batman Incorporated, but was sidelined based on Batman’s grim vision of the future. Disobeying orders, Robin attempted to help his father in the fight against Leviathan and was killed by The Heretic, a genetically modified clone of himself.
Bruce Wayne struggled with his son’s death and sought ways to bring him back, and ultimately with the aid of Apokoliptian technology, Damian was restored to life. The resurrection process briefly granted Damian superpowers akin to Superman, but they burned out on a mission with the Justice League, and he returned to being a normal, super-athletic twelve year old trained by the greatest fighters in the world.
Helena Wayne was the daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle of Earth 2, and when she was old enough she became Robin just as her adopted brother Dick Grayson had before her. When Earth 2 was attacked by Darkseid and the forces of Apokolips, Helena witnessed her father’s death and — along with her best friend Supergirl — chased after Darkseid through a Boom Tube.
Robin and Supergirl did not emerge in pursuit of Darkseid, and instead found themselves on a strange world that was not their own, but one that had its own, younger Bruce Wayne. Helena took the surname Bertinelli and became the vigilante known as Huntress, focusing on mob crime and human trafficking.
Huntress eventually made her way back to Earth 2 along with her best friend (now going by Power Girl), where she was united with her grandfather Thomas Wayne who had taken over as Batman in her absence. Helena’s Earth was ultimately destroyed by Darkseid, but an ark of survivors colonised the world of Telos and, using advanced technology, began to terraform the planet into something more recognizably Earth-like.
When The Riddler took over Gotham City and instigated his Zero Year, he challenged the people of Gotham to stand up and attempt to stump him. Duke Thomas was only a child at the time, but he spent every day training his mind to one day outsmart The Riddler. He found the injured Batman and brought him home to safety, and Batman ultimately defeated The Riddler.
When The Joker unleashed his Endgame Virus on the people of Gotham, The Joker kidnapped Duke and his parents in an attempt to recreate the tragedy that created Batman. Duke was rescued, but his parents were exposed to the virus and lost in the chaos.
Duke put all of his energy into finding his parents, and joined up with the young group of vigilantes all calling themselves Robin. When one of the Robins was killed attempting to stop a robbery, Gotham enacted a ban on all Robin activity, and Duke was caught up in a war between the Robins, the GCPD and the Court of Owls. His parents eventually resurfaced, but prolonged exposure to the Endgame Virus left them a danger to themselves and others, and Batman promised he would come up with a cure.
Upon Bruce Wayne’s return as Batman, he offered Duke a position as his partner, but not as Robin, showing him a new yellow suit. A previous hallucination of Batman’s showed Duke in such a suit going by the name Lark, which may very well be Duke’s new codename the next time he appears.