Know Your Robins: A Guide To The Many Boy Wonders (And Other Players) in ‘Robin War’
This week DC kicks off the crossover event story "Robin War" in a comic book entitled, appropriately enough, Robin War #1. The storyline will wind through this month's issues of Grayson, Detective Comics, We Are Robin and Robin: Son of Batman, while this month's issues of Gotham Academy, Red Hood/Arsenal and Teen Titans will all tie-in to the events of the storyline. It all wraps up in next month's Robin War #2.
If you haven't visited Gotham City in a while, you may be surprised to learn that the number of teenage crimefighters calling themselves "Robin" has swelled far beyond the handful of handsome young men with black hair that Batman has allied himself with over the years, to the point where there are now hundreds of different Robins; more than enough to make an army big enough to fight a war.
As for the Robin War's casus belli, when a Robin attempts to foil an armed robbery and messes up pretty spectacularly, Gotham City government finally decides to bring the hammer down hard on teenage vigilantism... just as the current real Robin, Damian Wayne, finally catches wind of the Robin movement and returns to Gotham to beat them all up. And waiting in the wings are the bird-themed villains, The Court of Owls.
Coupled with various changes to the Batman franchise (and DC Universe) that accompanied their June "DCYou" refresh, the storytelling landscape is a little more unforgiving to new readers than it might otherwise be. To help you tell your Red Robin from your Red Hood, and your Robin, singular, from your The Robins, plural, we've assembled a handy guide to the major players in "Robin War"...
DICK GRAYSON/AGENT 37 (ROBIN I)
Created by Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson and Bob Kane
First Appearance: Detective Comics #38 (1940)
Currently Appearing In: Grayson, Batman & Robin Eternal
The original and longest-serving Robin, Dick Grayson is one of the longest-lived and most-popular characters in the DC Universe, and he created the template for all teenage superhero sidekicks to follow.
Adopted by Batman/Bruce Wayne after his circus acrobat parents died in a tragic "accident" arranged by a protection racket, Dick Grayson became the Batman's crime-fighting partner.
He eventually outgrew the role and took on the new codename Nightwing. Outted by extra-dimensional Crime Syndicate during their invasion of Earth, Grayson faked his own death and, at the behest of Batman, infiltrated the super-spy organization Spyral. He still works for Sypral, under the codename Agent 37, although he recently returned to Gotham City for the first time in months and came clean with his allies regarding his not being quite as dead as he and Batman had pretended he was.
JASON TODD/THE RED HOOD (ROBIN II)
Created by Gerry Conway and Don Newton
First Appearance: Batman #357 (1983)
Currently Appearing In: Red Hood/Arsenal, Batman & Robin Eternal
The controversial and short-lived second Robin, Jason Todd is probably still remembered more for his death at the hands of The Joker in 1988 story arc "A Death In The Family" than for his crime-fighting career, before or after.
In the current continuity, Todd met Batman while he was trying to steal medicine from Batman's friend and ally Dr. Leslie Thompkins. He was resurrected via a dip in one of Ra's al Ghul's Lazarus Pits and, post-resurrection, trained with a band of ancient warrior monks known as The All-Caste.
Adopting the name of one of Batman's earliest villains, Todd started toting firearms and palling around with Roy Harper/Arsenal and Starfire as "The Outlaws." He currently works with Harper in a sort of two-man mercenary operation. His guns, violent nature and bad habits make him the black sheep of the Bat-Family, although he frequently teams up with Batman and/or his fellow former sidekicks when he's needed.
TIM DRAKE/RED ROBIN (ROBIN III)
Created by Marv Wolfman and Pat Broderick
First Appearance: Batman #436 (1989)
Currently Appearing In: Teen Titans, Batman & Robin Eternal
Boy genius computer hacker Tim Drake made teenage sidekicks cool again in the early 1990s, when he became Batman's third Robin – and the first to wear long pants and black. Of all the Robins, his origin and history received the most thorough re-jiggering during the cosmic timeline realignment of Flashpoint/The New 52.
Now a talented gymnast/boy genius, he tracked down Batman and tried to convince The Dark Knight to make him his new sidekick. When Batman rebuffed him, the would-be Robin used his hacking skills to steal from The Penguin, drawing the villain's attention to him and his family.
As a result, Tim's parents went into the Witness Protection Program, which is where Tim got the name "Tim Drake," and he was adopted by Bruce Wayne as per his parents' wishes. More often than not, it's said Tim chose to alter the codename from "Robin" to "Red Robin" in order to distinguish himself from his predecessors, although there are still a few references to him being Robin in The New 52.
He briefly quit the crime-fighting game after a falling out with Batman, until he gathered together a group of super-people his own age to form the Teen Titans.
DAMIAN WAYNE/ROBIN (ROBIN IV)
Created by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert
First Appearance: Batman #655 (2006)
Currently Appearing In: Robin: Son of Batman
The fourth and current Robin, Damian has the distinction of being the only Robin to be Batman's biological son... even if The Dark Knight Detective didn't know he had a son for a while there.
In Batman's defense, Damian wasn't conceived in the normal fashion. Talia al Ghul used genetic material from Batman to create Damian, who was grown and hyper-aged in an artificial womb (the "hyper-aging" necessitated by the New 52 reboot, as Damian is a ten-year-old, which means he would be twice as old as his father's superhero-ing career had he grown up at a normal rate). Trained by his mother and grandfather Ra's al Ghul and The League of Assassins, Damian was meant to be the ultimate heir to his grandfather's legacy.
Shortly after meeting his father, however, he rebelled, and became the fourth Robin, working with Dick Grayson during Dick's time as Batman (while Bruce Wayne was temporarily dead) and, later, with his father. Damian gave his life fighting his mother's forces, although he was later brought back to life by the power of "The Chaos Shard" on Apokolips.
Following his father's latest apparent death, this time at the hands of The Joker, Damian left Gotham City to embark on a globe-trotting quest to atone for his "Year Of Blood," a long-term training mission in which the League had him do all sorts of terrible things. His traveling companions include Goliath, a giant red creature related to the Man-Bats his grandfather uses as warriors, and Nobody/Maya Ducard, the daughter of previous Nobody Morgan Ducard (who Damian killed) and the granddaughter of Henri Ducard (who helped train Bruce Wayne).
Created by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
First Apperance: Batman #21 (2013)
Currently Appearing In: We Are Robin, Batman
Duke first met Batman early in the Dark Knight's career, during the so-called "Zero Year" in which The Riddler conquered and briefly controlled Gotham City. Duke's family took the badly injured Batman into their apartment to rest and recover, while Duke was busy trying to train his mind in order to solve The Riddler's riddle and save the city.
The next time he met Batman, years later, was under even worse conditions for Duke: The Joker had kidnapped him and his parents and was going to use them to reenact Batman's origin. The Thomas family escaped, but not before Duke's parents were infected with the Joker's latest venom formula, and went missing.
Duke has since been in and out of foster homes, spending time at The Lucius Fox Center for Gotham Youth in The Narrows (where an amnesiac and bearded Bruce Wayne currently volunteers), and looking for his parents.
He was reluctantly recruited into The Robin Movement that sprang up after the apparent death of Batman during The Joker's latest attack on Gotham City, and has since become a prominent member of one particular faction of the group. While he's a volunteer Robin at present, in at least one possible future --- the "five years from now" future of DC's Futures End series --- he is the Robin, fighting alongside Batman.
Created by Lee Bermejo, Rob Haynes and Khary Rhandolph
First Appearance: We Are Robin #1 (2015)
Currently Appearing In: We Are Robin
In the wake of The Joker's latest attack on Gotham City, in which he released a new version of his Joker venom that "Joker-ized" those infected, and thus filled the streets with roving gangs of giggling homicidal maniacs, Batman was presumed dead by the public at large.
Inspired by the Dark Knight's sacrifice, and by the young people who have always fought alongside him, a group of loosely-organized teenagers decided to adopt the "R" and yellow, red and green colors of Batman's sidekick and form a Guardian Angels-style gang for good in Gotham City.
While the movement is too large to be centrally controlled or directed --- in Robin War #1 there are said to be "hundreds" of Robins --- they keep in touch via social media and some of them receive intel from a mysterious source. One particular group of Robins, "The Middletown Robin Cell," consists of Duke Thomas, Riko Sheridan, Dre, Dax and Izzy. They've crossed paths with Batgirl, Dick Grayson, and the new Batman, and stopped a series of bombings --- although at the cost of one of their members' lives.
Like all vigilantes in Gotham City, save for the police-sanctioned new Batman, the Robins are considered illegal vigilantes and are subject for arrest under new zero-tolerance policies.
Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane
First Apperance: Detective Comics #27 (1939)
Current Appearing In: Batman, Detective Comics
Long-time policeman James Gordon quickly rose through the ranks of the massively corrupt Gotham City Police Department shortly after arriving in town, eventually achieving the position of police commissioner. As such, he worked closely with The Batman, becoming his official liaison to the police department and Gotham City (and one of his staunchest allies in general).
Gordon lost his job after an extremely complicated plot by a cabal of villains framed him for causing a train disaster and landed him in Blackgate Prison. He was later exonerated, but rather than return to the force, he took a job opportunity that he (and most readers) would have never expected: He became Batman.
After Batman's apparent death, Gordon is recruited by Geri Powers to serve as the new Batman, officially deputized by the GCPD and working as a part of a public/private alliance between Powers and the city. Although an ex-Marine, Gordon's not exactly at Batman's level of peak human condition, but his backers have helped him compensate by giving Gordon a big, blue, mech-style suit of battle armor with antennae instead of ears... and his own squad of GCPD officers and tech people to work with him.
While his time has mostly been consumed by the hunt for mysterious new villain Mr. Bloom, Gordon's career as Batman has also included tangles with The Joker's Daughter, The Mad Hatter, and highly-paid assassins, and team-ups with Superman and the Justice League. While he's attempted to enforce Gotham's new anti-vigilante laws, he's 0-3 so far, having failed to bring in Batgirl (although he did go a little easy on her, seeing as she's his daughter and all), Bluebird, and, in Robin War #1, Damian Wayne.
THE COURT OF OWLS
Created by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
First Appearance: Batman #1 (2011)
The Court of Owls is a centuries-old secret society and criminal cabal that has ruled Gotham City from behind the scenes for as long as there has been a Gotham City. How secret a secret society are they? So secret that even the World's Greatest Detective wasn't sure of their existence until they made a rather public attempt to purge the city of various prominent leaders.
The Court's weapon of choice has long been their Talons, highly-trained, semi-undead assassins dressed in owl costumes. Among their number was Dick Grayson's great-grandfather, William Cobb.
The Court's battle with Batman and his allies greatly reduced their power and influence, but their numbers are still great enough to make trouble.
Created by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl
First Appearance: Gotham Academy #1 (2014)
Currently Appearing In: Gotham Academy
This prestigious private high school for Gotham's best, brightest and/or richest is also a hub for high strangeness. The purportedly haunted, secret passage-filled school has several supervillains of varying degrees of villainy on its faculty, and has recently played host to Killer Croc, a
ManTeen-Bat, a werewolf and, of course, Batman.
Two of its students --- Olive Silverlock and Mia "Maps" Mizoguchi --- are members of an informal "Detective Club" devoted to investigating the school's many mysteries. Maps recently teamed-up with Damian Wayne when he was briefly enrolled in the school as part of an undercover mission for his dad Batman (and he gifted her with a Batarang in thanks for her help), and both Olive and Maps recently met Red Robin during a field trip into the city.
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