Robin. Batman’s sidekick. Always just a hired help, someone to back him up in a fix, but never really all that important to the story. And no one even really likes Robin that much, do they? Well I decided it was time to do a little background reading on one of the best known supporting characters in comic history.
Ever since I watched repeats of the campy 60s TV show as a kid, I’ve known that Dick Grayson was Robin. As I grew up and started reading comics, Dick Grayson was still, and would always be, Robin. Now imagine my tiny mind blowing when I discovered that actually, he wouldn’t. As we all know, Grayson eventually went on to forge his own path as Nightwing, and Nightwing was great. But there have been other Robin’s…
Over the last 25 years or so, I’ve read many comics where we have seen Robin’s boots filled by other people. I’ve read lots of these stories out of context, and just accepted that Jason Todd was Robin. Or Tim Drake. Or Damian Wayne. But recently I suddenly realised that despite all these different people playing Robin, I’d never actually read the specific stories that saw them take on the cape and boots, or the events surrounding them.
I decided to rectify that.
I did a little bit of online research, asked around a couple of forums (I can highly recommend the Comic Vine forums if you ever want to know anything about any comic, ever. Ever), and curated myself a reading list consisting of the stories which concern the employment and subsequent termination of every major Robin. That is to say, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake and Damian Wayne.
Some of the books in this reading list are not entirely essential to anyone just wanting to stick strictly to Robin’s stories, but they do serve well as set-ups to the next book in the list, or they are just great stories that feature Robin quite heavily. Don’t worry, I will not be posting any spoilers for these books, other than how Robin fits in to the story. So, the list then…
1. Batman: Year One
This isn’t a Robin story at all. In fact, he’s not even in it, but Frank Miller’s Batman origin story is widely regarded as one of the most important, and critically acclaimed comic books of all time, and serves as a good introduction to Batman and some of the other characters we will find in the rest of this list.
2. Batman: The Long Halloween
Again, this isn’t a Robin story, but it is an excellent one, and leads directly in to…
3. Batman: Dark Victory
A sequel to The Long Halloween, and the first time we are introduced to a young Dick Grayson.
4. Robin: Year One
Dick’s first year as Robin. You could have probably worked that one out yourself. Written by long time Batman writer, Chuck Dixon, I really enjoyed this book.
5. Batgirl: Year One
Yes this is a Batgirl title, but she rarely flies alone, and her origin story is as much a continuation of Robin’s Year One as anything else.
6. The Teen Titans: Judas Contract
The Teen Titans, Robin’s side project if you like, is not a series I’ve ever read outside of this book, but it’s a good story and also covers Dick’s transition in to Nightwing.
7. Nightwing: Year One
Some of this story contradicts the book above a little, but it’s a good introduction to Nightwing, and also introduces us to Jason Todd – soon to be Robin!
8. Batman: Second Chances
When Batman catches small time crook, Jason Todd, trying to steal the tyres off the Batmobile, he takes pity on him and decides to correct his ways.
It’s actually not that great a book. A selection of stories, it’s jumps around time rather awkwardly – the first story is about an imposter Batman, and features Jason as Robin. It’s not until second story, where we see Dick back as Robin again that we then see Jason’s origin. I’m not a fan of the artwork, and the writing is very early 80’s comic book style, although it does feature the line, ‘Like a wino’s teeth, Park Row decayed in to something foul…’, so it kind of gets a pass for that.
9. The Killing Joke
Not really a Robin story, but Alan Moore’s incredible work introduces Joker, who plays a rather important role in…
10. Batman: Death In The Family
Where Jason Todd, erm, retires from the role of Robin.
11. Batman: A Lonely Place Of Dying
An unknown boy has been tracking Batman, following his work, piecing together the clues, and when he finally makes contact works his ass off to prove to the bat that he needs to take on another Robin following the departure of Jason Todd.
NOTE: The new edition of Death In The Family also contains the Lonely Place Of Dying story arc. I have the original 80s version, which doesn’t, but it you are purchasing books, be sure to check which version your getting otherwise you could accidentally double dip!
12. Batman: Knightfall Trilogy
Another story which isn’t really about Robin, but one of the all time great Batman stories, which sees Bats face off against his strongest foe yet – Bane. There are three parts to this story, Knightfall parts one and two, and the conclusion, Knightsend, which sees a returning Dick Grayson play an important role…
13. Batman & Son
The introduction of the son Batman never knew he had, and the next Robin.
14. Batman Inc: Vol 2
…and then his exit from the series.
So there you have it. A by no means exhaustive list, and there are hundreds of stories between the gaps that are well worthy of your attention, but the books above cover the transitions of every major Robin. There have been others, briefly (I haven’t even mentioned Stephanie Brown, Duke Thomas or the We Are Robin movement), but this is just a list I made for myself that I thought someone might be interested in.
Let me know in the comments if you found it any use!