The advent of the superhero sidekick sought to achieve two objectives: one — have the character act as a sounding board and confidant for the titular superhero, and — two — appeal to younger audiences who may or may not be interested in an adult fighting crime.
Virtually every major superhero in DC Comics history as had at least one sidekick at their side. Whether it was Green Arrow, The Flash, or Aquaman, they have each had someone to lean on when things got rough. But for the purposes of this list, we’ll focus only on Batman and his overabundance of sidekicks.
After all, ever since the Caped Crusader received his own self-titled series in 1940, he’s been seen with Robin, Batgirl, or some other adolescent superhero at his side. With that in mind, here are Every One Of Batman’s Sidekicks, Ranked From Worst To Best.
15. Carrie Kelley (Robin)
Although she is last on our list of best Batman sidekicks, Carrie Kelley is a unique character. Making her debut in Frank Miller’s famed miniseries The Dark Knight Returns, Kelley became the first full-time female Robin. However, since she made her introduction in Miller’s miniseries, and then later reappeared as Catgirl in Miller’s follow-up limited series The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Kelley is the only character on this list not considered canon. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t important to the Batman mythos.
Unlike many other characters, Carrie Kelley took the initiative to become Robin, after first having been saved by the Caped Crusader from the Mutant gang. She purchased a Robin suit and began fighting crime, eventually saving Batman himself from the Mutant leader, which was more than enough to convince the Dark Knight to appoint her as the new Robin. Although she spent quite a bit of her time as Robin, Kelley moved on to become both Catgirl and Batgirl, thus making her one of the few characters ever to be both Robin and Batgirl.
14. Batman Incorporated
After spending decades protecting Gotham City, Bruce Wayne believed he needed to up the ante on his crime-fighting crusade and subsequently franchised his team worldwide, thus beginning Batman Incorporated; a global team of vigilantes who would be trained and supervised by Batman himself. The team consisted of notable characters such as Nightwing, Robin, and Red Hood as well as newcomers Batwing, Black Bat, Dark Ranger, and more.
No matter what incarnation of Batman you read, watch, or play, Bruce Wayne always assumes the identity of Batman to inspire hope in the citizens of Gotham. Batman Incorporated is DC Comics’ way of implementing that objective on a global scale.
While many members of Batman Incorporated have enough stories under their belt to be listed individually, none of them (except for the original members of the Bat-family) are as prominent and well-known as other characters on this list. That’s not to say their contributions to the Batman mythos, and the overall DC Universe, for that matter, have gone unnoticed.
13. Stephanie Brown (Robin – Batgirl)
Stephanie Brown has been a number of characters in the DC Universe, all of which have been vigilantes. Despite being the daughter of supervillain Cluemaster, Brown turned to a life of crime-fighting early on as the vigilante Spoiler. She would later temporarily take on the mantle of Robin as well as Batgirl — the only (canonical) character ever to be both of Batman’s sidekicks.
Although her tenure as Robin only served to lure her boyfriend Tim Drake back to the job, she still fought alongside Batman as the Girl Wonder. But, thanks to The New 52 reboot in 2011, Brown’s history with the Bat-family was retconned out of existence, with her later reappearing as the vigilante Spoiler again.
Dying at the hands of Black Mask (and Dr. Thompkins, sort of), Stephanie Brown deserved to be memorialized in the same way Jason Todd is in the Batcave. However, DC Comics editors have been adamant about the fact that, despite having donned the Robin suit, Brown was never Robin. Additionally, she was Batgirl only for a brief time, and her plan to impress Batman — no matter her good intentions — were intrinsically flawed, which ultimately led to her untimely death.
12. Damian Wayne (Robin)
There have been many Robins throughout Batman’s rich history — some of which have gone on to become full-fledged superheroes in their own rights — but not all of them have been great. Damian Wayne is one of them. However, unlike all of the other Robins in history, Damian is the only one who is the genuine son of Bruce Wayne; the rest were adopted.
Not only is Damian the son of Bruce Wayne, but he is also the son of Talia al Ghul, thus making him the grandson of the Demon’s Head and Batman supervillain Ra’s al Ghul, who trained him to become his eventual successor. Damian Wayne has been part of Batman stories since 1987, but it wasn’t until 2006 that the character was integrated into the main DC Comics continuity.
While introducing Damian into continuity allowed for intriguing concepts and relationship, such as his penchant for mortal violence versus Batman’s aversion to it, the character became more of a disappointment to long-time Batman fans.
11. Duke Thomas (Robin – Lark)
As the newest addition to the Bat-family on this list, Duke Thomas has a rather intriguing history with Batman. He first appeared temporarily helping out Batman in Scott Snyder and Greg Cappulo’s year long crossover event, Batman: Zero Year, in 2013. Although made his debut appearance in Zero Year, Duke Thomas went on to star in multiple Batman stories, being featured in a possible future timeline as well as in Batman’s dream. Both of these stories served as teasers for Thomas’ future in the Bat-family.
In the possible future timeline — taking place five years in the future in the story arc Futures End — Thomas temporarily became Robin, replacing the lamented Damian Wayne. Throughout his run writing Batman in The New 52, Snyder had been teasing the name “Lark.” It wasn’t until the recent Batman: Rebirth comic series that Duke Thomas officially became the Dark Knight’s new sidekick Lark. The reason Thomas isn’t higher on this list is because he is still a new character and, while we’ve seen him in action, there is still a lot we don’t know about him.
10. Cassandra Cain (Batgirl)
Perhaps the most intriguing character on this list, Cassandra Cain aka Batgirl is the daughter of assassins David Cain and Lady Shiva, who intentionally withheld Cassandra from any form of social interaction, including speech so that she would become superior at reading body language. After all, she was raised by assassins. With a history like that, what better job is there than being Batman’s sidekick?
Despite having murdered a businessman at a young age, Cassandra Cain showed her dedication to the preservation of life by taking several bullets to save someone else. Her novel history and unique set of skills — she was not only trained by her father but also people like Bronze Tiger and Merlyn the Archer — allowed her to excel as Batgirl, while not hindering the memory of Barbara Gordon’s time as Batgirl.
Cassandra Cain is one of the most efficient sidekicks Batman has ever had, which is why she was the first Batgirl to receive her own solo series following the Dark Knight’s apparent death in Final Crisis. But, ultimately, she couldn’t continue as Batgirl in Gotham, so she moved to Hong Kong and took up the identity of Black Bat.
9. Helena Bertinelli (Huntress)
Prior to Cassandra Cain taking up the mantle of Batgirl, Helena Bertinelli aka Huntress (a character whom fans of The CW’s Arrow should undoubtedly be familiar with) briefly protected Gotham City from the criminal underworld during the crossover event Batman: No Man’s Land in 1999. After spending a decade as the crime-fighter Huntress, Bertinelli assumed the identity of Batgirl when Batman disappeared, and realized that criminals feared her as Batgirl more than as Huntress. So she kept the title, for a short time.
As any Batman fan will tell you, if you don’t follow the Dark Knight’s orders, you’ll be fired — and that is what happened to Helena Bertinelli, following her reckless behavior and failure to keep Two-Face’s henchmen at bay. However, Helena’s brief tenure as Batgirl was more than enough to prove that she could have been Batman’s vital sidekick, but, ultimately, they couldn’t cooperate, for she reminded Batman too much of Barbara Gordon. Still, after becoming a prominent member of the Birds of Prey, Helena Bertinelli would later become a full-fledged member of the Justice League under Batman’s sponsorship.
8. Jean-Paul Valley (Azrael – Batman)
We’re stretching the term sidekick with this character, but it seems only fair to include the Angel of Death himself, Jean-Paul Valley aka Azrael, for he has not only fought alongside Batman against the criminals of Gotham but also temporarily took up the mantle of Batman. As the latest in a long line of assassins who work for The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas, Jean-Paul Valley was tasked with finding his father’s killer, who was also a member of the Sacred Order.
Since Batman was, too, investigating the murder of Valley’s father, their paths crossed — at least, Valley’s path crossed with Alfred Pennyworth, who helped Valley find Batman following the Dark Knight’s capture. It’s during this story arc that Jean-Paul Valley demonstrated impressive detective work, thus proving to Batman that he could be a worthy apprentice and potential successor.
Seeing Azrael turn from a blood-thirsty assassin to a full-fledged hero — someone who shared the values of Batman — made for a compelling story. Unfortunately, his training and inherent violent tendencies ultimately led to Bruce Wayne taking the cowl back from Jean-Paul Valley after he had succumbed to fighting criminals on their terms.
7. Jason Todd (Robin – Red Hood)
Shortly after Dick Grayson became Nightwing, Batman appointed Jason Todd — who he found attempting to steal the tires off the Batmobile — the second Robin. However, the effort by DC Comics to replace Grayson would be short lived, despite the character initially being popular amongst Batman fans.
The thing is, not many people like Jason Todd as Robin — which is what led to the decisive telephone-polling that killed off Todd in the famed story arc Batman: A Death in the Family (the first time a member of the Batman family was killed). In the four-part story, Todd is kidnapped and beaten by The Joker before being left in an abandoned warehouse to die in an explosion.
Jason Todd wasn’t a bad Robin, he was just written poorly following a continuity change as a result of the crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths. In addition to receiving an updated origin (mentioned above), Todd’s character was almost completely revamped. He only later redeemed himself — to comic book fans, that is — when he was revived as the Red Hood in 2005.
6. Barbara Gordon (Oracle)
Barbara Gordon is one of the most important characters in Batman comics, having been the first member of the Bat-family to be consequentially injured. As a result of being shot by The Joker and rendered paraplegic in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s iconic graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke (which is now an R-rated animated movie), Barbara Gordon could no longer carry the mantle of Batgirl. Although the character was officially retired in Batgirl Special #1, Barbara’s final appearance as Batgirl was in The Killing Joke, which released later the same year.
Despite not being able to fight crime with her fists, Barbara repurposed her skills into a more technical field. Barbara Gordon made her debut as Oracle — an information gatherer and communications hub — in the Suicide Squad comics the following year. Who knows, perhaps we’ll see Barbara Gordon make her debut as Oracle in a potential Suicide Squad sequel? Ever since her debut, Oracle has been a vital member of both the Bat-family and the Birds of Prey. It’s in this role that Barbara Gordon was truly able to shine.
5. James Gordon
Despite the fact that he was never Batman’s sidekick, Commissioner James “Jim” Gordon deserves a spot on this list for being the Dark Knight’s oldest friend and ally. Having made his debut in Batman’s first issue, Detective Comics #27 in May of 1939, James Gordon has fought crime alongside Batman in the hero’s crusade to save Gotham City since the very beginning.
What makes Gordon an intriguing character is that Batman never treated him as a subordinate (despite continually telling him what to do), but rather as an equal. They both want the same thing but have different approaches to it. In some ways, Batman looks up to Gordon, for Gordon is one of the few people Batman can depend on to keep him level headed when things get rough (see: The Killing Joke).
4. Tim Drake (Robin)
It should be painfully obvious at this point that there have been a lot of Robins over the years. However, each one of them has been unique — that includes Tim Drake, the third Robin. Whereas the first two Robins were acrobats (as previously mentioned, Todd’s origin was later revamped in the post-Crisis continuity), Drake was not. In fact, he wasn’t much of a fighter either. He was someone who deduced the identities of Batman and Robin (Dick Grayson) after recognizing an acrobatic maneuver Grayson performed.
Bearing witness to Batman’s declining righteousness following the death of Jason Todd, Tim Drake intervened and sought the position of Robin, for he believed Batman ultimately needed a sidekick to keep him morally grounded. The thing is, Tim Drake might have become too popular amongst fans. He is the only Robin to have been given a solo series (though it lasted only for a short while). Tim Drake was the embodiment of Batman’s sidekick: an expert fighter and skilled detective — which is why Dick Grayson always saw him as an equal.
3. Barbara Gordon (Batgirl)
Unlike every other character on this list, Barbara Gordon is listed twice: once for Oracle and once for Batgirl. Although many other characters on this list have organically evolved from being one sidekick to another (or, in some cases, into their own superhero), Barbara Gordon transformed into a new role out of necessity (which was previously detailed). But before Barbara became the computer hacker Oracle, she was Batgirl.
Barbara Gordon was the second and longest-running Batgirl in history, having made her debut appearance in the comics in January of 1967 after editor Julius Schwartz was requested to introduce a female character in order to attract female audiences to the Batman TV series. Ever since then, Barbara Gordon has been a staple in Batman stories.
Being Batman’s first female sidekick, Barbara Gordon holds a special place in Batman fans’ hearts. Not only could she keep up with Batman and Robin in a fight, but is also a technology genius (which is what led her to become Oracle). The fact that she became a renowned female role model is enough to justify her position on this list.
2. Alfred Pennyworth
Although not exactly a sidekick, Alfred Pennyworth has acted as Bruce Wayne’s confident — in addition to being his butler — and Batman’s ally. The fact is, Alfred is the closest person Bruce Wayne has to family (blood-related family, that is). He has been there since the beginning of Batman’s career, having first appeared in Batman #16 in April of 1943.
Even though there are numerous characters in the Batman family, Alfred Pennyworth is the only one to have been constant throughout the Batman mythos, having appeared in virtually every comic and non-comic adaptation, and has been portrayed in live-action by actors such as Alan Napier, Michael Gough, Michael Caine, and, most recently, Jeremy Irons.
More than being Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth has a diverse set of skills and resources. As is evident in the latest adaptation, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Alfred is seen maintaining and repairing much of the gadgets and vehicles in the Batcave, including the Batmobile. In addition to his duties to Batman, Alfred also manages Wayne Manor and keeps Bruce Wayne grounded in reality.
1. Dick Grayson (Robin – Nightwing)
Dick Grayson aka Robin the Boy Wonder is an icon. Not only is he the world’s first superhero sidekick, but he is also the most prominent, having been Batman’s partner in crime-fighting for over 40 years — from his debut in 1940 to when he assumed the superhero identity of Nightwing in 1984. For this reason, alone, Grayson deserves the top spot on this list, but the fact is, he is so much more than Batman’s sidekick. Over the course of his career, Grayson has evolved from being Robin the Boy Wonder to Nightwing and, eventually, Batman
While there have been countless sidekicks in comic book history, the majority of them have been modeled after Robin, especially those from DC Comics, such as Wally West and Roy Harper — two characters Grayson has worked alongside as a member of the Teen Titans. Dick Grayson is the standard for not only which all other Robins are measured, but also sidekicks throughout comic books.