Take one angsty middle-aged rich guy, add an orphan, some tights, one man’s personal war on crime, and, presto, you’ve made a Robin. Six in fact (give or take a few). He may not look like the fiercest of fighters, but behind all those short pants and cheesy catchphrases lies a lifetime of helping Batman strike fear in the hearts of Gotham’s worst.
Since Robin first swung into action almost 80 years ago, the Boy Wonder has grown into one of the most iconic superheroes of all time, with a name that has become synonymous with the entire business of sidekickery.
We know a lot about the Dark Knight, like that he has a terrible taste in women, possesses an impressive rogues gallery, and routinely beats up animals. But how well do we really know his brightly-dressed companion? You just might be surprised.
Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Robin.
15. He Was Inspired by Paintings of Robin Hood
The idea of Robin came about when Batman creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger felt that the Dark Knight, who was originally conceived as a cross between Douglas Fairbanks and Sherlock Holmes, needed his own personal Watson. They turned to artist Jerry Robinson (who helped create the Joker) to come up with something awesome. After tossing around a laundry list of names, most of which were from classic myth (imagine Mercury, the Boy Wonder), Robinson struck on “Robin.” He was inspired by illustrated books he had read as a young boy by N.C. Wyeth called The Adventures of Robin Hood. Based off memory, he evoked those painted drawings when creating Robin’s costume, influenced by the Prince of Thieves’ medieval garb. The popularity of the 1938 film of the same name, starring Errol Flynn, probably played a part too.
Of course, the comics have their own varied versions of how things went down. Some kept the Robin Hood influence. For example, the original (and still best) Robin, Dick Grayson, was a fan of the character. Fittingly, a painting of Robin Hood became a staple of Dick’s bedroom in Wayne Manor. And then there’s the inevitable bird-related sources, the most recent of which came in the New 52’s Secret Origins, where Dick derives the name from a robin-crested gold bracelet he gave his mother right before she died. There’s also that one weird Silver Age comic where Batman took credit for coming up with Robin (more on that in a moment).
14. During the 40s He Appeared on More Comic Covers Than Any Other Costumed Hero
When Robin made his first appearance in 1940’s Detective Comics #38, he proved so popular with young readers that the sales of Batman-related comics immediately doubled. After all, the Dark Knight was kind of, well, dark. To offset their shadowy vigilante, Batman’s creators retrofitted a new, youthful character with a brightly-colored costume, a “gee golly” smile, and a boyish moniker, and sent him out into the world.
And the world loved him. So much that, over the next decade, the geniuses in DC’s marketing department went ahead and put Robin on the front of a total 245 comics (give or take a cover). Which added up to more than any other hero from that time.
Granted, there weren’t many costumed do-gooders to compete with during the 1940s but still, outperforming both Batman and Superman is a feat any sidekick should be proud of. They each only appeared on around 225 covers during the same time. Just goes to show, you can never underestimate the appeal of a vigorous young boy in tights.
13. Jason Todd Was Created as a Carbon Copy of Dick Grayson To Make Money
As we just saw, the introduction of Robin into Batman resulted in quite the positive bump in sales. Similarly, when, after over 40 years of sidekicking, Dick Grayson left the Caped Crusader to become Nightwing and lead the Teen Titans, there was a noticeable drop in sales.
They could have brought back Dick, but he was getting on in years –at around 19– and Batman has a strict teen-only policy. So they made the next worst decision and created a carbon copy of the first Robin, called Jason Todd. Officially known as Robin Number Two, Jason was the orphaned son of circus acrobats who were killed by Killer Croc. Which is pretty much exactly what happened to Dick, save it was a mobster, not a Croc. Obviously this was a cop-out and a bit of a slap in the face to anyone who cherished Batman’s historic first sidekick, but DC wanted their money, so screw ’em.
Fans were none too pleased and, this being the ’80s, expressed their grief in the fastest and most cutting way possible – by sending letters. It worked, and Todd’s backstory was soon retconned in Crisis on Infinite Earths: he was the son of a deceased drug addict. Batman finds Jason trying to steal the Batmobile’s tires, naturally adopts him on the spot, turns him into Robin, the fans vote to have him beaten with a tire iron, he dies, he comes back, voila, Red Hood.
12. Jason Todd Died Because of One Person, But It Might Not Have Been the Joker
Whiny, always angry, and a poor man’s version of Dick Grayson: that’s how many fans saw Jason Todd. Batman editor Dennis O’Neill was well-aware of the second Robin’s unpopularity and knew they had to give him the boot, so DC put Todd’s fate in the hands of the fans. After releasing an issue where Robin and his estranged mother were trapped by the Joker, the company set up two 1-900 numbers that gave callers the ability to vote on whether or not Robin would die. And the rest is history. Or is it?
Todd’s brutal killing in A Death in the Family remains one of Robin’s most iconic moments, as well as one of the biggest events in all Batman comics. The stunt, though not without its naysayers, was a massive hit. With a final tally of 5,271 against Jason dying and 5,343 in favor, DC obliged and so Robin was pummelled to a pulp and blown to smithereens.
What many people might not know there have been allegations that the process was rigged, fueled by remarks from O’Neill. He stated that hundreds of votes came from a single person who programmed their computer to dial the phone number in favor of killing Jason every 90 seconds for 8 hours. We may never know the truth but the whole thing does raise concerns over whether a majority of fans really wanted Jason to die or if in fact one unknown person with some fancy phone technology was Robin’s true killer.
11. Bruce Wayne Has Dressed Up as Robin
In 1955’s Detective Comics #226 we learn the first Robin was not actually Dick Grayson, but…. none other than Bruce Wayne (dun-dun-duuuun). In that issue, Batman reveals that his idol was Harvey Harris, a sleuthing detective who makes Humphrey Bogart look like a clown. As a youngster he worshiped the gumshoe and, in a clever ploy to get Harris to teach him the ways of detecting, Bruce starting following the man dressed in a yellow cape, domino mask, red jerkin, and green underwear. Seeing this pantless boy, Harris invites him to his home, but not before commenting,“you’re brilliant as a robin redbreast in that costume, I’ll call you Robin!” It’s a good thing too, because tiny Bruce had already sewn an ‘R’ into the suit.
This wouldn’t be the last time Batman dressed up as Robin. In the Sins of Youth story arc from 2000, a witch reverses the ages of the Justice League, turning the young old and vice versa. In order to maintain a sense of normalcy in Gotham, an adolescent Bruce Wayne decides to put on Robin’s outfit and has Tim Drake dress like Batman. It’s all pretty ridiculous, particularly the first instance where, in one fell swoop, the entire Dark Knight mythos is undercut as we’re shown that not only did Batman create the Robin persona, but that Bruce Wayne was a costumed crime fighter long before his parents were ever killed. But that’s just the Silver Age for you.
10. There Have Been Two Female Robins
And the winner for having held the title of Robin for the shortest period of time is… Stephanie Brown. Yep, that’s right, Robin was once a girl. Again, maybe not news to Batman aficionados, but even casual comic readers can be forgiven for forgetting about the fourth
Boy Girl Wonder. Stephanie debuted as the crime fighter, Spoiler, and eventually started dating Tim Drake, who handed over his eye mask after temporarily abandoning the role. As Robin, she lasted all of two issues before being brutally killed off.
The biggest kick in the short pants? Batman never honored her memory by with a costume display in the Bat Cave like he did with Jason Todd. Then again, it’s not that surprising considering that, after she was fired for disobeying Batman’s orders, she tried to prove her worth by stealing one of his crime fighting plans and inadvertently started a gang war. In the process, she got tortured to death by the Black Mask. As far as Robin-ing goes, that’s not great.
Then there’s the honorary 6th Robin, Carrie Kelley, who appeared out of continuity in Frank Miller’s legendary Dark Knight Returns. She had the greatest Robin moment of all time when she faced Superman with only a slingshot. She would make a second appearance in the very un-legendary The Dark Knight Strikes Back (AKA the one where Superman and Wonder Woman make a baby), not as Robin, but as the roller blading, leopard-print bodysuit wearing “Catgirl.” So, a step up.
9. He Has Been a Robot, Monkey, Samurai, Native American and an Actual Robin
The imaginary Elseworlds stories and alternate universes that depict our favorite superheroes in out-of-continuity realties have seen some things over the years, like Superman as Santa Claus fighting Hitler or pirate Batman fighting a shark. But usually those tales retain some physical semblance of the original character that inspired them. Not so with Robin, who’s apparently ripe for the re-imagining.
The Boy Wonder has appeared as a robot called “The Toy Wonder,” a WWII German immigrant named Richart Graustark who eventually dies and is replaced by Barbara Gordon as Robin, Rodney the genetically enhanced monkey, a pirate’s cabin boy, a time-traveling girl named Tris Plover, and an MI-6 spy named Alfred Pennyworth. The character has also appeared as Bruce Wayne’s daughter, nephew, and sister. Our personal favorite is The Blue, The Gray and the Bat, in which a Native American version of Robin, named Red Bird, helps Batman win the American Revolution. Or maybe it’s when Bat-Samurai trains a young warrior named Tengu (a nod to Japanese bird spirits) only for him to end up committing seppuku. Then there’s the 1980’s comic series Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew, in which a world populated by funny animal superheroes includes Boyd, the Robin Wonder – an actual robin who fights beside Batmouse.
8. Batman Fathered a Robin with Talia al Ghul
While this may not be news to comic fans, it might come as a surprise to everyone else that not only is Batman a father, but his young progeny at one time took up the mantle of Robin. How Damien Wayne came into (and out of) existence is a pretty messed-up tale. Basically, one of Batman’s greatest adversaries, Talia al Ghul, roofied Bruce Wayne into getting her pregnant. She kept the baby a secret for years until finally introducing the boy to his father in order to sabotage Batman from within.
The table are turned when Damien sides with his father (because he’s freakin’ Batman) and renounces his maternal heritage. Eventually, Talia puts a bounty on Damian’s head and it’s revealed she has created a genetically modified clone replacement of Damian who later kills the original (who is all of 10-years-old, by the way) by skewering him with an enormous sword. Thus endeth the short reign of Robin the 5th. That is until, in true Robin fashion, he gets resurrected.
Damien Wayne is no run-of-the-mill Boy Wonder. For one, he isn’t an orphan. Having been trained by the League of Assassins, raised with a god-complex by crazy Talia, and lacking any sense of morality, the boy started off as a bit of a sociopath who even tries to kill Tim Drake out of jealousy. Of course, through the guidance of father-of-the-year Batman, he grows into a young hero who saves the world. Also, he gets a pet cat named Alfred, because everyone could use an Alfred in their life.
7. Tim Drake’s Was the First Robin to Get His Own Comic
Tim Drake was introduced in 1989, the same year Tim Burton’s Batman hit theaters (his name is a tribute to the director). Unlike most Robins, Drake was not an orphan and was actually at the circus with his family the night the Todds were killed. From then on, he was infatuated with the Dynamic Duo and, at the age of nine, impressively deduced their secret identities. After Batman became unhinged following Todd’s death, Tim decided to help out and enlisted Dick’s support to become the third Robin. Having learned their lesson from the whole Jason Todd debacle, editors hoped Grayson’s endorsement of Drake would cut back on angry letters sent their way. It did– and Tim Drake’s popular tenure as Robin led to the character getting his first solo series.
Robin ran from 1993 to 2009, putting out 183 issues. When Damian Wayne took over, Drake created the Red Robin persona and ended up with another solo series that ran until 2011. There would be two additional series, 2015’s Robin, Son of Batman featuring Damien and 2015’s We Are… Robin featuring Duke Thomas, who actually was Robin in the New 52: Future’s End story arc and has turned up as Bats’ latest sidekick in Rebirth. But it all started with Tim. Not only did he rescue Batman from his Todd-induced depression but Tim Drake rescued the character of Robin from a Todd-induced recession, overall proving to be the most financially successful of all the Boy Wonders to date.
6. A Book Once Predicted Robin Would “Turn” Young Boys Everywhere Gay
Spoiler: It didn’t.
Thanks to a slew of subtextually sexual out-of-context panels and the fact that middle-aged Bruce Wayne has a soft spot for damaged young boys, the Dynamic Duo have had their fair share of awkward moments. Which is why, back in 1954, the world got a book with the incredibly creepy title, The Seduction of the Innocent.
Shortly after Robin appeared on the scene, Dr. Frederic Wertham decided something had to be done to stop the Dark Knight and his ward from warping the minds of America’s youth. He made this ground-breaking discovery after seeing that some of the patients in his clinic for “sexually maladjusted individuals” were reading Batman comics. Based on his acute, bigoted observations, his patients secretly desired to be the Boy Wonder, not because he was a cool crime fighter, but because he wanted to get in Batman’s tights. Conversely, according to Wertham, it was an infallible truth that the Dark Knight encouraged older men to cruise around in search of adolescent lovers. So basically, society was doomed.
As a direct result of this book, Batwoman was soon introduced as a love interest for Batman and Batgirl as a love interest for Robin. Ironically, Batwoman today is openly gay and Batgirl has lived with a bisexual, transgender woman. Point Wertham. Just think what this crackpot would have thought of Batman’s rainbow batsuit or the time Superman was overcome by pink kryptonite.
5. His Character on Teen Titans is a Mixture of All the Robins Combined
If you’ve ever watched the popular Teen Titans cartoon, you might have trouble figuring out exactly which Robin he is meant to be. For starters, the show isn’t part of the DCAU and exists in a universe all its own, so it pretty much plays by its own rules. That means the shows creators could do whatever they wanted when developing their animated Boy Wonder. When coming up with the character that would lead the Teen Titans, they decided to incorporate traits from all iterations of Robin up to that point.
His official name is Dick Grayson and it’s been shown that he becomes Nightwing in the future, like Dick. He also has the makings of a romance with Starfire. But there are traces of Jason Todd and Tim Drake too. The latter inspired the design of the character’s outfit, use of bo as a weapon, and his age. There are several hints of Stephanie Brown as well, but we’ll get to her in a second. Finally, if you ever thought Teen Titan’s Robin bears a striking resemblance to Damian Wayne, you’d be wrong. Batman’s son didn’t become Robin until a few years after the show went off the air. (Unless the show’s creators knew something we didn’t.)
So if you’ve ever wondered what would happen if all the Robins were mashed together into a single adorable cartoon character, this is what you would get. And this is what you would get if they all hung out. Team Robin! Ka-kaw!
4. Robin Says “Holy” a Total of 359 Times in the 1960s Batman TV Series
The first appearance of Robin’s now iconic catchphrase came in a comic from 1941 in which the Boy Wonder exclaims, “Holy cats!” But it wasn’t until the Batman TV show hit the airways in 1966 that his retort became a part of Bat-zeitgeist. In the very first episode, the character lets out a “Holy barracuda” and then never looked back. Over the next three seasons, and one movie, Burt Ward’s Robin blurts out “Holy [something or other]” a whopping 359 times. Some of the strangest? “Holy astringent plum-like fruit” and “Holy holocaust.” We’ll leave you to imagine the context behind that last one.
When the show first premiered, one thing (amongst many) viewers quickly grew to love were Robin’s nonsensical outbursts. As you can imagine, the show’s creators milked the quip for all it was worth. But after being used an average three times per episode, the saying, like the show itself, eventually wore out its welcome. That’s not even counting all the times it was used in the animated versions. Regardless, Robin’s silly sayings of epitomized the campy fun of the series, and, for better or worse, left an indelible mark on Batman’s sidekick.
3. Burt Ward Faked Being a Karate Master to Get the Part of Robin
Burt Ward’s turn as Robin is almost as iconic as Adam West’s Batman, mostly thanks to his knack for “holy” wordplay. That’s why it’s surprising that, on top of never receiving any residuals from his work on the ’60s Batman TV series, the actor was only paid $350 a week during the show’s first season and only $600 by its end. That all seems a bit low for a superhero karate master. Or at least that’s what Ward led people to believe he was when he screened for the part.
When Burt Ward auditioned for the role of Robin in 1965, he gave an exhibition in karate. The execs were so impressed by his abilities to slice a board in half that he passed the screen test. Turns out, Ward was merely acting as a martial artist, having picked up the chopping trick from some karate enthusiasts he knew. Regardless, the show’s publicists started touting their new Robin’s kung-fu feats. Of course everyone quickly learned that Burt Ward was in fact not Bruce Lee, so in an effort to karate chop the problem right in the face, the show’s producers brought in a local Taekwondo teacher. Thus began one of the most intensive training regimens in martial arts the world has ever seen. Six months later, Ward had adequately learned a whopping 300 plus moves to add to his Robin repertoire, which came in handy when he was bam, pow, and biffing Gotham’s worst.
2. He Was Originally Set to Appear in Tim Burton’s Batman Movie
Suffice it to say that once Robin was introduced to Gotham in 1940, things got a whole lot sillier. It wasn’t until the ’70s rolled around that Batman started to return to his dark and serious ways in the comics, thanks in large part to a camp overload caused by the Batman TV show. Eventually this spilled over into the big screen, after a couple of movie producers bought the film rights, hoping to create something truer to the character’s origins. What we eventually got was Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, noticeably void of all things Robin. Though one might assume this was made in a conscious effort to tone down the camp, booting the Boy Wonder wasn’t the original plan.
When development began on the movie, studio execs insisted on having Robin in the picture. Though initially reluctant, screenwriter Sam Hamm eventually came up with several scenes that would appear towards the end of the film. These involved the elder Flying Graysons getting killed off by the Joker while performing their family trapeze act, Dick seeking to avenge his parents death, Robin wielding a gun, and Batman, for some reason, on a horse. However, when the film finally went into production and the budget ran over, the scenes were deemed inessential and the studio cut Robin. Though not before some storyboards were drawn up, and Kiefer Sutherland was approached for the role.
1. Eddie Murphy, Michael J. Fox and Marlon Wayans Were All Considered to Play Robin
As crazy as it sounds, at one time Eddie Murphy was actually picked to play Robin in the greatest Batman movie never made. Before Tim Burton got the job for Batman and Jack Bauer was cast to play Dick Grayson, the film was offered to Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, who said he would do it if Bill Murray played Batman. For his sidekick, Reitman wanted Murphy, or if he wasn’t available, Michael J. Fox. Keaton’s Batman film was awesome and all, but this would have been ah-mazing, even more so knowing David Bowie was set to be the Joker. We can think of only one thing better than this – Matt Damon playing the Man Wonder.
More recently, Danielle Radcliffe made the case that he’d be a perfect Robin for Batman v. Superman and it was rumored that Kylo Ren himself, Adam Driver, was going to play Nightwing in the film. But the nearest miss was Marlon Wayans as Robin in Batman Returns. While Tim Burton was off shooting another movie and by the time he returned, Wayans was signed on, had a costume fitting, and was already getting paid for his work. But feeling the movie was already too over stuffed with characters, Burton axed Robin from the film and pushed his debut back to Batman 3. That never happened but alls well that ends well for Marlon Wayans, he’s still receiving royalty checks for not having played Robin.
Are there any rare Robin facts that we missed? Let us know in the comments.