Batman and Robin, how we love thee. Even that one movie named after you guys didn’t do much to dull our enthusiasm for the Dynamic Duo. But it did make us ask a few questions, like why did Bruce Wayne hire Dick Grayson in the first place? We still can't be sure. Nevertheless, Robin has come a long way since his 1940 introduction in Detective Comics, but his first few years in Gotham were questionable to say the least.
It all started when a maladjusted and lonely billionaire attended the circus. Tragedy struck when local Gotham gangster Boss Zucco killed Dick Grayson’s trapeze-artist parents, leaving the 8 year-old boy orphaned and alone. Bruce quickly throws on his cape and cowl before snatching Dick from the scene, promising to avenge his parents and recruiting him to a life of vigilantism. Could Batman have easily pursued Zucco right there and then? Yes. Did he have to take Dick under his wing? No. Did he and Robin have a candlelight pledge to pursue “the path of righteousness” later that evening? You bet.
These, dear readers, are only the first of many questions you’ll ask as you encounter the 15 Most WTF Things Batman Did to Robin:
15 When He Fired Him
Batman is a jealous warrior, and if he invites you to join his team, he'll expect you to be ready. In Nightwing: Year One, Dick Grayson found himself overextended. From enjoying himself at college, to keeping busy with the Teen Titans, Dick found more time to be Dick and less time to be Robin. And who can blame him? After a life of misery and forced-crimefighting-labor, the guy finally found his footing. This was not lost on Batman, and after he and his partner soundly defeated Clayface, he confronted his ward in definitive fashion.
“This is a war, Dick,” Bruce Wayne grunts with a clenched jaw. Robin sees where the conversation's headed, and in a final plea to protect his job security, he says, “I get it. You need me in Gotham more.” Not good enough. Without even looking him in the face, Bruce screams, “You’re fired, Dick. Get out of my cave.” To be clear, Bruce wasn’t just saying, “take your vigilante services elsewhere.” No, he also demanded that Dick leave his Robin costume behind, stripping him of the Boy Wonder identity once and for all.
14 When He Slapped Him (Then Erased his Memory)
There are some things that men instinctively know to avoid, like slapping your friend in the face. In World’s Finest #153, Batman breaks the bro code and hauls off on poor Dick Grayson. This “Imaginary Novel” was actually one of the first to establish a universe where Batman and Superman were mortal enemies. Before taking on the Man of Steel, however, Batman becomes convinced that Superboy was responsible for killing his father, Thomas Wayne. He’s so manic about killing Supes Jr. that when Robin calls him out on his obsession, Batman loses his cool: “Don’t tell me I’m wrong, you brat!” What did Batman’s five fingers say to Robin’s face? Slap!
If only it had ended there. Unfortunately, Dick Grayson was in for a few more exciting experiences. Batman proceeds to strap Robin to a chair and forces him to focus on a hypnosis machine. It looks like a fun color-wheel, except it has the ability to erase Robin’s memory. Batman then decides that he won’t erase all of Dick’s mind, however, choosing only to let him remember that his parents are dead. The Dark Knight then sends Robin back to the orphanage and continues his crusade against the Kryptonians. What a guy!
13 When He Tried to Drown Him
Consider the following: the mafia have a price on your head, and your days are numbered. What’s the best chance at survival? Faking your death, right? However porous it may be, this was Batman’s logic when faced with defending Robin’s fragile life. While hunting down a band of smugglers, the Caped Crusader overheard their plans to kill the Boy Wonder. Ever the protective father figure, Batman spent some quality time in the Batcave and established a watertight plan. Poor choice of words, as you’ll learn.
Indeed, the Dark Knight decided to fake Robin’s death by drowning him in Gotham Bay. Armed with a trench coat and a fedora, Batman chains hefty cinderblocks to his ward's slight frame, then pushes him overboard a dinghy. “Down you go, Robin! From now on…I work solo!” Whatever the thugs were planning to do to Robin, there’s no way it was this mean. Of all the masterplans crafted by the World’s Greatest Detective, this is easily the most stupefying. Somehow, the Boy Wonder managed to pull a Houdini and avoid a watery grave in time to help Batman subdue the criminals.
12 When He Made Him Cradle Bat-Baby
If you were ever hoping to watch Batman ride a rocking horse, this one’s for you. Yes, in Batman #147, the Dark Knight becomes a Lilliputian crimefighter who wears overalls and patent-leather shoes. Shrunken down to pint-size thanks to getting “bathed” in an “eerie ray of light,” Bruce Wayne takes on his latest identity: Bat-Baby. When the smoke clears, Robin can scarcely believe his eyes. “B-Batman! *Gulp* You Look like a little child!” Remarkably obvious, Robin, but we love you for it.
Batman does too, and he needs him more than ever. Practically swimming in his now over-sized suit, Bat-Baby requires Robin to carry him to the Batmobile, swaddling him like the little orphan boy that he is. You can tell Dick isn’t too happy about it, but he carries his boss home anyway. And if Robin secretly hoped that this was his chance to make the crimefighting headlines, he was sorely mistaken. As Bat-Baby, the Dark Knight got more attention than ever, proving that Robin will always play second fiddle.
11 When He Almost Went Skinny Dipping With Him
Just say no, Bruce. The cover of World’s Finest Comics #14 will forever be remembered as one of the most impossibly awkward superhero drawings ever made. It may be a product of the inimitable Golden Age, but it’s not safe from judgment. For whatever reason, Batman, Superman, and Robin are lurking around some hidden pond and appear far too interested in the pre-pubescent boys swimming in it. Dick Grayson is presumably about the same age as the adventurers, but Bruce and Clark have absolutely no business being there.
No thought-bubbles are needed, as it’s pretty clear Robin is suggesting they join in the fun. That’s not the problem here. Robin's a kid, he means well. The issue is Batman’s uncanny grin, and his signature chin-grab that implies, “Hmm, that’s not a bad idea.” Who knows what’s going through Superman’s mind, but it’s incumbent upon Batman to turn his back on the children and return to Gotham immediately.
10 When He Made Robin Go Bird-Watching
As Batman’s ward, Robin is often forced to shut up and follow orders. It’s a rare moment when he calls into question Bruce’s tactics, so in honor of Boy Wonder’s thankless career, we’ve decided to memorialize the one time he basically called Batman a freak. On a day where the Dark Knight “decided it was time to teach Robin about the facts of life” (whatever that could possibly mean), the Dynamic Duo found themselves donning their crimefighting costumes, laying on a cloud bed and wearing bird hats as they watched a sort of avian-mating ritual in the skies above. Get Ben Affleck on the line, we have the source material for The Batman 2!
Robin is a real champ, but even he had to speak up at the nonsense. “Do you uh…feel like this is just a little bit weird?” Batman could not have disagreed more, barking at his companion, “Shut up and pay attention! Those birds look like they’re gonna take the bait!” Which is what, exactly? It appears Batman wants the birds to "notice" his hat, and then take things from there. Though this scene long predates The Notebook, it’s clear Batman ascribes to the philosophy: “if you’re a bird, I’m a bird.”
9 When He Made Robin Retrieve His Leather Thong
From A to Z, the 1950s were a totally different time. Their playful has become our perverted, but even with that in mind, nothing tops the absurdity of Robin catching Bruce’s attention with his previously used thong. Overjoyed, Robin holds it out like a talisman, commenting, “Gosh, Batman – remember this leather thong? It still has your teeth marks in it!” That’s just brutal on so many levels, and when you add Batman looking deep in repose with his hand gently resting on his cheek, you can’t help but wonder. Is he chagrined? Scared? Excited? Not only is this leather strap significant to Robin, but it’s something he thinks should be added to the legendary trophy case in the Batcave.
To be fair, Batman did use the thong to escape from a perilous situation. Why he even had the thong in the first place is debatable, but why he made Robin retrieve it is truly problematic.
8 When He Spanked Him On His Birthday
We’re unlikely to see it in the DCEU, but Bruce Wayne has a whole history of spanking Dick Grayson. When young Robin got too big for his britches, Bruce would swiftly bend him over his knees and smack the kid’s derriere. It's the way things were, and when Robin taunts Bruce about his age (“you might be too old to understand that sort of thing”), you can’t necessarily blame Bruce for staging the intervention.
Discipline is one thing, but sadism is another. In the now ancient Batman #10, a shadowy hand looms large over the pajamaed body of a young and sleeping Robin. As the narration states, “steely fingers clamp tight on the boy. A strong hand rises—falls—slaps sharply against yielding flesh.” We are not making this up. To every reader's horror, that disembodied hand belonged to none other than Bruce Wayne, who is then shown waling on Robin’s backside while donning a superhero smile. “Ow! What’re you spanking me for? I didn’t do anything!” Though the boy pleads for mercy, Bruce continues until he stands up and wishes the boy a happy birthday.
Robin himself said it best: “Huh?”
7 When He Detonated Him
“How far is too far?” Batman never asks this question, and in the Odyssey arc, he enters total berserk mode. You see, Batman really hates his enemies, and while he was fighting the Egyptian god-beast Anubis, he got interrupted. Sensei, yet another member of Batman’s Rogues Gallery, called the Batphone and basically called the Dark Knight a loser. He and his henchman took Robin hostage and claimed to have Batman backed into a corner.
Despite all of Sensei’s taunting, all Batman heard was “Robin.” Without a second thought, the Dark Knight pulled out a detonator and said, “Blah, blah. Prattle on, you small-minded fool!” Boom! Batman sets off a series of explosives strapped to Robin’s body. When did the Dynamic Duo draw up these plans? And did Robin seriously sign off on it? Too many questions, not enough answers. Even Anubis was dumbfounded, staring at his foe with jaw agape, “Y…y…you blew Robin up.” Utterly unfazed, Batman quips, “He put himself right in the way.” Fortunately, it was revealed that Robin was outfitted with bombs that blew away from him, so that he could function as a walking landmine without actually dying. Yay, science!
6 When He Let The Joker Kill Him
Batman and Robin were on the rocks, and when A Death in the Family kicked off, something was rotten in the state of Gotham. Bruce Wayne regretted turning the freshly-minted orphan into a crimefighter, so he cut Jason Todd loose from his responsibilities. However pure his intentions may have been, Batman lit the fuse that would send Dick Grayson's replacement to his grave. Now on his own, Jason immediately started scavenging for clues about his origins and became desperate to find his mother.
After a series of twists and turns, Robin found himself trapped in the conniving web of the Joker. He found his mother alright, but the woman who ushered him into this world would become the one to help take him out of it. To cover her own dirty tracks, Jason’s mother surrendered him to the Joker, who promptly bludgeoned the life out of him with a crowbar. To finish the job, the Clown Prince of Crime trapped Robin in a warehouse jerry rigged with a bomb that would blow him to smithereens.
So…where was Batman during all of this? Great question. No need to give him a hard time, though. He’s been beating himself up over this one for years.
5 When He Made Him Eat Rats
If there was ever any doubt that Batman can be a total jerk, look no further than All-Star Batman and Robin. The polemical Frank Miller heightened Bruce Wayne’s warped world view and had him turn Dick Grayson into a punching bag. It all started on a lovely night out at the circus, when lovers Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale watched in horror as Dick’s parents got shot by a hitman. Without missing a beat, Batman immediately decided to take Dick under his wing. Unfortunately for the twelve-year old orphan, this meant he would not be allowed to cry.
No, Bruce Wayne gave the ultimatum: receive my training and avenge your parents, but show no emotion and eat what I tell you. Unfortunately, the only item on the Wayne Manor menu was of the rodent genus, as Bruce Wayne forced Robin to survive by himself in the cavernous Batcave. If he got hungry, Bruce informed him, he would be able to dine on rats. When Alfred heard of this gross mistreatment, he slipped Robin a Big Mac and fries, to which Bruce absolutely lost his mind. “What the hell do you think you’re doing, Alfred?” So yeah, Batman has serious issues.
4 When He Made Robin Paint Him Yellow
If subjecting Robin to prisoner-of-war tactics wasn’t enough, Batman goes a step further later on in All Star. To prove his superiority over Hal Jordan and neutralize his powers, Batman gives Robin a bucket of yellow paint and tells him to get to work. Boy Wonder then becomes a veritable Jackson Pollack, covering every square inch of the room in flaxen paint, even the cockroaches. Robin knows the situation is out of control: “There’s child labor laws about this sort of thing. This is exploitation of a minor.” You tell 'em, Dick.
Batman doesn’t care, so he pours himself a glass of lemonade (you know, to keep up with the theme) and puts his feet up. “The kid impressed the hell out of me after I showed him the paint cans and roller,” muses Robin’s proud employer. In case you were wondering, the Dark Knight has also been dunked in yellow to make himself truly impervious to the Green Lantern. Who did the body paint? Robin, of course.
3 When He Impregnated His Girlfriend
For years, fans of the Batman Beyond TV series wondered why Dick Grayson was completely AWOL from the series. Years later, we finally learned the truth. Batman Beyond 2.0 reveals that Bruce Wayne and his ward grew distant because of a betrayal. While gazing upon his old Robin costume, Dick remembers, “Bruce is a manipulative liar whose greatest strength is convincing himself that he’s being selfless.” He then tells Terry McGinnis the truth: Bruce Wayne once slept with his kinda current girlfriend, Barbara Gordon.
Yes, Batgirl and Batman started a torrid affair while Robin was out of town. Though a significant breach of trust, Bruce’s indiscretions had a more lasting effect than a one-night stand: Barbara was pregnant with his Bat-Baby. To add insult to injury, Bruce couldn't contain himself, and he hightailed it over to his former ward's apartment to tell him the news. But when Dick (who had recently gotten back together with Barbara) dismisses their fling and informs his mentor that he still plans to ask Barbara to marry him, Bruce announces that she's expecting. No one can fault Dick for what happens next: he pins Batman to the floor and promptly lays waste to his face.
2 Every Time He Replaced Him
Let’s face it: DC Comics has featured a revolving door of Robins. Bruce Wayne has hardly stayed loyal to his right-hand man, and even when Robin bites the dust, he wastes no time before finding a suitable replacement. One time, in Batman #105, Dick Grayson is sidelined due to an injury from fighting Gorilla Hardy. In his convalescence, the first Robin gets replaced by an impostor and practically bawls his eyes out in envy.
Later, when Batman and Robin return to the Batcave and remove their masks, Bruce is shocked by the sight of a stranger. This new Robin goes by the name of Fred Loyd, the son of Olympic gold medalist and all-star athlete, Hank Loyd. Though Bruce is a little taken aback, he simply shrugs his shoulders and welcomes Fred aboard the team. After capturing Gorilla Hardy, the duo returns home later that night in high spirits, with both Bruce and Alfred Pennyworth declaring Fred Loyd’s crimefighting a raging success. When Robin removes his mask this time, however, it’s Dick Grayson beneath the disguise. He is none too pleased with his elders, who basically start high-fiving each other in laughter. Bruce and Alfred recognized Dick Grayson’s antics all along and decided to kick the kid while he was already down. Not cool, Batman. Not cool.
1 When He Hired Him in the First Place
Despite all of his aforementioned misdeeds, the most glaringly obvious WTF thing Batman did to Robin was hire him in the first place. An eight year-old, emotionally-crippled, high-flying circus orphan needs tender love and care, not a split-personality or the responsibility of safeguarding the most dangerous and crime-ridden city on the planet. As the most emotionally disturbed orphan since Oliver Twist, Batman most of all should know that to be true. Alas, there’s no logic in the House of Wayne, so Batman puts the young boy to work. Maybe that’s why Alfred always tiptoes around the Batcave seemingly projecting the thought, “Good heavens, why is this child still here?”
Rather than support him financially or act as a mentor, Bruce essentially kidnaps Dick from the known world and ushers him into the subterranean cult of the Batcave. Showing up out of nowhere in Detective Comics #38, Batman tells Robin, "I'm going to hide you in my home for a while." Seriously Bruce, there's gotta be a less creepy way of saying that. And besides, bringing Robin into the family is like forcing a 3rd grader to join the army. The Batman may need a sidekick, but that street only runs one way.
Did we miss anything? Let us know how else Batman has mistreated Robin in the comments.