Original / Golden Age / Earth-Two
Created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson
Adapted from the Golden Age Batman Chronology
NAME + ALIASES:
Richard "Dick" Grayson
John and Mary Grayson (parents, deceased), Dr. Chuck Grayson (distant cousin), George Grayson (uncle)
All-Star Squadron, Club of Heroes, Justice Society of America,
Detective Comics #38 (Apr. 1940)
The Golden Age history of Robin often greatly overlooked in favor of his mentor, the Batman. But consider: there must be a reason that this DC Comics icon appeared in nearly all of the Caped Crusader's Golden Age adventures—and well into the Silver Age. His modern incarnation, Nightwing, now holds his own as a series star, but the original Robin also supported a solo feature for over five years in Star Spangled Comics. Robin's debut in Detective Comics #38 (Apr. 1940) predates almost all other comic book sidekicks of the Golden Age. DC gave the Crimson Avenger a boy sidekick, Wing, two years earlier in Detective Comics #20 (Oct. 1938), but Robin's popularity makes him the original archetype.
Officially, the character's creator is Bob Kane. But Robin was designed in large part by Kane's assistant, Jerry Robinson, who also came up with the character's name, inspired by Robin Hood. Robin was widely imitated across the industry; after Batman exploded in popularity, kid sidekicks became the norm. The character's fictional antecedents were "Dick Tracy"'s adopted son, Junior, who first appeared in Chester Gould's seminal detective strip on 8 September 1932, and Terry Lee, the titular hero of Milt Caniff's great adventure strip Terry and the Pirates, which debuted on 22 October 1934.
The Original Robin
Richard "Dick" Grayson was born In 1928, the son of John and Mary Grayson. (Last Days of the JSA) NOTES: His birth date was shown on his tombstone in Last Days of the JSA. An episode of the Adventures of Superman radio series (aired 25 Sept. 1946) gave Dick's mother's name as Yvonne and indicated that she was of French extraction, but neither point was ever reflected in the comic books. The Grayson family were circus folk and young Dick was trained from a young age to be an aerial acrobat.
One fateful day, John and Mary were murdered by the henchmen of gang leader Anthony "Boss" Zucco, who was enforcing a protection racket against the circus owner, Haly. The orphaned boy was taken in by the Batman, who took pity on the boy and even shared the secret of his true identity with him. The Batman agreed to train Dick as his partner: Robin, the Boy Wonder. Dick Grayson then became Bruce Wayne's legal ward and together, they apprehended Zucco and his gang. (Detective #38) The ending implied that Zucco would be sent to the electric chair for his crimes, but Infinity, Inc. #6 (Sept. 1984) showed him dying in a prison hospital, suggesting a life sentence instead.
Robin was armed with a slingshot in his first story (also used in many subsequent stories in this period) and he apparently killed at least three of Zucco's henchmen by throwing or kicking them off an unfinished skyscraper during the story's climactic battle, a detail omitted from subsequent accounts of these events. Boss Zucco, the man responsible for the deaths of Dick Grayson's parents, was (like many early Batman gangsters) clearly modeled on actor Edward G. Robinson, who starred in many Warner Bros. gangster films of the 1930s and '40s.
Following the apprehension of Boss Zucco, Bruce Wayne tried to force Dick to retire as Robin, but gave Dick one chance to convince him that Robin should remain Batman's permanent crime fighting partner. (Batman #32)
Robin was on hand for every major moment in Batman's career, including the case when they first encountered their future arch-foe, the Joker. The mad clown publicly announced his intention to murder several innocent people and made good on several of those threats using a lethal poison that left its victims with a ghastly grin. The story made no mention of the Joker's real name or beginnings, but indicates that he had previously spent time in prison. They also faced the Cat(woman), (Batman #1) the Penguin, (#14) Two-Face, (Detective #66) the Scarecrow, (World's Finest #3) and the Riddler. (Detective Comics #140)
Despite his training, the young hero was occasionally susceptible to powerful evil, as with the case against racketeer "Smiley" Sikes. Robin was nearly beaten to death by two of the gangster's henchmen. In getting vengeance, Batman was also gravely injured. (Batman #5)
The duo's first team-up with Superman was in December of 1941, when they all appeared at a USO benefit. They were ambushed by Per Degaton and Wotan and were missing in action during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. (Justice League of America #193) Batman and Robin immediately joined the new All-Star Squadron, an assembly of wartime super-heroes. (All-Star Squadron #4) Both attended the first full meeting of the Squadron in February of 1942. Batman was also a reserve member of the Justice Society but Robin was not. (#31-32)
The Boy Wonder soon discovered that he had another family member in the super-hero game. Dr. Charles Grayson, Dick's distant cousin, was Robotman's friend and assistant. Dr. Grayson was kidnapped by agents of the villainous Ultra-Humanite, prompting Batman and Robin to join up with the All-Star Squadron to battle Ultra. (All-Star Squadron #24-26, Annual #2) When he died Chuck Grayson's body was cryogenically preserved in the hopes that it might be used to house Robotman's human brain. After 20 years in suspended animation, Robotman had his human brain transplanted into Grayson's body, allowing him to live out the rest of his life as a man, not a machine. (DC Comics Presents #31) NOTE: Chuck Grayson and Robotman first appeared in Star-Spangled Comics #7 (Apr. 1942).
Batman and Robin both benefitted from extended longevity because of a case involving the villainous Ian Karkull. Karkull gathered a group of super-villains — including the Catwoman — to assassinate eight men who, unbeknownst to the heroes, were destined to become future U.S. presidents. Although Catwoman was assigned to kill Ronald Reagan, then filming the movie Kings Row for Warner Bros. in Hollywood, she had a change of heart and was wounded saving Batman and Robin from another of Karkull's henchmen. Karkull himself was apparently destroyed by Dr. Fate, and this released a burst of "temporal energy." That energy later enhanced the longevity of everyone present, allowing them to remain healthy and active even at an advanced age. (All-Star Squadron Annual #3, 1984)
ROBIN ON THE RADIO
Between March 1945 and December 1948, Batman and Robin made more than a dozen guest appearances on the Adventures of Superman radio series, which ran five days a week on the Mutual Broadcasting System. While Batman was played by a number of different actors on the radio, Robin was consistently portrayed by Ronald Liss, who gave the Boy Wonder a cocky, sarcastic, wisecracking persona. (Liss also played a number of other occasional guest roles on the show.)
The radio Batman, Robin, and Alfred lived in Metropolis rather than Gotham City, although they had most of their familiar comic book paraphernalia, including the Batmobile, Batplane, and Batboat. They worked with Metropolis Police Inspector Bill Henderson, not Jim Gordon. Batman's origin was never revealed in the radio show, but Robin's was recapped in a 1946 storyline entitled "The Dead Voice."
As in the comics, the radio Dick Grayson was a circus acrobat whose parents were killed when racketeers sabotaged their equipment shortly before a performance. However, there were several key differences in the radio version. In the radio series, Dick's parents were killed not in 1940, but in 1941; Dick was said to be 8 or 9 years old at the time. The Graysons' killer was not Boss Zucco, but circus proprietor Eric Larson, who had learned that Dick's mother, Yvonne Grayson, had relatives in occupied France. Larson had extorted money from the Graysons by threatening to betray Yvonne's family to the Nazis. He engineered the Graysons' deaths when they could no longer afford to pay him, although he was eventually apprehended by Batman and Robin and sent to prison.
Interestingly, in the radio series, Bruce Wayne was not a stranger, but a longtime friend of the Graysons. Before his death, John Grayson, Dick's father, specifically asked Bruce to take care of the boy. Dick also had a paternal grandfather, although the elderly Mr. Grayson (his first name was never mentioned) had been estranged from John Grayson for many years. In 1946, Dick reconnected with his grandfather after Batman, Robin, and Superman thwarted an attempt by Eric Larson and Grayson's unscrupulous secretary, Paul Marsh, to murder the old man for his fortune.
The radio Dick Grayson was friends with Jimmy Olsen, which would not be true in the comics until years later. However, Jimmy did not know Batman and Robin's secret identities. Interestingly, while the radio version of Batman learned Superman's secret identity in December 1945, they never shared that secret with Robin. —Aaron Severson
The issue of child endangerment was not completely lost on the Batman, despite appearances. He temporarily ended Dick's role as Robin after the boy's life was threatened by a vicious criminal. (Batman #13) Bruce briefly lost custody of Dick when the boy's unscrupulous uncle, George Grayson, accused Wayne of being unfit. Bruce was truly heart-broken by the loss. But George's plan was to extort Wayne for money in exchange for custody, which the Batman quickly squashed and brought to the authorities. (Batman #20)
In 1947, Robin was awarded his own solo feature in the pages of Star-Spangled Comics #65 (Feb. 1947). The series ran through #130 (July 1952). The inaugural story saw Dick uncovering a gang of crooks who were using a reform school called Boyville to train kids to steal.
The Justice Society were forced to disband in early 1951, but Superman, Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman remained active in crime fighting. (Adventure Comics #466, America vs. the JSA #1)
When Robin was recuperating from a broken leg, the Batman trained a new crime fighter from Europe called Wingman, and made him his new partner. The move turned out to be a ruse to mislead the criminals of Wingman's native land. (Batman #65) The Wingman became the first of a group of international heroes who, with Batman and Robin, formed the Club of Heroes. (World's Finest #89)
Dick was in attendance on a landmark occasion, when Bruce married Selina Kyle (the reformed Catwoman) in 1955. (DC Super-Stars #17, Superman Family #211)
Months later, Dick attended an anniversary party for Clark Kent and Lois Lane Kent as Batman, while Bruce Wayne filled in for Superman, allowing both heroes to appear without jeopardizing Superman's dual identity. (Superman Family #216)
The line between "Golden Age" and "Silver Age" Batman stories is imprecise because the character was published continuously, without major changes. Most agree that DC's Silver Age began with the debut of the new Flash, Barry Allen, which was in Showcase #4 (Oct. 1956). The concept of Earth-Two wasn't introduced until The Flash #123 (Sept. 1961). In 1986's Who's Who series, DC set the starting point for the Silver Age/Earth-One Batman as Detective #327 (May 1964). This is the issue when Batman's costume changed to feature a yellow oval on his chest. That declaration is an oversimplification, as there are other earlier stories which could arguably be considered as Earth-One stories. See more about this topic in the Introduction: Methodology: What's Golden Age?
The first clearly defined appearance of the "Earth-Two Robin" was Justice League of America #55 (Aug. 1967), when he joined the Justice Society…
Dick Grayson went on to earn a law degree and eventually started his own firm. After Bruce had semi-retired as Batman, Robin changed his costume to one that combined elements of his and his mentor's (a gray bodysuit, a yellow utility belt, and a high-collared yellow cape). He used his own Bat-Jet, emblazoned with "R" emblems and bat-wings. Robin officially joined the Justice Society and participated in one of their regular team-ups with the Justice League on Earth-One. (Justice League of America #55-56) NOTES: This was the first Silver Age appearance of the original Robin.
Robin met his teenage Earth-One counterpart during another JLA/JSA mission. The elder Robin expressed frustration about his treatment by the other Justice Society members—Hawkman had mistakenly assumed that Robin was only filling in for Batman and forgot that Robin was a full-fledged JSA member. In this case, the Robin of Earth-One wore a uniform that was later adopted by the Robin of Earth-Two. (Justice League of America #91-92) NOTES: First modern appearance of the Earth-Two Batcave.
Robin participated in other JLA/JSA team-ups, as when they rescued the time-lost members of the Seven Soldiers of Victory, (#100-102) and another when he and other members of the Justice Society were accidentally slain by the Justice League. The deceased JSA members were later resurrected through the intervention of the Spectre. (#123-124)
Grayson's career led to an appointed to be an ambassador to the United Nations (initially to South Africa). Around this time Robin adopted a new red-yellow-and-green costume that updated his original look. Because Ian Karkull's temporal energy granted him extended youth, Dick felt a kinship with a younger generation of JSA members (even though he was in his late 40s by this time), including Star-Spangled Kid and Power Girl. They proposed calling themselves the Super Squad, though the name didn't stick. (All-Star Comics #58-59)
Batman briefly emerged from retirement to attend a dinner to honor Robin—the first time Robin was publicly fêted. Naturally, a crisis interceded and the Caped Crusaders were enlisted by the god Mercury to stop the villainous King Kull. Dispatched to Earth-S, Batman and Robin joined forces with Earth-One's Hawkman and Hawkgirl and Earth-S's Mr. Scarlet and Pinky to defeat a group of villains—including Earth-Two's Joker. NOTE: This was the only modern-era teaming of the Earth-Two Batman and Robin. (Justice League of America #135-137)
Doctor Fate and the Flash visited Robin in Cape Town, South Africa, to enlist his help in obtaining discreet medical care for Hourman, who had been badly injured in a battle with the Injustice Society. Their visit made Dick suspicious because several JSA members were behaving erratically. He sent a telegram to Bruce Wayne explaining the situation and asking for advice. By this time, Bruce Wayne had become the Police Commissioner of Gotham City. (He also had begun acting strangely.) (All-Star Comics #66)
Grayson returned to the U.S. with the recovering Hourman and met with Bruce to devise a plan to apprehend the rest of the Justice Society. (All-Star Comics #68) Wayne enlisted Robin and other inactive members of the to help apprehend their former teammates. Superman and Doctor Fate ultimately discovered that Bruce was under the thrall of the Psycho-Pirate. Afterwards Bruce gave an emotional apology for his actions. (#69)
Dick Grayson was also close to Bruce's daughter, Helena Wayne, who took inspiration from her parents and became the heroine called the Huntress. At a remarkably young age, Helena Wayne graduated valedictorian from Harvard Law School and became a junior partner in Cranston, Grayson and Wayne, a public interest law firm established by Dick and Arthur Cranston. By this time, Grayson was no longer an active partner in the firm because of his diplomatic duties abroad. (Batman Family #18-20) The Huntress also joined the Justice Society and with Robin helped them defeat the Master Summoner. (#74)
Robin deduced the Huntress's secret identity before her own father. Dick promised Helena not to tell Bruce. Meanwhile, a man named Bill Jensen—whom Bruce had convicted of murder—escaped from prison and climbed Gotham's Trade Towers, demanding to confront Bruce. When Gotham police and the JSA tried to apprehend Jensen they discovered that the fugitive now possessed mystic powers strong enough to stagger Doctor Fate. (Adventure Comics #461)
Bruce Wayne became Batman one final time to take on Jensen. During their fight, Jensen's energy blasts ripped away a portion of Batman's mask, revealing his identity. The recognition of Batman's secret identity drove Jensen out of control, and his power erupted in a burst of energy that killed both men. Batman's secret identity was revealed to the public, and he was buried next to his wife and parents. At the funeral, Helena Wayne persuaded Dick Grayson not to take up Batman's mantle; she preferred to let her father and his legacy rest in peace. (#462)
The revelation of Batman's secret identity affected Dick and Helena as well. The Justice Society managed to track down the source of Jensen's powers, the sorcerer Frederic Vaux. Doctor Fate engineered Vaux's defeat and altered Vaux's spell so that the enchantment caused everyone who did not previously know Batman's secret identity to believe Bruce Wayne and Batman were separate people that died at the same time and were buried in separate graves. In the process, Dick Grayson and Helena Wayne's secret identities were restored. (#463)
Prior to returning to diplomatic service, Dick spent a night on the town with Helena Wayne and Karen Starr (Power Girl). (#464) The Huntress and Robin joined forces again to clear their law partner, Arthur Cranston, of a bogus fraud charge. Later, they saved Harry Sims from a vengeful convict. (Wonder Woman #284-285)
After decades of near-paralysis following his last battle with Batman and Robin (Detective #46, 1940), Professor Hugo Strange regained partial mobility from a derivative of his old monster serum. Strange uncovered Batman's true identity and waged a campaign of terror in Gotham City using weapons stolen from the Batcave, and Starman's cosmic rod. This power drew Batman from Earth-One to Earth-Two, and Robin was also aided by the Batwoman of Earth-Two. (Brave & Bold #182)
He also teamed up with the Earth-Two Superman to help the Earth-One Superman and Batman defeat the Atom Man, a Nazi super-villain from 1945. (World's Finest #271)
Even when Robin and the Huntress weren't on joint missions, they chose to attend reunions with the JLA in order to catch up with Earth-One's Batman. (Justice League of America #195)
Next Generation JSA
Robin was among Justice Society members taken over by the Ultra-Humanite and immersed in the Stream of Ruthlessness. The Stream made them power-hungry, and vicious, and the Huntress joined with the new group called Infinity, Inc. to stop them. Helena prevented Robin from murdering his parents' killer, Boss Zucco. (Infinity, Inc. #5-9)
After the Batman's death, the Dark Knight's diary was delivered by Professor Carter Nichols to Clark Kent at the Metropolis Daily Star. The diary accused the JSA of having been agents of Nazi Germany during the second World War. All the wartime JSA members were arrested on charges of treason. Helena stood ready to defend her comrades even if it meant proving her father was mentally unsound. But Dick was unwilling to see his mentor's reputation tarnished, and reluctantly joined the prosecution. He was horrified to discover that their key witness would be the JSA's old nemesis, the Wizard. (America vs. the JSA #1)
The Wizard undermined his own credibility by attempting to use the hearing as an opportunity to escape. Although Helena and Dick began the trial on friendly terms, their differences became divisive. Helena asserted that it was possible for anyone to be wrong sometime. Dick argued that Batman was infallible in the cause of justice. (#3)
As the JSA's trial drew to a close, Dick learned from Professor Nichols that Per Degaton was released from prison shortly before Bruce Wayne's death. Dick deduced—as Bruce did—that Degaton was preparing for the imminent return of Professor Zee's time machine, lost in 1947 but scheduled to return in 1984. Grayson and the JSA arrived just in time to catch the machine appearing, and the mortally wounded Zee named Degaton as his killer. Degaton took his own life rather than return to prison. Later, Dick Grayson and Helena Wayne concluded that Batman's subconscious intention in writing the false diary was to lead the JSA to investigate Degaton's whereabouts and thwart his plans. Only then did Helena reveal to Dick that Bruce had terminal cancer in the last months of his life, perhaps contributing to Bruce's irrational behavior. (#4)
Robin joined his JSA comrades at the wedding of Alan Scott (Green Lantern) and Molly Mayne (the Harlequin) at St. Christopher's Cathedral in Los Angeles. (Infinity, Inc. Annual #1) Shortly after the wedding reception, the Justice Society was summoned by the Monitor to learn about the effects of the great cosmic Crisis. After this meeting, Robin and the Huntress met with Earth-One's Batman and Robin at Earth-One's Wayne Manor. (Infinity, Inc. #21, Crisis #5)
The Crisis collapsed the multiverse into a single universe. The Earth-Two Robin found that the new Earth had been recreated with no place for him. Earth-Two's Batman simply never existed. He was traumatized and stayed close to Helena. The two of them were killed by an attack of the Anti-Monitor's shadow demons. (Crisis #11-12)
The Justice Society of America gathered to mourn the loss of Superman and Wonder Woman and the deaths of Robin and the Huntress. Their bodies were recovered and buried on the grounds of Hall Manor (the home of Carter Hall, the Hawkman). (Last Days of the JSA) NOTE: The actual final appearance of Earth-Two's Robin and Huntress was in Infinity, Inc. #30 (Sept. 1986), in memoriam. Roy Thomas commented that he and Marv Wolfman were concerned that Crisis #12 might lead readers to think there was a possibility that Robin and the Huntress survived, which wasn't the intent.
Earth-2, Post-Infinite Crisis
The Earth-Two Robin made an anomalous appearance Supergirl v.4 #79 (April 2003).
After the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the original Earth Two was merged into all other surviving Earths. After the Infinite Crisis (2006–07), the multiverse of the DC Universe was restored, there was again an Earth-2. Their history seemed to have unfolded as if the first Crisis had never happened (picking up approximately after Infinity, Inc. #24). In this universe, Infinity Inc. and the Justice Society merged to form Justice Society Infinity, and Robin was a member. (JSA Kingdom Come Special: The Kingdom #1)
Power Girl found a way to travel to the new Earth-2 and encountered that world's Huntress — who was much like her pre-Crisis counterpart. Power Girl attempted to dissuade the Huntress from executing Earth-2's elderly Joker, who had discovered Helena and Dick Grayson's secret identities and crippled Helena's lover, Gotham City D.A. Harry Simms. Afterward, the Huntress admitted that she was actually in love with Dick Grayson, but decided not to act on her feelings. (Justice Society of America v.3 Annual #1)
The New 52
After Flashpoint (2010), the mainstream DC multiverse was rebooted in a campaign dubbed "The New 52." The Earth-2 that was home to Justice Society Infinity was apparently wiped away. Instead, the new Earth-2 in the New 52 introduced Golden Age heroes from a completely new perspective. Its Helena Wayne became Robin instead, and later took the name Huntress. (World's Finest #0) Dick Grayson married a policewoman named Barbara and had a daughter. (World's End: Earth 2 #1)
Robin was an all-around hand-to-hand combatant and athlete. In particular, his acrobatic skills were top class. He benefited from the Batman's creation of supporting gadgetry, including various guns, vehicles, and chemicals.
» FEATURED APPEARANCES:
- All-Star Squadron #1-4, 20, 24-27, 31, 35, 41, 54, 59, 60, Annual #3
- All-Star Comics #58-59, 66-70, 74
- Adventure Comics #461-464, 466
- America vs. the Justice Society #1-4
- Brave and the Bold #182
- Crisis on Infinite Earths #11-12
- Infinity, Inc. #1-6, 8, 9, 21-22
- Justice League of America #55-56, 91-92, 101-102, 123-124, 135-137, 183, 195
- New York World's Fair Comics 1940
- Superman Family #211
- Wonder Woman v.1 #281-283
- World's Finest Comics #271
- Batman #1–112 (Apr. 1940–Dec. 1957)
- Detective Comics #38–326 (Apr. 1940–Apr. 1964)
- Star-Spangled Comics #65–130 (Feb. 1947–July 1952)
- World's Finest Comics #1–67 (1941–53)