Ranking the Robins

Tim Drake is in the news this week because a recent issue of Batman: Urban Legends confirmed that he’s bisexual, which is pretty cool! As a comic fan, it’s always a bit strange to see mainstream news sites reporting on this kind of thing, though. You come across headlines saying things like, “After 80 Years, Robin Comes Out As Bi,” which is annoying because no, actually, this Robin hasn’t been around for 80 years! That would be Dick Grayson.

Anyway, it seems like a good time to talk about the various Robins, and there’s only one proper way to do that: by assigning them meaningless rankings based entirely on my own subjective opinions. Strap in, because it’s time to rank the four main Robins (yes, I know, Stephanie Brown was also briefly a Robin, but it didn’t last long and I haven’t read enough of her to feel I can give a fair ranking).

4. Jason Todd, aka Red Hood
The very worst Robin is Jason Todd, Batman’s second apprentice. Don’t take my word for it, either–the kid was so unpopular that DC famously allowed fans to vote on whether or not he should die, and, well, let’s just say that the resulting story arc was called “A Death in the Family.”

Jason was disliked in his day mostly (as I understand things) for being too similar to his immediate predecessor, Dick Grayson. He just didn’t really have a personality of his own. I feel like it’s worth noting, though, that Bruce meets Jason when the latter is trying to steal the tires off the Batmobile–a sign that the kid’s a bit of an edgy troublemaker, which would become a lot more prominent many years later.

Now, as a Robin, Jason is fine. He’s whatever. He’s a bland little sidekick boy. It’s what he became later that won him the bottom spot on this list.

Jason Todd was resurrected as the Red Hood in 2005, and despite the decade being over, he was the most ’90s-style character you could ask for. He existed to answer one question: “What if Batman… but guns?”

Sorry, Jason, that’s not a question I care to ask.

I’m not saying there are no good stories with the character, but he’s decidedly not my cup of tea.

3.5 Stephanie Brown, aka Spoiler
Like I said, I haven’t read a lot of her–I mostly only know her from James Tynion IV’s excellent run on Detective Comics. She seems… fine? I like her more than Jason, at least.

3. Damian Wayne, aka Robin
The current Robin, Damian Wayne literalizes the whole Robin metaphor by just being Bruce Wayne’s actual kid. He’s the apotheosis of the Robin idea. He’s also kind of an asshole. See, there are two kinds of Robin: Bad Boys and Sweeties. Jason and Damian are Bad Boys.

He was raised by assassins, so he just loves killing folks, and even after he gets weaned off of indiscriminate murder, he’s still an arrogant little jerk. I’ll admit that he’s a bit endearing, though, and he doesn’t shoot people, which gives him a leg up on Jason.

My favorite thing about Damian is his friendship with Jon Kent, Superman’s son. These two rascals are adorable together, and Superboy always brings out the best in his pal.

2. Tim Drake, aka Red Robin
Tim is the third fellow to take up the Robin mantle, and he has my favorite backstory for doing so: Dick and Jason got kind of forced into it by being Bruce’s ward, and Damian is Bruce’s son, but Tim just kind of showed up after Jason’s death and went, “Hey, Mr. Wayne, I know you’re Batman and you just ran out of Robins, so I can hang out for awhile if you want.”

The fun thing about Robins is seeing which Batman traits they end up leaning into the most. Dick embodies Batman’s compassion; Jason embodies his anger; Tim focuses on the ‘greatest detective’ aspect of Batman. He’s the smartest Robin, and he proves it immediately by figuring out Batman’s identity before we ever even meet him.

I haven’t read Tim’s well-loved stint on the Teen Titans, but I have read him in Tynion IV’s Detective Comics, and that alone was enough to make him one of my favorite Bat-characters. He’s smart, he’s badass, and he’s a definite Sweetie. It’s honestly a close call between him and my number one pick, but come on; there’s no way you can beat Dick.

Also, I had to dock Tim points for having an uncreative superhero name when he strikes out on his own. Red Robin? Really?

1. Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing
Dick Grayson is everything you could want from a hero. He’s an incredible fighter and acrobat; he’s charming, kind, and funny; he’s incredibly sexy; what more could you ask for? He’s basically what would happen if Batman would actually process his damn trauma.

He also manages to be a better Batman than Batman is. People say they like Batman because he’s “just a normal guy, no superpowers,” but come on–that’s bullshit. Yeah, Bruce Wayne is just a normal dude… who happens to be one of the richest men in the world… and also one of the smartest people alive… and he has the intelligence and resources to beat any other superhero… and he’s an expert fighter because he trained for years with magic ninjas… and he’s insanely charming when he wants to be as part of his Bruce Wayne façade… you know, just a normal guy, like you or me! Meanwhile, Dick is actually a relatively normal dude, with his main advantages being his acrobatics training and combat skills, both of which make sense given his backstory.

Oh, and he’s pals with Superman! The name Nightwing comes from a Kryptonian hero that Superman used to tell Dick about when he was a kid; Dick chose the name to honor both Clark and Bruce at the same time. What a Sweetie move!

Also, god, just look at him. He’s so, so sexy. It’s wild how sexy he is.

The man is the beating heart of the DC universe, and there’s no way he wasn’t taking top spot.

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