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Yesterday the news broke that, according to IMDB.com, Robin had been cast and would appear in Batman Arkham Asylum 2. But many aren’t sure if this is a good or bad thing. Isn’t Robin just an annoying kid in nylons who says corny phrases while being held for ransom by the Joker? Won’t that make Arkham 2 suck? Well, thanks to the insanely deep and perplexing history of comics, that all depends on which Robin we’re talking about.
Above: The young ward’s most recent gaming appearance, in LEGO Batman
Barring the emergence of some new, from-scratch Robin, or some alternate-universe incarnation, there are a total of five (maybe six) possible Robins to choose from. We’ll take you one by one through 60 years of comic-book history, and rate each by probability of appearing in AA2. We based our scale on good, old-fashioned guesswork and gut feelings, so it’s bound to be right.
First appearance: Detective Comics #38 (1940)
Likelihood of appearing: 31 percent
The archetypal sidekick, Dick Grayson was originally partnered with Batman to both lighten the mood of the Dark Knight’s adventures and to give the kids reading someone to identify with. But despite his being involved in some of Batman’s silliest and most gay subtext-filled stories, the character endured as thousands of imitators came and went. As Robin, Dick also went on to lead the Teen Titans, a group of other sidekicks in business for themselves, and he slowly matured into his own man.
He’s the classic Robin, and the one with the most mainstream appeal, so Dick seems like the safe bet for Arkham 2 – but we don’t feel too sure. Firstly, a whole generation of fans know him as Nightwing, the superhero identity he adopted more than 25 years ago, when he cut himself off from Bats to be his own man. Even more recently, he donned the cape and cowl to become Batman after the apparent and short-lived death of Bruce Wayne, which only increased the distance between him and his childhood persona. Since the younger fans are the ones most likely to buy the game, and they don’t know him as their Robin, we think the devs will dig a little deeper.
First appearance: Batman #357 (1983)
Likelihood of appearing: 7 percent
Once Dick moved out of stately Wayne Manor, Bruce wasn’t exactly looking for a new sidekick, but his writers forced one on him anyway. After catching a street punk trying to steal the Batmobile’s hubcaps, the Caped Crusader decided to reform this young man via vigilantism and adoption. And since the boy, Jason Todd, looked so similar to Dick Grayson, why not make him the new Robin? Honestly, the whole thing felt forced, and not all fans liked him, especially with his reckless and petulant attitude.
Fortunately, fans were given their chance to decide Todd’s fate, in a landmark storyline where readers could call a phone number and vote on whether he lived or died. Though it was by a slim margin, he was given the death penalty for his lameness (carried out by the Joker in Batman #428), which helped usher in a much darker and grittier era for Batman comics. But since no one ever stays dead in comic books, he eventually made his return a few years back as the twisted villain Red Hood, out to do what Bats couldn’t by killing bad guys in cold blood. So, couple his evil deeds with his unpopularity as the Boy Wonder, and we think it’s unlikely we’ll see him in the game, at least not as Robin.
First appearance: Batman #436 (1989)
Likelihood of appearing: 46 percent
For a few years, Batman patrolled the night solo, as he had trouble dealing with Jason Todd’s murder. But eventually, a young man named Tim Drake somehow deduced Batman’s secret ID and proposed that Bats take him on as the new Robin. It took some convincing, but eventually Batman relented and decided to train the young man to fight crime. Though not the natural athlete that Dick Grayson was, he’s easily a better detective than his predecessors, and hopes to one day take the title of World’s Greatest Detective from Bruce.
He was Robin for basically the last two decades, and appeared in other media as Robin, such as the Batman animated series. Though he’s currently abandoned the title and taken the moniker Red Robin while he tries to find Bruce Wayne (as he correctly believes BW is still alive), it has been a pretty recent change that may or may not stick. And since last year’s Arkham, which ignored the “death” of Batman in its continuity, it seems just as likely they’ll ignore this recent turn of events in the sequel.
First appearance: Detective Comics #647 (1992)
Likelihood of appearing: 0.5 percent
For a very brief time, while Tim Drake was on the outs with Bats, Tim’s then-girlfriend and fellow crime fighter Spoiler got called up to the big leagues. The first female Robin in regular continuity, Stephanie was an able companion, but often had trouble following directions. After not listening to her control-freak boss twice, she got fired and left in disgrace. Following an apparent death (she got better), she eventually returned and is currently Batgirl, after regaining Bruce’s trust.
As much as we like Stephanie… no. Just no. Sorry, Spoiler fans, but she’s really just an asterisk in the history of Robin. And lastly, since a young man was cast in the role, we think we’re pretty safe in assuming she will have zero screen time in AA2.
First appearance: Dark Knight Returns #1 (1986)
Likelihood of appearing: 4.5 percent
For brevity’s sake, we’re going to ignore the multitude of Robins from alternate universes, but we would like to spotlight the top alternate Robin, Carrie Kelly from the landmark miniseries Dark Knight Returns. The daughter of stoned, absent parents, Carrie was inspired by the newly returned Batman who was out to clean up this future Gotham all over again. After saving Bruce's life, he lets her join him as she is given a baptism by fire against the Joker and Superman. She was a great help to the aged Bruce, especially in making conections with local gangs that wanted to follow Bats.
Later she became Catgirl in the sequel series Dark Knight Strikes Again, but unlike the first comic, this oddity is not required reading. Most fans will probably be dissapointed by it, as it’s more than a little aimless, showing Frank Miller wasn’t on his A game at the time. Still, Carrie was a really cool Robin, and while we heavily doubt she’ll show, she’s got a better shot than Steph.
First appearance: Batman #657 (2006)
Likelihood of appearing: 11 percent
The current Robin started out as just a twinkle in Batman’s eye. After Bruce was drugged and date-raped by Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter Talia, Damian was conceived and kept secret from his dad until the kid was 10. A whiny, self-important, arrogant brat, most fans didn’t like him upon his moving into Wayne Manor, and liked him even less when he flippantly killed people and attempted to off Tim Drake. Still, he stuck around, and over time he became part of the cast, though by no means was he a fan favorite.
Following the “death” of Bruce Wayne, a big upheaval in the status quo of the Batman family resulted in the lad becoming the youngest Robin yet. He finally seems to have found a place as the impetuous sidekick for original-Robin-turned-Batman Dick Grayson. They work well as a team, but his taking the mantle is such a recent occurrence, and his future in the position is in doubt once Bruce makes his return to the living this year. We think the devs will make a go with something other than the hot new thing that could be over before Arkham Asylum 2 even comes out .
Mar 10, 2010