One thing many DC fans often argue about is just how capable Batman is as a father. Sure, the Dark Knight is a cerebral, competent vigilante. But as a man, Bruce Wayne has many flaws and often, his stewardship leaves a lot to be desired. A key weakness seems to be Batman’s habit of indoctrinating child soldiers, namely the Robins.
Over the years, different versions of the Boy Wonder have sprung into the action. However, death follows them around. This isn’t too surprising, given how many villains have their sights set on eliminating Gotham City’s Caped Crusader. Given how many of Batman’s sidekicks have died, it feels like the Robin mantle could well be cursed. Sadder still, the tragic nature of their deaths along progressed with time.
1 Jason Todd Was Killed By Joker in 1988
Jason Todd’s death in 1988 is probably the most popular death that’s ever befallen a Robin. “A Death in the Family” ran from Batman #426–429 thanks to the creative team of Jim Starlin, Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo, John Costanza and Adrienne Roy. Joker tortured and beat Jason with a crowbar. He locked the Robin in a warehouse and then set off a bomb, all to send a message to a pursuing Batman. It’s something many cartoons, video games, and the Titans TV show leaned into.
What made the whole ordeal even worse at the time was the fact DC Comics allowed fans to call in and vote on Jason’s fate. This means readers wanted the second Robin to die. Even if readers liked Dick Grayson better, this was pretty harsh. Joker torturing Jason, Batman arriving too late to rescue his Robin, and having Jason’s own mother betray him felt like overkill. It’d take DC 20 years to revive Jason Todd as the anti-hero known as the Red Hood. His anger concerning his death and the fact Batman had never killed the Joker in retaliation drove Jason to murder criminals. It would take years for the former Robin to heal from his trauma. Even now, Jason’s not fully over it, and he still wants to eliminate the Clown Prince of Crime in TheGothamWar.
2 Stephanie Brown Was Murdered By Black Mask in 2004
Stephanie Brown donned the Robin costume for a bit when Tim Drake had to retire. However, after sneaking into the Batcave and demanding Batman train her, she didn’t end up being Batman’s favorite. Bruce didn’t think Stephanie was equipped for the job, which resulted in her stealing his plans to take down the Gotham underworld. In Batman #633 (from Bill Willingham, Kinsun, Aaron Sowd, Rodney Ramos, Adam DeKraker, Ken Lopez and Tony Avina), Stephanie landed in the middle of a mob war. Sadly, she was beaten badly by a vicious Black Mask.
Stephanie Brown ended up being hospitalized, dying in front of Batman after admitting all she wanted was his approval. Later, DC Comics reversed this heartbreaking murder by revealing Leslie Tompkins faked the death to pluck Stephanie away from the vigilante life. Stephanie’s death was already controversial, and Batman’s response afterward didn’t make things better. Despite the Dark Knight affirming Stephanie was a Robin, the young hero never got a memorial in the Batcave.
3 Damian Wayne Died by His Own Hand in 2013
Damian Wayne didn’t end his own life in the literal sense. Instead, the young Robin was tasked with fighting a scary clone of himself by the name of Heretic in Batman Inc. #8. The 2013 story from Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, Jason Masters, Taylor Esposito and Nathan Fairbairn found Damian trying to save his father from Talia al Ghul and the League of Assassins.
Unfortunately, after a heartwarming moment with Dick Grayson, young Damian Wayne got impaled by the clone. Bruce Wayne arrived too late, cradling his son’s corpse the same way he did Jason Todd years prior. Luckily, a year later, DC resurrected Damian after Darkseid used Apokoliptian tech to corrupt him. Batman brought his son back to the light, but the kill haunted Bruce Wayne, standing out as one of his biggest failures ever. Thankfully, Damian’s powers and the macabre energy Darkseid put into the boy dissipated. It made the adjustment much easier and helped both father and son get over the traumatic ordeal.
4 Dick Grayson Flatlined in 2014
In Forever Evil #6 (by Geoff Johns, David Finch, Richard Friend, Sonia Oback and Rob Leigh), Nightwing was held prisoner by Earth-3’s Crime Syndicate. He was attached to a device called the Murder Machine in a game that’d have made Saw’s Jigsaw proud. The kicker was, if Batman or anyone from his resistance tampered with the machine, it’d explode. To make matters worse, it truly was inescapable.
With the machine set to detonate, Lex Luthor decided to take matters into his own hands, seemingly suffocating Dick Grayson. Batman pummeled Lex, only to realize the villain actually used a paralytic on the ex-Robin. Lex deduced this was the only way to stop the bomb. Lex used a shot of adrenaline to revive Dick, proving to Batman he was much smarter and quicker on the feet than the heroes gave him credit for. It’s one of the few DC moments where Lex Luther got the best of the Bat and proved why being ruthless isn’t such a bad thing.
5 Tim Drake Got Shot Up in 2016
In 2016’s Detective Comics #940 (from James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Adriano Lucas and Marilyn Patrizio), Jacob Kane created a Batman-inspired legion known as the Colony. The army enacted a terrorist plan to destroy the al Ghul legacy using a drone strike, not caring about the innocents who’d die. Tim Drake made a big play as Red Robin. He hacked the drones and had them seek him out.
After surviving the first wave, Robin was shot to death in the second wave, leaving behind nothing but his staff. However, the finale confirmed he wasn’t dead. Tim Drake was secreted away by Mr. Oz, who’d later be confirmed as Superman’s dad, Jor-El. It was all part of the Kryptonian’s game to manipulate Superman and, by extension, the entire DCU. That said, it was very tragic was how Tim sent love to Stephanie Brown after their relationship didn’t work out. The shot of Bruce Wayne comforting her also resonated with readers. In fact, the entire Bat-family heard Tim’s final message, which made the sacrifice sting even more. Ultimately, fans were glad Tim Drake eventually escaped, but that sight of him seemingly getting blown to bits was a jarring image.
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