I kid you not when I confess that Robin has been, and always will be, my favorite comic book character of all time. In the same way that I love the idea of Alfred as Bruce’s surrogate parent in the wake of Thomas and Martha’s death, I adore even more that Bruce turned around and accidentally found himself the adopted parent (sometimes legally, sometimes spiritually), of a gaggle of wayward children. I have a vested interest in the power of Batman’s legacy and which of Batman’s sidekicks turned out to be the biggest success. That is, if anyone who chooses to spend their life fighting crime outside the law wearing a themed costume can truly be deemed a success. (Though I’ll leave that argument for the psychologists out there. For the sake of this article, it’s the EPITOME of success!)
Right off the bat (pun intended), we have to table Jason Todd and probably Tim Drake for similar reasons. Both boys died while working underneath the Bat family umbrella, and the former has never truly recovered from the ordeal—to the point where Jason modelled himself as the Batman-with-a-gun, which is utterly antithetical to everything the Batman of the modern age stands for.
As for Tim, the full extent of his time with Mr. Oz remains to be seen, though if the revelations about his future that were revealed in DETECTIVE COMICS’ excellent “A Lonely Place of Living” storyline actually come to pass, he may wind up being a bigger albatross around Bruce’s neck than Jason.
There’s probably a case to be made for Damian Wayne being a powerful accomplishment, but since he stands as a cautionary tale for what Bruce Wayne might have been in the absence of Alfred, I’m going to table him as well. Duke is tabled by default because he’s just too green to the continuity to have a standing chance, though let it stand for the record that I do adore Duke and am beyond excited to see what the world has in store for Signal!
On the female side of things, Stephanie Brown is out of the running because Spoiler has oscillated between being allied with Batman and running around on her own, and she was only Batgirl for a short period of time (and Robin for even shorter than that). The same goes for Helena (be she Bertinelli or Wayne). I could have made a case for Cassandra Cain had she not recently been a villain before reforming her ways and returning to the fold as Orphan. I also think Barbara Gordon is out of the running because, particularly during her tenure as Oracle when she was gathering intelligence for the Justice League, I believe she actually transcends her role as a member of the Bat family and has created a greater impact in the larger DC Universe than the corner of it she was created for.
In short, Barbara deserves her own shelf, not simply a prominent place on Bruce’s.
So, let’s talk about Dick Grayson! Without a doubt there is a case to be made for Richard John Grayson as Batman’s greatest legacy. As Nightwing he stands on his own as a powerful and impactful superhero who can stand toe-to-toe with his mentor or any other member of the Justice League, for that matter. Plus, Nightwing has led the Justice League in the past, and with Superman’s blessing! That is a tiny club of characters to belong to and not an unpowerful one. On top of that, whether it is because of Bruce or in spite of him, Dick Grayson is one of the nicest, kindest characters to ever come out of the DCU (and certainly out of the Bat family), which makes him one of the most accessible characters. He’s the type of character that, as a reader, you feel could be your friend. He’s someone who would have your back if a psychotic villain ever threw you off a rooftop, and that is a tremendously powerful character trait that, I will contend, no other Batman legacy character has ever possessed.
On the heels of all this praise for Dick Grayson, however, I also want to tip my domino mask to Carrie Kelley. There are probably readers that are going to want to discount Carrie Kelley’s contribution as a character and a member of the Bat-fam because she technically exists in an alternate universe (even though she was introduced in the New 52 and was recently teased in last month’s BATMAN ANNUAL #2), and is largely remembered for her legacy in a single story. That may be true, but THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS is one of the single most epic and impactful Batman stories ever told, and as far as I’m concerned the events that take place in those pages should be regarded with more weight than your typical Batman standalone.
In that story, Carrie Kelley not only revives the legacy of Robin—the single most iconic legacy character ever created—but like Dick Grayson, Carrie is able to crack the sheet of ice that had spent years hardening around Bruce Wayne’s heart. It’s the emotional impact of her character that allows her to stand toe-to-toe with Dick Grayson when it comes to the impact she’s had on Bruce Wayne.
On top of that, Carrie saved Batman’s life twice and was able to hold off no less than Superman in order to allow Batman to take down the Man of Steel. I’ll leave aside, for the sake of space, the number of other foes Carrie’s Robin single-handedly fought with only the power of a slingshot.
Plus… much like the original Robin, Carrie Kelley has also spent a stint as the vigilante known as Batman and she wasn’t even half-bad at the job.
I guess what this article boils down to is my deep, deep need for both of the most wonderful Robins to team up and take down some evildoers together. Who else would love to read that story? I can’t be the only one!
In the comments section below I would love to know who you think Batman’s greatest legacy is, and be sure to show your work!