Ah, to be young again…
One of the most popular comic book characters of the last 15 years also happens to be a character created within that timeframe: Damian Wayne. The current bearer of the Robin mantle, Damian is the brash son of Batman who has served not only under his father, Bruce Wayne, but also under Dick Grayson when he took up the cowl after the original Caped Crusader’s death.
Introduced in 2006, Damian’s popularity skyrocketed thanks to his memorable, bratty characterization that has been exercised oh so wonderfully by various writers over the last decade, whether it be in the core “Batman” titles, “Teen Titans” or in various appearances across the DC Universe. It’s safe to say, as evident in the Rebirth key art, that Damian will be a major player in the publishing line (and beyond?) going forward, so it’s best to know a thing or two about the character if you don’t already. Luckily, CBR is here to break down that history.
Though his birth was suggested in Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham’s self-contained “Batman: Son of the Demon” graphic novel from nearly 30 years ago, Damian was properly introduced into the Bat-verse by legendary creators Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert for the “Batman and Son” arc in “Batman” #655-658. In the story, it’s revealed that, unbeknownst to Batman, he was tricked years ago, while drugged, into copulating with the villainous Talia Al Ghul for the purpose of breeding a super-soldier of sorts for her father, Ra’s Al Ghul, and his cult, the League of Assassins — or, as you know them from “The Dark Knight Rises,” The League of Shadows. Though the result of Batman and Talia’s dalliance, Damian was actually created in a genetically-perfected artificial womb, from which he was later birthed and trained by the League to become an ultimate warrior — or, ninja assassin, if you will.
When Damian is introduced, Talia attempts to unite the character with his estranged father with the hope that they will form a bond and create an ultimate dynasty that will one-day rule the Earth. Thankfully, Bruce has better sense than that, opting to abandon the Al Ghul legacy, and leaving Damian to be raised by his mother.
The character returned when Morrison came back into the fold for the “Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul” storyline, in which the Demon’s Head attempts to transfer his consciousness into a human host — none other than, of course, Damian. Thankfully, Batman and his Bat-cohorts manage to prevent the mind-melding, though they’re unsuccessful in stopping the Resurrection of Ra’s. And, yet again, Damian is left to be “taken care of” by his mother, Talia.
Damian and Talia once again came back into the fold for the “Batman R.I.P.” arc, wherein a cult called the Black Glove targets Batman — and Bruce Wayne — in an attempt to drive him (them) insane. Though the Black Glove is successful in breaking the Bat’s mental stronghold, they were unable able to kill him — that honor would go to Darkseid who, over the course of “Final Crisis,” manages to fire a bullet that rockets the Dark Knight through the space-time continuum, effectively “killing” him in the main timeline.
With Batman dead, Damian decides to stay in Gotham and take up residence at Wayne Manor with Alfred. When the various Bat-family members fight over the mantle of Batman in the “Battle for the Cowl” storyline, Damian is among the contenders. He loses out to Dick Grayson, the original Robin, who naturally takes on the guise of the Caped Crsuader in the wake of his mentor’s absence. However, since Dick considered the then-current Robin, Tim Drake, an equal, he felt it would be best to take Damian under his wing — thus giving us the first appearance of Damian as Robin in “Batman and Robin” #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely.
Over the course of the “Batman and Robin” saga, Damian proves himself to be quite the unique Robin. Unlike Dick or Tim, Damian is, well, a jerk. In fact, he rather resembled Jason Todd, thanks to his brash, attitudinal behavior. But over the course of the run, we saw Damian evolve and start to learn — for one thing, that killing is bad — and come to understand his father’s legacy as a fearless protector of Gotham City.
Damian continued to serve under Dick Grayson’s guidance for a few years, until DC’s line-wide “Flashpoint” event shook up continuity and made Bruce Wayne the one-and-only Batman again. Damian stood by his father’s side throughout a number of story arcs, until his own clone killed him in “Batman Incorporated” #8, by Morrison and Chris Burnham.
Of course, these are comics, so Damian couldn’t remain dead. The character’s inevitable return took place in Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s “Batman and Robin” (Vol. 2) #37 which saw Batman take his son’s corpse to Apokolips to revive him. As a result of his rebirth, Damian was given super-strength, much like Superman’s, though those powers went away rather quickly. After his return, Damian spent some time venturing off in his own solo adventures, chronicled in a wonderful run by Tomasi and Gleason that follows “Johnny Quest”-style escapades alongside his pet bat-demon, Goliath.
In light of DC Comics’ 2016 line-wide “Rebirth” (Think: “Flashpoint” 2.0), Damian has remained the Robin to Batman, but has taken on a bit of a larger role in the DC Universe overall. Damian is now the star of the current “Teen Titans” run by Benjamin Percy and Khoi Pham (The Rebirth special and first issue were illustrated by Jonboy Meyers), serving as the leader of the team.
Additionally, Damian just met the young Jonathan Kent — Superman’s similarly super-powered son — in the pages of Tomasi and Gleason’s current “Superman” run. Setting up their dynamic, the arc sets out to establish the rapport between the two characters before they headline their own series, “Super Sons,” launching in February.
Needless to say, Damian has an impressively storied past for a character who’s only 13 years old. You’ll want to check out DC’s “Teen Titans” and “Super Sons” series, among many others out there featuring the character, if you’re yearning for some more action with the devious yet delightful son of Batman.
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