Batman and Robin first became a team in 1940, following Robin’s debut in Detective Comics #38. In spite of the many imitation sidekicks that popped up almost overnight, it was Batman and Robin who dominated as the most famous crime-fighting duo in all of comics. Even with all the changes they’ve gone through — deaths, resurrections, betrayals, terrible costume redesigns — they remain the gold standard of superhero teams, both in our world and in theirs. So how have Batman and Robin been so successful all these years? Of course they train very hard. And Batman, being the senior partner, always lays out rigid guidelines for all of his associates, especially his Robins, to follow. He may be a little stern sometimes, but surely he only has his partner’s best interests at heart? Well…
Look, all children need rules to truly flourish. We get that. But there’s a difference between being strict and being gratuitously nasty. We’re sure none of you will be surprised to hear that Batman sometimes has trouble noticing when he’s gone too far. So if you are brave enough — or naive enough — to want to become a Robin, here are 15 truly disturbing rules you’ll have to follow. A word to the wise: maybe you should go see if Superman is hiring instead.
15. DON’T PROTEST WHEN BATMAN KIDNAPS YOU
Ever wonder how Batman keep finding teenagers to work with him? Shockingly, his recruitment process is somewhat less than legal. In Detective Comics #38, after Dick Grayson witnesses his parents’ deaths, Batman sweeps the kid away and makes him swear a candlelit oath to uphold justice. Supposedly, Batman takes Dick in to protect him from gangsters who want him dead. But even after apprehending the gangsters, Batman makes no effort to legalize his guardianship or seek out relatives with a stronger claim on Dick.
All-Star Batman and Robin shines an ugly spotlight on this aspect of Dick’s origin. Batman grabs the traumatized 12-year old by the throat and informs him he’s “been drafted. Into a war.” Dick wasn’t the only Robin this happened to, either. A retconned version of Jason Todd’s origin shows Alfred finding Jason bound and gagged in the Batcave.
14. NO ROCK MUSIC
Children often have different musical tastes than their parents — that’s just a natural part of growing up and developing your own identity. Except if you’re a Robin, in which case your individuality will get you smacked. In Batman: Fortunate Son, the Dynamic Duo hunts down a dangerously delusional rock musician who recently bombed a music studio. In the Batmobile, Robin tries to put on some punk rock to pass the time and Batman doesn’t like that one bit.
The Dark Knight slaps Robin’s hand away from the radio dial, and then he launches into a long and disturbingly impassioned speech about how rock and roll only breeds violence and death. Geez, Batman, you could have just said you wanted to listen to something else. Maybe Robin should invest in a pair of headphones.
13. NO SASS OR YOU GET SPANKED
In Batman #15, the Dynamic Duo suspects that Catwoman is up to her old tricks again. While Batman tries to stop Catwoman by manipulating her into falling in love with Bruce Wayne, Robin decides to do a little independent investigating. When Robin returns from his self-imposed assignment, Batman demands to know where he’s been, and Robin responds with a little sarcasm.
You’d think Batman would be used to Robin’s snark, but he jumps straight to corporal punishment, throwing the kid over his knee. Robin, clearly distressed, promises to tell Batman what he wants to know. Actually, Batman spanks Robin kind of a lot, and for reasons flimsier than this. He once gave Robin a spanking just because it was Robin’s birthday. You know, Bats, most parents would get their son a bike or something…
12. NO HANGING OUT WITH FRIENDS
Batman has an excuse for being a jerk through most of Teen Titans: Year One; he and the rest of the League are possessed by Antithesis. Their sidekicks band together to save them, and afterwards, most of the League expresses pride in the teens’ bravery. Not Batman, though! He growls at Robin to “say goodbye to your friends” and is in general such a grump that the other Titans are left wondering if they’ll ever see Robin again.
In the following issues, Batman continues to try to prevent Robin from having a social life. When the Titans are scheduled to make an appearance on late-night TV, Batman puts Robin on stake-out duty. And when Robin brings Batman to visit the Titans’ new headquarters, Batman gives the place only his most grudging seal of approval.
11. DO WHATEVER THE GOVERNMENT SAYS
One day, Robin and the Titans receive a summons from the United States government. What for? The government didn’t say. So, like most teens would, Robin turns to an adult for advice. Unfortunately, the adult he turns to is Batman. Batman tells Robin he should obey the government summons anyway, because “Uncle Sam doesn’t need to give reasons.” That’s right, Robin. Always blindly obey whatever the government tells you to do, and don’t ask for clarification. That will work out just fine.
Meanwhile, in Teen Titans #1, the Titans are recruited by the Peace Corps. Batman learns about this from a newspaper. Is he concerned? Of course not! Why should he be? His teenage ward has disappeared to who knows where to do who knows what, but it’s all good. Robin is, after all, in the trustworthy, reliable hands of the U.S. government.
10. SAVE BATMAN AND YOU’RE FIRED
Batman’s fourth Robin was Stephanie Brown, who had previously worked as the vigilante Spoiler. Her tenure as the Girl Wonder was breathtakingly brief, lasting all of three issues. Why? Well, in Robin #128, Batman ordered her to stay in the Batplane and listen to Batman’s updates from the ground. When Batman casually mentions being blinded in a chemical attack, Robin elects to ignore his instructions and rush to his rescue.
Robin winds up getting captured, and as soon as she’s free, Batman tells her to hang up her tights. But seriously, what did he expect her to do? Sit on her thumbs as Batman narrated his death to her? Does he really think any Robin in history would have done different than Stephanie Apparently so.
9. DID NOTHING WRONG? STILL FIRED
Crimefighting is dangerous business. Every hero gets hurt eventually, and in Batman #408, Dick Grayson is shot by the Joker and falls off a building. Batman, who we know has rescued Robin from mortal peril before, is so upset by the incident that he forces Dick to retire. The fact that Dick has been his partner-in-crimefighting for years means nothing. Batman still has the right to take it all away from him at a moment’s notice.
At first, Batman justifies his decision by saying he’s finally realized “a child” has no place in the superhero business. Dick, now 18, balks at being called a child. Batman concedes he is in fact a “man” now, but Dick is still fired. And then he kind of encourages Dick to fight crime alone, so… what was the point of firing him again, exactly?
8. NO CRIMEFIGHTING WITH ANYONE ELSE
In Detective Comics #369, Robin announces his intention to team up with Batgirl for a while. For some reason, this annoys Batman to no end. He scolds Robin for his foolishness and insists he drop his plans immediately. Batman and Batgirl even get into a literal tug-of-war, like kids who don’t want to share a toy.
Bats eventually relents, but he is visibly unhappy about the team-up until he learns the reason for it: Batman had caught a rare swamp fever. Knowing Batman wouldn’t rest even if he knew the truth, Batgirl and Robin agreed to team up and take out as many criminals as they could. This would make Batman’s job easier and lower the chances of his getting killed by his own machismo. So remember, Robins: don’t ever work with anyone else for any reason. Batman owns a monopoly on your time and attention.
7. ATTRACTIVE CROOKS SHOULDN’T DO TIME
As soon as Catwoman — originally known as the Cat — debuted in Batman #1, sparks flew between her and Batman. Batman and Robin, of course, foil her plan to rob a wealthy woman’s necklace. But when they try to bring her in, the Cat leaps into the ocean to make her getaway.
Robin, the only one still thinking with his brain, starts to go after her. But Batman purposely bumps into the Boy Wonder, delaying him long enough to facilitate the Cat’s escape. Robin is annoyed, but Batman sarcastically shrugs it off and spends the last panel gushing about how hot the Cat is. And thus did Robin learn a valuable lesson: never get between Batman and a nice pair of… eyes. No, really, Batman spends an entire panel gushing about her eyes.
6. YOU WILL BE WIRED TO EXPLODE
Batman: Odyssey is a great comic, if you like your comics hilariously bizarre to the point of incomprehensibility. The plot vaguely revolves around Batman trying to rescue Talia al Ghul. In the fourth issue, Robin is captured by the Sensei, a member of the League of Assassins. The Sensei starts in on his big villain speech, but Batman cuts him off and presses a button. Robin, who evidently had explosives in his utility belt, is blown to kingdom come, along with his captors.
Or so it appears. In fairness to the Dark Knight, he used some kind of magical explosive that destroys everything but Robin, and the Boy Wonder is fine. Please don’t ask us how this works. Explosive-proof Robins are the most scientifically plausible concept in this comic.
5. GET VIOLENT AND BATMAN GETS VIOLENT WITH YOU
Green Lantern’s primary weakness is the color yellow. In All-Star Batman and Robin #9, because they hate Green Lantern now for some reason, Batman and Robin lure him into a room they’ve painted entirely yellow. Green Lantern gets more and more agitated as the confrontation continues, and when the fight gets physical, Robin karate-chops GL in the throat, crushing his windpipe.
Batman witnesses this and suddenly decides he disapproves of extreme violence, after having spent the entire series thus far running over cops and torturing goons to death. He throws Robin into one of the walls he worked so hard to paint. In conclusion, Batman is the only one allowed to be ultra-violent. If Robin tries to emulate the guy he’s supposed to be emulating, he gets to find out what a racquetball feels like.
4. IF YOU’RE HUNGRY, CATCH A RAT
Yes, of course this made the list. In yet another infamous moment from All-Star Batman and Robin, Batman forces his newly kidnapped charge to live in the Batcave. Not even Wayne Manor, which is at least an actual house. Just the giant, dark, dangerous, rodent-infested Batcave. Batman dumps the kid there with the vague reassurance that food “will present itself.” Cut to a large aggressive rat just daring Dick to touch him.
Ultimately, Robin is not forced to eat rats. Alfred, the only halfway decent person in this comic, brings him some actual food, much to Batman’s chagrin. And since we don’t see Robin having to hunt for his dinner again, we can assume Batman gave up on that aspect of Robin’s “training.” Still doesn’t excuse Batman for coming up with the idea of a rats-only diet in the first place, though.
3. YOU ARE ALWAYS REPLACEABLE
In Batman #408, Batman fires Dick Grayson as Robin for dubious reasons at best and no reason at worst. In the very next issue, he recruits street kid Jason Todd as the new Robin. This is despite telling Dick, who is several years older than Jason, that he’s too young to be fighting crime with Batman.
Needless to say, Dick wasn’t real thrilled when he learned he’d been replaced by the first dark-haired orphan Batman could find. But it’s a little hard to feel bad for Dick when he would go on to pull a similar stunt. After Bruce “died” in Final Crisis, Dick took up the Bat-mantle. When selecting his Robin, Dick passed over the more established and experienced Tim Drake in favor of Damian Wayne.
2. IT’S ALL NEED-TO-KNOW (AND YOU NEVER NEED TO KNOW)
Batman tends to play things pretty close to the chest. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but you’d think the World’s Greatest Detective would be smart enough to at least let his own sidekick in on his schemes. In “War Games”, we learn that that is not the case. Batman has a plan to consolidate Gotham’s gangs under his alias, Matches Malone, because of course he does. The recently fired Stephanie Brown, determined to prove herself an asset, discovers these plans while snooping through the Bat-computer’s files.
Not realizing the full significance of her discovery — because, again, Batman didn’t bother to tell her about his plan or that he is Matches Malone — Stephanie triggers the War Games scenario. The result? Thousands of casualties and one grievously injured ex-Robin.
1. DON’T TRUST YOUR TEAMMATES
In addition to leading the Teen Titans, Robin has also led another team of young heroes called Young Justice. Young Justice generally works well together and the members all seem to like each other – -a state of affairs which is in no way thanks to Batman. In both the Young Justice cartoon and the comic book tie-in, Batman has Robin under strict orders to keep his real identity a secret, even from his teammates.
Batman doesn’t care that Young Justice are all accomplished heroes in their own right, or that Batman has worked with most of these kids’ mentors for years, or that trust is essential for team unity. He is determined to raise Robin up to be as paranoid as he is. And really, isn’t that what mentoring is all about?
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