DAMIAN WAYNE, ROBIN: Profile of the Boy Wonder Redeemed
SPOILER ALERT! There are spoilers for Batman, Inc. #8 due out February 27, 2013, in this story! Don't read further if you don't want to be SPOILED!READY? "The past has finally caught up with you, my darling detective." — Talia Al Ghul, Batman #655, as Damian Wayne was introduced to the world. Robin will die, DC Comics has sealed the fate of comics' youngest iconic hero. But the revelation also means that Bruce Wayne is about to lose his own son.
And even though Damian Wayne has only been a comic book character for six years and change, his life has been a story of redemption, told through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy.
A Boy Redeemed
Damian Wayne came into the world known as the "Son of the Demon," a publicly despised little brat who was trained to kill without second thought.
But this week, he leaves it as one of DC Comics' most beloved heroes.
So how did the bratty child of Batman transform from into a hero worthy of the title of Robin? How did a boy who kicked and complained his way into the DC Universe win over public opinion and find his way into the hearts of comic readers?
Damian was conceived during Batman's tryst with Talia al Ghul, daughter of the villain Ra's al Ghul. The relationship took place several years ago when Batman slept with Talia "under the desert moon above the Tropic of Cancer." (In one story, Batman indicated he was drugged and forced into the union, but the comic book history has since been changed to a consensual sexual relationship.)
Unbeknownst to Batman, Talia had her developing fetus genetically perfected and grown in an artificial womb. Then as Damian grew up, she made sure he was trained by the masters of the League of Assassins.
Not only did he become an expert in martial arts, but his childhood was a life of cold-hearted competition, a matter of "kill or be killed."
By the time Talia handed the boy over to his father — in an apparent attempt to disrupt Batman's investigation of one of her villainous plots — Damian Wayne had grown into an unfeeling, barbarous, uncontrollable killer.
Introduced to readers in Batman #655 by writer Grant Morrison and artist Andy Kubert, the bratty, spoiled, deadly Damian Wayne was immediately a problem for Bruce. But the elder hero took his responsibility seriously and let him live in his mansion, giving him access to the Batcave.
Originally, the kid came across as an almost humorous addition to Bruce's story, because the super-cool Batman was getting frustrated with his inability to control the little bugger. But when Damian went out on his own and beheaded a criminal to "help" his father fight crime, the problem got a little more serious.
Morrsion once explained to Newsarama that redeeming Damian was his plan from the start, although he grew to like the boy so much that he took a few years to achieve his goal. "When I first introduced [Damian], I figured I was going to kill him off at the end of that first four-part story," Morrison said. "I thought people would hate him so much. I thought I'd do one of those classic stories where the little bad guy in the last act suddenly does a wonderful thing and sacrifices his life and saves the world and you feel sorry for him. But then I thought, no, this character has a lot more potential.
"I thought, 'I'm going to make everyone love this character, because I think there's some big potential here,'" he said. "It's really worked out. He's really become quite a breakout character from the series."
The writer made Damian Wayne the fifth character to wear the mantle, "Robin," and the only one to do so as Bruce Wayne's biological son. While the road to becoming a heroic Robin has been a rocky one for Damian, the kid actually came through. Under the tutelage of Batman, his butler Alfred and several other Bat-family members, Damian Wayne has redeemed himself as a hero worthy to wear the mantle of "Robin."
Comic Readers Redeemed
It was then that Damian Wayne first officially became Robin, although it wasn't necessarily because he had earned it yet: "He's my responsibility now," Dick said in Red Robin #1. "Left on his own, he's going to kill someone. Again."
But even after he became Robin, Damian Wayne had a tough time fitting into the role of "hero." It was frustrating for Dick Grayson and most of the other heroes of the DCU who encountered the young boy. Damian wanted to follow in his father's footsteps, but his goal of becoming Batman someday wasn't exactly humbling.
"He has this air of superiority about him no matter who he’s talking to," said Sterling Gates, who wrote the character in World's Finest in 2009. "But he has to learn to play by his father’s rules if he’s ever going to be Batman. His goal in life is to grow into this mantle, to be the 'ultimate man' – which is what Batman is, the pinnacle of human training. But that means that Damian already thinks of himself as being better than all of us. Better than you, and you, and you over there."
Bruce Wayne eventually returned — not really having died — and when DC rebooted most of its comics in 2011, Damian became Robin for his own father. And over the last year, the character has evolved into a selfless hero who loves his father.
But what's notable about the process of Damian Wayne redeeming himself is that this is not the first time a bratty boy became Robin — and it's not even the first time a Robin has died. But this time around, readers grew to like the character.The second Robin was a teenager named Jason Todd, and his existence was markedly unpopular — so much so that readers voted to have him killed.
"Nothing was wrong with Jason except that the fans didn't take to him," said Marv Wolfman, a DC writer at the time. "He was a fine character, but during that time period in comics, the idea of a snotty, possibly criminal Robin could not be accepted. But look at Damian today."
So what was the key to having audiences accept Damian in a way they never warmed to Jason Todd? Was it that they had time to get to know him? Was it that he was younger? Or was it that readers were more willing to accept a kid in trouble?
New 52 RelaunchOne theory might be that readers were able to see love grow between Damian and his father, as well as a level of respect between the character and other Bat-family members.
The love between father and son was highlighted and developed in the New 52 relaunch of the comic Batman and Robin. In the last few issues of the comic, readers have seen Damian change his attitude toward his father and even become selfless in many ways.
"Batman was away for so long [after he was presumed dead], so when we stepped in on the New 52, at that moment, in issue #1, [Damian] really hadn't experienced Bruce as a father for too long," writer Peter Tomasi explained to Newsarama. "And we saw what that hole did in his life. There's even a sense of resentment, a little bit, in my mind. So this was a nice, full arc for him to... [make] that connection to Bruce, and showing his father that it wasn't all about him being selfish. He showed that he could have an open heart. "
The heartwarming father-son story in Batman and Robin has also emphasized that Bruce Wayne is more than just Batman. He's a father, despite the formerly prevailing belief that he didn't want to get close to other people because they were liabilities.
ConversationNow that Bruce Wayne and Damian have such a strong connection, it makes losing Robin all that much more powerful. Batman writer Scott Snyder described it best: "Damian is his son, and he is also Robin. And as both, he's his figurative and literal son." His loss is something readers will surely see developed over the coming months in Batman titles.
The rest of the Bat-family will also be losing a brother. "I think Damian has respect for Dick now, which I don't know that he had when they started," said Kyle Higgins, who wrote the last scene between Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne (outside of Batman, Inc.) in last week's Nightwing #17. "Even though Damian can be condescending and arrogant, and he'll still be the first to point out anything that Dick does wrong, I think he does genuinely care about him like a brother. He really does care. And that's all you can ask for from a brother."
But in the short term, the story of Batman and Robin is expected to be a powerful one in this week's Batman, Incorporated #8. At Comic Con International in San Diego, writer Grant Morrison warned readers that the story would be an emotional one. "I guarantee you will cry. Many times, you will cry," Morrison said. "[The story in Batman, Incorporated] is about Bruce and Damian though, and you will cry and cry and cry."
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