<i>By <a href=http://www.chrisarrant.com/>Chris Arrant, Newsarama Contributor</a></i> <p>Although some might see Batman as a lone wolf, he knows what he needs to get his life-long mission accomplished. Bruce Wayne may have all the gadgets money can by, but the one thing he needs most and doesn't fit in his utility belt is friends. <p>From the introduction of the original Robin, the Boy Wonder to his partnership with James Gordon and even his on-again/off-again relationship with Catwoman, Batman has a select group of people he relies on. This extended Bat-family help make Batman who he is, and help define him by their associations. <p>After watching this week's animated adaptation of <i>The Dark Knight Returns</i>, we took a hard look at the colleagues, confidantes and comrades of the Dark Knight to see who are the most integral to Batman's quest and Batman's character. Click "start here" in the upper-left corner to see our picks, then tell us your favorite at the social networking links below. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p> <p>
With all the fights Batman gets into, duct tape and stitches from Alfred can only get you so far. Dr. Leslie Thompkins is in effect the Wayne family physician, often dealing with Batman and his associates wounds from their war on crime. But she's more than that. <p>Introduced by Dennis O'Neil and Dick Giordano back in 1976, Thompkins was revealed to be a family friend and medical colleague of Bruce Wayne's father, and was one of several stand-in parental figures after Thomas and Martha's murders. And it was that tragic event that pushed Thompkins to set up her own street clinic to help the poor and indigent of Gotham City. <p>And she's not afraid to stand up to Batman, taking him to task on more than one occasion for his deeds and working outside the law. She's criticized him for his penchant for bringing children such as Robin, Spoiler and Batgirl into dangerous situations, while still being an open door whenever he needed it. <p>In the New 52 era of the DC universe, Thompkins' lone appearances have been in Jason Todd's <i>Red Hood & The Outlaws</i> flashbacks, but don't be surprised if she plays a larger part in the Bat corner of the DC Universe in the near future.
To some, Tim Drake is just one in a long line of boy wonders to take the mantle of Robin and fight alongside Batman. But for fans who came of age in the '90s and 2000s, Tim Drake is the definitive Robin. <p>[Tim Drake] is "the smart one" of the Bat-family, the thinker and planner, writer <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/Red-Robin-Nicieza-100512.html>Fabian Nicieza told Newsarama</A> back in 2010. I mean, of course Bruce Wayne/Batman is what he is, and Tim isn't quite there yet, but Tim at 17 has a more developed intellect than Bruce at 17 did. That's not to say Dick Grayson or Barbara Gordon are dumb, of course they're not, but Tim's level of thinking is a bit... thicker... than theirs. For me, Dick is about superior reflexive thinking, Barbara about superior operational thinking and Tim is about superior comprehensive, or all-encompassing, thinking. <p>Unlike his predecessors, Tim Drake's time as Robin (and currently as Red Robin) showed him as a more holistic hero, soaking up experiences and training like a sponge no matter what the source. At age nine he was able to figure out Batman's secret identity as Bruce Wayne, and as a teenager he grudgingly earned the respect of Batman arch-nemesis Ra's al Ghul. <p>While the current New 52 continuity has established that he was never Robin and always Red Robin, Tim Drake is still an important part of the DC mythos.
Bruce Wayne's single-minded war on crime as Batman all began when he found himself an orphan in the bloody shadow of his parents' murdered bodies. The presence Bruce's parents has on him to this day play a big part in who he is in a man, so what would he be like as a father? And what kind of son would he raise? <p>Those are the kinds of questions raised by Damian Wayne. Introduced by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert in a 2006 issue of <i>Batman</i>, he literally was the son that Bruce Wayne never knew he had. Conceived from a one-night tryst between Batman and Talia al Ghul and subsequently kept a secret from the world, Damian was raised by the League of Assassins to be the ultimate warrior. Impetuous and unrefined, Damian still sees the truth in his father's quest and abandons the League to fight by his father's side and try to gain his approval. <p>In DC's current continuity, Damian has continued to cast a spunky and rebellious shadow on the Bat family. Bruce Wayne never had parents to rebel against as a teenager, but Damian seems to be making up for his father's lack of teen angst.
Although she's genetically the daughter of top cop James Gordon, Batman is another kind of father figure to Barbara Gordon, who has fought crime as both Batgirl and Oracle. <p>Barbara Gordon was originally created back in the mid-1960s when the Adam West <i>Batman</i> television show was clamoring for a female perspective on being a hero. Barbara was ushered into comics continuity in 1967's <i>Detective Comics #359</i> under the sizzling story title The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl, showing her as a police commissioner's daughter who dressed up as a female Batman for a costume ball and ends up halting a kidnapping attempt while in costume. Although admonished by Batman to stop her costume crime-fighting, Barbara's days as a hero were only just beginning. <p>Working as a librarian by day, for decades Barbara fought crime first-hand as Batgirl in both solo adventures and team-ups with Batman. In 1988's <i>Killing Joke</i>, she was targeted by the Joker in an attempt to punish James Gordon and left paralyzed after being shot at point-blank range. That tragic event took a while for readers and even DC's comic editors and writers to process, but a year later writer Jim Ostrander started a new chapter for Barbara as wheelchair-bound but highly capable Oracle. One part hacker, one part traffic control, Barbara became the key source of information for Batman and other heroes while adapting to her current situation and learning combat techniques she could use from her wheelchair. <p>The New 52's Barbara Gordon has regained her ability to walk and assumed once again the identity of Batgirl, with the knowledge and expertise from her days as Oracle combined with the athleticism of her early days.
It's hard to measure up when you're constantly compared to someone else. And it's harder yet to come back from the dead. But Jason Todd has done both and lived to tell the tale. <p>Originally introduced in the '80s as a replacement for Dick Grayson (moving on to his current Nightwing identity), Todd first met Batman when he was caught trying to steal the wheels off the Batmobile. Admiring that spunk, Batman took in the indigent Jason Todd and groomed him to become the second Robin. Although less acrobatic than his predecessor, Todd had more of a fighter's spirit having grown up on the street. But at the end of the day, Todd could never be the original Robin and fans voted via 1-900 number to have him killed off by the Joker. <p>But Jason Todd wouldn't stay dead, and the character returned to life post-<i>Infinite Crisis</i>. Since then, Todd has been the prodigal son of the Bat-family that never came home, fighting on his own as a violent antihero and never quite fitting into the mold of the traditional Batman supporting cast. <p>Recently, DC gave Jason Todd space to breath on his own as the leader of a team in Red Hood and the Outlaws. Todd hasn't yet crossed paths with Batman in this current series, although recent flashbacks confirmed his time serving as Robin for Batman remain intact in the New 52 continuity.
Who else can get under Bruce Wayne's skin and still remain on his good side as much as Selina Kyle? Through her years fighting against and fighting alongside Batman, she's shown him that she's more than just a villain, and more than just one in a long line of women to stand beside Bruce Wayne. <p>Originally inspired by actress Jean Harlow, Catwoman has grown from skirted Betty Page type to be a modern-day Robin Hood of sorts, using her full arsenal of skills to stomp out injustice through frequently less-than-legal methods. <p>As far as Bruce and Selina's relationship goes, it's complicated. Frankly, they're not on defined terms. We've seen them fall into each others arms as many times as we've seen them come to blows, making for one of the most unique dynamics in comic book history.
Trust is a big issue. And it seems of all the heroes that Batman has chosen to fight alongside, it's Dick Grayson he trusts most. Trusts with all his secrets, and as we've seen on more than one occasion, trust to take on the mantle of Batman when Bruce could not. <p>Originally introduced in 1940 as a pint-sized injection of youth into the often dour <i>Detective Comics</i>, Dick Grayson was the first Robin and, to many, the best. Far from being a simple junior version of Batman the way some sidekicks are, Dick Grayson-as-Robin was a spry and energetic soul with tremendous athletic ability. <p>Through the years as Grayson discarded the Robin guise for the more adult Nightwing, he showed he learned from the guidance of Batman but wasn't afraid of being his own man. Although he's had adventures on his own and with the Teen Titans, Nightwing's best place remains at the side of Batman as more than a sidekick but as a partner.
Batman fights crime outside of the confines of the law, and police commissioner James Gordon is the one who might balance the needs of the law with the needs of Gotham City as a whole. <p>Introduced way back in Batman's first appearance, 1939's <i>Detective Comics #27</i>, Gordon is one of the Caped Crusader's oldest confidantes and allies. Much like Inspector Lestrade to Sherlock Holmes, he's Batman's man inside the system whether he likes it or not. On most occasions it is Gordon who calls Batman in via his trusty Bat-signal to consult on a case the police can't solve on their own, but on several occasions Gordon has served as a surprising back-up just when Batman needed him.
Whatever you do, don't call Alfred Pennyworth a mere butler. In various stories he's shown to be a former actor, combat medic and British Special Forces agent. But most of all he's Batman's chief confidante and Bruce Wayne's primary father figure. <p>Although originally introduced as a comedic funnyman to offset Batman, Alfred grew to become a multi-faceted and stabilizing force for Master Bruce. And of all the people we've listed so far, he's one of the only ones who are unafraid for disagreeing with Batman, providing a cynical view on Batman's high-minded goals and providing some much needed grounding when he needs it. <p>Back in 2005, a <a href=http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2005/oct/21/dvdreview>review of <i>Batman Begins</i> by The Guardian's Rob Mackie</a> characterized Alfred as Batman's batman, underlining just how essential Alfred is to both Bruce and to Batman himself. Although he'll like never don a costume and go out crime-fighting on his own, Alfred confronts injustice in his own way and makes Batman as good as he is.
How can a pair of characters only seen in flashbacks be the most important supporting characters in Batman's life? It's all about the effect they've had And the Waynes, through their life and their tragic death added the spark and the motivation for Bruce Wayne to go from rich kid to vigilante. Take out any other character from Batman's life and he's still Batman but if Thomas and Martha Wayne weren't who they were in the comics, Batman would never exist. <p>Thomas Wayne was a gifted surgeon and one of the foremost philanthropists in Gotham City. With Martha, they were one of Gotham's de facto royalty. Their deaths outside a crowded movie house set Bruce down a path that would eventually lead to becoming Batman. In Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's <i>Batman: Dark Victory</i>, the duo proposed that the murder of such a prominent family set off a chain of events that led Gotham to become the dark city that we know today, showing criminals what that no crime was off-limits and showing cops that they couldn't solve everything. <p>In several outside-continuity stories they've shown that perhaps Bruce got a bit of his costumed crusader-y way from his father, as Thomas Wayne is shown to have dressed up and fought crime in <i>Flashpoint</i> and <i>The Untold Tales of the Batman</i>.