The iconic Dynamic Duo of Batman and Robin have been the most famous superhero team in all of comics since The Boy Wonder's debut in 1940’s Detective Comics #38. Over the years there have been a number of individuals granted the title and role of Robin, including Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake. But there have also been other people that have operated under the name of Robin, although not necessarily in an official capacity. One such person is Duke Thomas, the star of 2015’s We Are Robin, a 12 issue mini-series by Lee Bermejo, Jorge Corona, Trish Mulvihill, and Cris Peter. Despite being adorned in a large red “R” and fighting the crime of Gotham City, Duke’s self-proclaimed tenure as Robin is one that is up for debate.
Following the events of Batman: Endgame (by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo,, Danny Miki, and FCO Plascensia), Gotham is reeling from the apparent death of Batman. Knowing that Gotham still needed a protector, Jim Gordon underwent intensive training and donned a superpowered suit of armor and took to the task of protecting the streets himself. It was in the absence of Bruce Wayne's Batman that Duke Thomas began his tenure as Robin.
Running away from his foster family one night, Duke traveled to the subways under Gotham where he was attacked by a crazed mob. Miraculously, a group of teenagers arrived in time and saved Duke, prompting him to join them. Each of the teens had a large red “R” on their outfits and referred to themselves collectively as The Robins. Duke joined The Robins and began his career as a vigilante crime fighter.
In the end, it was revealed that Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred had been guiding The Robins and providing them with aid and supplies in their battles throughout Gotham. He stated that Bruce Wayne had always believed in the common citizen stepping up and doing what was right for the city. The series ended with Duke and The Robins leaping into Gotham, ready to battle against any and all evils.
While Alfred spoke for Bruce in regards to accepting the average citizen’s help in the fight against crime, it raises an important question: does simply acting in the role of Robin qualify a person as an official Boy Wonder? The name and title of Robin is exactly that: a name and title. However, it is a name and title that is traditionally bestowed only by Bruce Wayne. Alfred may be one of the most valuable allies Batman has, but at the end of the day he is not the Dark Knight, and it should therefore be considered beyond his capabilities to bestow the title on anyone.
The existence of The Robins in We Are Robin is similar to the climax of The Dark Knight Returns (by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, and Lynn Varley). In that story, when Gotham is teetering on the edge of ruin, a group of citizens band together calling themselves the Sons of Batman and undertakes their own brutal war on crime. Fortunately, Batman arrives in time to guide them and prevent them from causing more harm than help. But Batman does not appear at the end of We Are Robin and as such, these vigilantes do not receive his guidance or blessing.
Ultimately, it is Batman’s decision as to who becomes Robin. It is more than just a title for a young vigilante; it is more than allying oneself alongside the Bat Family; it is the role one assumes as they stand side-by-side with Batman in the fight against injustice. The Caped Crusader has always viewed those who have taken the name as his closest ally, his partner, and in many ways his child. Duke’s heart is in the right place, but considering that Wayne did not choose him, he should not be considered an official Robin.
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