Batman and Robin... it just kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? As much as the Boy Wonder's presence has been debated and derided over the years (how come comic books' most famous lone wolf needed to become part of a dynamic duo?) - Robin is arguably, even more of a Batman institution than such essential villains as The Joker, Two-Face or Catwoman. Like all comic book characters, Robin has been transformed and adapted to suit the times he finds himself in; unlike many comic book characters, however, Robin has had more than a change of attitude. Superman has always been Clark Kent; Batman has always been Bruce Wayne (except for brief fill-ins); but Robin has been many different people at many different times, over the course of many different media. You get the sense there will be more Robins in future, and whoever it is will inherit a proud legacy. Every Robin has added something different; some have stood the test of time as interesting characters in their own right, while others are notable only for their historical place in Batman lore. Here, ranked according to completely scientific criteria are the one and only Robin(s), the Boy (and Girls) Wonder...
10. Bruce Wayne
No, your eyes have not deceived you: there was, in fact, a brief period in comics history when Bruce Wayne himself was clad as Robin, the Boy Wonder. And boy did it suck. In his original golden age/pre-crisis/Earth One origin story, Bruce Wayne wished to learn principles of deduction from master detective Harvey Harris. Rather logically, Wayne felt it would be smart for him to disguise his face and identity from Harris; rather less logically, Bruce ended up disguising himself in the same costume Dick Grayson would later wear. Bruce's "stint" as Robin would be a brief one - only lasting as long as his training with Harris did - but still, it happened, and is lame on so many levels it's almost physically painful. Having Bruce don any kind of specific costume before discovering the Batsuit arguably robs some of the potency of the inevitability of Bruce taking up the symbol of the bat. Here it almost feels as though Bruce's decision to dress as Batman has less to do with fate or even an attempt to scare criminals, and more to do with a simple fashion choice. More importantly, Bruce's stint as Robin steals a lot of the individuality of Dick Grayson when he finally appears on the scene. Dick's Robin costume - the bright red, green and yellow a stark contrast to Batman's moody gray and dark blue - was a perfect expression of that character's ebullience and individuality, as well as paying tribute to his background as a circus performer. Now the Robin costume is (apparently) just something Bruce Wayne had sitting in the back of his closet somewhere, and conveniently pulled out and shoved at Dick Grayson when he joined Batman's war on crime. Even calling Bruce Wayne Robin feels like an insult, and something of a degradation, mostly because it clearly has nothing to do with logic and everything to do with gimmicky storytelling. Robin's name originally referred to Robin Hood, the merry freedom fighter who battled injustice; later iterations of the character added a backstory for the name as Dick Grayson's moniker at the circus, because of his skill on the trapeze (he "flew like a Robin"). But in this version, Harris simply (awkwardly) tells Bruce that he's "as brilliant as a Robin redbreast in that outfit", and that's it - that's all the significance there is.
C.B. Jacobson pops up at What Culture every once in a while, and almost without fail manages to embarrass the site with his clumsy writing. When he's not here, he's making movies, or writing about them at http://buddypuddle.blogspot.com.