Where To Start Reading: Dick Grayson [The First Robin]

Where To Start Reading Dick Grayson

Our “Where to Start” articles act as a guide, giving you our best suggestions on where to start on a certain character or creators work. Every article lists several books, each in the character’s or creator’s chronological order despite it’s publication date (so the first choice is at the beginning of a characters career, the last is the furthest along). While in order each book was specifically picked as a good individual starting point; so feel free to start at the beginning, in the middle, or towards the end if you want to get caught up quickly. And if you have any more suggestions or questions just leave a comment.

Where To Start Reading: Dick Grayson

Batman: Year 3 1989

This is a very good retelling of Dick Grayson’s origin, and could just as easily have been called Robin Year One- the death of John and Mary Grayson, the Haley Circus, the machinations of Boss Zucco, and Batman actually deciding to take on a partner. It offers some nice early views of Batman, Alfred, and Jim Gordon as well. Unfortunately, unlike Batman Years 1 and 2 (even though 2 was later ret-conned out), Year 3 has never been collected in a trade. But, try your local shops, trade shows, or any online retailer you trust (personally, I’ve always had good luck with Mile High Comics, but that’s just an opinion, not an ad or an endorsement from this site). It was written by Marv Wolfman, who had such a great feel for Robin and the other New Teen Titans when he launched that book with artist George Perez. The story also features the first appearance by a very young Tim Drake, who becomes much more important later on.

Batman: The Gauntlet 2000

You think your final exams were tough? Batman finally believes Robin is ready to start working with him, IF he can pass one final test. Robin must spend the night in Gotham, out and moving around, and not get caught by the Bat. That would be hard enough, but Dick trips into a major plot by some gangsters who can’t afford to be caught, who tell everyone to kill the Boy Wonder no matter what, and Batman can’t warn him, because he’s in radio silence for the exercise. It’s a great look at young Dick Grayson early in his career, as well as Batman dealing with a partner not wholly under his control. This one shot was written by Bruce Canwell, who I’m not hugely familiar with, but he did a stellar job on it.

Robin: Year One 2002

Unlike a lot of Year One stories, this skips the origin and first time in costume, all that kind of stuff. This shows the early days of Dick Grayson as Robin, in costume and already quite good at his job. The story is largely narrated by Alfred, and shows a lot about him, and his relationship with Bruce and Dick both. Also a main plot point is Two-Face’s obsession with Robin, which comes up a lot in later years. This was written by Chuck Dixon, one of the best Bat-scribes out there, sadly no longer working for DC.

What to read next | New Teen Titans Archives Volume 1

New Teen Titans #37 1983

This was an interesting pair of stories (crossing over with Batman and the Outsiders 5) for several reasons. The team up was the first time the New Teen Titans and the Outsiders joined forces. Geo-Force and Terra, brother and sister, met for the first time. But the reason I put it on the Grayson must-read list- when the teams are going after the bad guys, Batman starts barking out orders, and Robin cuts him off, corrects him, and re-distributes the heroes. Not only does Batman accept this, but in the background of one scene, you see him with a rare smile. Robin finally shows that he’s not only great at what he does, but on some fronts, he’s at least as good as his teacher, if not better. And Bruce knows it. The NTT issue was by Marv Wolfman, the only writer of that title for a very long time, and the Outsiders by Mike Barr, another great writer who first brought the Outsiders to life.

New Teen Titans #39 1983

This was a truly pivotal issue for the Teen Titans and Dick Grayson both. After a lot of things simmering in the background, the team loses two members. His medical problems worsening, Wally West gives up being Kid-Flash, a Titan, and a hero at all. He will stay semi-retired until the Crisis On Infinite Earths kills his mentor but stabilizes his metabolism. Dick, after much reflection, turns in his Robin costume. Jason Todd is about to take the identity on, and Dick doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life being half of “Batman and…” as he puts it. More interesting, unlike a lot of similar stories, he doesn’t have a new identity ready. He will advise the team, but from the background, until he has a new costume and name. By the usual team of Titans tale-tellers, Wolfman and Perez, this was a great issue. The only drawback really was the somewhat stereotypical cover of Dick and Wally in their civies, walking away from the viewer, bits of their costumes strewn on the ground.

Nightwing: Year One 2005

The story of how Dick got from quitting Robin to becoming Nightwing. Some retcons cloud the issue, as he goes from his own decision to being “fired” by Batman, but not much else changes. You get to see Bruce and Dick’s confrontation as Alfred looks on. There’s a cameo by the costume of the JSA’s Robin, which Dick almost wore but never got the chance. Dick encounters a few heroes along the way to his decision to become a new man, including Deadman and Superman. And of course, by the end, Robin is gone and Nightwing emerges. This story ran through Nightwing #101-106.

Tales of the Teen Titans #42-44 1984

This was one of the most stunning and surprising stories in comics at the time. Wolfman and Perez outdid themselves with this masterpiece. Dick Grayson first adopting his new identity as Nightwing was only the beginning of the surprises here. This was also the first appearance of Jericho, as well as major villainy from the ever dangerous Deathstroke. And what was really stunning was learning that Terra was a traitor, and always had been. She wasn’t misunderstood, or being blackmailed, she was just evil. The Titans dealt with the repercussions from this for years, particularly Changeling.

A Lonely Place of Dying 1998

This collects Batman 440-442 and New Titans 61-62, which became a major new part of the Bat-mythos. Young Tim Drake is a boy with a big secret- he long ago figured out the identities of his idols, Batman and Robin. But when the second Robin disappears (from Tim’s view point), Batman starts acting more and more erratic, sloppy almost, getting hurt more. So what’s a boy to do to save his hero? Drake travels to New York City to find the leader of the Teen Titans, Nightwing, formerly Robin. This shows Tim Drake, who eventually becomes the third Robin. It also shows that while Dick has become his own man, he still obviously cares about the man who raised him. Dick refuses Tim’s suggestion that he return to the role of Robin, but goes to check in on Bruce. It’s a nice story with an adult Dick, who seems to be roughly Bruce’s equal, the son grown up.

What to read next | Robin: A Hero Reborn

Batman: Prodigal 1998

This is a story that should sound familiar to current Batman readers. Bruce Wayne is out of action, following the events of Knightfall and Knightsend, and so Dick Grayson takes up the mantle of Batman. Collecting Batman 512-514, Detective 679-681, Shadow of the Bat 32-34, and Robin 11-13, this shows Dick Grayson’s first time subbing for Batman. In fact, this story arc is why so many predicted when Bruce was lost in time during Final Crisis that Dick would not pick up the cowl again- because they’d done it first here. This shows Dick filling Batman’s boots quite well, long before Grant Morrison decided to do it again.

What to read next | Nightwing: Ties That Bind

Nightwing Annual #2 2007

This was written by Marc Andreyko, who I think is one of DC’s better writers (he did a superb job on the Manhunter series). If you’re going to tell the story of Dick Grayson, two people you can’t leave out are Starfire and Oracle/Batgirl, the great loves of his life. This story deals with the major highs and lows of the Dick Grayson/Barbara Gordon love story over the years. Personally, I think he and Babs are much better suited than an alien princess, but that’s me. It’s a great story showing a lot of the ups and downs of Dick’s love life.

What to read next | Nightwing: A Knight in Bludhaven

Battle for the Cowl 2009

After Final Crisis, Bruce Wayne was believed to be dead. Chaos erupted in Gotham, and there was a lot of disagreement about what would happen to fill the vacuum left by Batman’s apparent death. Many claimed the cowl, but in the end, as every Highlander fan knows, there can be only one (except now in the days of Batman Inc, I guess). Dick beat out rival claimants such as Tim Drake and Jason Todd (back from the dead for some time now), and convinced his fellow heroes to accept him. The general public believed it was still the same Batman. Tony Daniel did a good job on this three issue limited series.

What to read next | Batman and Robin Vol. 1

If you have any questions or suggestions leave a comment and we’ll try to help you out. Until then, happy reading!


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3 Comments

  1. Steph says:

    Great list! Dick Grayson is my ABSOLUTE favorite character :D Every step he takes is soo fascinating to me and this post just made my day! Your guides are so helpful! Keep up the good work!

  2. Stephen McMillan says:

    I recently started reading Batman (thanks to your where to Start guide) and am almost through reading Dark Victory where Dick Grayson is introduced. My only previous exposure to Robin is from the 60′s TV series, and the mid 90′s Batman and Robin movie (of which the ONLY thing I can remember is Alicia Silverstone wearing a very short skirted school uniform) and as such had never had much time for the Robin character, but Dick Grayson is a much more interesting character in graphic novel form. So interesting in fact that I have ordered the 4 x Batman Year 3 issues from Ebay and look forward to reading them soon (and chuckling at the early 90′s advertising).

  3. Stepheny says:

    great job w the list; this is exactly what i was looking for. just one problem tho, i own a copy and have read the new teen titans #37 numerous times. nowhere in there do i see batman’s “rare smile.” i have searched and found nothing. this makes me question your analysis of Bruce realizing that Robin is as good as he is. seeing as that was the main highlight of your review for that particular comic, it seems to me that you either confused that issue w another issue, or that you are just pulling these analysis out if thin air.
    oh and the strike-out font is annoying. at first i thought it was used bc your reviews were outdated (therefore you crossed out the text), but i later just assumed it was your poor choice in fonts.

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I have been a comic collector and reader for decades now (wow that hurts to say). My major interests have been hero titles in DC and Marvel. At one time, I was co-owner of a small comic and gaming store, and at that point I read EVERY hero book coming out, Marvel, DC, Milestone, Malibu, and Valiant. I am pleased to have been asked to contribute here, for the moment on the Teen Titans title. I am a frequent poster on the DC Message boards, there under the name Kingsmythe. I hope you enjoy my posts, and feel free to ask questions or make corrections as needed.