DC Comics hasn’t been very discreet when it comes to the dire nature of Batman Incorporated #8, urging retailers to order additional copies, implying something big was going to happen. Then of course there was the recent media blitz where DC basically spoiled the fact that Robin AKA Batman’s son Damian would be killed. While the character has only been around for six years, he went through immense changes over several comic book series that caused him to grow as a more complete and heroic character.
The concept of Batman fathering a child with Talia al Ghul (daughter of enemy Ra’s al Ghul) was originally explored in Mike Barr’s popular 1987 one-shot “Batman: Son of the Demon.” It wasn’t until 2006 when Grant Morrison re-introduced the idea in Batman #655, which kicked off the arc “Batman and Son” as well as Morrison’s book-spanning run on the Dark Knight. It’s no secret that I am a huge Grant Morrison fan, especially of the things he has done with Batman in the past six years. And while I plan to take a greater look at that years-long story when it reaches its conclusion, right now I want to take a retrospective look at the character of Damian.
In “Batman and Son,” Damian was introduced as a nightmare version of Robin, a petulant brat with a taste for blood. Annoyances aside, he was merely a pawn in Talia’s war with Batman. Fans (including me) absolutely hated the character, which was Morrison’s intention. He originally had planned for Damian to die early on in his Batman run, in a drastic situation that demanded a heroic sacrifice, therefore redeeming the little snot. Things did not pan out this way, of course. Damian would make a few cameos here and there in Batman’s nightmares along with scenes where he was faithfully at his mother’s side. In the appropriately named Batman #666 Morrison took readers to a hellish future of Gotham where Damian had inherited the mantle of Batman, still seeking approval from his long-dead father. After the apparent death of Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman R.I.P. and Final Crisis, a new Batman and Robin team stepped up: former Robin turned Nightwing Dick Grayson as Batman and the arrogant Damian as Robin. It was during the new Batman & Robin series that the character really started to grow, and readers actually began to like him. Damian was allowed to thrive in his role as Robin, under the guidance of the more lenient and understanding Dick Grayson Batman. Damian became a true hero in the 16 issues that Morrison wrote, facing struggles of humility, independence and in one case, physical disability. Once Bruce Wayne “returned from the dead” Morrison seemingly shelved Damian for the most part. It wasn’t until the first volume finale of Batman Incorporated that Damian came back into the fold, breaking his no-killing rule and realizing that Talia was the master villain that our heroes were up against. But despite growing into a hero alongside Dick Grayson, Damian had to prove himself once again to his father; both as Robin and as a son.
Damian Wayne was fearless and headstrong from the get-go. His violent nature and overconfidence made him the perfect pint-sized Batman, undoubtedly the son of Bruce Wayne. The humorous dichotomy of a dark vengeance seeker of justice in the form of a little boy is one of the reasons he was so well received as Robin. In the real world, the concept of Robin is obviously ridiculous. But Damian was truly a product of the comic book world: a 10-year-old boy trained by assassins, with the know-how to operate high-tech motorcycles and Batmobiles and stare the Joker in the face without even flinching. It is fitting that Grant Morrison, the man created Damian, would be the one to kill him; “The Lord gives and The Lord takes away.” Morrison, along with current Batman & Robin scribe Pete Tomasi really shaped one of the most compelling and interesting Batman characters in a long time. Morrison’s tale has obviously been about Batman, but after today it feels like it has simultaneously been Damian’s. He went out heroically, with “The Boy Wonder” fighting his evil clone no less. Comic book deaths can fall victim to being played for cheap shocks, but the death of Damian Wayne felt more deserving. Damian’s “Hero’s Journey” is over; a fitting end for a hero redeemed.