Ranking Animated Adaptations: Dick Grayson


In the final installment of my series ranking the animated adaptations of different Batman characters, I focus on the original Boy Wonder, Dick Grayson!  Batman’s greatest ally and probably the third-most popular character in the Batman universe, Grayson made his comic debut in 1940 in Detective Comics #38.  Since then, he has had his fair share of adaptations onto small-screen cartoons.

In order for a character to qualify for these rankings, they must appear in at least four of the following five franchises: The Timmverse, The Batman, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Beware the Batman, and Batman Unlimited.  Grayson appears in all except for Beware the Batman.  Let’s take a look back at the different versions of the former circus acrobat!

Next: #4: The Brave and the Bold...

4. Dick Grayson in Batman: The Brave and the Bold

As with Barbara Gordon, who I featured on last week’s installment of these rankings, Dick Grayson is far under-utilized in this series, as he is said to be off fighting crime in Blüdhaven for most of it.  In a unique take, the writers decided to have him leave for Blüdhaven before changing his identity from Robin to Nightwing.  I’m not a big fan of that sequence of events, because the identity change is supposed to further signify him becoming an independent hero.  He makes his first appearance in the series as Robin in the episode “The Color of Revenge!”, when he teams up with Batman to take down Crazy Quilt.  He doesn’t appear again until Season Two, when he teams up with Speedy and Aqualad to defeat Ra’s al Ghul.  It’s at the end of this episode when he takes up the Nightwing mantle.  The name was suggested to him by Batman (again, that doesn’t exactly fit with it representing his individuality).  Grayson’s Nightwing costume in this series is his original one from the comics, which I’m not a big fan of either.

Nightwing did star in two of the show’s best episodes later on in the seconds season.  In “The Criss Cross Conspiracy!” (or the “Original Bat-family” episode, as I like to call it), he and Batgirl team up when Batman and Batwoman switch bodies as Batwoman tries to exact revenge on The Riddler.  Then, in “The Knights of Tomorrow!”, an episode based on a potential future as envisioned by Alfred Pennyworth, Dick becomes Batman with Damian Wayne as his Robin.  I am not at all a fan of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, but I really don’t have too many complaints about their version of Dick Grayson.  I just wish they would’ve written him into more episodes.

Next: #3: Batman Unlimited...

3. Dick Grayson in Batman Unlimited

Dick Grayson appeared in both Batman Unlimited direct-to-video films and in the shorts as Nightwing.  I was apprehensive about Will Friedle voicing him, because I felt Nightwing might wind up just feeling like he was Terry McGinnis, but Friedle’s voice job actually worked out well.  Dick wears a black and red Nightwing costume in this franchise, resembling his New 52 appearance, which looks pretty cool.  His best scene out of the two films came in the second one, Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem, in which he battles Scarecrow in a hall of mirrors.  I also have to commend the films on doing an especially good job of highlighting his circus acrobatic skills.

Nightwing also had some good moments in the shorts, especially in two episodes where he teams up with Red Robin.  I’m always up to seeing the two best Robins working together, and there’s both an episode where they take down Silverback and one where they take down Killer Croc in the series.  As with all the characters in Batman Unlimited, I could’ve used more character development (I still feel like I don’t really know these versions of the characters), but what we did get of Dick was well done.

Next: #2: The Batman...

2. Dick Grayson in The Batman

In the interest of mitigating confusion, Robin was Batman’s second sidekick in The Batman, as the character was still appearing in Teen Titans at the time that The Batman was ready to give Batman a sidekick.  So, the writers of The Batman introduced Batgirl in Season Three and Robin in the fourth season.  But man, was it worth the wait!  The show did his origin story phenomenally in the season premiere “A Matter of Family”.  We saw Dick develop the morals of Bruce when he has a chance to let Tony Zucco die, but he makes the right decision to save him.

It seems like many creative teams are scared to portray Robin as young as The Batman did (14), but The Batman took a leap of faith and really made it work — Season Four was probably the best season of the series, thanks in large part to the addition of Robin.  In that season, the Bat-family was featured working together a lot, and Robin and Batgirl developed a sweet sibling-like relationship.  In the episode “The Breakout”, Batman has been captured, and we get to see both Robin and Batgirl really step up to the plate to defeat Black Mask.  While Dick doesn’t technically become Nightwing within the timeline of this series, the episode “Artifacts” takes place in the future, and Dick as Nightwing, along with Batman and Barbara Gordon as Oracle, face off with Mr. Freeze.  This younger adaptation of Dick was superb, but it came up just short of the top spot on this list.

Next: #1: The Timmverse...

1. Dick Grayson in The Timmverse

It’s not fair.  In the final installment of my rankings, The Timmverse wins the gold medal again (although these last two weeks, it has been close).  Dick Grayson made his first appearance in the universe in the two-part Emmy Award-winning episode of Batman: The Animated Series, “Robin’s Reckoning”.  The writers did a great job of showcasing Dick beginning to see Bruce as a father-figure, and they also had a scene where Dick had a chance to kill his parents’ killer, Zucco, but chose not to, realizing Bruce is right about killing him not being justice.  This version of Robin became so popular, the series was re-named “The Adventures of Batman & Robin” for its second season.

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In the sequel series, “The New Batman Adventures”, Dick has moved to Blüdhaven and become Nightwing.  He returns to Gotham throughout the series’ run, mentoring his successor, Tim.  This series really chronicled the falling-out between Dick and Bruce well in the episode “Old Wounds”.  In the episode, there’s a flashback where Dick starts to believe Bruce is too consumed with being Batman, doesn’t show mercy, and doesn’t care about others (specifically Dick and Barbara’s relationship).  However, at the end of the episode, his feelings about Bruce are actually somewhat reconciled.  Robin also has a big role in the direct-to-video movie based on Batman: The Animated Series, Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero.  This adaptation of Robin is such a hit, not only because of the writing, but because we get to see his story from beginning to end, which is something that can’t be said about the rest of his animated portrayals.

Next: Ranking Animated Adaptations: Barbara Gordon

Dick Grayson has clearly had a long history in animation, and despite all his terrific successors to the Robin mantle, he will always be the quintessential Robin.  Let me know in the comments which of the adaptations is your favorite, and be sure to stay tuned to Caped Crusades for all your Batman news!