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The Science Survey

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The Science Survey

Gotham War Sets Up Damian Wayne as Batman’s Heir

As legacy superheroes gain prominence, Gotham War hints at who should be Batman’s successor.
Ever since Dick Grayson’s on-screen debut in 1943, every Robin has appeared in live-action or animated projects. (Image Credit: Warner Bros., CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

In June 1971, a character who would alter the Batman mythos forever was made public, one who was a highly skilled assassin and leader, hell-bent on achieving environmental balance – even at the cost of human lives. With hundreds of years of experience and the power of an international organization, Ra’s Al Ghul is one of Batman’s most formidable foes.

Ra’s family is equally as important as his villainy. He has two daughters, Nyssa and Talia. Talia, a loyal follower of her father, is a significant love interest and enemy to Batman. Ra, believing that Batman is the genetically ideal father to his grandchildren, convinces Talia to have Bruce’s child.

Their son, Damian, first appears as a baby in Batman: Son of the Demon (1987). Over the next decade, the plotline became a trend in Elseworlds (a line of comics about alternate universes). 

In 2006, Grant Morisson, a writer for DC Comics, reintroduced Damian in Batman and Son. In doing so, he reconnected the events of Son and Demon, effectively rendering it non-canonical. Damian being ten years old, instead of a baby when he meets Batman, is one of the more significant changes.

Between Damian’s initial appearance and his reintroduction, the concept of superhero kids became commonplace. However, child sidekicks have been a popular part of the comics mythos since the 1940’s. 

Having superheroes work with children, especially their own kids, creates a dynamic that can help explore their character. 

In some scenarios kids can bring out a light-hearted, more approachable side of superheroes. Robin’s bright costume and constant quips make Batman seem less gloomy. Superman enthusiastically supported his son, Jon, when he discovered his powers and wanted to start saving lives. 

Having their kids on the front lines also forces heroes to confront the harsh reality of their job. “Writing it as a parent, then and now, being a superhero, is a really tough gig, beginning with how dangerous it is…which it is. You put your life on the line all the time, and no parent wants that,” said Judd Winick, comic writer and creator of Thunder – the daughter of Black Lightning – in my interview with him. Black Lighting is completely against his daughter becoming a superhero, convincing her to finish college before crime-fighting and voicing his disdain when she became Thunder the same night of her graduation. 

Legacy characters play another important role in storytelling. When asked why they have become so popular, Winick said, “to be honest, I think that has a little bit more to do with publishing than the story or the characters. Superhero comics are somewhat limiting in what they’re able to do. We just have way too many books out there. I can’t tell you how many times I heard from readers telling me regardless of whatever storyline I was doing that, ‘that’s been done before.’ And of course it had been done before. So I think having children involved, those children having powers and becoming superheroes, is an area that hasn’t been mined to oblivion at this point.”

Children are more likely to relate to other children. In the past decade, using storytelling as a form of escapism has become increasingly sought after. The past two Game of the Year awards were won by Elden Ring and Baldur’s Gate, both role playing games (RPGs).

“I was one of the writers in the 1990s and through the 2000s who made everything very dark and gritty. We were very interested in being taken very seriously, and we wrote very serious stories…so not very kid friendly, not very all ages,” said Winick. Kid heroes were re-introduced to combat this narrowing audience.

The kids who read about Bart Allen, Cassie Sandsmark, and Tim Drake are growing up. Therefore, they want to see these characters also forge their own paths as adults. Some, like Conner Hawke and Jon Kent, took over their parents’ mantles. Others, like Anissa Pierce and Conner Kent, created their own.

In the current main universe, Damian is Robin, Batman’s iconic sidekick. Including Damian, there have been five Robins in the main universe. There is an ongoing debate between fans of the characters about who should be the next Batman. 

Batman: Battle for the Cowl (2009) attempts to tackle the question of what Robin is better suited to be the next Batman. After Bruce’s disappearance, Jason, Tim, and Dick all become Batman at some point or another.

Since Damian was reintroduced right before Battle for the Cowl, he was focused on being Robin rather than Batman’s successor. His time to shine came in the recent Gotham War event.

Gotham War exploits the ideological differences of the BatFam, a term used to describe Batman and his many Gotham-based allies, in order to create conflict between the members. The writers chose to make Damian as Batman’s only consistent ally, showing that his beliefs align with Batman’s.

At the end of the day, every Robin excels in terms of skill. What truly matters when it comes to becoming Batman is their mentality. 

Introduced in Detective Comics #38 (April 1940), Dick was the first Robin and the first superhero sidekick in comic history. Growing up as an acrobat in the circus, Dick is the most agile Robin. 

However, his experience, as a sidekick, a superhero, and a leader, is what truly sets him apart. Dick was Robin for five to ten years, longer than any of his successors. As Robin, he led the Teen Titans. Then, after leaving Batman and becoming Nightwing, he went on to lead the Titans and the Outsiders.

On paper, Dick sounds like the perfect successor. However, he lacks the scope to be Batman. Batman mainly operates out of Gotham, only working with the Justice League to stop global threats. Dick wants to help everyone, not just Gotham. It is why he moved to Bloodhaven and has been running internationally based teams — Teen Titans, The Titans, The Outsiders — since his teen years.

In Batman #357 (March 1983), Dick’s replacement was revealed to the world. Batman found Jason Todd while he was stealing wheels off of the Batmobile, foreshadowing how Jason uses his street smarts to assist Batman as Robin.

Jason’s time as Robin came to an abrupt end when fans, accustomed to having Dick as Robin, voted to kill him off. In Batman #635 (February 2005), Jason came back as the antagonist Red Hood. Enhanced by the Lazarus Pit and trained by the League of Assassins, Jason is extremely strong and immensely skilled.

The reason why Jason can not be Batman is pretty clear: he willingly kills. Recently, writers have started flipping back and forth between having Jason kill or not kill but the truth remains that he has killed. Batman became a vigilante because his parents were murdered and, as a result, views killing as an action that can never be undone.

Tim quickly sought out the role of Robin following Jason’s death in Batman #436. After seeing Batman and Robin in action as a child he figured out their true identities. Similarly to Jason, Tim’s origin reveals what aspect of Batman he embodies: detective skills. 

Over the years, Tim has deduced the identity of Captain Marvel, Wildcat, Huntress, and countless other superheroes. His intelligence helped foil the plans of Batman’s smartest foes – The Riddler, Clock King, Penguin – on numerous occasions.

Tim’s fear of being as analytical as Batman drives him away from the role. Batman’s constant paranoia is both his greatest weakness and his greatest strength. 

Realistically, there will never be a new permanent Batman. “Some of these characters range from a publishing history of being 50 to 100 years old, whereas characters they don’t age at all, so there’s not going to be a lot of change. There’s not going to be a lot of passing of torches,” said Winick. 

Jon Kent and Conner Hawke inherited their parents’ alias under the condition that they would both hold it. Clark Kent is Superman in space while Jon Kent is Superman on Earth. Similarly, Oliver Queen and Conner Hawke operate out of different cities or at different times. 

Unlike Superman and Green Arrow, Batman is forever tied to Gotham. The city has shaped his character and vice versa. There already is an out of Gotham Batman, Jace Fox, who protects New York City, so the addition of a third Batman would be repetitive.

With the constant stream of alternate universes and the growing number of legacy superheroes taking over their parents’ titles, however, there is merit in exploring who would be a suitable replacement for Batman. 

“There’s something comforting, something wonderful and powerful about the mantle of a superhero being passed down generationally,” said Winick. Gotham War may be setting up Damian as the future of Batman but only time will tell if the idea will pan out. Maybe it will be one of the former Robins. Maybe it will be Cassandra Cain, Batman’s adopted daughter, or Azreal or Huntress or any of Batman’s countless accomplices. Either way, it is clear that a new wave of superheroes is emerging.

“There’s something comforting, something wonderful and powerful about the mantle of a superhero being passed down generationally,” said Judd Winick.

About the Contributor
Lara Adamjee, Staff Reporter
Lara Adamjee is a Copy Chief for the ‘The Science Survey.’ She enjoys journalistic writing because everyone benefits from it. People read journalism articles when they want to stay informed about current events, research topics that personally interest them, or just learn something new. She finds journalistic photography interesting because a photo itself can be a statement or description -- despite not stating a word. After school, Lara participates in stage crew for theater. In her free time, she reads comics, specifically sci-fi and mystery, and her current favorite comic is Far Sector. Lara plans to pursue communications in college.