After weeks of anticipation, James Gunn has finally presented his slate for the new DCU. Titled “Gods and Monsters,” this first chapter of the blossoming DCU will feature numerous projects, most notably a new Superman film, shows centering on Green Lantern and Booster Gold, and a movie about The Authority. Among these upcoming ventures is also a film tentatively titled The Brave and the Bold that will feature the dynamic duo of Batman and Robin — but it won’t be Dick Grayson as the Boy Wonder, but rather Damian Wayne.
Comic book readers will be well aware of Damian Wayne, but casual fans and mainstream audiences might have some questions. Fear not, for here is everything you need to know about Damian, a divisive but popular character who will surely become a leading figure in James Gunn’s DC empire.
Gunn described Damian as “a little son of a bitch,” and he isn’t kidding. But who exactly is Damian Wayne? In short, he is Batman’s long-lost son. Like something straight out of a Mexican telenovela, Damian debuted in 2006 as the product of the union between Bruce Wayne and his duplicitous and villainous on-again, off-again love interest Talia al Ghul. As originally written by Grant Morrison, Talia drugs Bruce and has sex with him, resulting in Damian’s birth. The storyline is icky and a disservice to Talia’s character, but it is what it is.
Damian spends the early years of his life with his mother and the League of Assassins, who train him to be a ruthless killing machine. Talia then introduces him to and leaves him under Bruce’s care, hoping that the vicious little child will bring chaos and violence to Batman’s otherwise stoic and controlled environment. And chaos he brings. Damian is brutal, egotistical, overly confident, selfish, reckless, and spoiled — a pain in Batman and the Bat Family’s butt.
He particularly clashes with Tim Drake, who he wants to replace as Robin. His early interactions with the family are full of tension and vaguely disguised contempt, with writers more concerned with establishing him as a force to be reckoned with than a likable character. Eventually, Damian evolves and becomes less of a brat. His father’s and adoptive siblings’ positive influences change him for the better, but he remains a handful.
Even after his quasi-redemption, Damian is still an acquired taste. His self-aggrandizing ways make him instantly exasperating, and for all his admittedly superior abilities, he is still very much a child prone to making childlike mistakes. There’s a fascinating aspect to Damian that makes him a compelling figure, though — he is the antithesis of everything Batman stands for, and his savage ways constantly challenge Bruce’s belief system. And yet, Damian is set on becoming the next Batman because he believes that’s his sole purpose. Some of his most interesting storylines find him dealing with the realization that, should he ever adopt the mantle, he might be awful at it.
At his core, Damian is a child discovering himself and branching out into the world. A coming-of-age story is always great for a Robin, especially because Batman never had one and lives vicariously through his young sidekicks. But Damian puts a twist on the classic “this kid has some growing up to do” story due to his unique and infuriating personality. Still, unlike his father, he isn’t incapable of change. Damian is at his best when paired with someone to contrast with him — Batman, Nightwing, Jonathan Kent, or Tim Drake. He is a character who is very much designed to work in tandem with someone else as opposed to being a solo act.
Damian’s relationship with Bruce is weird. Neither is good at displaying emotion, which adds unnecessary complication to their dynamic. However, Damian has gotten better at opening himself up to others, while Bruce has arguably gotten worse. Recent issues have shown a more mellow Damian, in stark contrast with the unmovable Bruce. Despite their status as father and son and hero and sidekick, Bruce isn’t Damian’s most important relationship. Instead, Damian’s strongest connections are with his older brother, Dick Grayson, and his fellow super son, Jonathan Kent.
Damian and Dick began their close connection following Bruce’s apparent death during the Final Crisis event. As Dick takes the Batman mantle, Damian becomes his Robin in a dynamic that mirrors Dick’s own rise to prominence in the DC ranks. Their journey isn’t easy, mainly because Damian is such a pain. However, the two develop a genuinely strong bond that would have enduring repercussions on both their characters going forward.
Future issues would hint that Damian has varying degrees of respect for every member of the Bat Family and even affection for some. However, Dick remains his closest and strongest connection. Damian grew up alongside Dick — whereas his grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul, taught him how to kill and Bruce how to save a life, Dick taught him how to find his purpose and enjoy it. Ironically, it was under Dick, not Bruce, that Damian understood the true nature of the Batman mantle. It’ll be interesting to see how Bruce and Damian’s relationship translates to the big screen, considering neither is each other’s most important connection in the comics — coincidentally, Dick seems to also be Bruce’s “favorite,” even if Tim is the one he shares a stronger bond with.
Why choose Damian Wayne as the DC’s Batman instead of Dick or Jason Todd? Tim Drake is by far the best Robin, and it’s not up for debate. Well, Damian fits Gunn’s style better. He is unpredictable and explosive, a character who could very well show up in Gunn’s Suicide Squad. Damian has James Gunn written all over him, and the writer/director will surely have tons of fun with him. It’s odd to start with the fourth Robin instead of the first, second, or third versions. However, Damian is the perfect companion for the Gunn-verse, even if he isn’t the perfect companion for Batman.
Casting will be crucial — Damian needs to be played by an actor of Middle Eastern descent, or else Gunn and company will face a whitewashing scandal. More importantly, whoever gets the role must be ridiculously personable to portray Damian’s thorny personality without alienating fans. Gunn has his work cut out for him, but no one said building a cinematic universe was easy. Besides, Gunn has an eye for casting — from Dave Bautista as Drax to Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2, the man has a knack for discovering new talent.
Overall, things look promising for this troublesome little devil. And while it might be hard to picture Batman as a father, it’ll be a nice change of pace considering the many, many, many versions where he is a hopeless bachelor. So here’s to Damian Wayne, DC’s most unlikely Robin. He will never be the boy wonder, but that’s OK; it’s not like he wants to be anyway.
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