DC live-action films are going through their greatest upheaval and renovation since Man of Steel in 2013, leaving fans both excited and nervous about the upcoming slate of projects under James Gunn's lead. Considering the mixed-to-subpar response to recent DC films, many think it's crunch time for the DCU before it falls into obscurity, signaling the importance of striking gold before the superhero rush dies out. One of the announcements with the most potential is The Brave and the Bold, a Batman film set to introduce Damian Wayne to the silver screen. However, if Gunn is looking for a way to rejuvenate the DCU, the answer isn't just another version of Bruce Wayne. What DC needs right now is a passing of the torch to the true successor of Batman's cowl: Dick Grayson. Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne as the new Batman and Robin is exactly what the DCU needs and would be a perfect catalyst to spark new life into not just Batman, but the entirety of the DCU.
Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne's Comic Book History
Dick Grayson was the first Robin and one of the oldest characters from DC Comics, having been introduced just a year after Batman himself. The young, orphaned trapeze artist brought levity to Batman's life, without missing a step in their crime-fighting endeavors. The concept of a superhero's sidekick essentially came from Grayson, but he would outgrow that position and cement himself as an important hero on his own. As Robin, he founded and led the popular superhero team, the Teen Titans, one of the most successful groups of young heroes in comics. Grayson would continue to push beyond expectations by leaving behind the role of Robin to become Nightwing, a hero separate from Batman's shadow. Damian Wayne is the latest person to don Robin's suit and has always asserted himself as the true successor to the stylized R. He is the son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, the grandson of Ra's al Ghul, and was trained from birth by the League of Assassins to become the perfect killing machine.
He is, quite possibly, the greatest fighter while being Robin, and he hasn't even hit puberty in most of his iterations. Both Dick and Damian are integral members of the Bat Family, the extended cast of characters that make up Batman's closest allies. As Bruce's first adopted son and his actual birth son, the two seemed poised to be the true successors of these roles. In 2009's Batman: Battle for the Cowl, civil war erupts in the Bat Family after Bruce Wayne disappears and is presumed dead, with an all-out battle for who will take on the role of Batman. Grayson ultimately comes out on top, donning the cape and cowl and serving as the new Batman, and he chooses Damian as his Robin. In the following years, Grant Morrison wrote Batman and Robin to follow Grayson and the younger Wayne in their new roles. And though the Dynamic Duo had been established decades prior, the two truly exceeded expectations and brought a surge of new life and creativity to the Batman franchise.
Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne Are a More Dynamic Duo
The greatest strength of the Grayson and Wayne duo is their inversion of the typical dynamics between Batman and Robin. The pattern has always involved a gruff and brooding Batman paired with a more jovial and enthusiastic Robin. It's even blatantly illustrated in their contrasting color schemes between black and a red-yellow-green combination. Grayson brought a sense of fun and wonder to their crime-fighting to offset Bruce's grit. Other Robins like Jason Todd and Tim Drake brought in their own personalities but remained the lighter, youthful counterpart to Batman's stoicism. However, Dick and Damian turn this premise entirely on its head. Even as he takes on the cowl, Grayson's character is rooted in hopefulness, freedom, and positivity. He quips with the goons he fights and acts like a drama queen because he thinks the cape is too heavy. Even the GCPD noticed the change in Batman's demeanor. In stark contrast, Damian is a brooding child assassin who probably only wears red in his costume so that it hides the blood of his enemies. They flip the roles between Batman and Robin, turning one of the most recognizable and, frankly, predictable pairings into something more engaging, ironic, and thrilling to see.
Though the success of superhero films as a whole is not entirely dependent on realism, the Batman franchise has always fallen prey to criticisms of its commitment to this idea. Consider the critical success of The Dark Knight trilogy and 2021's The Batman compared to 1997's Batman & Robin. Fans of Batman appreciate a commitment to realism because of the hero's own lack of supernatural powers. With this ethos in mind, Damian Wayne is the only reasonable entrance for Robin into a live-action film. As someone who was trained by a global cabal of assassins, he is not out of place on the crime-ridden streets of Gotham. If there had to be a child fighting alongside Batman, he is the most reasonable, explainable, and realistic choice to partner alongside.
It's Time We Take a Break From Bruce Wayne
Frankly, one of the main reasons Grayson should be the next to wear the cowl is because of the overabundance of Bruce Wayne in live-action movies. In the last 15 years alone, we have had three actors take on the role in major films. Christian Bale was the definitive Batman of the early 21st century and a lot of fans introduction to the character. The Dark Knight is still recognized as not just one of the best superhero movies, but one of the best films ever made. Ben Affleck's tenure had more of a mixed response, but he is nonetheless in the history books of DC as the first actor to play Batman in a live-action Justice League movie. This last year saw the immense success of Matt Reeves' The Batman, with Robert Pattinson at the helm for further plans in this gritty, grounded imagining of Gotham. Since Reeves' plans are meant to be separate from Gunns' new projects, there are going to be parallel Batmen in theaters over the next few years. Giving Bruce Wayne a breather from the big screen and having Grayson succeed him would innovate the Batman franchise rather than let it fall into undue repetition.
Dick Grayson Is the Underutilized Heart of the DCU
The strength of Grayson as a live-action Batman is woefully under-discussed. Fans have been thirsting for more Grayson for years, as he is one of the most popular and beloved characters in the DCU. There was salvation to be found in the Titans television series, as Grayson served as the focal point of the show and even got to evolve into his Nightwing persona right before everyone's eyes. However, with the series soon coming to a close, there will be a Grayson-shaped hole in live-action DC once again. Keeping that slot empty would be a major misstep, as excluding Grayson is leaving out the heart of the DCU.
Grayson was not only Batman's protégé, but Superman's chosen mentee as well. He is the successor to the two central faces of DC and has led practically every roster of superheroes in the franchise over the decades. From leading the Teen Titans, the Outsiders, and even the Justice League in times of crisis, Dick Grayson is intertwined and connected to such a vast cast of characters in DC that he has truly become its greatest leader and the heart of its superhero community. The vast expanses of movies that make up superhero franchises demand a figurehead to be the face of the cinematic universe and, just as Grayson is poised to be Batman's successor, he is also the perfect candidate to be the future face of DC.
A New Batman and Robin for a New Generation
If Grayson is the perfect character to bring some levity and hope to Batman, Damian Wayne is the perfect character to bring some grit and feistiness to Robin. Though he would detest the statement, Damian is the perfect Robin for a Gen Z audience. He is vocal and resistant to authority based on his unconventional but well-earned skills and capabilities. Damian is underestimated entirely because of his age, even though he was forced to toughen up because of the world around him. His hardened heart comes from his brutal upbringing, but with the guidance of the Bat Family (mostly Grayson) he softens up and aligns his efforts in the same direction of justice as his father. The uphill climb for recognition is a classic coming-of-age story, but Damian adds further layers to it with the complexity of his background and demeanor. He also wields a katana and his Robin costume is more akin to a ninja than a circus performer – the importance of this for a young audience can not be understated.
Paired with Grayson, the two would also bring a much-needed aura of youthfulness to the silver screen. A quick look at the rivaling comic studio confirms the importance of young protagonists in their media. For as much as Iron Man was the face of the MCU, it was Spider-Man who generated the most universal excitement. Damian Wayne is an outspoken and rebellious teen who could be the face of youth for the DCU.
A new list of projects in the works for the DCU is a perfect opportunity to revitalize the franchise, and a Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne duo would be that ideal breath of new life. Batman has always been the face of DC, but with an overabundance of Batman films still prevalent in pop culture, a remix of the character is the perfect course of action to keep the franchise moving forward. Grayson as Batman and Damian as Robin may not have much cultural recognition yet, but if given the opportunity, they could take the world by storm and establish a new, exceptional precedent for the Dynamic Duo.