I’ve heard people say that comic books are like soap operas for nerds. I would certainly argue that anyone can be nerdy about anything, including soap operas. That said, they might be right. When you have decades of storytelling in the canon, the storylines can get really convoluted. People die and return. They change alliances. And over enough time, their families grow and grow.
Family is a lot more than blood, of course. While some families, like the Summers Family, are mostly blood, others are found family. Such is the case with Batman. For a man who started his path to heroism with the brutal murders of his own family, Batman sure has created quite the family as part of his lonesome journey through Gotham City’s dark streets.
To be clear, when we talk about the Batfamily, we mean the people who are part of Bruce Wayne’s crusade for justice in Gotham. So Bruce Wayne’s parents, Martha and Thomas Wayne, aren’t part of this list. I’m also not including the many heroes who have worked alongside Batman in The Justice League, The Outsiders, or other superhero teams. I’m sticking to Gotham City. Without further adieu, here is a brief guide to the Batman family.
The Father Figure: Alfred Pennyworth
With Bruce losing his biological parents so young, it was their butler, Alfred Pennyworth, who had to step in and be a parent to the young heir. Alfred’s background as a spy and his constant wisdom are big parts of what kept Bruce on the straight and narrow. As Bruce grew into Batman and asserted himself as Alfred’s employer, their relationship became more complicated, though Alfred still plays the father figure card when needed.
The First Son and First Robin: Dick Grayson
Dick’s origin is very similar to Bruce’s, and with good reason. Dick was part of a family circus act: The Flying Graysons. When Dick’s parents were murdered on the trapeze with Bruce watching, The Dark Knight took the young man into his home and under his wing. Dick became the first Boy Wonder, Robin, and has grown into a hero and leader in his own right as Nightwing.
The Wayward Son: Jason Todd
Jason was the second Robin and about as different from Dick as one could imagine. How did Bruce find him? Jason was stealing the literal wheels from the Batmobile. Not only did that show incredible courage, but technical know-how. Jason proved a capable fighter, but someone whose anger always got the best of him. As The Red Hood, he’s more like The Punisher, fighting crime with guns and a huge chip on his shoulder, much to Bruce’s chagrin.
The Protege: Tim Drake
Sometimes, you dress as a bat and find the next Robin. Sometimes, the next Robin finds you. That was Tim Drake, who rang the doorbell at Wayne Manor and asked to speak to Batman. While Dick can nearly match Bruce in a fight, it’s Tim who can match him as a detective. Tim was also Robin for quite a while before his father died, so his relationship with Bruce is a bit more distant. Now, he’s Red Robin.
The Prodigal Son: Damian Wayne
Surprise, Bruce! You’re a father. That was how Bruce and comic book readers were introduced to Damian Wayne, son of Bruce and Talia Al-Ghul. Grandson to Ra’s Al-Ghul. Trained by literal assassins nearly from birth, Damian was already a formidable fighter when Bruce met him. Ethically opposed, Bruce took it upon himself to instill a sense of justice and mercy in his son, eventually making him the fourth Robin.
The Family Genius: Barbara Gordon
Barbara was first introduced as Jim Gordon’s daughter. Before long, she became Batgirl. Capable as a fighter and detective, sure. Barbara’s real skill was with tech, though. After an unfortunate story called The Killing Joke paralyzed her, she became Oracle, the Woman in the Chair providing intel and backup to the entire Batfamily. The paralysis is gone, but she’s still the brains behind the Batman Family.
The Dark Daughter: Cassandra Cain
The daughter of David Cain and Lady Shiva, Cassandra, was raised without verbal speech, knowing only violence as language. She committed her first murder when she was 8 and immediately knew it was wrong. She ran away, living homeless until becoming Batgirl during No Man’s Land to atone for her own and her parents’ crimes. She would learn not only justice and mercy but how to use words as well. Nowadays, she goes by the hero name Orphan.
The Daughter with Something to Prove: Stephanie Brown
The daughter of C-list villain Cluemaster, Stephanie felt like a bit of a joke for a while in the comics. She was even tragically fridged by Black Mask at one point after briefly being Robin. She’s come back in recent years as Batgirl. Her relationship with Bruce is fraught. She always wants to prove herself to him, and he frequently thinks that she shouldn’t be a costumed hero.
The X-Factor: Helena Bertinelli
More commonly known as Huntress, Helena is one of the few members of the Batfamily who wasn’t trained by Batman. While not outright homicidal like Jason Todd, she’s much more violent and brutal than Batman. Nevertheless, she patrols the streets of Gotham, seeking justice just as much as the rest of the family.
A Bat of a Different Wing: Kate Kane
Kate Kane is a bat-themed hero for a different era. She’s a Jewish lesbian woman, though still just as white as almost everyone else on this list. She is Batwoman. After receiving military training and struggling to find her purpose in life, she fought off a mugger in Gotham. She nearly killed him before Batman arrived, but she realized that vigilanteism was her true calling. And hey, while in Gotham, why not dress up as a bat? That’s what makes the Batman Family, after all.
The New Kid: Duke Thomas
You may have noticed a theme in this list. Not just all of the bats, but the tendency to patrol Gotham after the sun sets. Not so with Duke Thomas, also known as Signal. He grew up idolizing Batman and eventually became a Robin, though Bruce had a different idea. As Signal, Duke has a bright bat-themed costume and fights Gotham’s daytime criminal elements.
Sure, there are other heroes that have come and gone over the years. Other Robins. Other Batgirls. Even other Batmans. But as of this moment, here is your Batman Family.