The Batman Family is an informal name given to Batman and his various allies.
Since the conception of Batman, the character was a loner on his crusade against crime. Eventually, Batman creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger alongside their frequent collaborator Jerry Robinson created Dick Grayson as "Robin, The Boy Wonder", a sidekick for their hero and the initial concept for the Batman Family was introduced.
Batman and Robin operated as a solid team for many years. In the initial years of the Golden Age, Batman became a member of the GCPD and Commissioner Gordon became part of the Batman Family. For the most part of the Golden Age, the trio were the only members of the team with occasional collaborations by Linda Page, Bruce Wayne's romantic interest. Shortly afterwards, Alfred Pennyworth, or simply known as "Alfred, the Butler", was introduced as a pivotal figure in the Batman Family, acting as the unconditional supporting character for the team.
Following the Golden Age, comic books fell under pressure of the media thanks to a publication by psychologist Fredric Wertham and as a result, the Batman Family was expanded to include female figures and deter the claims of Batman and Robin's homosexuality. Like this, Batwoman and Bat-Girl were introduced alongside Bat-Mite, the imp and Ace the Bat-Hound.
However, the previous expansion was short-lived and in 1964, editor Julius Schwartz took reigns of the Batman comics and eliminated Batwoman, Bat-Girl, Ace and Bat-Mite, deeming them too silly and unfitting to the new stories he wanted for Batman. Schwartz also decided to remove the figure of Alfred by killing his character, but this decision was also short-lived as the portrayal of Batman in the 1966 TV series showed Alfred alive and he had to be revived in the comics continuity.
Editor Julius Schwartz worked alongside the TV Show producer, William Dozier in order to introduce a new female character to the Batman mythos and Barbara Gordon was introduced as the new Batgirl, improved over the previous version of the character as she became the daughter of Police Commissioner Gordon. For the best part of the Silver Age, the new incarnation of the Batman Family remained unchanged until the ending of the publication era.
The Bronze Age was defined by radical changes in the narrative of the stories in current publication. Although the "Batman Family" remained unchanged, most of their characters came into the spotlight of their own stories and worked separate from each other. Batman became a loner once again, Robin went to college as the "Teen Wonder" and Batgirl continued her solitary activities.
A notable development of this period was the retroactive stories that showcased characters from the Golden Age and how have they aged in real time. The Batman Family of the Golden Age was expanded to include Batman's former rival, Catwoman as Bruce Wayne's wife, Selina Kyle. From their marriage came their daughter, Helena Wayne, who would go on to become Huntress, following her father's steps. These developments were mostly ignored by the mainstream comics continuity and none of these characters actually became part of the main Bat Family. Other minor characters who played small roles in this age were Man-Bat and Jason Bard, both of which were soon forgotten as the Bronze Age came to an end.
For almost the entire decade of the '70s, the Batman Family didn't play a relevant role and they would come together for rare occassions. By the end of the decade however, "Robin, the Teen Wonder" had become a much important figure of the Teen Titans, as the leader of the team. The creative team developing the Teen Titans comics, needed to move Robin away from Batman's shadow as his sidekick and this caused a disruption in the Batman comics, which had decided to return to the old formula of Batman and Robin. For this reason in the early 80s, Dick Grayson, the original Robin, became Nightwing, the leader of the New Teen Titans and Jason Todd was introduced as the second Robin. Jason was introduced as the new Boy Wonder, but his background was too similar to that of Dick Grayson. This and other issues were eventually fixed after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, which allowed DC to clear continuity mistakes and other errors along the way. Meanwhile, Batgirl disappeared from publications, as the creative team couldn't find a way to update the character for the new generation.
After the Crisis, much of the previous continuity was erased or modified, but the Batman Family remained unchaged for the most part. The background history of Batman and Robin, with Dick Grayson as the first Boy Wonder was untouched and Jason's introduction and origin was improved by the new creative team. Commissioner Gordon and Alfred became more frequent figures as the supporting cast members of the team and Batgirl remained ignored.
Unfortunately, during the late '80s, the Batman Family suffered some major losses when the Joker, Batman's arch-enemy, crippled Barbara Gordon and then killed Jason Todd. The notorious graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke and the storyline Batman: A Death in the Family are often regarded as a turning point in the history of Batman as a whole. Although the loss of such important figures as Batgirl and Robin were important to develop new stories and bring new elements, this wouldn't be permanent and in fact, after these events, the Batman Family has only increased tremendously in later years, in comparison to the first fifty years.
For instance, Barbara Gordon was no longer able to continue her activities as Batgirl as a result of the crippling injury at the hands of the Joker, but nonetheless, she continued her crime-fighting activities as the information broker and cybernetic guru only known as Oracle. Shortly afterwards, a young kid by the name of Tim Drake was introduced in the storyline Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying, in which he figures the real identities of Batman and Robin and tries to make Dick Grayson resume his partnership with Batman. His plan failed, but in the process, he became the third Robin.
For a few years, the new line-up of the Bat Family remained the same until the early '90s, in which the major storyline Batman: Knightfall was introduced. This story introduced a new member to the team in the young man Jean-Paul Valley, whose heroic identity was Azrael. Initially programmed to be an agent of the Order of St. Dumas, Azrael was taken in by Bruce Wayne to be trained and become a force of good. However, Jean-Paul was forced to take over the mantle of the Bat after the criminal power house known as Bane shattered Batman's spine across his knee.
Jean-Paul's tenure as Batman caused a disruption in the Batman Family, as he pushed everyone around him away. Unable to rely on such unstable leader, Tim Drake continued his adventures together and Commissioner Gordon stopped working with Batman. Meanwhile, Bruce's lack of interest in his recovery forced long-time friend, Alfred to resign and leave Bruce Wayne behind.
In time, Bruce Wayne healed from his injuries and took the mantle of the bat back from Jean-Paul, which allowed Gordon and Alfred to return to their rightful positions. Although Bruce had returned, he allowed Dick Grayson to become Batman until he resolved personal issues during the storyline Batman: Prodigal. When Bruce officially returned, Dick Grayson resumed his Nightwing identity and Jean-Paul resumed his original identity of Azrael and occasionally teamed up with Batman to fight various foes. Following this, other costumed vigilantes appeared in Gotham City, such as the new Huntress and Spoiler. Unlike the previous version of Huntress, Helena Bertinelli was not related to Bruce Wayne in any way and instead, she came from a crime family, hating the criminal kind, reason why she put on the costume to fight criminals. On the other hand, Spoiler was Stephanie Brown, the daughter of Arthur Brown, aka the criminal mastermind "Cluemaster". A friend of Tim Drake, Stephanie donned a costume and the identity of "Spoiler" to display her contrary beliefs to that of her criminal father. Both Huntress and Spoiler's activities in Gotham were not sanctioned by Batman, who had the rightful authority to give allowance for vigilantism in his city. This attitude was a bit hypicritical from Batman, considering that he had allowed a reformed Catwoman to operate in Gotham and showed his support to her new activities, although she would eventually resume her criminal ways for good purposes. In a similar fashion, Huntress and Spoiler's activities were supported by Nightwing (Dick Grayson) and Robin (Tim Drake).
When Gotham City was struck by a terrible earthquake and the city was declared a No Man's Land, the entire Batman Family went into action. Initially, Batman abandoned Gotham with all hope, but the figure of a new Batgirl showed up and became the only member of the team to remain active in Gotham, alongside Commissioner Gordon and some of the GCPD. Oracle also remained as an information gatherer, but her participation was not influential. Eventually, Batman returned and organized the Bat Family to take control of Gotham back from the hands of crimials and lunatics that have seized the place. However, Batman soon discovered that the new Batgirl was actually Helena Bertinelli, who realized her Huntress identity wouldn't induce the fear brought by the figure of the Batman. Helena used a make-shift Batgirl costume to resemble Batman, but when she wouldn't stand up to the challenge posed by Batman in order to regain control of Gotham, she was forced to relinquish the mantle and it was given to Cassandra Cain, a highly trained martial artist who had helped Oracle in the initial stages of "No Man's Land". With the new Batgirl, Batman summoned Oracle, Nightwing, Robin, Catwoman and Azrael to take back Gotham City, with assistance from their trusted allies, Alfred, Commissioner Gordon and Leslie Thompkins.
Having successfully recovered Gotham, the Bat Family stood stronger than ever before, with great numbers and skills. The team remained unchanged until the ultimate death of Azrael, which provided a turning point for the heroes. Batman distanced himself from the team and started working with Sasha Bordeaux, Bruce Wayne's personal security assistant and eventually, Batman's crime-fighting partner. When one of Bruce's former lovers was found dead in Wayne Manor, both Bruce and Sasha were found guilty of the crime and sent to prison. Although, Bruce broke out of prison, Sasha wasn't as lucky and she was eventually recruited by the secret organization called Checkmate, in exchange of her freedom. Not long afterwards, a gang war broke out in Gotham and Bruce recruited help from the former assassin Onyx, who provided vital assistance alongside Tarantula, an ally that Nightwing had made during his time in Bludhaven. It was during this gang war that Spoiler was apparently killed.
A shocking revelation eventually came to the Bat Family when it was revealed that Jason Todd, the second Robin, had somehow survived the brutal murder by the Joker and had remained hidden several years, planning his revenge and comeback with the identity of Red Hood in the storyline Batman: Under the Hood. Using violent methods against criminals, Red Hood became a ruthless vigilante who caused trouble to the entire Batman Family. Fortunately, his thirst for revenge was eventually quenched and he stopped wreaking havoc.
Afterwards, Damian Wayne was revealed as Bruce Wayne's biological son with Talia al Ghul in the storyline Batman and Son. Bruce was left in charge of raising Damian, who became a valuable member of the team. However, Batman was soon believed to be dead at the hands of Darkseid during the Final Crisis, but in reality he had been sent to the past and he was tasked to survive all the way to the present in a time-travel voyage that would eventually kill him and destroy the present. In the aftermath of Bruce's death, a battle royale across Gotham took place during the storyline Batman: Battle for the Cowl, in which members of the Bat Family struggled to find the missing Batman while others fought to take over the mantle of the Bat. The final battle between Dick Grayson, Jason Todd and Tim Drake ended up with a victory for Dick, who had to become the Batman in Bruce's absence. Like this, Dick Grayson became Batman once again and he promoted Damian Wayne to Robin, forcing Tim Drake to become Red Robin. Around this time, a new Batwoman was also introduced, different from the Silver Age version.
Afterwards, Spoiler was revealed to be alive and upon her return, she took over the mantle of Batgirl from Cassandra Cain, who relinquished the role under Bruce Wayne's prior instructions. The new Batgirl worked closely with Oracle and upon Bruce's return, they all gathered together to form Batman Incorporated, an international organization, which promotes vigilantes allied with Batman and the Bat Family.
The DC Universe heavily changed its continuity into the DCnU following the events of Flashpoint in 2011. This was part of an effort to make storylines more accessible to newer readers, beginning with the New 52. This new timeline combines elements from the DCU, Vertigo Universe and Wildstorm Universe while drastically changing the origins and histories of characters.
In this new timeline, several details of the Batman mythos have changed. There is a new origin story for the Justice League, establishing that Batman has only been publicly active for five years although he was considered an urban legend before this. The GCPD are still hostile towards him as a vigilante, although he maintains an alliance with James Gordon. Dick Grayson returns to his role as Nightwing, making Bruce the only Batman again. Barbara Gordon recovers from her wheelchair and becomes Batgirl again. Tim Drake as Red Robin becomes a founding member of the Teen Titans. Jason Todd as Red Hood forms his own team of mercenaries, the Outlaws.
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- As the Batman Family is not an officially recognized team, there is no credited first appearance. The earliest possible appearance would be with the introduction of Robin (Dick Grayson) in Detective Comics #38.
- There are also many other members, who help him only when he really needs them - that being the likes of Harper Row (Prime Earth), Mary Elizabeth Kane (Prime Earth), Clayface,Julia Pennyworth (Prime Earth), Katherine Kane (Earth-One), Harold Allnut (Prime Earth), Batwing, Misfit, Man-Bat, Jack Ryder (New Earth) among many others
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