Dick Grayson never had what most would call a "normal" childhood. His early life was spent traveling from city to city as part of Haly's Circus, the darling son of acrobats John and Mary Grayson. The Circus had fallen on hard times, as crowds dwindled in favor of more modern entertainment. To stay afloat, owner and ringmaster C.C. Haly had taken out exorbitant loans from the small-time gangster Tony Zucco, who pressured Haly and threatened his talent relentlessly to get back what he was owed.
The Grayson family, having to put their bodies through hellish physical training to perform for audiences that grew more and more apathetic every year, did the only thing they knew how to save the circus and give their son a chance at a better life: they would make him a star.
For a normal child, the regimen they put him through would have been considered cruel, even abusive, but Dick was a prodigy. He took to his exercises and his education like a duck to water, and excelled to a point that bordered on superhuman. He learned to tumble, to walk the tightrope, to swing on the flying trapeze, as well as how to perform classic Vaudevillian memory acts, solving fiendish puzzles and reciting Shakespeare while other children his age were still learning their shapes and colors. Before long the Flying Graysons had a new main attraction: the world’s youngest performing acrobat, the ‘Boy Wonder’ wowing audiences with incredible acrobatic displays by age six.
Within a few years, the novelty of Dick’s young age had worn off, but the Flying Graysons were still a major draw for the circus. So successful were the Graysons, in fact, that Haly’s Circus no longer needed to take out loans from Zucco, and C.C. Haly told the gangster as much when the tour returned to Gotham City. He planned to get out from under Zucco’s thumb and go completely legit, and the Flying Graysons were his ticket to real success. Zucco, then, decided to clip the Flying Graysons’ wings.
The worst night of Dick Grayson’s life was just after his tenth birthday, when Haly’s Circus was performing at a special fundraising event hosted by the eccentric and reclusive billionaire Bruce Wayne. At the climax of their performance, the Flying Graysons took to the trapeze to perform a series of death-defying aerial stunts without a net. Little did they know, however, that Tony Zucco had paid off and threatened some of the circus’s stagehands to sabotage the Graysons’ equipment. As young Dick looked on in horror, one of the cables holding his parents’ trapeze snapped, and they fell to their deaths in front of him and several thousand horrified onlookers.
That night, Dick’s childhood ended. He had no idea, however, that a whole new life was about to begin.
The very same day Dick was placed in the care of the Sofia Falcone Home for Orphans, he was adopted by the man who had hosted the event that took his parents from him: Bruce Wayne. This was immediately the center of salacious tabloid rumors—a rich powerful man, taking in a vulnerable young boy after his parents just happened to die in a terrible accident, immediately suggested unsavory things—but in truth Bruce felt responsible for what happened, and was determined to make things as right as he could for the boy. Dick was given the absolute height of luxury, allowed to run rampant through the absolute palace that was Wayne Manor, gifted with the latest toys and games and electronics, while private tutors gave him the best formal education money could buy. While Dick thought Mr. Wayne was nice enough, he was no replacement for his parents, and all the comfort and entertainment in the world couldn’t replace the hurt in his heart, or his need to make Tony Zucco pay.
At age eleven, Dick snuck out of Wayne Manor, riding into town on a dirt bike he had gotten for his birthday, and hiding a gun under his shirt. He had spent the past year doing extra homework of his own: reading everything he could find about Zucco and the Gotham City criminal underworld. He’d learned what club Zucco spent most of his nights, and planned to sneak in from the rooftop and shoot the crime boss dead. He fully expected he wouldn’t make it out of the building alive, and he was okay with that. Before he could even enter the building, however, he felt a gloved hand grab him, and everything went black.
When he came to, Dick thought for a moment that the figure looming over him was the devil himself. He quickly realized, however, that he was in even more trouble than that: the figure wasn’t the devil…it was the Batman. The feared vigilante that had brutalized Gotham’s criminals for years had caught him, and Dick was sure he was about to break every bone in his body. When the Batman spoke, however, his tone wasn’t one of a sadistic monster, but one of a concerned parent. He was outraged by the boy’s recklessness, fearful for the boy’s life, and regretful that he had neglected him. To Dick’s amazement, the Batman removed his mask, revealing himself to be none other than Bruce Wayne. While he couldn’t let Dick get himself killed in the name of revenge, he swore to offer Dick Grayson a better path: the path of justice.
The next year was a blur, as Dick was subjected to a punishing regimen that made his childhood training look like little league. He learned to fight, to move without making a sound, to run across rooftops with trivial ease. He learned how to use high-tech gadgets to overcome electronic security, to investigate crime scenes without leaving evidence behind, to tell if a person is lying before they even said a word. Bruce had never intended to let Dick get involved in active crime-fighting until the boy was at least eighteen, but when the Batman found himself captured by Tony Zucco, it was the twelve-year-old Dick Grayson who came to the vigilante’s rescue and finally brought his parents’ killer to justice.
Despite the butler Alfred’s protests, Bruce saw Dick had incredible potential not just as a protégé, but as a partner. Within a month of defeating Zucco, Dick Grayson was equipped with his own suit and arsenal of weapons, and given a new identity. Inspired by the myth of Robin Hood, Dick took the name Robin.
For the next five years, Robin would act as a force multiplier in Batman’s war on crime. Typically either working directly at Batman’s side or going solo to handle ‘light work’ where the chance for real danger was low (relatively speaking, as he still often found himself fighting armed thugs with no qualms about harming a child), Dick continued to hone his skills on the job, often working behind the scenes while Batman drew the attention of their more lethal foes. From the takedown of the Maroni crime family to the hunting and eventual capture of the savage Killer Croc, Robin’s work became instrumental in Batman’s crusade to make Gotham City safe.
When Dick was fifteen, he discovered a weakness that was as potent to him as Kryptonite was to Superman. Rumors had begun to circulate of a third masked vigilante in Gotham, this one a “Bat-Girl” operating out of the Burnside district. He tracked down this elusive and surprisingly capable new player, initially planning to talk her out of this dangerous life, but that plan shattered the instant he saw the eyes under her mask, the long red hair, the freckles on the bridge of her nose. He had met Barbara Gordon two years before at a fundraiser for her father the GCPD Commissioner, and had been smitten for her then. Now that he was a hot-blooded teenager and she was not just a fellow vigilante but a damned good one, Dick was no longer just smitten; he was hopelessly in love. The two began operating together as a duo with or without Bruce’s permission, and the ‘Bat-Family’ soon welcomed its official third member.
Now at age sixteen, Dick’s life is growing increasingly complicated. His private life is becoming less and less private, as being the teenage heir to a billionaire’s fortune has made him a local celebrity against his will. His love life is beginning to strain, as Barbara Gordon, a year older than him, is preparing to move away for college. And more and more of Gotham City’s crime bosses and costumed super-criminals have begun to see Robin as nearly as much of a threat as the Batman himself. Some, like the enigmatic assassin Deathstroke or the Joker’s psychotic right-hand woman Harley Quinn, have begun targeting him specifically. He’s begun to feel like he’s walking a tightrope again, having to balance so many things, and every one of them threatening a hard fall if he slips.