Dick Grayson might be the main character, but even in HBO Max’s Titans universe, Batman continues to overshadow Robin. The relationship between Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder has always been a complicated one. A grudging sense of being held back pushed Dick Grayson to spread his Nightwings, while many have accused Bruce Wayne of exploiting these children in his war against crime. Though it’s so often Batman stealing the spotlight from his brightly-dressed protégé, Titans gives Dick Grayson his long-awaited headline gig, focusing on Robin’s exploits away from the Dark Knight’s glare. A season 3 flashback, however, proves it’s Bruce who still gets all the acclaim.
In Titans season 3’s “Lady Vic” episode, a young Barbara Gordon begins dressing up as Catwoman to annoy her famous GCPD Commissioner of a father. Apprehended by Dick Grayson’s Robin (who’s already a close friend, it seems), the duo strike up a burglary-fueled romance. During a later drinking date, Babs is once again bemoaning how useless Gotham’s police are when Dick suggests she join Batman and Robin as vigilantes. Of course, we know this offer is eventually accepted and Barbara Gordon becomes Batgirl, but it’s here with Dick that her superhero moniker is born (in Titans mythology, at least).
Believing Barbara might want a superhero persona close to her boyfriend’s, Dick puts forward the name “Robingirl.” Barbara swiftly rejects his idea and comes up with the now-iconic “Batgirl” instead, and this exchange proves just how much greater the aura of Batman is compared to that of his sidekick. Barbara was brought into the superhero fold by Dick Grayson, she loved Dick Grayson, and she stole expensive vases with Dick Grayson – but she didn’t want to become Dick Grayson’s sidekick. Even in the Robin-centric world of Titans, it’s Batman who the vigilantes of Gotham aspire toward. People become Robin not because being Robin is cool in itself, but because Robin is Batman’s partner. There’s a strange, unspoken hierarchy, where the likes of Barbara are happy to become a Batman sidekick, but draw the line at being the sidekick’s sidekick, as if being below Robin on the pecking order would somehow be too demeaning.
Though Titans “Robingirl” line is just a throwaway gag, the scene gives a subtle, early example of the simmering tension between Batman and Robin. If a teenage Dick Grayson was starting to feel outshone and undervalued at Wayne Manor, his girlfriend preferring “Batgirl” over “Robingirl” would stoke those flames of resentment further, driving home the idea that Dick will only ever be a supporting act while standing next to Batman. Season 3’s Batgirl flashback depicts a step on the road to Dick and Bruce becoming estranged, and the entire “f**k Batman” attitude of Titans season 1.
Though she might’ve upset her boyfriend, Barbara choosing “Batgirl” over “Robingirl” in Titans season 3 honors her original comic book purpose. The character was created by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff explicitly as an equal to Robin, not as the Boy Wonder’s own protégé. This is how Batgirl has consistently been portrayed in DC comics and beyond, and this sidekick parity helps keep Barbara (and her successors)as strong, dependable heroes who answer only to the Bat himself. Not to mention “Robingirl” sounds absolutely ridiculous.