What an introduction? Seriously, does it get any cooler than holding a sword to Batman's throat for your first appearance? I think not!
From there, at least for me, it went uphill because Damian fascinated me, probably to the same degree he repulsed a lot of people. He was obnoxious, spoiled, petulant, irritating, and entitled...the perfect ingredients for a character readers were intended to hate (insert Superboy Prime into that same vein now that I think about it...he's SUPPOSED to be an annoying shit). Mix in the fact that he took out a fan favorite Robin in Tim Drake...
...and that he took it upon himself to become a Robin...
Still through his initial adventure alongside Bruce, I found it hard not to sympathize with the kid. After all he was raised by an Al Ghul, sure it was Talia but she is still an Al Ghul...meaning his playmates were The League of Assassins (sometimes I have to stop myself from typing "...of Shadows") and he likely learned how to stab things before he ever learned how write his own name. I couldn't help but feel bad for this kid who, even though he decided to go with his mother at the end of the "Batman & Son" arc, was still reaching out for his family to be together.
Think about this, when you were a kid would you rather be with the parent who gives you rules and restrictions or the one who let's you do whatever you please? Generally a pretty clear choice for most children I'd say. Ultimately though, I think that "family" was all Damian ever wanted from his life (By the by, as I noted in a previous blog, that panel right there is essentially the birth of Batman Inc. & Leviathan)...
I also found something endearing about his desire to "take his rightful place" and get rid of Tim Drake...yeah that sounds weird to read back considering Drake has always been MY Robin. It's psychotic after a fashion for Damian to feel he has to off Tim to be close to Bruce, but that was the way Damian knew how to do things. He knew how to kill...born to kill as one of the New 52 "Batman & Robin" arcs was called, and as we found out in Damian's return during the "Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul" arc, he was also born to be a vessel for the essence of his grandpappy. How can you not feel bad for a kid, or his mother really, when they find out Damian's entire existence was part of a plan for Ra's to continue his already long life?
His Joffrey-like (MARCH 30th!) personality was still a difficult thing to tolerate at this point but it's also quite easy to understand why Damian has developed it. He's somewhere in the 9-11 years old range (who knows with DC's sliding continuity of the New 52) and has been told he's to inherit the world when he grows up. Of course he has a sense of entitlement and of course he's a dick...that's what he's been molded to be, that is the "nurture" Damian had had up to that point in his existence AND it was something that he (like most real life adults) would struggle with for the duration of his life.
It wasn't until Bruce's "death" in the RIP/Final Crisis arc that we really saw something deeper out of Damian, and really Talia too, when they attempted to save Bruce from what The Black Glove was doing and ended up saving Commissioner Gordon in the process. We also saw was some hardcore jealousy from Talia when she had Jezebel Jet, ummm, taken care of...
It was Dick Grayson, more so than Bruce Wayne I'd say, that helped shape Damian into a...well, a human being. He was patient and loving and mentor-like with the kid during their tenure as the Dynamic Duo. Under Dick's tutelage, Damian became a fully realized person who actually cared about other people...particularly Dick and Alfred Pennyworth.
Throughout the Dick/Damian partnership there was a sense of fun but also of feeling of Damian wanting to know if his father would approve of him. The opportunity to know the truth of that came after Bruce returned, redonned the cape & cowl, and began to operate as Batman alongside Damian. It was a strained relationship, with Bruce still seeing the Damian that existed prior to his "death" instead of what Damian had grown into alongside Dick. I always felt as if Bruce was so worried about Damian becoming like his mother or Ra's that he overreacted to the slightest sign of such behavior:
I mean he is essentially telling the kid that evil is in his blood and patting him on the back for NOT being evil. I think that comes more from Bruce not having the slightest clue how to be a father but at least Damian had Alfred to tell him the way it really is, that it has NOTHING to do with his blood and EVERYTHING to do with his choices.
Ultimately what Damian chose was to work to be good, to work at being a hero despite what he was created to be and what his mother raised him to become, and it is those choices that slowly caused the fanboys of the world to embrace him.
If Damian had been killed off five years ago (or whenever Grant Morrison first planned it) I highly doubt the majority of fans would have had an emotional reaction to it, but with the time that has been put into developing Damian's character, with the growth that we have seen written by scribes like Morrison and Peter Tomasi, we (in the same fashion Damian grew them for his pets) have grown an emotional attachment to Damian.
Finding that panel actually made me kind of sad....it was Damian saying goodbye to his pets without knowing that's what he was doing (and it's Grant having cats in a story again as well).
I will certainly miss Damian Wayne and I certainly do not want to see the role of Robin filled any time soon by anyone. In my head this death, even more so than the death of Jason Todd, would put Bruce in a frame of mind to NEVER have anyone don that costume EVER again. Not Tim or Jason, not bringing Stephanie Brown or Cassandra Cain into New 52 continuity, not this silly Harper Row rumor I've read...NOBODY. Dick, Jason, Tim...they were LIKE Bruce's kid (legally all three were adopted in the Old DCU) but Damian WAS a Wayne by birth, by blood, and he died like a Wayne because he died a hero.
So instead of bidding farewell with say, the image of his death, rather I will leave it with some of my favorite Damian images & moments. Thank you to all the creators who helped build Damian up and make him a character I actually gave a damn about. In a comic book field filled with characters of little substance and growth, Damian was a true gem!