The Batman Family is an informal name given to Batman and his various allies.
When Bruce Wayne was a young boy, he was forced to watch helplessly as a mugger named Joe Chill mercilessly gunned down his parents Thomas and Martha Wayne in cold blood. This single act propelled young Bruce to pursue a career in crime fighting. As an adult, he decided that the most effective means of avenging the deaths of his parents, was by becoming a fearsome creature of the night, and thus the Batman was born.
For the first few years of his career, Batman operated alone, prowling the rooftops of Gotham City, but on one fateful evening, he watched history repeat itself. A gangster named Boss Zucco murdered John and Mary Grayson, leaving their young son, Dick, an orphan. Bruce Wayne took Dick in, and trained him in the ways of crime-fighting. Dick became the flamboyant Boy Wonder known as Robin.
Batman and Robin operated as a solid team for many years. Eventually though, Dick grew up, and decided to retire his costumed identity as Robin. He went to law school and became a successful prosecutor working out of the district attorney's office in Gotham City.
Batman meanwhile, had succeeded in reforming one of his oldest foes, the Catwoman. The reformed Selina Kyle eventually married Bruce Wayne and gave birth to their daughter, Helena Wayne. Helena grew up to become the costumed vigilante known as the Huntress.
In time, Bruce too decided to retire as Batman, but continued to fight crime as the newly appointed commissioner of Gotham City. He resumed the identity of Batman for one final mission – a mission that ultimately cost the dark knight detective his life. With the death of Batman, the "Bat Family" quickly dissolved. Dick briefly came out of retirement and joined the aging Justice Society of America, while the Huntress became an active member of Infinity, Inc.
In a parallel dimensional reality commonly referred to as Earth-One, the lives of Batman and Robin mirrored those of their "Golden Age" Earth-Two counterparts. One notable difference however, was that Bruce and Dick did not begin their crime fighting careers until well after World War II, while the Earth-Two versions of Batman and Robin owed their origins to a pre-War time period.
After operating as the Dynamic Duo for many years, Batman and Robin found their influence quickly growing. An imp from a nameless alien dimension calling himself Bat-Mite, took notice of the caped crusaders and began to idolize them. In fact, Bat-Mite worshipped the two so much, that he would often use his powers to place Batman and Robin in danger, just so he could watch his heroes fly into action. The Dynamic Duo had little tolerance for the impish nuisance, but was powerless to prevent him from becoming a part of their lives.
At about that same time, professional athlete Kathy Kane decided to embrace her own super-hero identity, and became known as the Batwoman. She imitated the Bat tradition as closely as possible and even convinced her niece, Bette, to become her teen sidekick, Batgirl. Batwoman and Batgirl occasionally teamed up with Batman and Robin, but the Dynamic Duo were more effective operating by themselves. Ultimately, both Kathy and Bette retired their super-hero guises and the Bat Family became a two-man unit once again. Batman and Robin added one final member to their team-up roster however, Ace the Bat-Hound. Wearing a black mask to conceal a star-shaped scar on his forehead, Ace frequently aided Batman and Robin, having successfully rescued them from dangerous traps on multiple missions.
Modern incarnations of the Bat Family origins bear many striking resemblances to previous versions, but for the notable absence of Bat-Mite and Kathy and Bette Kane.
Although Batman classically prefers operating as a lone vigilante, he has often had to rely upon the help of others to stem the rise of crime in the streets of Gotham City. His first recruit was adolescent Dick Grayson, whom he took upon as his legal ward and guardian. Similar to his Golden and Silver age counterparts, Dick became the crime-fighting adventurer known as Robin.
In later years, Batman's needs required assistance from other masked vigilantes. Barbara Gordon, niece of Gotham City's police commissioner, James Gordon, briefly donned a cape and cowl and fought crime as Batgirl. Batman disapproved of Barbara's choice, and never openly endorsed her as a partner, but felt obligated to watch over her and to keep her safe. Ultimately, it was Robin who convinced Bruce to let Batgirl in the loop, and Bruce showed his approval by supplying her with her own fully-stocked utility belt.
It was not uncommon for Robin and Batgirl to split off from Batman and handle their own cases, leaving the Dark Knight detective free to take on more dangerous adversaries such as the Joker and Two-Face. During these instances, Dick and Barbara began to develop feelings for one another, but were too dedicated towards their cause to ever act upon them.
Although the three heroes maintained an impressive crime fighting reputation, the time eventually came, when Batman decided that having too many partners was a liability. He was unwilling to put anyone else's life at risk, and so he fired Robin.
While Robin cut ties with Batman to concentrate on his work with the Teen Titans, Barbara Gordon continued to support Batman through a series of adventures. She eventually retired her Batgirl identity however, in order to pursue a professional career. Only on rare occasion, would she come out of retirement to aid the citizens of Gotham City. Whether Barbara would have come out retirement permanently will never be known. Her career was tragically cut short, when the Joker broke into the Gordons home and fired a bullet directly into Barbara's spine, crippling her. Although her days as a masked vigilante were over, she continued to fight for the cause of justice as the computer hacker known as Oracle.
Shortly before Barbara's injury however, Batman decided to take on a new team partner. He discovered a young street urchin named Jason Todd robbing the wheels of the Batmobile. Impressed by the kid's boldness, he trained him as the new Robin. Their partnership was brief however, and ended in disaster. The Joker baited Robin into a trap and beat him nearly to death with a metal pipe. For years, Batman believed that Jason Todd had truly died.
Batman vowed to never again take on an untrained partner. The death of Jason Todd shook him to his core, and he began aggressively prowling the streets of Gotham City nonstop. He grew brash and violent, and even hospitalized several criminal suspects.
Meanwhile, a young boy named Tim Drake had discovered Batman's secret identity and realized that the Dark Knight was headed on a road towards disaster. He attempted to convince Dick Grayson (now Nightwing) to abandon his current team and return to Batman's side, but Dick refused. Tim took it upon himself to aid Batman in fighting past his grief, and before long he became the third individual to take up the name, Robin.
The most shocking change in the Bat Family infrastructure took place only a few years later. A criminal power house known as Bane had discovered that Batman and Bruce Wayne were the same person and challenged him to the ultimate battle. Bane broke into Wayne Manor and fought with the Dark Knight. After a brutal struggle, Bane succeeded in shattering Batman's spine across his knee.
While Bruce recuperated from his injuries, he named a man known as Jean-Paul Valley (formerly known as Azrael) as his successor. Jean-Paul became the new Batman, but he did not share the same strict moral code as Bruce did. Jean-Paul closed himself off from everyone associated with Bruce, including the Wayne family butler, Alfred. Jean-Paul crossed the line of heroism when he allowed a serial killer known as Abattoir to die, when he could have easily saved his life.
In time, Bruce Wayne healed from his injuries and took the mantle of the bat back from Jean-Paul. Jean-Paul resumed his original identity of Azrael and occasionally teamed up with Batman to fight various foes.
In the following years, several more costumed vigilantes found themselves in the role of Gotham City's chosen protectors, including the modern Huntress, Spoiler, a semi-reformed Catwoman, and a new Batgirl.
Most recently, the Batman Family has been put to the test during the events of "Batman R.I.P.," "Final Crisis," and lastly "Battle for the Cowl." After Bruce Wayne's struggle against the Black Glove which nearly cost him his life during "Batman R.I.P.," Batman found himself being used to create an army of super soldiers to help Darkseid take over New Earth in "Final Crisis." However, Batman was able to use his own memories to destroy a machine that was built to clone his likeness into a slew of identical Bat-Soldiers. Batman then tells Darkseid he will make a "once in a lifetime exception" and shoots Darkseid with the time-traveling bullet that killed Orion, leaving Darkseid mortally wounded. Moments before he was hit by the bullet, however, Darkseid managed to fire his Omega beams at Batman, charring his body and making him appear to be dead, although Bruce Wayne's being had been sent back to the dawn of time with the first man, Anthro. Naturally, the Batman Family was in disarray, Gotham criminals took advantage of Batman's absence, and the question stood, "Is Batman gone?" Feeling a combination of obligation and hesitation, Dick Grayson, Tim Drake Wayne, Alfred, and Damian Wayne debated as to what the future of the Dark Knight should be, until an estranged Jason Todd turned up as having taken a twisted cowl (which seems reminiscent of Jean-Paul Valley) for himself. Todd decommissioned an arrogant Damian, making Dick, Tim, and Alfred feel an even greater sense of urgency to sent the Caped Crusader back on the streets. However, Dick still refused, prompting Tim to hijack an old Batsuit himself and seek out Jason and his twisted Batcave. Jason managed to defeat Tim and severely injure him, leaving only Dick and Jason as the the heir to the cowl. As Alfred provided medical care for Damian and Tim was barely escaping with his life, Dick and Jason fought long and hard until Jason, vowing that he would see Dick "much sooner than you think," plummeted off of a moving train into the depths of the river below. The conclusion of this struggle found Dick accepting his role as the new Batman, with the darkest Robin yet, Damian, by his side. Tim, however, is far away from Gotham, believing that Bruce is not actually dead. He has taken the mantle of the Red Robin, and is currently exploring the globe finding clues as to the whereabouts of his adoptive father in the past.