Every comic fan has their favorite Robin. From its creation back in the Golden Age of comics, the mantle of the Boy Wonder has been worn by some of the most interesting and complex characters in the DCU and each has their own passionate fandom. Hell, within a radius of twenty-five feet of my desk at my “real” job sits a dyed in the wool Dick Grayson fan, as well as a hardcore champion for the dickish ways of Jason Todd and/or Damian Wayne. I, in contrast to my co-workers, went and picked the one and only correct answer. I am all about Tim Drake.
Ah, Tim Drake, the third and best of the Robins. Unlike his two predecessors, Tim wasn’t a natural born athlete and physical adept, Tim’s strength was his deductive mind. Able to deduce the identity of Robin, and thus Batman, simply by observing then Robin Dick Grayson perform a complex acrobatic feat, the same feat in which Tim saw Dick perform years ago as a member of the Flying Graysons. Figuring out that there was only a handful of people who could even pull off that maneuver (to put things in perspective, Batman can’t do it), Tim put the pieces together with ease, proving his skills were nothing to scoff at. Oh, and if that doesn’t seem impressive enough, let me point out that he figured all this out before he was even ten years old.
As I said, Tim isn’t the natural born fighter that all the other major Robins were. While no slouch, Tim had to work quite hard and even then his hand to hand was not quite up to the same level as Bats and the others. Rather then mope or quit, Tim decided to do something about it and picked up staff fighting to try and compensate. Possibly the greatest staff fighter in the world, that old fighting stick became Tim’s trademark and he is very rarely seen entering battle without it
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Tim was his motivation to become Robin. While the other Robins grew up in extreme, oftentimes tragic, and otherwise non-traditional circumstances, Tim’s background is relatively mundane. He had at one time a regular loving family, so vengeance or the desire never to be a victim again is not what motivated him. What did motivate Tim was the belief that Batman needs a Robin to function properly. That Robin is more than just a sidekick, but a partner that serves as a counterpoint to Batman’s more brutal and violent tendencies. In short, that the role of Robin kept Batman on a righteous path instead of just devolving into a brutal thug.
So DC had created this super popular character (the first Robin to carry his own regular series) and all they had to do is play their cards right and they might have another breakout character on the level of Grayson.
Unfortunately, this is modern day DC, so they went and screwed everything all the hell up.
It is hard to point to the exact spot where the wheels started coming off the bus, some take things back as far as Brad Meltzer’s controversial Identity Crisis, the event that (spoilers) killed off Tim’s father as it started to take away what made Tim different from the other Robins. Other s point to the One Year Later and the arguable mismanagement of characters in that book. For me, I see the first real signs of trouble with the introduction of Damian Wayne and him becoming the new Robin. To be clear, I don’t dislike Damian (other than the ways I’m supposed to) or the decision to make him Robin, but the execution of the transition was so haphazard and sloppy that it felt like a slap in the face to Tim Drake fans.
Shuffled off into the Red Robin identity because nobody at DC knew what else to do with Tim, this proved to be a major highlight for the character. In the hands of writers Chris Yost and later Fabian Nicieza we got to see Tim make the identity truly his own and to begin to truly plot his own path. This looked like it might lead to something scary like the dreaded “character development”, thankfully the New 52 was right around the corner to throw all that hard work soundly in the dumpster.
I said before that there was some debate as to when the wheels began to come off, but almost everyone agrees that once we hit the New 52 all four wheels have left the bus and it is falling ass first into a ravine while on fire. First of all he was handed a godawful new costume that was more 90s-style dreck then the costume he actually wore during the 90s. Fashion aside, the true crime was what they did to the Tim’s backstory. Tim was initially still counted as a Robin, but then was reconnected to have always been Red Robin, oh, and initially he was forming the Teen Titans inspired by the previous team created by Grayson, but it was then decided that didn’t happen and he was putting together the team for the first time. The New 52‘s canon was so ill-defined and poorly thought out that such gross errors could occur. There are a multitude of other crimes DC committed to Tim’s history, but in the interest of brevity and my own sanity I only will say the following two things about it:
1. Tim’s new backstory is fucking stupid, just straight-up fucking stupid.
2. I might have been able to forgive how dumb all the changes were if the new backstory made a lick of sense. It doesn’t. Shame on you, DC.
Bringing you up to today, we now have two books that feature Tim, but both are set in different time periods. We have Teen Titans, which is set in present day with Tim still rocking the Red Robin mantle, but we also have five years in the future Tim from from the Future’s End story knocked even farther into the future and is now the new Batman in the recently relaunched Batman Beyond comic.
That burning smell you you are now encountering, that’s the smell of your brain cells frying from trying to comprehend all this.
So what does the hold for Tim Drake? Well, you might be surprised given all the ire I’ve been spewing forth, but I think we may once again see great stuff from this character soon. Teen Titans has gotten way better since they got Scott Lobdell away from from the characters (I’ve enjoyed every issue I’ve picked up of the new-new run) and Batman Beyond has usually rock solid Dan Jurgens at the writing helm. The first issue didn’t knock my socks off, but I don’t have any legit complaints either save I think super suit or no, Tim should still be seen carrying a staff.
So what do you think the future holds for Tim Drake? Who is your favorite Robin what do you think about how the character is being handled today? What other characters do you think DC has messed up recently? Sound off in the comments below and let your voice be heard!