What Do I Think About the Tim Drake/Red Robin Controversy?
When Teen Titans #0 comes out next week, we’re going to learn that Tim Drake never took on the mantle of Robin. Instead, from the moment he became Batman’s sidekick, he called himself ‘Red Robin’, a name that he still uses today as leader of the Teen Titans. We’ve known this retcon since San Diego Comic-Con, where Teen Titans writer Scott Lobdell let the cat out of the bag. This is a big change to Tim Drake’s continuity in the wake of the New 52 reboot, and considering I’m both a huge Robin fan and a huge Tim Drake fan, my reaction might surprise you.
The change actually doesn’t bother me in the least. It’s so incredibly minor and stupid that it’s rolled off my back like water on a duck.
Tim Drake will always be the best Robin, whether DC wants to retroactively add a silly adjective in front of his name or not.
The real problem is whether or not the Joker is going to kill Tim in the upcoming “Death of the Family” storyline. But more on that later.
Join me after the jump as I explain the change and tell you why I think it’s so stupid that it should just be ignored. Then we can all move on with our lives.
Comic book fans usually hate retcons, where writers go back and alter the past in order to suit a story in the present. We like our comics how they are, and don’t want some ambitious writer to go mucking about with our favorite stories. But in this case, this change from Robin to Red Robin, doesn’t really bother me much at all.
First, let’s give you all a little background.
For those of you who don’t know, Robin is one of my all-time favorite comic book characters ever. I like Robin even more than I like Batman. In the old continuity, prior to the reboot, five young people had taken up the role of Robin to serve as Batman’s sidekick. Most people know the first Robin, Dick Grayson, but there were four more after him. All of them were named ‘Robin’ and all of them served proudly as Batman’s apprentice. My favorite was Tim Drake, the third Robin. He was a bright and energetic young man created in the early 90s. He was great with computers, and was more of a detective than a street-fighter. Tim Drake was the first Robin to get his own solo comic book series, one that ran for nearly two decades. But eventually Tim got older and a new Robin was chosen. In the old continuity, Tim gave up the role of Robin and adopted the identity of Red Robin, a more mature, solo hero.
Then, in September 2011, DC Comics went through a linewide reboot. They restarted their famous universe, giving a lot of characters new origins, blank slates and various other changes. For the most part, the Batman corner of the universe was untouched, with a few minor changes. We were told, as part of the reboot, that there had still been at least four Robins under Batman, and that Tim’s history as Robin was still in tact – but that it was in the past. In the present continuity, Tim has still moved on to become Red Robin, and he is leader of the Teen Titans instead of Batman’s sidekick. It seemed as if Tim had not been retconned at all with the New 52 reboot.
But, like I’ve said, Teen Titans writer Scott Lobdell said at the San Diego Comic-Con that when Tim served as Batman’s sidekick, he didn’t actually use the name Robin. Instead, he’s always used the name ‘Red Robin’ both when he was the sidekick and when he was leader of the Teen Titans. His reasoning is that Tim became Batman’s sidekick after the death of the previous Robin, Jason Todd. And so Tim thought it would be inappropriate to take that name while Batman was still grieving.
One might think that, with Tim being my favorite Robin, I would be very angry that some ambitious writer was changing the past and making it so that Tim was never Robin…but again, I’m not bothered by this change for several reasons. Allow me to explain.
1. It’s clear that this change is only an afterthought.
Way back at the beginning of the New 52 reboot, there were direct references in both Batman #1 and in Lobdell’s own Teen Titans #1 that Tim served as Robin. Lobdell even made Tim’s old Robin costume a plot point when he had Kid Flash wear it for two issues, and the costume had only one letter ‘R’ on the chest. It wasn’t until Comic-Con this spring that Lobdell finally got around to suggesting that Tim was always Red Robin. So clearly Lobdell and DC didn’t even consider the change to Red Robin until after the New 52 relaunch had already started. This says a lot about what sort of planning went into the New 52 in general, but that’s a discussion for another day. For my purposes, it tells me that when Lobdell got around to writing Tim’s new origin in Teen Titans #0, making him Red Robin instead of just Robin was an afterthought.
2. It’s just an adjective.
Lobdell’s reasoning for Tim not calling himself ‘Robin’ was to pay respect to the deceased Jason Todd and to allow Batman room to grieve. That’s a fine idea…yet Tim still called himself ‘Robin’ and just added the word ‘Red’ in front of it. How is that any different? Why didn’t he call himself something completely different, like ‘Redbird’ or ‘Redwing’ or something? Why not create a whole new identity even? Nope, he just stuck the word ‘Red’ out in front, as if that changed anything. He even still dressed like a Robin. I bet that was confusing as hell to all the criminals he fought who kept calling him ‘Robin’, and then Tim would have to correct them, ‘No it’s Red Robin, criminal scum.”
3. He was still Batman’s partner.
As I’m sure we’ll see in Teen Titans #0 next week, Tim Drake was still Batman’s sidekick and partner. Lobdell has mentioned this as well, that most of Tim’s time as sidekick remains intact. Only the name is really changing, as well as a few other minor things, from what I understand. And the sidekick-ness is what’s important to me. I like the mantle of Robin more so than any individual Robin. I like the idea that Batman has this sidekick that he relies on and works with, and Tim’s role as Batman’s sidekick and partner remains intact. The only change is cosmetic, and I can live with that.
4. I made my peace with Tim no longer being Robin a long time ago.
In the old continuity, Tim Drake did not choose to move on from Robin, he was forced out of the role. In comics at the time, pre-reboot, Bruce Wayne had just been killed in one of those Big Event comics. As a result, Dick Grayson stepped up to take over as Batman. But Dick and Tim were the like brothers, and had worked together for years. So Dick didn’t think he had anything to teach Tim. Instead, Dick decided to take on Damian Wayne as his new Robin. Damian is the son of Bruce Wayne, and had only been introduced to comics a year or so prior. Damian is a little asshole and hellraiser, and Dick felt that he could be a good influence on Damian, and that making Damian Robin would give him a level of responsibility that might help him mature. It makes sense – but it left Tim Drake out in the cold. Tim was pushed aside so that DC’s new golden boy Damian could be Robin.
Rather than quit being a superhero entirely, Tim took up the name Red Robin, an indication that he wasn’t completely ready to let go of the ‘Robin’ role. Tim was instrumental in proving that Bruce Wayne was not really dead, and he helped bring Bruce back from being lost in the timestream. Long story. But in the end, Tim decided to stay as Red Robin and let Damian become the new Robin.
I had to accept that Tim was no longer Robin back during that story. It was a sad change, but I couldn’t stop DC from making it. I made my peace with the change and I enjoyed Tim’s Red Robin series. He’s still the same Tim, and I’ll always have those old comics and stories. But this is comic book fandom, and change is inevitable.
So no, I’m not bothered by this reboot to Tim’s time as Batman’s sidekick. This is a reboot, and there are worse changes to deal with. Some of my favorite characters don’t even exist anymore in the New 52. I’m grateful that Tim’s still around, and that his time as Batman’s partner is intact.
I’m worried that Tim is going to be killed in the upcoming Joker storyline. It’s all based on this interview that Lobdell gave to Newsarama. He discusses the change in name a bit – adding to my indifference – but he’s very cryptic about Red Robin’s role in the upcoming story “Death of the Family”, during which Joker will specifically target members of the Bat-family. He says that the Joker is going to cause major changes to Teen Titans, and that the story has really altered where his ideas were going. What would be a bigger, more damaging change than using Tim Drake as cannon fodder to make Joker scarier?
Not to be too paranoid, but in the current DCU, Tim Drake is kind of superfluous. He has been ever since Damian came along. Plus this is exactly the sort of thing I think DC would do. Sacrifice Tim in order to make a Joker story more important. So I’m worried.
And believe me, if they do kill Tim Drake, then I’ll be very upset.