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Tim Drake as Red Robin
[WARNING: A Nerd Rage meltdown is imminent and, unlike Mr. Potato Head, I didn't forget to bring my angry eyes.] 

    So this past weekend (or the last week, really, as "Preview Night" was last Tuesday) was the San Diego Comic Con.  Lots of interesting news came from it, of course, along with cool reveals of toys, collectibles, comics, movies, etc.

    What I really want to talk (rant) about is a little bombshell that was revealed on Sunday for fans of Timothy Drake Wayne (is he still a Wayne?), current Red Robin and former partner to The Batman.  You may have heard of him, he used to go by the slightly shorter name, "Robin." Or not. 

    Say what? 

    No, you aren't mistaken.  You read that right.  Apparently, DC, now finishing up it's first year of it's "New 52" line-wide reboot has seemingly decided that Tim was never an "official" Robin.  The article is here, and the news is near the beginning, so you can't miss it.  You also get the added bonus (if you can call it that) of seeing Tim's terrible costume he's been wearing for the last year (he's the one with the wings).

    If you don't feel like reading it, here are the highlights regarding Tim's new status:

    "Teen Titans" writer (Tim's current team and the only book he stars in currently, for those less aware), Scott Lobdell mentioned the new #0 issue that will be hitting in September, detailing Tim's origin, stating that, "as near as I recall, as it is now Tim goes straight from being Tim Drake to being Red Robin in that there was no official period of time where he was Robin. We keep most of the origin intact in that he was one of the few people who could get very close to learning who Bruce is...but it will be a much updated version of his origin." 

    Now, granted, this issue hasn't come out yet, but this seems pretty cut-and-dried, so here is my knee-jerk geek reaction to it... I have a lot of issues with it.  A lot of issues.  Not only is being a former Robin the very cornerstone of Tim's character, but the main thread of his origin is that he did discover Batman's true identity was Bruce Wayne.  That was kind of the whole damned point. 

    So as it stands now he got "very close to learning" and there "was no official period of time where he was Robin"?  Seriously?  What do you call the last 20 years or so (Tim was Robin from 1989-2009)?  There is an entire generation of fans who grew up with Tim Drake as Robin, and it defines who and what he is.  Take that away and he may as well be an entirely new character.  Oh, well, when I think about it, I guess that makes sense because since the reboot he's barely acted like himself.

    Now, for the most part, I like the reboot. I've read more DC comics in the last 3 years than I ever have, and a lot of it is due to the "New 52" reboot of the last year.  However, Tim has been "off" characterization-wise ever since it happened, and I think the reboot itself has hamstringed his growth as a character.  And yeah, I know: "But Matt... it was a reboot, after all."  All I can say is that this wouldn't be as big of an issue except that nearly every other main Bat-Family member continued on as normal after the reboot (various Batgirls notwithstanding).  That just makes both the changes that have already happened to Tim Drake, and worse, the impending changes recently mentioned at SDCC, that much more jarring.

    Pre-reboot, he went from being Robin and being on a team of teenagers, to (admittedly by force, but that's another story) "graduating," for lack of a better term, to the role of Red Robin. He finally seemed more like a true solo hero, much like Nightwing had become before him (Nightwing is the identity that the original Robin, Dick Grayson, took when he left the Robin role). True, Tim had had his own book for years already (due to his massive popularity), but as Red Robin he was truly operating alone for the first time I can remember since the Knightfall storyline in the early 90's.

    Besides that, before the reboot his book was GREAT. I haven't read a lot of his "Robin" solo series, but what I've read was good. However, "Red Robin" was fantastic from the get-go and was my gateway drug into DC after being a Marvel Zombie all of my life.   Tim was smart and had long-term planning skills.  He even bested Ra's Al Ghul in a war of the minds (though he lost the physical battle).  Ra's had even taken to calling him "Detective" in Batman's absence, and in the world of Batman comics, that means something.  Most of all, the book was FUN.  In an old blog on this very site I even referred to Red Robin as being the closest thing to a replacement for "Spider-Girl" that I could find in my heart, and let me tell you, "Spider-Girl" meant (and means) a whole hell of a lot to me, so my saying that was not cheap talk.  I LOVED "Red Robin."  But now it's gone.  So what do we get in return?

    Not only does Tim seem about half as intelligent (post-reboot), but he also acts like a selfish child who barely resembles his old self ("Is that MY sweatshirt?!" - from a Teen Titan's issue where he followed up this childish outburst by likening the act of Kid Flash taking his sweatshirt without permission to the actions of a group that kidnapped superpowered teens and performed experiments on them, which is teen melodrama at it's silliest, and certainly one stretch of a comparison by anyone's imagination), but he's also back on a team of teenagers (several of them being the same ones) without a solo book to be seen anywhere but in the back-issue bins. So much for character growth.  He's practically back at square one, and now we are to believe that he was never Robin in the first place?  Is there even such a thing as a "square zero?"  I guess a #0 issue is appropriate.

    Saying that Tim was never Robin is simply unacceptable for this particular reader.  If this holds true, and these are legitimate changes that DC is making, then this is set to be one of the worst regressions of a character I've seen in years. I honestly think Steph and Wally fans (Batgirl 3 and Flash 3) are almost lucky to have those characters "missing" post-reboot.  At least those characters aren't being regressed back 20+ years and being written poorly in a team book when they used to have their own (GREAT) title.

    One of the coolest things about DC in my mind is their use of what fans have termed "legacy characters."  Heroes grow old, sometimes get injured, sometimes die, and have the mantle filled in by new people, because the role of that hero must go on.  When Dick Grayson outgrew the role of Robin and became Nightwing he was replaced with Tim Drake (after Jason Todd, who died in the role years before, murdered by The Joker).  Barry Allen (The Flash II) sacrificed his life as a hero and the role was filled by Wally West.  Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) was shot and paralyzed (also due to The Joker... what a d-bag...) and became Oracle, a computer whiz and essentially one of Batman's most important partners in his fight against the criminal element.  The Batgirl role was later filled in by Cassandra Cain, and later, Stephanie Brown.  And so on and so forth. 

    Legacy characters are interesting, even fascinating, as you get, in essence, the same hero, but with a whole new identity and character to explore.  This doesn't mean you'll never see the originals again (Barbara is Batgirl again, for example, and Barry Allen came back from the dead, as comic characters are wont to do), but at least for a while you get to see the character through new eyes, and add to the history and legacy of that hero. 

    Red Robin is the natural growth for Tim Drake, but without having been Robin in his past, it means nothing.  Re-writing his origin to remove Tim Drake's time as Robin not only robs him of his history, but it also steals away his own personal legacy as a character and the 20+ years in which he's fought and earned it, with readers growing up along with him, enjoying the ride.  If this is truly what DC wants to do, then Red Robin, as in my Red Robin, the one that got me hooked on DC in the first place, is gone.  And that's not a good feeling.  As sad and sappy and stupid as it may seem, it feels like losing a friend.

-Matt Kayser

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PS: At least this action figure of Red Robin will be released soon from Mattel, immortalized in plastic the way I want to remember him.
 


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