By Allison Eckel
My affinity for the character of Tim Drake is no secret (reference my confession here). So, when comics geeks all over Twitter rose up to support him on July 15, my heart constricted in my chest for fear the writers planned to end him. After all, Wally West was my second favorite character just before DC Comics switched to the New 52, and I have missed him.
Apparently, Teen Titans writer Scott Lobdell made a statement at the Young Justice group panel at San Diego Comic Con regarding a change to Tim’s origin story: “…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 in tact 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." (as reported by Kiel Phegley, Comic Book Resources)
I first crafted the rest of this post to argue why Tim’s time as Robin pre-New 52 is important to the character, but scrapped it all in the end. It’s not worth the time to make that argument. If I did, I would also have to argue that Superman is better when married to Lois, that Dick Grayson is better with his fellow Teen Titans (Cyborg, Starfire, Dona Troy, etc.), that Batman is better without Damien, and that Green Arrow was just better.
The New 52 changed all that – and more – and as readers we need to go along for the ride or jump ship. After more than 30 years reading DC Comics, I can say that I have been with the company longer than many of its decision-makers, and will likely see many of them move on.
So where does that leave Tim? Mired in conflicting continuity. Lobdell seems to be shepherding many characters through the upcoming #0 event, which is intended to reveal missing character details roughly one year after the launch of the New 52. Taking away Tim’s time as an official Robin would be just another in a string of altered origin details except for the four instances of direct reference as a former, official Robin. In order of publication date:
Canon: Batman #1 (Scott Snyder, writer), Teen Titans #1 (Scott Lobdell himself, writer), and Batman & Robin #10 (Peter J. Tomasi, writer). In the latter, Bruce monologues to Dick, Tim, and Damien about how they are all equally worthy of Robin status:
“AS ROBINS, YOU’VE ALL HAD YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES … BUT YOU’VE ALL HONORED YOUR TIME AS ROBIN – EVEN JASON. YOU SHARE SOMETHING – A RED AND GREEN UNIFORM OF SERVICE THAT SHOULD BE A BOND BETWEEN ALL OF YOU…” –Bruce Wayne, addressing Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, and Damian Wayne in Batman & Robin #10 (words by Peter J. Tomasi).
The fourth reference is not canon (that is, it did not appear in a comic book): DC Comics ran a running print commentary on the Young Justice panel. At time marker 10:06, a staffer printed this: "Scott Lobdell starts things off by talking about Teen Titans #0. It will focus on Tim Drake start and will be an origin story on how a would be Olympic star and computer genius went on to become Batman’s third Robin."
The statement by Bruce in Batman & Robin #10 is the most difficult reference to explain away. In the two issue #1s, the casual mention as a “former Robin” could fit with Lobdell’s panel statement “no official time” and the staffer writing the online commentary could have been working from a script Lobdell did not see ahead of time. But Bruce stating that each boy wore the official red and green is a sticky wicket.
Contradicting that could throw open the door for writers to contradict anything else their colleagues have written in pursuit of a new story direction. So far, the New 52 gambit has been executed well, showing that a master plan is unfolding. Lobdell's contradiciton in Tim's story undermines all of that hard work.