01 May 2011

Tim Drake and the Latest Technology—of 1990

I was planning to report on the Robin meet-up at this weekend’s Boston Comic Con, but couldn’t find the Teen Wonders at the announced time. (I ran into the core group later, posing with a little Captain America, but didn’t have a good chance to chat.)

Instead, I’ll use one of my convention purchases to explore the technology of the past. The panel above is a scan of Norm Breyfogle’s original art for Detective, #620, as inked by Steve Mitchell.

This story takes place just before Tim Drake ascends to the permanent role of Robin. That’s why he’s wearing a snazzy tweed suit instead of the revamped Robin outfit. Breyfogle and Mitchell achieved that herringbone pattern by applying a Zip-A-Tone pattern over the line art. The effect works better after coloring, just as the vanishing right leg of the tall gentleman doesn’t matter so much on the final page.
In this panel Breyfogle used three types of Zip-A-Tone: the pattern of Tim’s jacket, an array of dots for the shading on his face and neck, and parallel lines designating the side of the phone booth. On the original page, one can read “ZIP” in blue pencil in that last space.
And Zip-A-Tone’s not the only old tech visible on these pages. For you younger folks, Tim finds a pay phone that dials with its handset attached to an early type of computer modem. As with the first panel’s suggestion that having just “a lap-top, for goodness’ sakes,” means that one commands very little computing power, this whole set-up looks extraordinarily quaint.

Ironically, in this scene Tim and Lonnie Moore, also known as Anarky and writer Alan Grant’s candidate for a new Robin, were in a high-level intellectual struggle over who was the better hacker. So the technology was very significant.


James C. Wallace II said...

Kinda weird, seeing them talk about me (Mr. Wallace), although I do own a laptop!

J. L. Bell said...

Actually, Wallace is the immensely tall man with the vanishing leg.

Betty Felon said...

Hey, this is Betty [the organizer of the Robin meetup, and the Rule 63 classic Dick Grayson] - I'm sorry that you didn't get to track down the rest of the Robin meetup! Unfortunately, due to the uncertainty of the layout of the con, we had to adjust the meetup location a couple of times... but anyway, I'm sorry that you didn't get a chance to properly say hi - we love meeting other Robin enthusiasts, haha :) Hopefully we'll run into you at a future convention!

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks, Betty. I figured the group must have improvised something as we all adjusted to the unfamiliar space. Maybe next year all the wrinkles will be ironed out of the Kevlar!