18 May 2014

Adam Beechen on Taking on Tim Drake

Several weeks back, the Nerdist Writers podcast had a discussion about the challenge in comic-book scripting of taking over an ongoing magazine. One of the regulars, Adam Beechen, spoke about his two experiences with that challenge, which both happen to have involved Tim Drake as Robin.

One was Robin itself at the “One Year Later” break after DC’s Infinite Crisis, issues #148-166. As Beechen says, he wasn’t picking up right after the previous scripter; the company had established an excuse for changing things, dropping threads, reworking the situation.

The second magazine was Teen Titans a short time later, with a transitional period of co-scripting with that volume’s founding writer Geoff Johns, issues #44-49. (Beechen briefly mentions his work launching a Batman Beyond comic and doesn’t mention his Batgirl miniseries.)

Along the way, Beechen, who came from the field of television animation, made a few notable observations:
  • DC’s only editorial mandate for Robin was that the first villain had to be Cassandra Cain, then Batgirl. That remains a very unpopular decision with her fans, for which Beechen is sometimes blamed. (I discussed the possible thinking behind DC’s mandate here.)
  • Beechen studied his predecessor Bill Willingham’s issues of Robin and tried unsuccessfully to contact him, and he read Chuck Dixon’s earliest issues, available in paperback. But he apparently didn’t check the bulk of Dixon’s run (nor the intervening stretch by Pete Wood).
  • Beechen didn’t study Batgirl. His comments implicitly acknowledge one result, the fan criticism of how he handled the question of Cassandra Cain’s difficulties with language.
  • Beechen came away with the idea that no one had explored Tim’s life as a teenager. Actually, that was the focus of most of Dixon’s issues. One result, it seems to me, is that after the initial storyline Beechen’s issues don’t really stand out. The small moments that are memorable, however, involve Tim’s relationship with Bruce Wayne.
As for Teen Titans, Beechen voices the usual complaints of a comics writer without the clout of Johns or Grant Morrison: sudden editorial changes, company-wide crossovers, having to cut a plotline short.

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