10 May 2009

Fabian Nicieza on Robin

Last month Newsarama offered a somewhat elegiac summary of the character Tim Drake's career as Robin, followed by an interview with Fabian Nicieza, the final scripter of the Robin magazine (at least for now).

Nicieza had the unenviable assignment of picking up that magazine on the fly after DC Comics's sudden break with Chuck Dixon. Dixon developed the Tim Drake character more than any other writer, and his return to the magazine in early 2008 had come with great fanfare. Adding to the challenge, Nicieza had to work around the company's big plans for Batman, including Bruce Wayne's madness and apparent death.

When Nicieza took on that job, the comics press focused on the big plans ahead and who would succeed Wayne as Batman (at least for now), as in this article from Comic Book Resources. There were encouraging hints that he saw the importance of the assignment, such as Nicieza's admission that:

I am feeble enough to have a Robin shelf in my office filled with Robin collectibles, not the least of which is the picture of me dressed as Robin before leaving for a Halloween party in college. Trust me, it’s there, but I don’t think I’ll let anyone see it unless I see some big bucks.
Nicieza's issues received generally good reviews, though of course internet comics fandom is never fully satisfied. Now that the run is done and he has no more issues to pump or plot twists to conceal, he can look backward instead of forward.

I think the Newsarama interview shows how well Nicieza understood the symbolic place of Robin in the Batman saga and the DC Universe. In other words, his ideas agree with mine:
Newsarama: In a single sentence--if you can--summarize Tim Drake’s journey from amateur detective discovering Batman’s identity to his role as a potential successor to Batman in Battle for the Cowl.

Fabian Nicieza: Tim Drake's journey from adolescence to young adulthood has shown the evolution of an individual who has gone from wanting to do the right [thing] with his life to an individual who is living his life in order to do the right thing.

Now, I could say a million things that build on that sentence, but you do have your rules and I must respect them. . . .

Tim's initial desire to become involved in the Bat-verse was never motivated by a need to balance the scales of his own life, it was to help balance the scales in someone else's life, namely Batman.

Though his mother died soon after his journey began, even then, his motivation was never really about balancing those scales and certainly not about revenge.

Tim was simply interested in doing the right thing, making a difference and righting wrongs. I also feel there was a little bit of cocky ego involved too, just a teeny bit, considering here's a kid who figured out Batman and Robin's identities. . . .

NRAMA: Tim Drake’s character was introduced with the premise that Batman needs Robin. After more than a decade of Tim filling that role, does Batman still need Robin?

FN: In my opinion, yes. Others will argue against the point, but I think the role of Batman, as depicted since the post-TV show era of the late 60's, requires a temperance for the character's obsession, or he would drive himself nuts. That doesn't mean that Robin needs to be in every Batman story, just that the character, the concept, needs to be a presence in Bruce Wayne's life.

Robin provides a light to Batman's dark, along with a need to teach and parent. This helps humanize Bruce, which to me, makes for a far more interesting Batman than the obsessive gravelly voiced guy who hides in his cave until it's time to beat someone up. . . .

we also know that the Robin concept is just as vital to the foundation of the DC Universe and has been a bedrock of the mythology since its inception.

The concept of Robin defines the nature of the legacy in the DCU and with that, implies hope for the future, stability coming from the next generation of hero, and on a societal level, it harkens to the need for proper parenting, education and stimulation to help guide the next generation to fruition.
Nicieza also discusses what sets Tim Drake apart from his major predecessor as Robin, Dick Grayson, despite how their characters have occupied the same symbolic space. Those final (at least for now) Robin issues will be published in paperback this summer as Robin: Search for a Hero.

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