03 June 2012

The Lost Robin Storyline of 2008-09

Collected Editions alerted me to this curiosity from 2008: the announcement of a collection of Robin issues to be scripted by Chuck Dixon and drawn (at least initially) by Chris Batista, the team behind most of the Violent Tendencies volume. In June 2008, Dixon and DC Comics parted ways, and that book was canceled before its scheduled publication in early 2009.

DC Comics’s description of the forecast Robin: The Final Fight, still visible at Powell’s and elsewhere, said:
All of Robin’s training and crime-fighting by Batman’s side comes to a head in this spectacular volume as Batman goes missing and the Boy Wonder becomes the new Dark Knight.

Tying into the events of “Batman R.I.P.” continues here as Robin and the Bat family search for their leader while engaging in all-out battle with Gotham City's underworld. And with his once-dead girlfriend Spoiler now back among the living, Robin also has his hands full with a not-so-happy family reunion between his lady love and her father, Cluemaster!
This copy makes clear that Dixon didn’t break with DC because he disagreed with that “Batman RIP” storyline, as some observers posited at the time. As I wrote back here, Dixon’s a pro who knows how the business works. Rather, the difficulty was that it wasn’t working that way. His comments at the time showed that he disliked how the company changed its plans.

Clearly the storyline described above had DC’s approval—otherwise, the company wouldn’t have announced this volume. It was a direct continuation of the events Dixon had scripted in Violent Tendencies, which in turn grew from some of his earliest work with the Tim Drake character.

Then the top editors suddenly decided to go in a different direction, one which ultimately led to Tony Daniel’s Battle for the Cowl. We know that was a late decision, after Judd Winick had scripted some of the same transition for Dick Grayson. We know that the timing of that shift caused plotting trouble for Fabian Nicieza when he suddenly took over Robin after Dixon and for Peter J. Tomasi when he scripted Nightwing.

Dixon has a reputation in the industry for working well ahead of deadline, and interview with the Examiner in March 2009, shortly before this volume was to appear:
I [had] written about eight more scripts. There was a storyline with Steph’s dad and the return of some Robin villains in a new way and the introduction of several new bad guys. Much of this is hazy in my mind already. Lots of changes were made as I was writing and the direction of the book was being altered even as I was in the middle of a story arc.
Some covers were already prepared and released when Nicieza took over from Dixon. Others were altered. The Final Fight cover shows Robin kicking someone in the face; was that character deliberately obscured to hide his identity?

Despite the breathless marketing copy quoted above, I doubt Tim Drake was to become “the new Dark Knight” permanently. I noted back here that Grant Morrison had pitched the idea of Dick Grayson taking over as Batman back in 2005 when he first talked with Tomasi, then an editor, about the assignment. I suspect Dixon wrote Tim trying to be Batman in a pinch, as in Battle for the Cowl, and deciding (once again) that’s not what he wants to do.

COMING UP: Why it was good this Robin storyline was canceled.

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