29 July 2012

Robin Categories and Controversies, part 1

This page from Detective Comics, #208 (June 1954), comes courtesy of little Bully’s Tumblr stream “What the ’Tec?” To play along with its categories, it’s useful to know that “Animals” means “Mammals.” And it’s useful to know a mammal that begins with N.

This weekly Robin plays categories with recent Robin controversies (which are really no more than kerfuffles).

Red Robin. DC Comics may already be revising the history of its Tim Drake character in the current continuity. Two of the much-hyped #1 issues stated that he had served as Robin. However, at the San Diego Comic-Con, Teen Titans, #0, writer Scott Lobdell suggested that that character went straight into the Red Robin identity.

Such speed could have been a response to fan complaints that new universe’s Batman had gone through kid sidekicks like they were Kleenex. But the change and the thought that this Tim has never been Robin (and thus never experienced even a version of the adventures people read from 1989 to 2011) produced even more fan exasperation. I wouldn’t be surprised if the final text of Teen Titans, #0, restores a bit of that history.

That said, I can imagine quick adoption of the Red Robin identity being quite in character for Tim Drake. His superhero origin would go something like this.

“Batman needs a Robin, sir.”

“Go home, kid.”

Two days later. “Is this Mr. Wayne? My name is Timothy Drake. Batman needs a Robin.”

“How did you get this number? Uh, why are you speaking to me about Batman? Hello? Hello?”

Three days later. “Good takedown, Batman, but a little rough. See, Batman needs a Robin.”

“Leave me alone! You know the last Robin didn’t work out.”

Six days later. “Hello, Batman.”

“Why are you wearing a costume?”

“Nightwing helped me with it.”

“I told you both: I don’t want another Robin.”

“I’m not Robin, sir. I’m Red Robin!”

Sigh. All right.”

Old Robin. Retronaut shared a portfolio of Andy Warhol and Nico dressed up as the Dynamic Duo for a magazine photo shoot in 1967. This was of course during the era of television-fueled Batman camp.

TOMORROW: Controversies for letters B, I, and N.


collectededitions said...

My concern about Tim Drake's origin in this zero issue -- having, of course, not read it yet -- is that Tim's previous origin was the multi-issue epic Lonely Place of Dying; Tim's New 52 origin will be ... one issue. I understand DC wanting to get up and go with these characters, but boiling their origins down to one issue each must necessarily not be as strong as their actual origins, done with purpose rather than by editorial fiat for an "origin month." How they could do otherwise, I don't know, but I fear some of these Zero Month issues will be poorer, reductive versions of stories we've read before, only underscoring what we lost in the DC New 52 reboot (even as I feel we've gained some, too).

J. L. Bell said...

Well, there is a long tradition in comics of recapping origins and other past stories in a few pages or panels. Those versions aren’t supposed to replace the earlier ones, just bring readers up to date. These #0 issues may be doing that, or may be establishing somewhat new origins for the characters not tied to the old details. For example, the new universe’s Tim Drake was an aspiring Olympics athlete. If he was following Batman around like the old Tim Drake, he would probably have been using his cell-phone camera rather than a 35mm model. And do we know that the Jason Todd of the new universe was actually dead?