Sunday, February 6, 2011

If Tim Drake is a Sacred Cow, I'm a Hindu

Over at Comic Book Resources, a site I thoroughly enjoy and check almost daily, they recently put up an article, or rather a small post with many comments, about Tim Drake, the third Robin.

They focus particularly on his origin, and posit that Drake, who figured out Batman's secret through mere persistence and attention to detail, and whose first real action was to try and convince former Robin Dick Grayson to return to his role, is the very model of a fanboy. A fanboy, you see, is apparently obsessed with the minutiae of stories and characters, and often longs for, both silently and vocally, whatever period of time they consider to have been the salad days. Being a template of the majority of comic readers, they assert this is why Tim has a sort of 'sacred cow' reputation on the internet, whereas the new Robin, Damian Wayne, is not yet as beloved.

While it was obviously not the creators' intent to make him a 'fanboy' and thus accessible to the readers (this was pre-internet comment threads,) except in the way Robin-as-youth was considered to be inviting to the audience, the idea is interesting, if too facile.

For one, looking at the origin alone is not enough. The status Tim enjoys on the internet doubtlessly is related to the recent and current activities of his character, and while he still is characterized by an attention to detail unparalleled by either anyone in his age group or by his predecessors, a desire to return to the "good ol' days" is not a driving motivation for him.

Sure, he'd love (and some of the readers are right there with him) to turn the plot-clock back a couple years, so that his father wasn't dead-by-boomerang, all his best friends, ex-girlfriends, and adopted fathers hadn't died-and-come-back-after-a-lengthy-brooding-period, and Darkseid hadn't anti-life'd the will to live out of him.

However Tim Drake is still defined by his forward momentum, almost more so than Batman himself. He asked and trained and fought to become Robin. He studied and trained and logged the hours to become the best Robin he could be. He made friends and trained and philosophized to become a good Titans leader. He maintained faith in the future, and in Batman's return. He set up networks of heroes and allies. He, before Bruce returned and used his idea for the hugely popular Batman Inc., began to turn the localized crimefighting of the Bat-family into a well-funded, well-staffed corporate program that would have global influence.

The idea that fanboys in general argue and beg for a return to old stories, old tones, old characterizations is maybe not wrong. But it certainly implies a resistance to change. Tim Drake is a modern man(boy) who can use Instant Messaging as a crimefighting tool, and wants to be better than Batman at fighting crime and planning ahead. As for attention to detail, he certainly has that. Though sometimes overlooked by writers, he is the best detective of any of Batman's trainees, and thus one of the best in the DC universe.

Obviously I'm a big proponent of Tim's. While I have yet to love his new Red Robin costume, the idea of him flying solo and in his own title is one I love. However it wasn't his origin that hooked me (though it's incredibly awesome he wasn't formed by tragedy and instead inserted himself into the mythos via his own intelligence.) My first exposure to Tim, as far as I can recall, was in his mini-series where Batman sent him to Paris to study with an old Sensei. He ends up training with Lady Shiva and taking on King Snake. Successfully. The allure of him was his struggle to become better at his chosen profession and, knowing his own physical limitations, finding his own way to take down opponents. That is what makes him one of the best heroes in the DCU. He'll be confronted by bigger enemies, better fighters, unpredictable psychopaths, and know, without shame or modesty, that he cannot beat them. At least not at their own game. So he always finds a different way.

He uses modern technology, detailed plans with contingencies, subterfuge, and the help of friends. He is more like Batman than any other Robin, making sure victory is as guaranteed as possible, and yet he goes a step beyond Bruce by his willingness to use and ask for help. Dick Grayson, though big on the allies, relies mostly on his acrobatics and considerable physical prowess. Damian Wayne relies on his bloodthirst, training and his big honkin' sword. Tim is not only a fully-realized character, but one with weaknesses, hopes, fears, and a constant progression.

As a fanboy myself, though not exactly the kind described by CBR, there aren't that many similarities I share with Tim. However, I am most definitely a fan. He is exactly the kind of hero I would put my faith in.


  1. Accusing other fanboys of acting fanboyish, is fanboy tactic #1 , when said fanboy is arguing with other fanboys.

    I hate it when the stupid fanboys at CBR makes these fanboyish acticles.

  2. Ha! I honestly think they just weren't getting enough traffic, so threw up a short post with a not-fully-developed theory about a character people like, and let the comments roll in.

    Kind of annoying...but also, I'd like that job please.