How Tim Drake Became More Than Just Robin for the Batman Family

Tim Drake recently started using the name “Robin” again after years as Red Robin, but as he revisits his past, he also contemplates his future by dating a young man for the first time.

In many ways, Tim Drake is a rarity.

Created in 1989, he is one of the few characters introduced in the modern era who is still popular with comic book fans. In fact, he is one of the Batman family’s most beloved heroes.

“I think, given everything that’s been done to him, he’s exceeded all expectations,” said former Red Robin writer Chris Yost. “Tim Drake has done several Robin limited series and his own title for over 100 issues.”

The birth of Tim Drake

Excerpt from Batman #457

Excerpt from Batman #457 (Image credit: Norm Breyfogle (DC))

But Tim Drake’s introduction came at a time when the idea of ​​a new Robin was far from popular. Back in the ’80s, the original Robin Dick Grayson was “graduating” to an adult role, wearing the Nightwing mantle. Batman readers were given another Robin named Jason Todd, whose existence was decidedly unpopular – so much so that readers voted to have him killed.

Marv Wolfman, the writer who created Tim Drake as Robin in the main title pages of Batman, said he thought it was important for DC to succeed in restoring Robin’s legacy after Jason’s death. Todd.

“Everything was fine with Jason, except the fans didn’t like him,” Wolfman said. “He was a good character, but during that time in the comics, the idea of ​​a snotty, possibly criminal Robin couldn’t be accepted. But look at Damian today. I had nothing to do with Jason, so I could go in and create a Robin that readers at the time would love as a person.”

The late Denny O’Neil, who at the time was Batman’s editor at DC, initially wanted to hold off on introducing a new Robin.

“After I left Jason, I thought we would need a new Robin, but I thought we’d give it a year,” he told Newsarama. “But the word came from above – I mean, higher than Jeanette [Kahn, then DC president] – no, we need a new Robin right now.”

Still, O’Neil made sure the character was introduced slowly, which Fabian Nicieza, who wrote the character of Tim in the Red Robin series, noticed as a reader.

“By slowly developing the character, making it obvious that he would eventually become Robin, but not putting him in costume too quickly, fans got a chance to see the character’s foundation,” Nicieza said. “As a beginning reader and writer at the time, I remember thinking that Denny O’Neil’s writing group did a great job of laying down Tim’s strong moral foundation, and most importantly, I think, the fact that he never became Robin for selfish reasons, he did it because he knew Batman needed it, and he knew how important Batman was.”

Breaking Robin’s Mold

O’Neil also faced a new challenge, especially after the death of teenager Jason Todd. Because the stories became more realistic, the editor felt he had to come up with a reason why Batman would put another child in danger, something “that they hadn’t thought of in the beginning, when they created the first character. of Robin”.

“But we had to think about it, because of the realism that we used in the industry at the time,” O’Neil said. “It was a different time. I even hired someone to design a costume that would provide maximum protection, thinking it might be okay to put a child in danger if they were well protected. We don’t ‘We’ve used almost none of those models, but we did think about those things at the time.’

To explain the presence of a child in brutal battles, the character of Tim Drake had to be developed in a way that made him an asset to Batman in the field, which the writers accomplished by making him an excellent detective and a supporting presence for Batman.

Excerpt from Batman #457

Excerpt from Batman #457 (Image credit: Norm Breyfogle (DC))

“We waited several months before actually putting Tim in danger,” O’Neil said. “At first it was the guy doing the reconnaissance across the street. It’s not real life. It’s fantastic melodrama, so eventually the stories put him in danger. But we didn’t want to be insensitive about that, and we wanted to establish that this kid was more than just a kid that Batman decided to put in danger Tim Drake was an asset.

O’Neil also wanted to eliminate the idea of ​​Robin that had been established in the old Batman TV show, as a sidekick who said “Golly!” many. And he credits Marv Wolfman with bringing a whole new level of intelligence and heroism to Tim Drake.

“Just, with Jason Todd ending, I was asked what I would do to create a new Robin. I thought that Robin should want to be Robin and not Batman,” Wolfman said. “That he has parents, to set him apart from all the other child partners, and that he not only be a good athlete, but incredibly bright and intuitive. To accomplish part of that, I had him at the circus, as a very young child, when [original Robin] Tail [Grayson]parents were killed; I thought it would be something he would never forget and cement the memory of Dick’s performance in his mind. The rest follows from that.”

Nicieza says the character seemed to be cast as a likeable character from the start.

“Tim seemed specifically developed to counter the difficult creative position that DC had been placed in after what happened with the ‘marketing death’ of Jason Todd,” the writer said. “I imagine half the audience was happy with Jason’s death and the other half wasn’t, so whatever you did with the next character to take on the role of Robin had to be clever enough to satisfy your divided audience.

Excerpt from Batman #457

Excerpt from Batman #457 (Image credit: Norm Breyfogle (DC))

Wolfman decided to make the character very moral, and Chuck Dixon expanded on this feature in subsequent comics featuring the character.

“I think he’s good, brilliant, and although he found out who Robin really was, he never said anything, [and that] meant he was honest,” Wolfman says. “That he had a family and a background that fleshed him out before he became Robin helped. And that his ties were directly to Dick Grayson — being there for his parents’ deaths — gave him a legacy. »

“I think it’s a pretty hard base for the fans not to adopt,” adds Nicieza. “They may not like his personality or the role of Robin in general, but you can’t deny that it was hard not to respect Tim Drake.”

Shortly after his introduction, Tim Drake starred in several Chuck Dixon limited series which sold well and created a buzz in the industry.

“I think new readers were captivated by Chuck Dixon’s take on the character, which very cleverly combined aspects of ‘creating a hero’ with ‘teenage angst’ that wasn’t too austere, but gave Tim some conflict in a fun way,” says Nicieza

The character is also different from many other heroes because he faced a lot of adversity, but did so without becoming bitter or gloomy, which is a particular aspect of many other Batman characters.

Tim Drake overcomes adversity

Excerpt from Identity Crisis #6

Excerpt from Identity Crisis #6 (Image credit: Rags Morales (DC))

Best-selling novelist and comic book writer Brad Meltzer was tasked with giving Tim Drake a gruesome experience in the Identity Crisis limited series.

“Full credit to [DC’s then-executive editor] Dan DiDio, who knew Tim’s dad was about to be killed somewhere else, and told me if I could make it work with the plot, I could do it,” Meltzer says. “And since Identity Crisis was about death in all its forms – from death of family to death of self – it worked perfectly for what we wanted. Plus, it was the kind of death that mattered – the one that would impact the character forever.”

Shortly after losing his father, Tim also lost two of his best friends, Superboy Conner Kent and Kid Flash Bart Allen. Still, the impact of all the deaths hasn’t been particularly negative for the character, making him all the more heroic and familiarly human for going through these things.

“He embraced Batman’s world, went through hell, and came out the other side emotionally OK, in a way that Batman still isn’t. He’s still human in a way that Batman still isn’t. really isn’t,” Yost says.

By the time Bruce Wayne was presumed dead, Tim Drake had become one of the DCU’s most respected heroes. And with Bruce gone, his rise to the “Robin” title was something most fans thought was fitting.

“I have to believe that since Tim was in serious contention as someone who could succeed Bruce, seeing him evolve from Robin was inevitable. Tim still has lessons to learn, but they are different lessons now. Damian Wayne had need the role and more lessons from Robin,” Yost says.

The Red Robin Years

Red Robin #1 Cover

Red Robin #1 Cover (Image credit: Francis Manapul (DC))

It was then that Tim Drake began wearing the Red Robin costume, a coat that was first introduced in the DC Kingdom Come limited series, which was about a future Robin turned Red Robin. Thus, the costume and the look were somewhat familiar to readers.

But what wasn’t familiar was Tim Drake as an adult superhero, something writer Chris Yost had to establish.

“Tim was in a horrible place when I came to his house, having lost just about everyone he loved. Mom, Dad, Conner, Bart, Bruce…it was a rough time. And Robin was always supposed to to be the light in the Batman world,” Yost says. “So honestly, I really wanted to bring the light back, see Tim through the tunnel to the light at the end, and make sure it wasn’t a train . I love that he can function as Batman, be the detective, crack skulls, and still have a life. Always smile. He can be serious like Bruce, and enjoy it like Dick.

How Tim Drake Fits Into The Bat-Family

Excerpt from Batman: Urban Legends #10

Excerpt from Batman: Urban Legends #10 (Image credit: DC)

The other aspect of Tim Drake that has helped him endure is his role in the Batman family as someone who thinks before he acts, like his mentor Batman, but with a more caring and healthier way.

“I think he considers himself the backbone of the Bat family,” says Nicieza. “His arrival brought Bruce back into the spotlight, brought Dick back into the fold, and in many ways that thematic pivotal status continues to this day, even now that he’s much more alone.”

For Meltzer, the most important thing for Tim’s future is that he is treated with the same kind of care he has enjoyed since his introduction in 1989.

“I think the strength of Tim Drake was the strength of the many writers and artists who treated him like Tim rather than Robin. That’s why he lives on,” Meltzer said. “We all knew what Robin did. Now we know what Tim would do as well. It’s no small task.”

Tim Drake ranks high on our list of Batman Family.