Tim Drake

This post has been particularly difficult for me to write, partly because I don’t know how to put into words what I’m feeling. Now that I’m reading the New 52 (DC’s 2011 continuity reboot), I feel like I’m mourning Tim Drake. The new continuity essentially erased everything important about Tim, watered him down to a non-character, a shade of his former self only present to tell the Teen Titans what to do. And it’s such a weird thing to do, such an odd creative writing direction to take the Bat Family’s story in, it makes very little sense. Tim Drake, as he exists within the metanarrative, is hugely important to Bruce Wayne’s emotional well-being; he was Robin for 20 years (and then Red Robin) which means he was the Robin for a huge portion of the fanbase; and has a well-rounded (complicated, intricately developed) history and personality that is widely respected by other heroes and villains (Ra’s al Ghul is particularly obsessed), nearly on par with that of Dick Grayson.

And the New 52 shunted him aside without a second thought. I’ll continue to read comics that feature Tim, but let’s be clear: this is not really Tim. Tim died with the retcon. And I am so bitter.

When I first started reading the various Batman comics, I new the basics about each Robin. For whatever reason, Tim got talked about the least (although that could be attributed to the Jason-focused blogs I was following). I knew he was Robin for a long-ass time, but since there was very little chatter about him, I thought he was boring, filler-Robin. I WAS WRONG I WAS SO WRONG.

This is important because unlike the other Robins, I got to formulate my own opinion on Timmy as I was reading and learning him. In this way, Tim is my Robin. I came here for Jason tbh (see previous post), but I left clinging to Tim Drake-Wayne. I spent more time reading Tim as Robin than I did with any of the others (Dick’s the only one with a history long enough to compete, and I didn’t start reading until he was already Nightwing). I learned who Batman really was, actually became a fan rather than a casual reader, when Tim was Robin. So ya, his New 52 treatment hurts.

Tim Drake was created in response to the death of Jason Todd, making him the 3rd Robin of official continuity. I won’t go into detail on how classist the whole affair is – killing off an angry street kid and bringing in a quiet, smart little boy from a 1% family – but the differences between Tim and Jason are vital. Jason’s death changed Batman for the worst, in that he was deeply depressed, reckless, dark, and overall pretty fucked up. And I don’t mean to make light of the situation; Bruce Wayne lost a son the day that Jason died. His response is totally valid. His heart was broken.

Tim Drake, a lonely, genius son of two millionaire, jet-setting, absentee parents, noticed. The little boy that lived next (read: acres away) door would follow Batman and Robin into the city and take pictures of their daring deeds. He figured out their identities pretty much right away, when he witnessed Robin do a quadruple somersault – a move that only Dick Grayson could ever achieve when he performed in the circus. Tim knew when Dick left to become Nightwing, and because he knew Bruce Wayne was Batman, deduced that his new ward Jason was the new Robin.

Knew that when Robin died, so did Jason (Jason, who was Tim’s hero, who Tim looked up to). Knew that with the death of his son, Batman took more and more risks, didn’t care about his own life, was on a devastating downward spiral. Tim knew that Batman needed a Robin.

 

Tim surprised everyone when he announced that he knew Batman, Robin, and Nightwing’s identities. He tried to talk Dick back into being Robin, because Batman was such a hot mess. Dick refused, partly because he was now an adult, but mostly because he and Bruce were stuck in that many years long phase of constant fighting (not made any better by Jason’s death). One of the many ways that Tim is unique is that Bruce didn’t choose him as Robin – he chose himself.

He basically stepped up to the plate to save Batman from himself. Bruce was way reluctant to take on Tim, this untrained tiny little boy he didn’t know, let alone a new Robin at all (because children fighting crime is an obviously big no-no that got the previous Robin blown up). And he’s hard on Tim, way harder than he was on Dick or Jason. Bruce is terrified of losing another Robin, would rather go it alone than put another child in the field. But Tim becomes Robin and takes his training in stride, if slowly. Tim has none of Dick’s natural acrobatic talents, and he doesn’t have Jason’s born-out-of-necessity street fighting skills. He has his intellect, and his perseverance (not that this stops him from becoming a fucking ninja badass later).

Tim’s Robin tenure is also unique because he doesn’t really need Bruce? Not like Dick and Jason did. Tim’s parents are alive (for a while), he doesn’t need Bruce to be his dad (for a while). He’s not reliant on being a superhero, either, not in the way that won’t allow Bruce or Dick ever step down (for a while). And when I say ‘for a while,’ I mean a relatively long time. Tim was Robin from 1989-2009, so there’s plenty of time for character development.

So compared to Dick and Jason, Tim is a more healthy, balanced kid who chose to be Robin not for himself, not for vengeance, not as an outlet for his anger, but purely because Batman needs a Robin. And he totally makes a difference. Tim pulls Bruce back over the line, brings light back into Batman’s world. They face challenges together, act like a team, and it makes for an actual Dynamic Duo.

That 20 years of character development? That’s rough stuff, buddy. Tim gets put through the wringer. I mean, he gets his own super-successful solo series in order to do so, so that’s cool, but man, this poor kid. Tim almost-dies more than anybody. His mom dies early on, and his dad is put in a wheelchair and years of physical therapy. Tim’s constantly lying to his Dad, and he responds by sending Tim away to boarding school. Tim globe-trots in order get a bunch of ninja training in by Lady Shiva herself, returns a bo staff-wielding badass. A lot happens.

In this time, Dick Grayson, who I’ve already mentioned was born be an older brother, takes on this familial responsibility in way he never got to with Jason. Dick’s dealing with all his guilt about not being there for Jay, and then Jay died, and Dick wasn’t even on planet when it happened. So he becomes the brother that Tim needs, that Jason needed but never got. And it’s beautiful.

I can go on for days about Dick and Tim’s relationship. Tim’s story is different because he’s relatively healthy, but he comes from a weird home life. His parents are alive, but absent. He’s from a rich family, but is almost always alone. Even his relationship with Bruce is unorthodox for the narrative, because it takes them awhile to get into the swing of their partnership. Bruce isn’t his dad, for one. Bruce doesn’t really want another Robin, secondly. And don’t think Tim doesn’t notice.

 

Tim is constantly comparing himself to Dick and Jason, his predecessors. He knows he doesn’t have their natural talents, knows that every time Bruce looks at him he’s seeing his dead son. Tim can’t get out from under Jason’s shadow, even in his own head. It takes years for Tim’s confidence to build to normal, appropriate levels. And a big part of that is Dick.

Dick gets upwards of twenty years to mentor and befriend Tim. He calls him little brother even before Bruce adopts Tim (more on that later). They shit talk about Bruce, they commiserate over the job, they work through Tim’s insecurities, they hang out and have fun and generally get to be a family. Dick is famously an older brother to Damian, yes, but that was necessary on a nearly parental level. Tim and Dick are just happily, healthily brothers unlike, arguably, anyone else in the DC universe.

So Tim’s got Dick for a real older brother, which is a game changer, he gets trained by the toughest fighter in the DC Universe (Lady Shiva), he’s a computer genius, and has a detective mind to rival Bruce. When the Robins are compared against each other, Tim’s always described as the detective. Boy’s crazy smart, and a lot like Bruce in more ways than one. Bruce and his latest Robin eventually grow into a healthy friendship/mentorship. Tim even gets out from under Jason’s shadow, and becomes a legendary Robin in his own right.

But a lot of shit happens to Tim. Despite successfully keeping the secret for years, Tim’s dad finds about his vigilante career, prompting Tim to hang up the cape (his girlfriend Stephanie Brown briefly becomes Robin, but she’ll get her own post later). And while everyone is understandably upset about this, Tim is also unique in that he only ever meant to be Robin temporarily, anyway. As we all know though, one doesn’t just casually stop being a superhero. It’s in the blood.

Tim takes hit after hit. He literally almost dies during the Contagion storyline when he contracts the Apocalypse virus. He sneaks back into Gotham during No Man’s Land, until his Dad uses his rich white guy-ness to get him “rescued” (I’m not even exaggerating it’s that blatant). And then, during the Identity Crisis, his dad dies.

Correction. He doesn’t just die. Jack Drake is murdered by Captain Boomerang while he’s on the phone with Tim who’s rushing to save his dad but is too late. Kid literally hears his dad get murdered over the phone. It’s so awful, you guys, it’s so bad. And it changes his relationship with Bruce. Bruce offers to adopt Tim, but Tim’s in such a funky, emotionally raw place that he literally hires a fake uncle to be his legal guardian so he doesn’t have to deal with any real life shit.

Soon after this, girlfriend-cum-Robin Stephanie accidentally orchestrates a gang war that tears Gotham apart, resulting in her faked death (she really did almost die after being tortured by Black Mask). So Tim’s just lost his dad, and now his longtime girlfriend.

And then Jason comes back, and he does not return unchanged. Jason is angry and bitter and a killing machine, and takes out his ire on Tim. He tracks his ‘replacement’ to Titans Tower to beat him half to death just to prove a point. To Jason, Tim is the actualization of all his deep-seated issues: easily replaced as Robin, easily forgotten and replaced as a son, Bruce’s willingness to put another child soldier in harm’s way. Tim epitomizes Jason’s fear: that he never mattered.

While all of this generally sucks for Tim on a physical level, it also reintroduces his own doubts. Tim questions his place in the family and his role as Robin. Jason was Tim’s personal hero, and you know what they say about meeting your heroes – they might just try to kill you.

During all this, DC presents Infinite Crisis, which is basically just a very messy way of cleaning up the continuity, but it’s importance here is that it ends with the death of Conner Kent, AKA Superboy. Who is also Tim’s best friend. Tim doesn’t take it well. In fact, he takes it very, very badly. Superboy is the partial clone of Superman and Lex Luthor, which means he can be cloned again, right? Because that’s the sane course of action when your friend dies. Attempt to re-clone them. And TIm gets really close to succeeding, too, because he’s a total genius. But it doesn’t work, and even if it did, whatever came out of that test tube wouldn’t be Conner.

All DC titles skip forward a year after Infinite Crisis. Bruce, Dick, and Tim have been traveling during that time, and by traveling I mean Bruce was rediscovering himself in a cave for months while Dick and Tim hung out. But this is also when Bruce formally adopts Tim in the most heartwarming panels ever. Bruce genuinely wants what’s best for Tim, wants to support him without replacing Tim’s father, and Tim’s ready for it this time. By now, Tim wants to be Bruce’s son.

Everything is pure and good, but for like, two months. Because then Damian shows up. I knew that Tim and Damian had a vicious rivalry, even though Tim is seventeen and Dami is ten, but I thought it was about hurt feelings and emotional repression. I was wrong. They hate each other. Damian’s mom has reinforced the idea that he will have to fight for his place in the family, that Bruce will never love him they way he loves his current Robin (Tim). Tim, newly adopted by Bruce, struggling with his identity as a Wayne, is told over and over to his face by Damian that he’s not the real son, he was adopted out of pity, he’s just a stray. And Damian was raised to be blood thirsty, so he lowkey actually attempts to kill Tim.

Tim doesn’t get enough sympathy, to be honest. Dick and Bruce don’t really like Damian for a while, but they want to help him and rehabilitate him, think that he deserves a chance to prove himself. And that’s all fine and good, except that it comes at the expense of Tim, who I guess is older and should know better (but I tend to side with Timmy because I would have responded the same way). Anyway, Tim’s already got all of these self-esteem issues which are now doubled by Damian’s appearance.

And all of this angst and melodrama culminates in Final Crisis, when Bruce dies (not really dead but everyone thinks he is for like a whole year). The family’s in shambles, Dick’s trying to pick up the pieces without wearing the Batman cowl (because he desperately doesn’t want to be Batman), Jason’s causing havoc again, and Tim’s just lost the last person he thought was actually on his side. His dad’s dead, Conner’s dead, Stephanie’s presumed dead, Jason nearly kills him again, and somehow, Damian got Dick in the divorce.

The nail in the coffin (and quite a nail it is) is when Dick makes Damian Robin. His logic: Dick’s now covering as Batman, he needs to keep an eye on his violent kid brother, ergo Damian is now Robin. And in order to do that, he has to take Robin away from Tim. Tim does not volunteer the title. It is forcibly taken from him, as it has been from all other previous Robins in some way or another. His last foothold swept out from under him. And Dami gloats.

Tim: You said we’d be okay. My entire life has burnt down! Again! I don’t call this “okay,” Dick.

Dick: He’s my responsibility now. You’re not my protege, Tim… You’re my equal. My closest ally.  You’ll be okay. But him… Tim, you know better than anyone that left on his own, he’s going to kill someone. Again. You have to understand –

Tim: No, I don’t. This is all I have now… How can you let him wear that costume, Dick? What earth are we on that you’d choose him over me?

Damian: Don’t be so sensitive, Drake.

Dick: Damian, shut up. Now.

Damian: Sorry, Drake. You’re still part of the team – Maybe the Batgirl costume is available!

Tim: My name is Tim Wayne! (and the punches Dami in the face)

(Red Robin #1)

This is the worst betrayal for Tim. Not just that he’s lost Robin, not just that the title has been given to Damian of all people, but that Dick did this to him. Dick, his brother, his best friend, who should remember how much it hurts to have Robin taken from you. Stephanie (his not-dead girlfriend) is back by now, but that level of dishonesty kind of ruins the romance, so they don’t really get along anymore. All that to say, Tim is suddenly, totally alone.

Tim takes on the title and costume of Red Robin and leaves the country. He’s convinced that Bruce is still alive, but no one believes him. No one believes in him, not anymore. And Tim, who only wanted to be Bruce’s son, is truly desperate to believe he’s alive, but he’s also not wrong.

Tim: He’s out there somewhere. I know he is. I know I’m right. Bruce Wayne… Batman… is alive. They think I’m grieving. That I’m in denial. That I’ve lost it. But he’s all I have and he has to be alive.

(Red Robin #1)

The entire Red Robin series is Tim generally being a badass, taking on the League of Assassins by himself, defeating Ra’s al Ghul in multiple ways, and hunting for evidence that Bruce is alive, all while being soul-wrenchingly depressed and halfway suicidal. It’s an amazing series, and as someone who has and always will live with depression, it hits home in a very realistic way. Tim is exhausted to the bone, heartbroken, but he keeps going even when no one believes him (except Conner, who returns from the dead of course), even when there’s no concrete evidence that his father is alive. He just doesn’t stop.

During that time, a Bruce Wayne imposter named Hush has taken control of Wayne Enterprises and is throwing away all of his money just to hurt the Wayne family. But Tim swoops in mid-fight with Ra’s and saves the day. And he does it by being emancipated. This makes him a legal adult and Bruce’s legal heir to almost everything. Tim inherits the Wayne fortune and becomes CEO of Wayne Enterprises, usurping Hush and minimizing the damage. But he has to get emancipated to do it. This kid, who just wants his dad back, just wants to be Bruce’s son, has to give up that familial title in order to save Bruce’s legacy. And it ends with him falling out a window, not really caring if he lives or dies.

I’m not crying, you’re crying. My heart. It’s so well done, and I will go to my grave declaring that Tim deserved better. Dick saves Tim from plummeting to his death, Bruce eventually makes it back (thanks Timmy), everyone’s fighting again but at least they’re alive and together, and just when things might be okay –

The goddamn New 52. This reboot from hell. I won’t say it’s all bad, because it’s not, but it erases over twenty years of history and character development and family dynamics. Tim isn’t really even Tim Drake anymore, that’s just an alias; he’s not Bruce’s son, Bruce just sort of legally looks out for him; his relationships with the Bat-Family are minimal, certainly not fraternal. Does he even have a personality? I can’t find it anywhere. He’s driven by his own arrogance and confidence, endangering his birth parents because, idk. Whatever this is, it’s not Tim.

So yeah, I’m mourning Tim Drake. My dynamic, depressed, coffee-addicted, CEO vigilante son who just wanted a family, and right when he got it, the New 52 destroyed all chance of his happiness. My Tim, my Robin. I’m in pain. My heart hurts. Tim deserved better.

On the meta side, Tim shaped Batman and the entire family, the entire series, into what we now recognize it as. The famous Robin logo? Tim’s. The reason Robin was still relevant? Tim. Batman has jumped off the deep end, the family’s continued to grow, Dick being back in the picture at all after becoming Nightwing? Tim, Tim, Tim. I cannot comprehend why DC decided to negate its most successful teen-oriented character ever. He doesn’t deserve this. His story isn’t over.

I’m bitter forever.

Jason Todd

I have to admit, the reason I got into the Batman comics in the first place is because of Jason Todd. I went through a phase after the Nolan movies, sure, but I started seeking the comics when I heard there was a Robin that died. Death in the Family. That’s the title. The drama! I was so intrigued that even though I knew literally nothing about Batman at this point (besides the watered down version I got from the movies) I decided to dive into the admittedly never ending world of Bat-Family comic books.

 

The first shocker was learning there was more than one Robin. I was super late to that party. I knew about Dick Grayson, I could even tell you his name (I watched Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans), but that was the extent of my knowledge. I’m way too neurotic to not know, though, so I quickly skimmed some wikia page to get the lowdown on the various Robin incarnations. And this matters not just because Jason was the second Robin, but because his story is informed by all those who came after him and vice versa.

 

Jason Todd has had an all-around tough life (and death). His dad was a low level thug that died when he was a kid, and his mother (who he later finds out was actually his stepmother) was a drug addict that died from cancer. Jason was the street kid. That’s how the comics, the characters, the writers describe him. He worked the streets to support himself and his ailing mother when he was just itty bitty, and when his mom died he did what he could just to survive. And that’s how he meets Batman.

 

Jason is the tough little brat who had the balls to try and boost the tires from the goddamn Batmobile. Boy saw Batman’s car, knew he must be in the vicinity, and then managed to steal three tires off the most heavily fortified car in Gotham before returning for the fourth. Batman was so genuinely shocked that he was just like, what the fuck, giving Jason the chance to hit Batman with a crowbar, call him a “big boob,” and run off. (These comics take place in the 80’s so the slang is a bit off.)

 

Batman of course catches up, sees that Jason is squatting in a shitty hole in the wall by himself (and he’s only like 13) and ends up dropping him off at a boys’ home. In a hilarious turn of events, the sweet granny running the home is secretly a vice-loving crime master who trains her wards to work for her. Bruce finds out, shuts her down, and the pretty much adopts Jason. This occurs long after Bruce fired Dick from being Robin, so Dick’s off being Nightwing and only occasionally shows up to fight with Bruce.

 

As all crime-fighting pseudo-fathers do, Bruce eventually makes Jason his sidekick. This begins his tenure as the Boy Wonder. Dick’s not very cool about it at first, since the whole reason he was laid off was because no child should be fighting crime, so his relationship with Jason is rocky at best. Which is unfortunate because Dick’s actually very good at being a big brother and if anyone needed a big brother it was Jason. They eventually warm up to each other, but not nearly to the extent that Dick and his other (eventual) brothers do.

 

So Jason is a child soldier to the World’s Best Detective, his older brother isn’t there for him, and he was pulled out of a life of squalor and survival to live in a high society world of the rich and famous where he doesn’t fit in. Boy has a whole slough of issues. Bruce’s form of anger management is to beat up bad guys, so he basically just points Jay at them and hopes for the best. When people oversimplify the Robins, they say Dick is happy and enthusiastic, Tim is analytical and a detective, and Jason is rage and fire. They’re not wrong.

 

But Jason’s also a huge nerd. He got amazing grades in school and read all the time; he was actually really smart. And despite his anger issues and lack of confidence (he thought he could never measure up to Dick, his predecessor), boy tried really hard. He loved Bruce, wanted to impress him, wanted to stay with him. People forget this now, I think, when they focus on the more recent comics. Go back and read the originals from the 80’s. Bruce and Jay had the best, most loving relationship. It’s seriously heartwarming.

 

But this is what happened. The fans at the time didn’t take to this new, angry, not-Dick-Grayson-Robin. In what is now famous comic book history, the writers gave the readers a “choice”: a vote whether or not to kill Jason Todd. And they voted. Overwhelmingly.  

 

(In more infamous comic book history, there was a lot of drama and conspiracy involved in this vote, but it doesn’t matter so we’re moving on.)

 

The way it plays out is this: long before the vote takes place, the writers make Jason increasingly disobedient, violent, snotty. I’m forever bitter that they tried to make us hate Jason because of their own shitty writing, making it an easy choice for readers to kill him off.

 

Jay’s actions may or may not have lead to the death of a rapist, and Bruce benched him. Jason then runs away in pursuit of his birth mother, who is apparently alive and doing humanitarian work in Ethiopia. But mommy dearest is working for the Joker. Even though Batman catches up, even though Sheila Haywood reunites with her son, even though they hug and kiss and makeup, Jason still gets played. Mom literally hands Jason-as-Robin over to the Joker to save her own skin.

 

This boy – this boy – was just sold out by his own mother, has been beaten within an inch of his life with a crowbar at the Joker’s hands, has been locked in a warehouse with a bomb and his bitch ass mom, and you know what he does with his last moments? He tried to save his mom. He knows she betrayed him. He kind of knows he’s going to die. And he still tries to save her. I mean, he doesn’t succeed, because they’re locked in a warehouse with a bomb, but still. Jason deserved better.

 

And Bruce. He’s literally just outside, just a minute too late. Batman could have saved him if he’d been there just moments earlier. He has to dig Jason’s body out of the rubble. The tragic image of Batman holding his dead son in his arms, weeping over his broken, bloody body has become iconic in its own right.

 

The methods in which they went about it may have been bullshit, but there were some things about Jason’s death that the writers did right. His death mattered. When Superman dies, you know he’s coming back in like 3 issues. When Batman “died,” he was gone for nearly a year but even then he wasn’t really dead, just lost in time. But Jason? He was super dead. When they killed him, they had zero intention of ever bringing him back. Dead for the long haul.

 

One of my criticisms of pop culture is that the consequences of plot points don’t carry enough weight. I always think, “If this or that actually happened in real life, you’d need serious therapy.” Instead, characters usually mourn for a few issues and then move on with their storyline. But Jason’s death made a huge impact. It literally changed the tone of the entire Batman comic series. Bruce pretty much goes off the rails. It gets super dark, and Batman stops caring about staying alive. He takes needless risks. Is injured all the time. He never gets over Jason’s death, not being able to save him. He sets up Jay’s Robin costume as a memorial in the cave. He goes back to working alone. He and Dick fight worse than ever, several times specifically about Jason. It’s bad. Tim Drake enters the scene because he noticed that Batman’s fucked up; Batman clearly needs a Robin to keep from losing his shit.

 

And it’s like that for a solid 15 years or whatever. Bruce acquires more children/Robins which helps bring him back to center, but we are reminded constantly that the loss of Jason Todd changed everything. It’s not until 2005 that writer Judd Winick revives the dead Robin, and god does he do so with flair.

 

Jason returns as the Red Hood, a stolen alias first used by the Joker. He returns vengeful. He returns strong, and cunning, and mean. He doesn’t pretend to be driven by anything but his rage this time around, but he’s meticulous in his planning, calculating in how best he can hurt Bruce. He makes it very clear: he isn’t upset that Bruce failed to save him. He’s angry because the Joker still lives and breathes, still tortures Gotham on a regular basis, still kills for no reason other than his own psychotic humor.

 

When Jason comes back, everything he once believed, needed to believe about his relationship with Bruce, seems negated by what has happened since his death. Batman has a new Robin and a new son, so clearly he’s easily replaceable. That the Joker’s alive means he wasn’t worth avenging. Gotham is still plagued with crime, so Batman’s system isn’t working. Jason thinks he died for nothing, lived for nothing.

 

I used to relate to Jason, cuz I have similar middle child issues, except without the murdering and stuff. His daddy issues are pretty warranted, and he thinks he’s easily forgotten. (He’s obviously wrong about this, but while we know the impact his death had on Bruce, he doesn’t. No one ever told him how much he meant, what his death did to the family).

 

So he comes back with a plan that culminates in forcing Batman to either kill the Joker or kill Jason. Neither happens of course and everything goes to shit. But Jason continues his rampage, and takes out his resentment on the entire family. He beats Tim bloody just because. He shoots Damian in the chest. He steals Dick’s Nightwing identity for a bit. Generally makes himself a pain in the ass.

 

Jason took everything Bruce taught him and used to for semi-nefarious, murderous ends. And while that hurts Bruce, Bruce is more upset about what that means for Jay than about himself. He doesn’t want the weight of all those deaths on his son. He mostly sucks at it, but every now and then Bruce is a really good dad. Or tries to be.

 

Jason is a super fun and interesting character to read. He’s hilarious and sarcastic, unafraid and takes no shit from anyone (his interactions with Black Mask are particularly entertaining). After the reboot in 2011, there are more serious efforts to reform Jay, bring him back into the Bat Family, though he remains the legally dead black sheep. I love him, I love reading about him, I love the drama he brings to the series, I love his redemption, and I love that he got me reading Batman in the first place.

 

Jason Todd, my bitter, sarcastic, undead son.

The Robins

I need to talk about all the Robins and why they’re important and why they make me cry. I thought I could cover all five of them in one post, but apparently I care too much so I’m going to discuss them individually. Which, naturally, means starting with Dick Grayson.

 

God, where do I begin? Dick is the light to Batman’s darkness. He’s loud, colorful, chatty, cheerful, quick to show affection, wears his heart on his sleeve, never hesitates when it comes to social interaction. Whereas Bruce “I work alone” Wayne struggles to say “I’m proud of you” or even “Thank you” unless he’s faking it for the tabloids. (I’ve stated my opinion of Bruce in another post, and I have to admit I was a little hard on him. He’s grown on me. But I stand by my point that his growth is only made possible through his relationships with the Bat Family).

 

As the Robin with the longest run, Dick is also the most well known sidekick. He appeared in Detective Comics in 1940, and remained a part of the Dynamic Duo for some forty years, when he finally became an adult. Take a moment to let that sink in. Poor guy was a teenager for 40 years. Tough break.

 

So anyway, Dick gets shot by the Joker, and in a not-abnormal moment of overprotectiveness (for as much as he sucks at it, Bruce cares a whole lot), Bruce decides it’s not safe for Dick to be Robin and fires him. (This is not the last time Bruce will attempt to fire a Robin for this very reason). Dick, who is now an adult anyway, fucks off and becomes Nightwing instead.

 

This brings us to a very important family dynamic. For all that Dick is the golden eldest child, he and Bruce fight. A lot. Like, that’s their thing for a long ass time. Fighting. Most of the superhero world treats Batman like a god (seriously, go read the comics, he is revered). His word is almost always law, even with his Justice League peers. But Dick is never afraid to challenge him. Dick’s not afraid of him at all, which is probably the biggest difference, tbh. And Batman needs Robin to challenge him or he’d be a stone cold bitch making all kinds of shady ass decisions. The role of Robin is paramount to keeping Batman from crossing the line.

 

So now Dick’s Nightwing, working with the Teen Titans, and later independently in Bludhaven. I highly recommend reading Nightwing Vol.2, because Dick is a fucking badass mofo. He made the transition from sidekick to hero better than most child actors do into adulthood. He’s one of the few former sidekicks to be widely respected and accepted by the “adults” – that is to say, the first wave/generation of heroes, the Justice League, Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman. They listen to him?! I cannot stress the meaning of this, because most superheroes low-key hate working together even when they do cooperate (with great power comes great ego).

 

And Dick is just so… capable. That word doesn’t seem big enough to envelope the success story that is Dick Grayson. He was trained by the motherfucking BATMAN, is a natural acrobat, has a sunny disposition, kicks ass, takes names. He utilizes everything Bruce taught him, but manages to do so without the darkness that lingers over the Dark Knight. On multiple occasions, Dick has stepped up to the plate, donned Batman’s cowl despite resolutely NOT wanting to be Batman, because Bruce needs and trusts him. I’d argue that Bruce trusts Dick more than he’s ever trusted anyone (Alfred is a totally separate case), even though they fight so much. Who else could fill the Batman’s shoes? Literally no one.

 

All these things make Dick Grayson amazing, legendary, good in a universe where that is rare. But I haven’t mentioned my favorite thing about him, the part that makes him stand out the most against an infinite plethora of costumed superheroes: his role as Big Brother.

 

The Bat Family has grown to include many people over the years. The many Robins, all now sons of Bruce Wayne; several Batgirls, one of which is adopted as Bruce’s daughter; Barbara Gordon, now Oracle, without whom everything would collapse; and of course Alfred, who is vital to everyone and the entire Batman operation. And Dick.

 

Dick was born to be a brother. If he had one role to fulfill as his soul’s purpose, it’s that of older brother. When Jason becomes Robin, Dick is still pretty bitter about his own dismissal, so his opportunities to brother Jason are lesser than the other Robins. Still, every now and then they’ll retcon to show Dick and Jason’s time together, however brief. And then Jason dies. Dick wasn’t there for Jason while he was alive, and this guilt drives him to be better then next time around.

 

That means Tim. Timmy Drake, who inserts himself in Bruce and Dick’s lives because Batman needs a Robin. And man, Tim is such a great Robin. And while the new and improved Bat Family is off to a rocky start (Jason’s death has serious repercussions on everyone), Dick decides early on that he will not fail as a brother again.

 

The relationship between Tim and Dick is unparalleled. Tim idolizes Dick, learns from him, trains with him, straight up just hangs out with him. They’re actually friends, which is a nice touch to the dark Batman narrative. And Tim is Robin for so long (1989-2009) they actually get the chance to develop their relationship, to cement over and over that they are brothers, legal or otherwise. Dick calls Tim ‘little brother’ long before he’s formally adopted by Bruce. Dick is so necessary to Tim’s story.

 

But when most fans think of ‘Dick Grayson’ and ‘brother’, they think of Damian Wayne. Dami, Dami, Dami. The youngest of the family, and maybe the most difficult (depends on who you ask), Damian is the love child of Bruce and Talia Al Ghul (Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter). Kept a secret from the world until he was ten, Damian was raised by the League of Assassins to be an assassin.

 

One of the reasons Dick stands out amongst his family is because he has a relatively healthy childhood, imo. It was different, in that he was raised in a circus, but his parents were there, involved, emotionally available, etc. And living in the circus gave him extended family relationships. Dick was a happy, healthy, mostly normal little boy (unlike most others in the vigilante business).

 

But Dami, whew. That boy didn’t stand a chance. He’s bloodthirsty, cruel and violent, highly efficient, scary smart, almost everything his mother wanted him to be. He’s also ten. When Damian enters the scene, his encounters with his father are brief, few and far in between, before Bruce is presumed dead at the hands of Darkseid (see Final Crisis). Who Dami does get, though, is Dick Grayson.

 

Batman and Robin Vol.1 chronicles the adventures of Dick filling in as Batman with Damian as his Robin. Dick is the first person to accept Dami, to love him (‘cause you know Talia didn’t), to try to help him be better. To be fair, Damian is a difficult kid to be around, let alone like, so I fault no one for avoiding the ‘demon brat.’ When Damian – who is not-so-secretly just a lost, lonely little kid – had no one, he had Dick. The characters have had time to evolve since then, but Damian could never have become the person he is now if not for Dick’s role in his life. And while Damian idolizes his father, the relationship he has with his eldest brother molded him more than anything else.

 

Dick Grayson isn’t infallible, but he tries so hard, cares so much. Every other panel I’m crying, because he’s such a great brother to these super messed up vigilante kids. I want my future kids to read Dick Grayson comics. Boy is a genuine role model. Everyone should aspire to be like Dick Grayson. I aspire to be like Dick Grayson. I am very emotional. I love him so much.

-Huge shout out to Taylor with hbjunk.com.  He is my latest real life Batman savior and, of course, is a huge Batman fan!

Bane VS Batman

In honor of my last post I’ll share this chilling video with you.

I swear it only gets better every time I watch it.  Quotable line after quotable line, the terror on Catwoman’s face, the vulnerability of Batman.

I’ll never forget how I felt the first time I watched this scene.  After the last couple of Batman movies you feel that Batman is almost invincible when fighting hand-to-hand with an enemy.  When the gate closes and Batman is trapped on the catwalk I figured the trap, when sprung, would be falling concrete, water or some other unstoppable force.  As it turns out the unstoppable force was Bane himself, leisurely approaching Batman- his prey.

BANE

There’s nothing better than a well-written villain.

There’s villains you love to hate (Loki of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) and villains you hate to hate (Joffrey of Game of Thrones). Either way, they make or break a story. Villains aren’t just evil masterminds set on world domination (not if they’re good villains). They provide moral conflict for our heroes, place them in impossible situations where there is no right answer, no good choice.

A good villain makes the hero question their own motives, provides catalysts of character growth, plants seeds for further plot development even long after they’ve been defeated.

You’d have to have lived under a rock to not know most of Batman’s biggest villains. Forty years of Batman film history (not including Adam West’s television fame) has guaranteed that any casual moviegoer can name at least a few of the Dark Knight’s nemeses. The Joker, most obviously (he’s even worse in the comics, you don’t even know). The Penguin, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, the Scarecrow, the Riddler. All have left a lasting impression on the Batman.

My favorite is Bane. God, the name alone sends shivers down my spine!

Bane.

I won’t say he’s had the greatest impact on Batman, because the Joker’s murdered and crippled several members of the Bat Family and that definitely tops the list of traumatic experiences, but Bane is up there. In case you didn’t know, he’s the one that broke Batman’s back. Literally.

Like many bandwagon fans, I learned of Bane first through the Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises. The movie itself isn’t my favorite to be honest, but Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Bane steals the show every time he steps into frame. I never thought evil, masked beefcake was my type, but damn. It is. Hardy’s Bane is eloquent and charismatic, but fights primal and brutal. He’s a goddamn force of nature. Unstoppable, intelligent, a gale force wind. Gotham’s reckoning. Fuck.

Nolan’s Bane is conceptually very different from Bane of the comics. Comic book Bane wears a luchador mask, hails from a fictional Latin island in the Caribbean, and operates off a super-steroid called Venom that runs directly into his brain and spinal chord. Much of Nolan’s origin story for Bane/Talia al Ghul is taken from comic book lore. Bane is born in prison to serve his father’s life sentence. Through much hardship and isolation he becomes massively ripped, learns six languages, and reads books like a chain-smoker lights up. He earns the loyalty of the inmates, and upon escaping by faking his death and fighting a bunch of sharks, he returns to stage a breakout. From there he plots the defeat of the Batman and the subjugation of Gotham.

Batman is greatly challenged in various ways by his numerous opponents. Joker’s insanity and criminal mastermind, Penguin’s resources and network, Poison Ivy’s unique proclivity and control of plants. They make for fun and interesting stories. But here’s what makes Bane different: he is Batman’s equal. Now, I’ve only read as far as the late 90’s at this point so I don’t know everything, but as far as I know Bane is the only villain to defeat Batman in a one-on-one fight. It’s a duel that ends with bane snapping Batman’s spine. It’s truly chilling.

It wasn’t a fair fight (Bane’s hopped up on ‘roids, Batman hasn’t slept in a month and is physically and emotionally worn down by the time he confronts Bane). But even so, it’s not just his physical prowess that makes him a phenomenal match for Batman. Bane planned for months and released the Arkham Asylum inmates to keep Batman busy. He’s crazy smart and knows how to play the long game. His victory over Batman wasn’t just fisticuffs. It was calculated yet animalistic.

In Nolan’s conclusion to his Dark Knight trilogy, Bane speaks slowly, casually, to a defeated Bruce Wayne. For being so vicious, Bane is not ruled by rage. He’s far too controlled for that. No. He leans in, quiet, slightly muffled by his horrific mask, and says,

“When Gotham is ashes…. Then you have my permission to die.”

If you don’t think that’s the coolest shit then get outta my face.

Saved

If I haven’t mentioned it already I’m slightly high-strung.  It isn’t a problem or anything.  I just need my personal time when I need it, you know?  That being said it could be a good decision or a bad decision to relate the following events.  It could be good because they have a happy ending, or bad because it was very, very stressful most of the way through the story!

Well, here I go.

I got home from work at around 5 o’clock in the evening last week.  It wasn’t a horrible day or anything, just long and very work-like.  Needless to say I was tired and ready for some dinner, a glass of wine and maybe even a hot bath!  I must say, by the way, that there simply isn’t anything as relaxing or soothing as some cabernet in  a warm bath at the end of the day.

I had a quick, simple dinner.  Just heated up some frozen chicken and veggies.  After finishing up I immediately went up to draw a bath.  I got out my essential oils, a few candles, cranked the temperature up on the water and let it flow.  To my utter horror dark, murky, filthy water poured forth from the spout!  My jaw dropped, I held in a scream, then I screamed, then I turned off the water.

This has never happened before of course.  I didn’t know what to do.  I froze, got very emotional and maybe shed a few much needed tears.  Then I became reasonable and did the first thing that came to mind- I searched for a plumber on Google and picked one.

In case you didn’t know, calling a plumber can be quite intimidating. Even if they have good reviews you’re still trusting your home to a total stranger.  This guy had good reviews and everything but I was still nervous about it.  About an hour later Ryan showed up, cleanly dressed with a smile on his face.  He was tall, gruff and happy to help.  He was my dark knight.

When filthy water spews into your bathtub all sorts of causes present themselves to you- dead body in the plumbing?  did the sewer and non-sewer lines get crossed? is that possible? ew!  have rats chewed holes in everything?

Thankfully it wasn’t anything near as dramatic as all that, not that my plumber hero couldn’t have handled those things.  It just so happened that my water heater was very old and quite awhile on it’s last legs.  Between that night and some work the next morning Ryan was able to remove my old, busted water heater and replace it with a new one.

I was elated!  Not that I care about water heaters, but my worst fears and apprehensions about 1) my plumbing and 2) hiring a plumber turned out to be completely ill-founded.  The solution was simple and Ryan was batman.  He charged me a fair price and didn’t up-sell me on anything else.  The price was what it was and I was totally pleased with the service!

All that to say, if disaster strikes when you least expect it and it has to do with pipes or water heaters or whatever, don’t hesitate to look Ryan up: costamesaplumbingservices.com.

Sadly, I didn’t get my bath that night.  But you’d better believe I had my wine, perhaps a tad more than I planned on.  But hey, you gotta go with the punches sometimes, right? What initially should have ruined my entire week turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  I know I’ve for sure got 8-10 years before I need to worry about my bath time threatened again (at least from my plumbing) and I have a trusty, not-so-dusty plumber on call whom I trust and appreciate.

Until next time be thankful for hot, running water, essential oils in the bath and a smooth glass of cabernet.  Hopefully it isn’t the latter than turns sour on me next time!

Robin

The thing about Batman is that he’s actually a huge asshole. He has little emotional growth, incredible control issues, and he’s killed at least one wolf and I’ll never forgive him for that (Batman: The Mad Monk #4). It’s only through interactions with his companions that Batman becomes truly interesting. That’s Robin’s real origin story – not Dick Grayson, but Robin as Batman’s sidekick. The writers realized that if Batman’s story was only told through thought-bubbles, he becomes tedious and dreary. Batman needs a Robin, so he can explain his genius detective skills to another character.

Left to his own devices, Batman would swing around the concrete jungle that is Gotham in total silence. He’s in a constant state of brooding. Blah, blah, never got over my parents’ death, blah, blah, man-pain, blah, blah, I am the night.

No on cares.

Batman’s childhood trauma is so overwrought, and while in the moment it is super tragic and makes for a great backstory, there’s no reason why Bruce Wayne shouldn’t have healed by now. We’ve all lost someone, we all know that pain. We deal with it differently and heal in different ways, at different paces, but time really does heal all wounds. Or at least patches them up in to high functioning scars. But in order to remain Batman, he’s not allowed to heal. It’s been 80 years, Bruce, go to therapy.

This, of course, is the fault of the writers and not the character. But for me it makes Batman come across as an emotionally stunted man-child incapable of reasonable growth and character development. It eventually makes him boring.

His sidekicks, companions, and various members of the Bat Family are way more intriguing, and keep Batman’s character from devolving into the psychological equivalent of a brick wall. As I continue reading the comics from the continuity guide (thank you Comic Book Herald), I can’t help but feel like I’m wading through the drudge of Batman’s initial stasis so I can get to the good stuff – namely, the Robins.

Not only do the Robins humanize Batman back from the robotic vigilante ledge he’s been standing on, they each have individual story lines that are inherently more interesting than Batman’s.

Dick Grayson is the first Robin, and he is sunshine personified. Heart-of-gold Dick Grayson. Witty, good humored, extraverted, kick-ass Dick Grayson. I could go on forever. He’s just so great, and I want him to be my acrobatic vigilante child. And he doesn’t just balance Batman out – he is Batman’s polar opposite. He makes Batman care about people more than justice, to the point that when Dick gets seriously injured after years of being Robin, Batman freaks out and decides there’s no way a child should be a vigilante (oh my GOD, how are you just now realizing this of course a child shouldn’t be fighting crime where have you BEEN Bruce, dear lord).

So he fires him. Batman straight up FIRES Dick from being Robin. I should point out that by the time this happens, Dick’s 19 and an adult capable of making his own decisions, so he’s just like “Fuck you, I’ll be Nightwing then” and takes off.

Even though Bruce has decided to work without a Robin in order to avoid further child endangerment, he cannot stop himself from adopting cute bull-headed orphan kids and turning them into superheroes. It’s a somewhat disturbing pattern that defines Batman’s relationship with his Robins (all 4.5 of them, that is), but it’s also what makes the series worth reading, in my opinion. I’m here for Robins and dysfunctional family dynamics.

As Tim Drake (Robin #3) famously states, Batman needs a Robin.

Batman

I have an obsessive personality. I’m not good at letting things go, or enjoying anything in moderation. If I were to personify one of the 7 Deadly Sins, I would be Gluttony. I don’t know when to stop. I don’t want to. I want to consume and consume until there’s nothing left, until I’m burnt out and bored, and then I’ll move on to the next obsession. The only positive is that my obsessions aren’t destructive vices like alcohol, drugs, over-eating.

 

No, I’m talking about Batman.

 

I’ve always considered myself Marvel Trash™ and I will go to my grave declaring Captain America to be the best superhero of all time. So the DC universe in general is new to me.

 

I know the basics. You can’t grow up in America without learning about Batman’s origin story like it’s part of the Common Core curriculum. I’ve seen the movies (Nolanverse of course being the most influential on my generation), I watched the animated series with my brother as a kid. Batman is such a normal part of our culture that I took him for granted. Batman’s always been there, crying over his dead parents in a dark alley, dressing up as a flying rodent, defeating villainous Furries on the reg.

 

And the thing about Batman – about most legendary superheroes, really – is the sheer amount of history behind the character. I’m not even talking about fictional bios (don’t get me started), but the nearly 80 years of real-world comic book history. Do the diehard “real” fans actually read all that material? How am I supposed to compete with that? ‘Cause you know I’m not about to drop a fortune on 80 years of ancient comic books so I can “prove” that I’ve read Batman. To make things worse, nothing’s quite linear. It’s not just the Batman comics (#1-700-something); there’s Detective Comics themselves, there’s all the additional side stories and characters and spin-offs, all the crossovers that are vital to Batman’s story… It’s infinite and impossible.

 

I had to google a reading order (I recommend Comic Book Herald’s guide), and while I’m following that as best I can, I hate knowing that there’s stuff out there that I haven’t read. I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg, if the iceberg is the entire continent of Antarctica. So instead of trying to read everything in its perfect order, I’ve been focusing on specific character storylines so I don’t lose my sanity to something as relatively inane as fucking Batman.

 

I have an obsessive personality. This doesn’t always get me in to trouble, depending on the focus of my obsession. If it’s Harry Potter, I read the books and move on. If it’s Pokémon, I play my 3DS now and then and keep the app open on my phone. If it’s Star Wars, I marathon the movies and read the books and play the games and watch the cartoons and then I go back to work. Once it’s all over, I can do my chores and see my family and pretend that I didn’t just fall off the face of the earth in order to consume all things Star Wars.

 

But not the goddamn Batman. No, he has to have 80 years of multiple comic books and movies and video games and cultural impact, making my plight endless and daunting. I cannot possibly “finish” Batman. Batman’s never over. Talk about an Infinite Crisis. When will I sleep? Will I ever see my family again? How can I bring in a paycheck if Batman’s constantly haunting me from the shadows like the fucking creeper he is? When will my suffering end?

 

Damn you, Batman. Damn you.