Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Tim Drake

So, in a recent comic, the character Tim Drake (Batman's second longest Robin) has decided to explore a broader sexuality, or 'come out as bisexual', or however you'd like to put that.

The decision seems to have taken YEARS off, because he looks 
barely older than Gallant here to me.

Naturally, as part of the Gay Bloggers Union, I'm obligated to comment.

Well, good for him, I suppose.

I know it can seem forced and heavy-handed when writers suddenly reinvent a longstanding character's sexuality. I IS.  How could it seem otherwise in a society that currently makes a big deal over such things?  

Well, not EVERYONE makes a big deal over it.

To us, Tim Drake's been around for 32 years, and WE think we know him quite well, so this sort of thing can come as a bit of a shock.  During that time, it's not like Tim was so young as to be asexual. He had some notable (heterosexual) relationships, the best known being with Stephanie "Spoiler" Brown.  So, while this doesn't exactly contradict that history, it definitely feels like a surprising change. 

In universe, however, it's not really so odd. To "Tim Drake", Tim Drake is young and discovering himself, so it seems quite understandable.  It's not Tim's fault that we've seen him live what seems like a 100 lifetimes without realizing that he's bisexual.  To Tim Drake The Character, he's still a young man and he's just figuring that out now and that's perfectly appropriate.

Some Boy Detectives just have a better sense of themselves and what they want than others do.

Remember, in our universe, Tim had been out of the picture for quite a while.  I think he must have been dead (I don't remember why and don't care).  And since he became un-dead, I got the sense DC didn't know what to do with him.  It wasn't so much that DC wanted him alive, they just ... didn't want him dead any more. 

You KNOW that Bunker knew.

They didn't bring him back to be Robin again; lord knows, for some ridiculous reason, DC has doubled-down again and again on the odious Damian as The New Robin.  They tried putting Tim in Teen Titans, but, like a lot of the New 52, that didn't work out.

After a character has been gone a while, and then is brought back, and DC doesn't seem to know what to do with them...well, then some reinvention is in order.  Sometimes updating them for the times is useful and less taxing for readers than forcing-feeding us a new character or imposing a change on a more strongly established current character.  

Oracle was a good example of this technique.  You probably don't realize how edgy the idea of having an internet/computer-tech expert on your crime team was in 1989 when "Oracle" was introduced.  Had she been some new standalone character, I guarantee she would have failed and be used today as a punchline: yet another character based on the latest craze!  

I mean, jeebus, look at the SIZE of the buttons on that thing.

BUT because this new concept -- a computer-expert crimefighter -- was a way to revitalize and repurpose a beloved but long underused character, Barbara Gordon, "Oracle" was accepted and thrived.

Making a character bisexual isn't quite the same, of course, but it's not entirely different, either;  it's a potentially refreshing new spin on a character that could use a new lease on life.

Not all new spins actually turn out to be refreshing, however.

Evolving a character's sexuality isn't a cure-all, but it's not an unreasonable device to use with Tim.  First of all, it's age appropriate; a Damian would be too young, a Dick Grayson would be too old.  Second, it's not wildly out of keeping with his past or his personality.  Third, it's particularly apt for this character, who always seemed to know everything, to learn something new about himself. Tim always seemed way too mature and wise for his years, and with this reveal he automatically seems more interesting and realistic than Tim The Perfect Detective Robin who had evolved over 30 years.  

So, I wish Tim the best on wish new journey of self-exploration.  Particularly if it involves going out with Bunker.


John C said...

I definitely appreciate--even as a straight guy who merely just wants a kind of demographic realism--that Tim was basically introduced as a knowledgeable and opinionated Batman fan who appropriated "the Robin brand" as his identity, as if he was substituting it for his own muddier identity. And like most of DC's fan-proxy characters (Superboy-Prime comes to mind as a sort of predecessor), he's been alternately ignored or used as a proxy to reject critics, so this feels like it should be a good turn for the character. As you point out, it smells more like "what makes sense for Tim Drake as a character" than "who can we change to get DEI points?"

Oracle, great a combination as it has been in retrospect, felt to me like the latter, since Ostrander seemed to be setting her up as a completely independent character for his little "heroic antiheroism" sphere of influence, but the identity got grafted onto Barbara Gordon before anybody met "Amy Beddoes."

Anonymous said...

I recall how strong Tim's feelings were for Conner Kent back in the day, and in my mind that kind of provides a context where this makes sense. Mind you, I don't think it's healthy to assume that any flicker of affection between male characters means they're gay; philia still exists. But sometimes it could be eros too, and if it's handled well, good!

Redforce said...

"Sometimes updating them for the times is useful and less taxing for readers than forcing-feeding us a new character or imposing a change on a more strongly established current character."

That's in line with your mantra about keeping the core of a character and expanding out from there instead of making ridiculous changes, kind of like making up new adventures for your action figures instead of breaking them or gluing parts from other figures onto them.

I just hope they didn't do it just as a stunt to spike sales - the panels you showed are a good indicator that it's not the case. People may be bigoted, but radiation, ancient Egyptian artifacts, and radioactive insects probably aren't

Bryan L said...

Tim Drake's enough of a blank slate, even after 30 years, that this doesn't seem that weird. Though my first thought revolved around Fredric Wertham.

My second thought was about homophobe Chuck Dixon, who chronicled a lot of Tim Drake's solo title. I have to wonder if somebody's taking a not-too-subtle dig at him. I'm probably overthinking it.

Scipio said...

"a stunt to spike sales "
I think I know what you mean, but, let's not forget:
ROBIN, the sensational character find of 1940, was a stunt to spike sales.

I have nothing against "stunts to spike sales"; sales is what companies do.
I have something against them not having the talent to pull them off.

Scipio said...

Good point, John; Tim always had an 'identity issue' and this is in line with that characterization (and a positive character development).

Scipio said...

I don't think many people are giving Chuck Dixon a second thought nowadays, Bryan.

Konsumterra said...

when this was done to iceman i felt sorry for his girlfriend of 30 years - stuff like this they ought to deal with

Bryan L said...

"I don't think many people are giving Chuck Dixon a second thought nowadays, Bryan."

I'm completely okay with that.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, as a Tim Drake fan from day one, this feels organic and natural to me — much more natural than “Red Robin” or the Nu52 version of him. Go for it, Tim.

— Jack of Spades

cybrid said...

"a Damian would be too young, a Dick Grayson would be too old"

With due respect, I'm sure you realize it's not nearly that cut and dry. Some LGBT people recognize their orientation as early as six or as late as middle age.

cybrid said...

"for some ridiculous reason, DC has doubled-down again and again on the odious Damian as The New Robin"

As is the case with virtually any business, anything that DC does, DC does because DC [metaphorically] thinks doing that thing will earn DC more money than NOT doing that thing. Period. At a guess, there's an upcoming Cinematic Universe film in which Damian plays a major role, so DC wants to keep him in the spotlight as part of an overall effort to promote that. At a guess. :-|

Slaughter said...

First of all, always happy to see you posting again. You are one of the most insightful comic commentators, even if we diverge at many points. Are you on Social Media, btw?

I would like to see your opinion on Young Justice S04. Did you even talk about Young Justice over here? I swear I must have had read almost all your posts, but YJ not once I saw.

I find it hilarious Damien is being pushed, because Grant Morrison's whole point with Damien is "Being Batman's son doesn't mean you would make the perfect Robin". Damien is the worst Robin and... that's the point. He's supposed to suck. Normally, Batman is strange and Robin is the sympathetic audience analogue, but in this case, it's Batman who is supposed to be the understandable one. It's a flip on the usual Batman & Robin dynamic.

Making Tim bi was a total bad call, in my opinion. Some cents:

1. I think the real issue is that writers don't seem to understand him. The whole point of Tim is that of all the Robins, he's the most intelligent and logical. He's the Robin most alike to Bruce... but without Bruce's traumas and issues. Tim already has a hat. He's the "detective Robin". All the attempts to revamp him failed because they pushed him towards edginess and anti-heroism... but that was never what Tim Drake is about.

2. It taints all his past history with his best male friends, like Conner and Bart. Was he best buds with them (especially Conner) because he was friends, or because he was attracted and didn't know it? This is bad because some people (I believe mostly heterosexual women) think that deep male friendship = Teh Gay.

3. Pandering to Twitter Identitarians is a bad call, always.

4. As you said, it was heavy handed. Tim had years of publication history, zero sign he liked anything other than girls. Dude was practically Steph-sexual. About as bad as "Bobby you are gay".

5. It places us THIS close to pandering to all those inane fangirl shippers on Tumblr and Deviantart who have been shipping Kon x Tim since the 2000s. All they need is to make Kon bi, which would be even more nonsensical. Let's... not.