This past August marked 30 years since the character of Tim Drake was introduced in the pages of Batman, specifically, the storyline “A Lonely Place For Dying”. It featured the character confronting Dick Grayson with the knowledge of his past role as Robin, which ultimately led to his eventual training to take over the mantle after the murder of Jason Todd, the second person to wear the red, green, and yellow costume. Naturally, Tim’s journey to becoming a costumed crimefighter wouldn’t be complete without personal tragedy, as his parents fell victim to the leader of a voodoo cult in Haiti, leaving his mother dead, and his father paralyzed. This trauma would be Tim’s greatest challenge to overcome, as he faced off against the Scarecrow to rescue Batman, albeit in a makeshift disguise. Even under the influence of the villain’s fear toxin, Tim succeeded beyond even Batman’s expectations, leaving no doubt that he was ready to become Robin. Sporting arguably the best redesign of a superhero costume ever, Tim Drake’s tenure as the Boy Wonder saw him fight more of Batman’s primary villains on his own, including the Joker. Over three comic book mini-series, an ongoing title that lasted for 183 issues between 1993 and 2009, and two team books, Young Justice and Teen Titans, Tim Drake was easily the favorite among the comic characters I had been collecting since I was 13.
Thought I’ve mostly given up on collecting comics in recent years, I still keep my toes in the pool of comic book fandom, even if it’s to my own detriment. Between DC Comics’ ill-fated New 52 reboot, and their course-correcting Rebirth, I’m admittedly at a loss as to where the character currently stands. One minute I heard he was dead, the next, he’s the Batman of the Batman Beyond future. All things considered, I suspect that whatever the character has been up to recently, it isn’t nearly as exciting as his earlier adventures.
In any event, seeing the character adapted for film, especially with Batman seeing a resurgence thanks to the Tim Burton film in 1989, was always something I had hoped for. Dick Grayson was sporting Tim’s updated costume design in Batman: The Animated Series, as well as a slight variation in 1995’s Batman Forever. When the former was relaunched as The New Batman Adventures, I was certainly excited by the announcement of Tim Drake being introduced as a new Robin. So imagine my frustration with the fact that they took everything about Jason Todd and merely named him Tim Drake for no discernible reason. For as fleshed out a character as Tim Drake had always been, nothing was more infuriating than to have an animated series that I loved show him such a level of disrespect as to saddle him with the origin and personality of a character that was so hated by fans, they called into a hotline back in 1988 to kill him off! If they wanted him to be Jason Todd, that’s fine, but why sully such a vastly superior character by taking the name and using none of the traits that make him Tim Drake; genius-level intellect with an aptitude for computer science, a command of half a dozen languages, detective skills at 14 that managed to impress both Dick Grayson AND Bruce Wayne? No, let’s prioritize the nachobucket who Batman took in after he tried to jack tires off of the Batmobile!!!!
To be fair, Tim Drake’s Robin has appeared in his share of animated DC projects, in addition to video games like the Batman Arkham series. However he’s usually only a side character, and rarely given the respect he deserves, in my opinion. Even when the character was introduced on the Young Justice animated series, there was never much focus on him besides being one of a dozen new characters who served as a support team for the principal leads.
This has only gotten worse, in my opinion, with the introduction of Damian Wayne in the comics. The son of Bruce Wayne and Talia Al Ghul, Damian was trained by the League of Assassins to be a vicious, methodical killing machine. If anything bothered me about the character, it was the immediacy at which some fans were willing to anoint him as the best to ever hold the title of Robin, once Tim was pushed to the sidelines. This ultimately forced him to take on a new crimefighting persona as “Red Robin”, which I have never been able to say without thinking of the restaurant chain’s sickeningly catchy commercial jingle! Now to be fair, I LOVED the Red Robin solo series, for as brief as its run was compared to Tim Drake’s first solo Robin title. Tim as a globetrotting adventurer was always a good bit of campy fun that I certainly appreciated, and the artwork of Marcus To was a perfect fit for the character. The fact still remains that at least in terms of animation, Damian has had multiple instances of being a central character, even driving the main plot in features like Son of Batman and Batman Vs. Robin.
As it stands though, I find myself forced to face the exceedingly high likelihood that I’ll never see Tim Drake adapted in the medium of live-action. Despite the character’s multitude of accomplishments, and arguably being the best to ever hold the title of Robin, there doesn’t seem to be much chance of him getting any type of spotlight in film or on television anytime soon. The “wink-wink” copout of Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character’s real name in The Dark Knight Rises being “Robin” is still one of the most hollow attempts at fan service I’ve ever witnessed, rivaled only by Zendaya’s “My friends call my ‘MJ’” reveal in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Zack Snyder’s Batman, meanwhile, alluded to Robin having already been killed, presumably by the Joker. Robert Pattinson’s The Batman will most likely be Robin-free, given the focus on the character’s early years. There’s even a full-on prequel series about Batman’s butler Alfred, when he was a young British spy. I’m not even going to waste words talking about the Fox series Gotham.
Even the DC Universe series Titans has made the Jason Todd Robin a regular team member, as set photos have pretty much confirmed that Dick Grayson will become Nightwing over the course of the second season. Obviously, I can’t blame the actor, Curran Walters, for looking like what would happen if Ruby Rose and Justin Bieber occupied the same space at the same time, but I can’t stress enough how much I hate Jason Todd as a character. I never even realized I could have participated in voting on his demise! Of course 20 years later, and he’s being resurrected in the comics after an alternate version of Superboy punched the fabric of reality . . . (YES, that’s how Jason Todd came back to life, people!) so I guess I can be happy I didn’t spend the $2.99? But make no mistake. . . Jason Todd has always been garbage. He was a garbage Robin, and I suspect he’s still garbage as Red Hood (the hyper-violent identity he adopted after the reality punch brought him back from the dead).
Maybe one day, Tim Drake will have a chance to show non-comic audiences why he’s the best Robin, and an all-around great character. Though fans may continue to chastise Warner Bros. and DC for it, their lack of desire to have a single cohesive cinematic universe after a few false starts at it, may not be such a bad thing in terms of finding a place for Tim. The CW’s Crisis On Infinite Earths event is sure to please a massive intersection of fans, especially with Smallville’s Tom Welling officially returning to the role of Clark Kent, while Brandon Routh dons the red and blue tights once again as Kingdom Come-Era Superman. While I certainly don’t expect the crossover event to make room for Tim Drake, it’s merely another example of DC/WB’s free-flowing approach to adapting their characters to live-action, which could potentially facilitate Tim’s inclusion in the companies’ other live-action offerings. But after 30 years, I don’t know if it’s even worth it to hold my breath anymore.