FAN NEWS

Robin's Many Masks: Tim Drake

Joshua Lapin-Bertone

Joshua Lapin-Bertone

March 19, 2020

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Our celebration of Robin’s 80th anniversary continues, as we spotlight all the boys (and girls) who have worn the mask. We recently took a deep dive into Dick Grayson and Jason Todd, now it’s time to turn our attention to Tim Drake. Tim took Robin to new heights as he was the first Boy Wonder to get his own title and wear long pants! Want to learn more about the third Boy Wonder? Read on…


ROAD TO ROBIN

 

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After Jason Todd’s tragic death, DC decided to develop a new Robin, but this time things would be different. The next Robin would be less of a hothead, and more of a detective. He wouldn’t wear the costume right away, and the writers would take their time to have the next Boy Wonder prove himself to the fans.

 

Readers first met Tim Drake in Batman #436 during a retelling of Dick Grayson’s origin. As a small child, Tim had been in the audience at Haly’s Circus when the Flying Graysons were killed. Tim never forgot that tragic sight, and years later he instantly recognized Dick Grayson when Robin performed an aerial move on television. Tim Drake was just a kid, but he had discovered Batman and Robin’s secret identity.

 

After reading about Jason Todd’s death, Tim Drake noticed that Batman wasn’t the hero he once was. He was getting sloppy, not taking care of himself, and lashing out at his villains. Tim secretly followed the Dark Knight, photographing his battles, hoping he could convince Dick Grayson to help his former mentor ("Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying").

 

Tim caught up with Dick, who was surprised that the 13 year old boy had deduced his secret identity. Tim pleaded with Dick to become Robin again, but the original Boy Wonder insisted that he had moved on. After Nightwing and Batman fell into one of Two-Face’s traps, Tim Drake took a spare Robin costume from the Batcave and went to save them. Tim Drake met Batman for the first time as he pulled him from a collapsed building, and the Dark Knight was aghast that another boy would dare to wear the Robin costume.

 

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Tim told Batman that he needed a Robin, and if Dick wouldn’t do it, then he was up to the challenge. In a way Tim was making his case to the readers just as much as he was to Batman. The Caped Crusader was resistant to the idea, but some persuasion from Alfred and Nightwing convinced Batman to give Tim a shot. Tim would be trained as Robin, but it would be months before he’d be allowed to put the suit on.

 

One of the things that made Tim different from Dick and Jason was that his parents were still in the picture. Jack and Janet Drake were successful business owners who enjoyed traveling around the world while Tim was in boarding school. Their extended absences allowed Tim to sneak off to Wayne Manor without arousing suspicion. A voodoo themed criminal called the Obeah Man kidnapped Tim’s parents, and the Dark Knight was unable to save them both. Janet Drake was tricked into drinking poison, and although Jack didn’t drink as much as his wife, he ingested enough that he was comatose for months (Detective Comics #621).

 

The death of Janet devastated Tim, but he was determined to complete his training. Batman was still reluctant to put Tim in the battlefield, fearing that he would be killed like Jason. When Batman was captured by the Scarecrow, Tim decided to take matters into his own hands, even if it meant he could never be Robin. Tim disobeyed the Dark Knight’s orders to stand down, and took on Scarecrow. After rescuing Batman, the Caped Crusader commended Tim’s initiative and agreed that he had earned the role of Robin.

 

The new Dynamic Duo returned to the Batcave, where Tim was given his own upgraded Robin costume in Batman #457. The R symbol was now stylized, and the costume was given long pants. Although there had been variants of the Robin costume over the years, the official uniform hadn’t been changed since it’s introduction in 1940. Tim’s new costume brought the look into the 1990’s, and was one of the many ways he made the role his own.

 

EARLY ADVENTURES

 

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When Tim became Robin, he hit the ground running. After receiving his new costume, he was given his own limited series in 1991. Although Dick had starred in a series of backup features, Tim was the first Robin to ever headline his own limited series. The story tracked Robin as he went overseas to continue his training, and introduced him to King Snake, the first official member of his rogues gallery. The limited series was written by Chuck Dixon, who would go on to write a majority of Tim’s adventures for the next decade.

 

The series was a hit, and a sequel soon followed, which chronicled Robin’s first encounter with the Joker. Batman was out of town, and the stakes were high, since the last Robin to face Joker was killed. Robin pulled through, and was able to defeat the Joker on his own.

 

In Batman #480, Jack Drake was released from the hospital, which caused Tim to wonder if his days as Robin were numbered. Jack was ready to live with his son, which meant that Tim had to leave Wayne Manor. Bruce and Alfred engineered a solution, manipulating Jack into buying the house next door. This gave Tim easy access to the Batcave, allowing him to continue his life as Robin. This also led to numerous complications over the years, as Tim had to find creative ways to hide his secret identity from his father. No other Robin had to face anything like this before, which made Tim’s tenure all the more interesting.

 

In Detective Comics #648, Robin met the Spoiler for the first time. It wasn’t love at first sight, in fact, she hit Robin in the face with a brick. Spoiler was a teenage girl named Stephanie Brown, who was striking back at her father the Cluemaster by sabotaging his various crimes. Over time she would gain a crush on Robin, which the Boy Wonder initially resisted.

 

Tim met his first girlfriend in the limited series Robin III: Cry of the Huntress. Ariana Dzerchenko was the daughter of Russian immigrants, and Robin helped her family when they were targeted by mobsters. After getting a girlfriend, Tim also received a car and his own ongoing series! Due to his father’s limited mobility, Gotham City granted Tim a special driver’s license, even though he was only 14 (Detective Comics #668). Tim was overjoyed because he was finally able to drive the Redbird, a special car Batman had commissioned for him. The Redbird acted as Robin’s Batmobile, and had the power to disguise itself as an ordinary car for Tim Drake.

 

Spinning out of the events of the Knightfall saga, Robin was given his first ongoing series. While an injured Bruce was searching for Tim’s kidnapped father, John Paul Valley had taken over the Batman mantle and kicked Robin out of the Batcave. Robin was now patrolling the streets on his own. After Bruce Wayne reclaimed the Batman mantle, and the Dynamic Duo’s partnership resumed, Robin continued having solo adventures in his ongoing series.

 

FAMILY AND SUPER FRIENDS

 

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Tim’s solo series continued to prove that he was unlike any Robin that came before. Robin had many of his own adventures without Batman, more than any of his predecessors had. Tim was also the first Robin with the burden of hiding a secret identity from a parent. After Jack Drake recovered from his injuries, he tried to become a more active father to Tim, which complicated his life as Robin. Tim had to sneak out of the house, come up with excuses for his absences, and find creative ways to keep his family in the dark.

 

Tim’s father fell in love with a woman named Dana, who he later married. While Dana’s presence helped defuse some of the tension between father and son, she was another person Tim had to hide his secret identity from. The stress of Tim’s double life put a heavy strain on his relationship with Ariana, and after months of growing apart, he realized he had fallen for Spoiler. Tim and Ariana broke up in Robin #56, as the Boy Wonder began a romance with Spoiler. This put Tim’s secret identity problems in reverse, since Stephanie only knew him as Robin, but didn’t know his real name.

 

In Young Justice: The Secret #1 Robin teamed up with Impulse and Superboy to help a ghostly girl named Secret escape from a government agency. This adventures was followed up with another team-up in JLA: World Without Grown-Ups, where the boys decided to form their own team. Young Justice gave Robin the opportunity to lead a team, just as Dick had before him. The team grew, adding members like Wonder Girl, Arrowette, Secret, and Empress. Robin’s time in Young Justice gave him close friends in the superhero community, including Conner Kent/Superboy, who Tim grew to view as his best friend.

 

After Young Justice disbanded, Robin and some of their former members were invited to join the Teen Titans (2003’s Teen Titans #1). When some of the elder members left the group, Robin followed in Dick’s footsteps by becoming the team leader.

 

RETIREMENT, RETURN, AND REQIUM

 

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For years Tim did his best to keep his vigilante life separate from his family life, but it all came crashing down in Robin #124. While searching through Tim’s room, Jack found a hidden compartment in his son’s closet. The secret compartment contained Tim’s Robin costume, and a series of journals detailing his life with Batman. Enraged, Jack Drake drove to Wayne Manor and threatened Bruce. After talking things over with his father, Tim agreed to retire from crimefighting in Robin #125.

 

Tim attempted to live a quiet life, but in his effort to shut himself out from his vigilante days he cut himself off from Stephanie. Tim’s isolation and a romantic misunderstanding led to Stephanie cutting ties with Tim, and taking his place as Robin. When a gang war erupted in Gotham, one of Tim’s classmates was shot. Realizing that the promise to his dad wasn’t as important as Gotham’s safety, Tim returned as Robin in Detective Comics #798. Jack was angry, but realized he couldn’t keep Tim from his destiny. Jack reluctantly allowed Tim to continue his activities as Robin, but their new arrangement wouldn’t last long. During the gang war, Tim’s ex-girlfriend Spoiler seemingly died, after succumbing to injuries she received when Black Mask tortured her. Robin was devastated, but the biggest hit was yet to come.

 

Ray Palmer’s ex-wife Jean Loring began orchestrating a series of events to reunite with her ex-husband. Hoping that concern would cause Ray to run to her, Jean murdered the Elongated Man’s wife Sue Dibny, and sent a series of threatening letters to family members of superheroes. Jack Drake received a letter in Identity Crisis #5, which was followed shortly by a visit from Captain Boomerang. Working behind the scenes, Loring had sent Boomerang after Jack. Defending himself with a handgun, Jack was able to kill the invader, but not before one of the boomerangs pierced his heart. By the time Batman and Robin answered his call for help, Jack was already dead. Tim was now an orphan.

 

UNCLES, ADOPTIONS, AND RESURRECTIONS

 

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The death of Jack Drake shattered Tim’s stepmother Dana, who suffered a mental breakdown. Needing some space from Gotham, Tim decided to take his stepmother to a clinic in Bludhaven (Robin #132). Since Tim had no real guardian, Bruce offered to adopt him. Initially Tim was excited about the offer, but began to have second thoughts. The death of Jack Drake was still a recent memory, and he wasn’t sure if it would be fair to Dick.

 

To spare Bruce’s feelings, and to solve the problem of his guardianship, Tim hired an actor to pretend to be his long-lost Uncle Eddie. Batman revealed that he saw through the ruse, but decided not to push the issue on adoption. Dana Drake was killed during the destruction of Bludhaven, and Tim’s fake uncle fled the city. After the events of Infinite Crisis, Robin joined Batman and Nightwing on a year-long trip around the world. After they returned to Gotham, Bruce once again offered to adopt Tim, who tearfully accepted (Batman #654).

 

In Robin #174, Tim was overjoyed to learn that Leslie Tompkins had faked Stephanie’s death to make a point to Batman. Robin was upset about the conspiracy, but glad that Spoiler was alive, and they cautiously resumed their romantic relationship. Love would have to wait, because Gotham was soon thrown into turmoil after the disappearance of Batman. The Dark Knight had seemingly lost his life after an encounter with Darkseid in Final Crisis #6, and Tim briefly toyed with the idea of taking up the mantle in Batman: Battle for the Cowl before Dick Grayson accepted the responsibility.

 

Unfortunately Dick’s graduation to Batman meant the end of Tim’s tenure as Robin. Damian Wayne, Batman’s son with Talia, was a highly trained fighter, but lacked focus and restraint. Dick knew that if Damian wasn’t given proper training and attention, he could grow up to become one of the most dangerous killers in the world. Dick made Damian his Robin, leaving Tim to feel obsolete (Red Robin #1). While Dick and Damian focused on Gotham, Tim went to search for Bruce Wayne, deducing he was still alive somewhere. Since he was no longer Robin, Tim adopted the identity of Red Robin for his new quest.

 

LIFE AFTER ROBIN

 

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As Red Robin, Tim continued making his mark on the superhero community. He was instrumental in bringing Bruce Wayne back home after he was lost in time (Bruce Wayne – The Road Home), and he continued leading the Teen Titans to greatness (2011’s Teen Titans). Batman never forgot that Tim deduced his secret identity as a small boy, and he relied upon Tim’s intelligence to help guide their mission for justice. In Detective Comics #934, Red Robin helped develop the Gotham Knights initiative, which was designed to train new heroes, and eradicate all crime in the Gotham.


Tim Drake was not the first Robin, but he made the role his own. Tim elevated the Robin persona to new heights by being the first Boy Wonder to get a costume upgrade, his own series, a fully developed supporting cast, and more. While Tim’s time as Robin is over, for some fans he’ll always be their Boy Wonder.

 

 

TIMELINE

 

* Batman #436 – A young Tim Drake witnesses the death of the Flying Graysons. First appearance of Tim Drake.

 

* Batman #442 – Tim suits up as Robin for the first time to save Batman and Nightwing from Two-Face. Tim convinces Batman to train him.

 

* Detective Comics #621 – Tragedy strikes as the Obeah Man kills Tim’s mother Janet, and critically injures his father Jack.

 

* Batman #457 – After saving Batman from the Scarecrow, Tim officially finishes his training and is given a new Robin costume.

 

* 1991’s Robin #1-5 – Tim becomes the first Robin to receive their own limited series.

 

* Robin II: Joker’s Wild #1-4 – Robin faces the Joker for the first time. First appearance of Tim’s best friend Sebastian Ives.

 

* Batman #480 – Jack Drake is released from the hospital, ending Tim’s residence in Wayne Manor. Jack buys a house next door to Bruce Wayne, which allows Tim to continue his tenure as Robin with ease.

 

* Detective Comics #647-649 – Robin meets Stephanie Brown, a hero who calls herself the Spoiler. Batman and Robin help Stephanie take down her father, the Cluemaster.

 

* Robin III: Cry of the Huntress #1-6 – Robin teams up with Huntress to stop Russian mobsters, and Tim Drake falls for Ariana Dzerchenko.

 

* Detective Comics #668 – Due to his father’s limited mobility, Tim is allowed to receive a provisional license at age 14. Robin gets his own car, the Redbird.

 

* 1993’s Robin #1 – Tim Drake becomes the first Robin to headline their own solo ongoing series.

 

* Robin #56 – Tim Drake ends his relationship with Ariana, as Robin begins a romance with Spoiler.   

 

* JLA: World Without Grown-Ups #1-2 – After teaming up with Superboy and Impulse to stop the villain Bedlam, Robin and the other young heroes form their own super team called Young Justice.

 

* Robin #74 – Tim Drake is enrolled at a boarding school called Brentwood Academy, complicating his life as Robin.

 

* Robin #100 – Jack Drake loses his fortune, and Tim Drake is pulled from Brentwood Academy.

 

* 2003’s Teen Titans #1 – After Young Justice disbands, Robin, Superboy, Impulse and Wonder Girl are invited to join a new incarnation of the Teen Titans.

 

* Robin #124-125 – Jack Drake discovers Tim’s double identity and forces his son to retire as Robin.

 

* Detective Comics #798 – A violent gang war convinces Tim to resume his Robin identity.

 

* Identity Crisis #5 – Robin becomes an orphan when Jack Drake is killed by Captain Boomerang.

 

* Batman #654 – Bruce Wayne adopts Tim Drake.

 

* Robin #183 – Robin confronts his mother’s killer, the Obeah Man. Final issue of his first ongoing series.

 

* Red Robin #1 – Dick Grayson decides to train Damian Wayne as the next Robin, forcing Tim to make a new life for himself as Red Robin.

 

Are you a hardcore Robin fan, or just looking to learn more about the Boy Wonder? Check out all the Robin-centric activities that our clubs are running in the Community Events Calendar!