Who's the best Robin? Well, it depends on who you ask. For most comic book fans, it's whichever version they grew up with. It could be Dick Grayson, Stephanie Brown, Jason Todd, Carrie Kelly, or even Damian Wayne. But if you're Batman scribe James Tynion IV, there's only one correct answer: Tim Drake.
On Wednesday, all the Robins are being celebrated in DC Comics' Robin 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular with stories from Tynion IV, Marv Wolfman, Chuck Dixon, Devin Grayson, Tim Seeley, Tom King, Judd Winick, Amy Wolfram, Peter J. Tomasi, and more. This week, Tynion shared a preview of his story with SYFY WIRE and explained why Tim Drake is his favorite Robin.
As a writer for DC, Tynion has worked on dozens of stories with Batman and Robin, but during his Detective Comics run he took care in exploring the evolution of Tim as a highly competent but reluctant hero. The third person to become Robin after Jason Todd's death and created by Marv Wolfman and Jim Aparo in the pages of Batman #436 in 1989, Tim Drake's genius-level intellect not only led him to deduce Batman and Robin's true identities but also to take up the mantle and fight alongside the heroes in Gotham.
In "Boy Wonders," Tynion has written a sort of prequel to his Detective run, centering around the smartest Robin, Tim Drake.
"Tim Drake is one of the best-constructed characters ever," Tynion told SYFY WIRE. "Fans hadn't responded to Jason Todd as well when he became Robin, so they offered Tim as a corrective. Down to the fact that Tim didn't even want to put on the costume. He wanted Dick Grayson to put on the costume and save Batman. He only put it on because he knew there needed to be a Robin."
What do you love about Tim Drake as a character?
That instinct and the intelligence of the character to see how important the symbols are, that's something I always connected to with Tim Drake. He's also a fan of Batman. He loves the idea that Batman exists in the world and he gets to be a part of it. Even though that's not the way he saw his life going, he understands the need for it and he wants to get into that.
I made my entire thematic arc of my Detective Comics run was Tim Drake's optimism and where that optimism hits a wall. Being able to come back to Tim, in this story in particular, where I get to do a prequel story to my Detective run was a lot of fun.
What can you tell us about working on that story for Robin's 80th?
I've worked on a lot of Robin comics over the years, so when I was chatting with the editors, particularly Dave Wielgosz, who I worked for years on various Batman comics, the big question we were raising was "What do I have left to say when it comes to Robin?"
One of the first questions I had was can I do a story through the eyes of Tim Drake, I get to play with all the Robins. I didn't know whether or not that story existed in the book yet, and thankfully it didn't. It's the relationships between the Batfamily members and how they all represent a different aspect of Bruce, particularly the Robins. That's something I always found fascinating, even before Damian Wayne was introduced.
I always broke it down as Dick Grayson is Bruce's compassion for people, Jason is his rage, and Tim is his intellect. I think that Damian represents his blood, the family and what being a Wayne means. You sort of see all of those different elements. You could kind of build a composite Batman if you put those characters together. I always found that deeply fascinating because you get to explore two aspects of Bruce's personality. They are their own unique characters in themselves.
How significant is Robin as a character to comic books in general?
The creation of Robin really made superhero comics what they are today. That was the moment Batman stopped being a pulp character in the line of the Shadow and the Phantom and became this new wave of superhero characters.
These are moralistic stories originally designed for children. Even now, we're in a world where these stories are being written for adults, they're still being written for the child within. I think that Robin has a concept and the idea of a sidekick, it's the focal point through which we can dig into these stories. Robin was created for the same reason Kitty Pryde was created by Chris Claremont. It gives a young character that's roughly the age of the targeted readers of these comics and gives them an entry point into the world.
Sometimes we lose sight of that as an industry. Superhero comics aren't realistic, and I think great superhero stories can be told with the illusion of realism. But the more you get obsessively realistic, the further away you get from what the characters are about.
I'll always be grateful for Robin because teen superhero characters made me love comics. I wouldn't be writing superhero comics without them, and I don't think this new generation of readers would be reading these books without their own young characters to tap into. Thankfully, we're seeing more of that these days.
Is there one particular Robin story that sticks with you?
One of my favorite comics in high school was the Geoff Johns' Teen Titans run that started with Mike McKone. That helped cement my love for Tim Drake, especially as he started growing as a character as I was going through high school. But I'd have to say my favorite Robin story is "A Lonely Place of Dying," which is the origin story of Tim Drake and a very passionate story of why Batman needs a Robin.