DC Comics has made headlines with the reveal that Tim Drake, the third hero to fight with Batman as Robin, is bisexual. This happened in
The Clues Were Always There
In the comics, Tim’s longest-running relationship was with another hero, Stephanie Brown. Known alternately as Spoiler and Batgirl, Tim Drake has been in an on-again/off-again relationship with Steph ever since she was first introduced over 25 years ago in the comics. But his other most intense relationship is with his Teen Titans and Young Justice teammate Superboy. This would be the Conner Kent version, a young clone of Superman.
Most fans would consider his relationship with Conner a typical “bromance” between two straight friends. But fans raised their eyebrows when Conner died in the event series
Seduction of the Innocent
But Tim Drake being queer is important for other, outside the narrative reasons. For decades, Batman and Robin as a concept have been the subject of hateful jokes and homophobic innuendo. This goes all the way back to 1954, when a psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham published a book called
Conservative 1950s parents freaked out, and sales of comic books tanked. The entire industry came
Turning Hateful Bigotry into a Positive Portrayal
Eventually, the fervor died down. Batwoman and Bat-Girl went away, and by the time the
By making Tim Drake canonically queer, DC has decided to take all those “Boy Wonder” queer associations and turn them into a positive and not a negative. Instead of something to fight against, Robin’s queerness is now something to embrace and celebrate. In a sense, by making Tim Drake bisexual, it’s an inversion of the homophobic panic that forced DC to make the original Robin “extra straight” as a response.
This is all similar to turning a negative response into a positive action, which is what DC did with Batwoman in 2006. The editors at DC Comics created Kathy Kane to make Batman appear hetero to readers in the ’50s. When Kate Kane hit the scene in a rebooted version, DC deliberately made her a lesbian as a statement against the homophobia that precipitated her creation in the first place. Tim Drake is now following in the very same tradition.
Robin’s Reveal Can’t Be Trivial
What hopefully DC does now is to
DC also needs to be careful to not fall into the trap of making this aspect of Tim’s personality the impetus of all the stories surrounding him. Tim has always struggled with a bit of “forgotten Robin” syndrome. And that despite being the first Robin to get his own monthly comic book and being, canonically, the smartest Robin. Dick Grayson is forever the “first Robin,” while Jason Todd is always “the one who died.” Carrie Kelley is the female Robin, while Damian Wayne is the Robin who is Batman’s biological son.
I hope they make well-rounded Tim Drake stories that involve his queer identity going forward. And without making his whole identity just as “the queer Robin.” I trust DC’s current creators to do the right thing. Because of course, there’s much more to Tim as a character. But they can’t turn the clock back now on his sexuality either, and must fully embrace all aspects of the character. Just as they would do for any cisgender hetero hero. Robin deserves nothing more.