Tim Drake/Red Robin: Where Do I Start?

Although he wasn’t the first (and he’s not the current one), for many people Tim Drake was the definitive Robin. Boy Wonder or not, Drake carried the Robin mantle from 1989 to 2009 and was a different kind of sidekick for Batman than previous Robins Dick Grayson and Jason Todd. Drake’s skills leaned more to the detective side of the the Batman skill set than other Robins, and unlike them, he didn’t have a childhood of intense acrobatic and fighting training to lean on. Robin essentially learned on the job, with Batman sending Drake off to various teachers before taking him under his own wing. Unlike his predecessors, Drake wasn’t an orphan like Batman before he took up the mantle, although he later became one when his father was killed by one of his adversaries. Like a stereotypical middle child in the Bat-family, Drake has sometimes found himself lost in the middle between his older “brother” Nightwing and the boy who replaced him as Robin, Damian Wayne. In that uneasy position, Drake took up the  mantle of Red Robin (no relation to the burger chain… sorry!), broke ties with the Bat family and went out on his own.

With all the Robins, reboots, revamps and re-tellings in the DCU, it’s hard to get a good picture of Tim Drake — or for some to even differentiate between him and the other people who have taken up the Robin mantle. Earlier this year we covered the essential stories of the first Robin, Dick Grayson, in Nightwing: Where Do I Start?, and now we turn to Tim Drake who has been the Robin for most of the current iFanbase growing up as a reader.

Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying: Although he made some minor appearances before, the stories collected in Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying are essentially the first major stories showing Tim Drake as a player in comics. Collecting Batman #440-442 and New Titans #60 and 61, it shows a young Tim Drake presented as a fan of the original Robin Dick Grayson back when he was part of an acrobatic circus troupe. Showing his deductive skills at an early age, Drake had figured out Grayson was Nightwing (and the original Robin) after seeing him perform the same moves as during his circus days, and appeals to Grayson to resume the “Robin” mantle after the death of Jason Todd in an effort to pull Batman out of the apparent emotional quagmire he was suffering through due to his protege’s death. After explaining all the reasons why Grayson should resume his Robin identity, Drake is built up as the true candidate to become Robin and accepted into the Bat-family by both Nightwing, Robin and Alfred. This excellent story was written by Teen Titans creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez, with a quartet of classic artists Jim Aparo, Tom Grummett, Mike DeCarlo and Perez.

Robin: A Hero Reborn: Although he didn’t create the character, writer Chuck Dixon slid into the role as the character’s defining scribe with his expert rendition of him, starting with his first miniseries from 1992 collected here. In this, Dixon joins with artist Tom Lyle to show Drake’s grueling training regimen under various mentors as orchestrated by Batman. This five-issue story-arc sets up many thing that would become key elements of Batman lore, from debuting villains like King Snake and Lynx to the writing of the villainess Lady Shiva as a defacto rite of passage to conquer for any would-be Bat-in-training. In addition to collecting this first 5-issue mini, is also includes the three-part “Identity Crisis” story by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle from Batman #455-457, with Drake returning from training and getting pulled into action early after Batman is captured by the Scarecrow.

Robin II: Joker’s Wild: Some call the miniseries  the greatest Robin story ever told — of any Robin — and it’d be hard to argue with them. Still new on the job, the young Tim Drake gets a crash course in being Batman’s second when he’s left to defend Gotham on his own when Bruce is out of the country. Patrolling the streets is one thing, but when Batman’s chief adversary the Joker shows up, Drake finds himself over his head and looking inside himself to find a way out. Writer Chuck Dixon makes this threat even more dangerous by bringing up that Joker had only recently just killed Drake’s Robin predecessor, Jason Todd. This was collected once in the mid-90s, but its sadly been out of print for almost a decade. But without a doubt, this is worth tracking down in back issue bins or on eBay.

Teen Titans Vol. 4: The Future Is Now: Although it’s the original Robin Dick Grayson that invented the Teen Titans, Tim Drake had some strong years on the team and one of the strongest was this three-part story-arc from a young Geoff Johns along with artists Mike McKone and Mario Alquiza. In this story, Drake gets a taste of his potential future when the team come face-to-face with their future selves. In this potential future, Drake has become a hard-edged Batman with all the skills but none of the compassion and intangibles that make Batman work. This is all going on right after the death of Drake’s father, so seeing his future adult self not living up to the expectations given to him by his father and Batman is quite something for the young Drake.

Comments

  1. I would also recommend the two or maybe it’s 3 trades of Red Robin that came out after Bruce was lost in time. Great great character stuff for Tim and it really showcased how driven and resourceful he was.

    • yeah, they’re great, really cemented my love for the character!

    • Totally agree. I haven’t read all of that series but the first third or so was phenomenal. I loved every bit of it. 🙂

    • I love the Red Robin run just before the New52 while Batman was lost in time, it ran parallel with the Stephanie Brown Batgirl, both titles for 24 months and crossed over an issue or two and need each others trade to get the missing issue. Red Robin was the only one who didn’t believe Batman was dead and like RoiVampire said, really showcased how driven and resourceful he was. Plus that costume is way cooler than the New52 one. I also think the Red Robin and Batgirl runs deserve Absolutes or Omnibus’s.

  2. I bought the Robin II: Joker’s Wild collector’s edition with all the covers in a slipcase for $5 from Jim Hanley’s Universe earlier this year. I never read it, but I think I will this weekend. Been itchin’ for some good Robin stories.

  3. A Lonely Place of Dying remains my all-time favorite Batman story. Man, do I love a good Tim Drake story.

  4. “Slay Ride” from Detective Comics 826 is my favourite Tim Drake story by a country mile.

  5. I really wish they collected those early Robin stories by Chuck Dixon, they are some of the best comics I’ve ever read and sling rocketed Tim Drake to being my favorite character in comics

  6. The Red Robin trades are simply awesome! Come on, he matches wits with Ra’s Al’Ghul and outmatches him, gaining the Batman only monicker of “Detective” from him!!

    In the New 52, though, DC pretty much dick-slapped us, Tim Drake fans…

  7. Yeah, the whole Red Robin series was awesome. That was one of the titles I was sad to see end when the new 52 happened. That and the Stephanie Brown Batgirl series.

  8. Another vote for the Red Robin series – all of it was fantastic (particularly the batgirl crossover)… Man, those were the days – Tim as Red Robin, Stephanie as Batgirl – both series just knocking it out of the park.

  9. Robin II: Joker’s Wild — I read the hell out of this series about a dozen times over when I was a kid. I loved it! Those holographic covers were neat too (when I was 12). I wish it was collected, I have been dying to read it again now-
    My favorite part was always when The Joker sees Tim for the first time and is amazed, saying to himself “I… I killed you” – so good

  10. As a child of the late 80’s-90’s Tim Drake is without a doubt my Robin. In part because there have been so many great stories featuring him. Some of which have been mentioned (Chuck Dixon on Robin, Red Robin, etc.)

    But nobody’s brought up Bill Willingham’s run on the Robin series. Similar to BoP where Chuck started the series and Gail took it to a new level I thought Bil’s run on Robin took it to a whole new place. The Unmasked story (which is in tpb) is an ESSENTIAL read as Tim’s father finally finds out about his sons activities. The ensuing stories with Stephanie as Robin are just as compelling as we see Tim be a bad ass outside of the costume.

    Young Justice would be another milestone series for Tim. I would put it above John’s Teen Titans team if only because this is where the bonds between Tim, Superboy, Bart, and Cassie are formed.

    • I really loved that Bill Willingham run too. It lost me right before Infinite Crisis with storyline about the Veteran (?), but it was definetly a good run.

  11. The New 52 punishes Tim Drake by dressing him up like a chicken with those god-awful wings — and I’m sorry, I’ve always hated the name “Red Robin,” yes because it evokes a chain of sub-par diners but also because it sounds like the child’s game “Red Rover, Red Rover.” I agree that Mark Waid & Alex Ross are comics geniuses, but not everything they created for KINGDOM COME was perfect… and the name Red Robin (and even that costume, with its weird, earless cowl) was one I could never see someone over the age of 5 willingly adopting.

    There, I said it! I feel better now.

  12. I’ve said it before, and I’m gonna keep saying it until they give Tim the book he deserves;

    How bout a Robin: Legacy title in which the focus rotates between Nightwing, Red Hood, Tim, Stephanie, and Damian? They could each get six issue arcs (sometimes solo, sometimes mix-and-match teamups), and be pitted against seemingly unrelated foes/organizations, but you could have a throughline plot that ties things together every so often. You could even do fun stuff like flashback issues to Dick and Jason’s stints under the mantle, or the occasional Squire or Carrie Kelly story. Under the right creative team, I think it has serious potential, and would certainly help ease the collective pain of Tim and Stephanie fans.

    The idea has been knocking on the walls of my brain since I first thought of it. Are you listening DC? Only you can stop the knocking!

  13. the Beechen run is also quite good

    • Chris Arrant (@chrisarrant) says:

      Agreed. Beechen’s first arc has art by Karl Keschl, which for my money is the best Robin’s looked in a solo title ever.

  14. Dixon / Wieringo run. Was my favorite comic growing up.

  15. Yea Tim’s my Robin I have all of the original comics growing up.Even though Dick is the original he is Nightwing.

  16. Has there been a really bad run on a Robin book?

  17. i’ve always considered Grayson and Todd to be my Robins. after Jason died, i never fully accepted Tim and i’ve never enjoyed the Red Robin burger…i mean character.
    i read the fuck outa Joker’s Wild, though. but for the Joker, of course.

  18. I would agree with the calls for the Red Robin TPBs, really enjoyed that series as a whole. For those of you who are looking for Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying it is also located in the Death in the Family HC that DC put out a while back. It is running for right around the same price as the TPB listed on amazon and you get both stories in a great HC!

  19. For me Tim Drake was one of best characters of the 90’s. I like damian and agree on his new role as Robin. But DC needs to give Tim the respect he deserves. He was on the way of being the supreme detective.

  20. Tim Drake was absolutely my definitive Robin… I got started in comics with Crisis, and I wasn’t reading Batman or Detective much at all. Dick was already Nightwing, Jason was getting offed pretty shortly after I got into comics, and I was able to get in on the ground floor of Tim Drake’s stories. I’ve been a bigger fan of Batman’s supporting cast’s titles over the years, than I was of Batman himself. and Tim was the primary reason for it.

  21. I just reread the first two trades of Red Robin, and as much as I like the stuff that came after it, if you’re looking for an ending to Tim Drake’s story I’d say it bookends A Hero Reborn quite well.