I suppose it was pretty obvious, really, but the scope of it didn’t occur to me until now.
Of all the things that annoyed me about the New 52, the changes made to the Batman mythos got under my skin the most. Part of that was because I’m a big fan of Batman and the Batman family, but part of that was how stupid those changes were.
For some reason, there couldn’t be 5 Robins anymore (yes, I realize the timeline was only supposed to be five years now, but that’s equally ridiculous). The de-aging of Dick Grayson meant he was Robin at 16. Tim Drake’s new origin is mind numbingly bad, particularly considering there’s no context for the Red Robin name like there was in the pre-Flashpoint DCU; at least then it marginally less awful. While Stephanie Brown got the shaft as Robin, she was Robin. And while replacing an Asian character with an Aryan one is problematic, I thought Stephanie made a fantastic Batgirl. But, again, she was erased, because they had to limit the number of Robins and because there could only have ever been one Batgirl.
Gone was so much of the legacy and history I loved about Batman, replaced by a simplified, shockingly less diverse past.
I say “shockingly less diverse” because it’s hard to imagine that such a thing was possible.
There’s a moment in the New 52 Batman #1 that is both my favorite thing of the entire New 52 and the most problematic. It features Bruce and three Robins (at the time, Tim had still been a Robin, although it would later be retconned only a year later) getting ready for a black tie event. There’s Bruce, there’s Dick, there’s Tim, and there’s Damien. It’s a great moment to see two former Robins, now relatively grown up, and the current Robin, all one big happy family, preparing for a party with dad. This is the family that Bruce made to replace the one he lost. I love that.
But it’s like looking at tile. If you’re a dark haired white guy, you could be a member of the Bat family. Others need not apply.
I realize much of that is a product of time, as Dick Grayson was introduced in 1940. Jason Todd, not pictured, originally had red hair and disguised himself to look like Dick so no one would know Robin had a new partner. Post-Crisis, DC decided it was just easier to have him look like Dick from the start. Tim Drake is a bit harder to swallow, as he appeared in 1989, by which point you’d think someone would suggest at least a blonde Boy Wonder. Damien, at the very least, is somewhat understandable as he’s actually Bruce’s son, so it makes sense he’d look like his father. His mother is Asian, though, but apparently that’s been ignored (it’s often ignored in his mother, too).
This was the main core of the Batman family when the New 52 started. Even Batgirl was something of an outsider, not to mention Red Hood and Batwoman.
It’s become clear to me, though, that Scott Snyder has always intended to shake up this group, to pull the Bat family kicking and screaming into the 21st century. But diversifying the Batman team would require two parts, one of which would be tricky.
Introducing new characters wasn’t a problem. We met Harper and Cullen Row within the first year of Snyder and Capullo’s run on Batman. Harper happens to be female and Cullen happens to be gay. She would eventually become Blue Bird, while I would be shocked if Cullen doesn’t become the new Oracle.
A year and a half later, we meet Duke Thomas, who technically met Batman before any of Bruce’s sidekicks or partners did. We already know that in at least one possible future, Duke becomes Robin. The question of who might become the new Robin after Damien died also gave us Anna Aguila, whose story hasn’t played out just yet, and a version of Carrie Kelly.
Most recently, Julia Pennyworth has been added to the ranks. Alfred’s daughter is both, well, a woman and not white.
For those keeping track, that’s a fair amount of diversity introduced to the Batman mythos by Snyder and Capullo (and Brian Buccellato and Francis Manupal, who introduced Aguila). The problem then, of course, is just how big can this group get without becoming totally unwieldy?
The answer is to phase out the old guard, or at least change their positions so that they’re not playing a direct role in the monthly adventures of Batman.
The most obvious example of this would be the change from Dick Grayson being Nightwing to being, well, Dick Grayson, super spy. But that’s not really when it started. It started with the death of Damien.
Sure, Damien has been resurrected, but that story is clearly not over. Batman is not going to run around Gotham with a super powered Robin. I wouldn’t be surprised if Damien’s new abilities are the push he needs to corrupt him, to send him back to his mother. After all, he was already walking a fine line and now that he has no limits, he’s going to be pushing back against Batman’s rules. Personally, I’d love to see Bruce send him to Clark for training, and see Damien actually become Superboy, but I doubt that would ever happen. Regardless, I don’t think Damien is going to be on the board as Robin for too much longer.
Then there’s Dick Grayson “dying” and becoming an agent of Spyral. “Grayson” has been a fantastic series so far, and I would imagine it’s success has only added fuel to the fire when it comes to spinning off the core Bat family into new avenues. It’s also interesting to note that Dick was removed from the board by DC’s big “Forever Evil” event, indicating that the rest of DC is aware of what I’m referring to as Snyder’s plan.
Additional support for my theory came with the speculation that Tim Drake will become Batman Beyond in Futures End. That article doesn’t include the image shown here, which pretty clearly shows Tim Drake taking up the mantle. Given how the character has more or less been in limbo with regards to the Batman family since his origin was revised, making him a) Batman Beyond and possibly b) sending him to the future would be an interesting way to spin him off.
So that’s 3 Robins down right there. I would expect Red Hood to be the next to go, particularly since he keeps being included in Batman book events even though everyone else is supposed to consider him a villain. Perhaps that’s how they’ll do it, by making him an actual villain.
Picture a new Batman family that has Julia Pennyworth running the Batcave with Cullen Row as the new Oracle passing information to the entire team, a team that includes Harper Row as Blue Bird, the newly revised Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, and Duke Thomas as Robin. Maybe Batwoman will also be pulled into the fold.
Looks like a pretty amazing Batman family for the future, doesn’t it?