I’m going to be writing the 167th issue of Robin for DC Comics.
Obviously, being afforded the opportunity to work within the DC universe, and more specifically, the Bat-family of titles, is something that I’ve been anticipating since deciding that I wanted into comics as a professional. Sure justifying an intense fascination with Batman won’t be necessary, as he’s one of the most recognizable and undeniably cool superheroes on the face of the planet. To me though, there has always been something slightly more interesting about his teenage sidekick Robin, the Boy Wonder. In comics, in the animated series, even in those awful movies, there was always something exciting about seeing the Dynamic Duo cracking heads together. The very idea of the character makes absolutely no sense and casts Batman in an even more unstable light (if that’s even possible), but when it’s done right…it’s an awful lot of fun. But really? Probably only saying this because of Tim Drake, the third and certainly most capable of the young men to wear the Robin costume. And if you know anything about anything, you realize that what I just said is not opinion, but undeniable fact, even with my considerable bias showing.
Tim Drake was the one character that truly brought me into comics, the only thing capable of overpowering an incredible devotion to the flashy beginnings of Image. It was the spring of 1992 the first time I stepped into an actual comic shop, and before then the only comics I’d encountered came from city newsstands, hospital gift shops, or from sending in proofs of purchase from Batman cereal. The idea there was an entire building filled back to front with the things never occurred to me, but my father, cognizant of my love for reading and Saturday morning cartoons thought I needed to be properly exposed.
Once upon a time, he was a kid that used his paper route to finance a growing obsession with everything Spider-Man and X-Men, and even now regrets not holding on to his prized first issues. This was the main thread connecting us in those days, and I’ll never forget when he brought me into a place called The Fiction House and just turned me loose, initially letting me attack the shelves with little direction or guidance. It was probably funny to watch me bouncing from wall to wall, completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of material lining the walls. Stunned by the absolute brilliance, I naturally gravitated toward characters I was already somewhat familiar with and dad did his bit by filling the growing stack with any first issue he could find (ex. Spawn) and with the characters he enjoyed as a kid. Because of this it was years before I looked upon things like Green Lantern, The Flash, or Fantastic Four as anything more than “old man’s comics.” Spider-Man and Batman were all that mattered that day and while my eyes glazed over in the Bat section, something reached out and caught me by the throat. There was this cover of The Joker, who looked extremely more terrifying than the Jack Nicholson version, holding something sharp and looming over this poor guy strapped into a dentist’s chair.
As they say, from here, all downhill.
I believe the artist was the legendary Brian Bolland and the comic was the second issue of a mini-series called Robin II: The Joker’s Wild. The series had been completed for months, so I was only able to leave the store with two of the chapters, but that was a travesty soon corrected. Some independent research revealed that Tim Drake hadn’t been wearing that amazing looking costume for very long and was only doing so because the previous Robin had been blown up and killed by The Joker and an 800-number. I started with the violent death of Jason Todd and worked my way forward, collecting every single appearance of Tim Drake in and out of costume. Highlights including but not limited to the first meeting of Drake and Dick Grayson, the time Batman had to be rescued from the Scarecrow, the debut of the costume I believed was the coolest thing ever created, and the first night Tim was allowed to patrol Gotham. For there to be anything about this character I didn’t know was simply unacceptable and running with this compulsion, I discovered just what was attractive about comics and the ways it told its stories. And no one told more stories or furthered the development of Tim Drake more than Chuck Dixon, which essentially turned him into some kind of God-like figure to me.
It was his “Ten Commandments of Comic Book Writing” panel at a Chicago con shortly before high school ended that steered me from a life of writing sci-fi adventure novels to where we are now. It had never even occurred to me that writing comics was something possible and it only took one hour to show me what I’d spend the next ten or so years of my life running towards.
From that point it was all about the research, contacting as many established pros and editors as I could find, soliciting advice, refining my techniques, and learning everything I could about the way the industry really worked. One of the people initially receptive to most of my questions was this young editor at Acclaim Comics that I quickly identified as an invaluable resource and someone that I was going to send material to until he told me to stop or gave me an assignment. Yeah, I know, but a writer I talked to insisted it was something that could pay off, if I was equal parts persistent and talented. I can’t even remember if I got anything to him before it was announced that he’d been hired by Marvel, but it was one in a series of crushing defeats. Fast forward a few years, and he’s editing one of my first projects at Marvel, go further and he’s allowing me to pitch him some Robin ideas that ultimately led to this self-contained story.
I couldn’t have made this stuff up if I’d tried.
But the opportunity is tremendous and more than an honor, and is something I didn’t think I’d have a chance to realize at this stage in my development. Come October 24th, learn “The Promise,” beautifully illustrated by legend in the making Freddie E. Williams II, resting under a gloriously brutal cover by Patrick Gleason, and written by yours truly. Much more on this later obviously, but having this announced without some sort of personal statement would’ve been wrong on a few levels.
Oh, and by the way, this battle station is now fully operational.
Ambidextrous comes back for real next week.
Remember the name…