What’s this? Fool actually coming out on time?! What on Earth is going on? Well, what can I tell you, I’m writing this while laid up in bed with pneumonia and suddenly, while short on things like breath, I am rather over-provided with time and there is nothing much to do with it, given that I can’t actually walk across a room. Or speak.
So, I’ve been reading an awful lot of comics – my oft mentioned “to read” pile is shrinking at an alarming rate, which means that not only do I have an awful lot to say all of a sudden, I actually have the time to say it!
Oh, where to start? Where to start?
Tim Drake. Let’s start there.
Regular readers will, perhaps, be vaguely aware that I haven’t been following the batbooks all that closely over the last couple of years – since the start of the Bruce Wayne: R.I.P. arc, really. I know roughly what’s been going on, but I’m not keeping up with the minutiae and while I’d read the first couple of issues of Red Robin I haven’t given this new stage in his career much thought until now.
Damn, but that’s an ugly outfit he’s wearing, isn’t it? What the hell is Timbo thinking? When he stepped into the pixie boots back in 1989* part of the point was that he didn’t step into the pixie boots, because they finally acknowledged that the original Robin costume looked a bit silly, and they gave Tim a trendy new one. Part of the point of Tim Drake was that he was a smart young kid with a sense of style.
I never liked the second costume, the one that Tim designed himself, quite as much, but it was still reasonably cool. How is that stylish young gun now dressing as a low rent Dr Midnite? To the point that several characters have even made that joke in the damn book? I don’t get it. I really don’t. Unless…
Could it be that Tim is simply doing what he’s always done? He’s following in the footsteps of his idol and mentor Dick Grayson! After all, Dick started his career in a ridiculous costume back when he was “The most exciting character find of 1940!” and he’s been wearing silly suits ever since. Some of those collars they made him wear as Knightwing can only have been as a form of punishment after all. Tim’s current get-up is merely an extension of that tradition now that Dick has – for the time being at least – graduated to the big pointy ears.
This saddens me a little because, if we’re honest, there are only two reasons for having a mentor in the first place. You want to acquire their skills of course, but perhaps most importantly, you want to see their mistakes and ensure that whatever else happens, you don’t make them yourself. Now, I won’t go so far as to say that Dick’s worst mistakes were his costume choices, but you’d have to agree that all of his most obvious mistakes were indeed sartorial. There have been many times over the years when, frankly, his clothes have made him look, well, a bit of a dick…
Mind you, I suppose the question that’s raised by all this really is “why do I care?” Dick has been looking stupid in a variety of costumes** for seventy years or so. What does it matter to me if Tim decides to take on the mantle of fashion cluelessness for a while? Well, I think the answer lies in my response to something my wife said about Stephanie Brown.
You see, in my current incapacitated state I am lying in bed surrounded by comics while my long suffering wife tends to my every need. Seriously about the only upside of being this ill. Anyway. She was tidying up around me*** when she came across a recent copy of Batgirl featuring Steph striking a rather fetching pose. “Who’s the woman with the big boobs?” she enquired.****
I was genuinely shocked. “You can’t say that about Stephanie!” I spluttered. “I’ve known her since she was about thirteen!”***** And it strikes me that I feel this way not only about Steph, but about Tim and a great many other characters. I regard them all in a way that I could never regard the likes of Batman – for a fairly obvious reason.
I grew up around stories of Batman. For the whole of my life, Batman has been there as someone to look up to. A hero. A Role model.****** The same with characters like Dick, and even Jason. Yes, when I used to watch repeats of the old sixties Batman at my grandma’s house (because I wouldn’t have been allowed to watch it at home – aren’t grandparents cool?) I understood that Robin was a kid like me, but he always seemed like one of the older kids. He wasn’t me.
When I was older, “Robin” was every bit as much an established character as Batman, and he still wasn’t me. Of course, by the time that I came to comics Dick had already graduated to the Titans and to his role as Knightwing, and Jason had been dead a while. If I’m honest I rather liked the idea of a solo Batman – you already know that of course, I’ve written about it before. But then Tim turned up. A slightly too clever kid with a talent for deduction and a slightly over enthusiastic desire to help. I liked him. And of course he was younger than me, but not much younger, which meant I really could look down on him slightly.
He was perfect.
And I’ve watched him grow up. Him, Steph, Jean-Paul, Cassie. Maybe it’s the teacher in me, but they bring out my inner uncle. I’ve seen their triumphs and their failures, their traumas and delights. I know them. See, that’s the joy of the serial format – slowly, but surely the characters insinuate themselves into your consciousness. And that’s why I don’t like to see Tim dressing like an idiot.
Y’know, maybe it’s the medication I’m on. I’ve just spent over a thousand words talking about Tim drake like he was a real person. On reflection this isn’t a good thing.
Speaking of things that aren’t good, all you American types please be thanking your lucky stars you’re on the right side of that unpronounceable volcano in Iceland. Airspace has been re-opened now, but it’s been closed for six days and air freight is all messed up. Which means that the UK won’t be getting any US comics this week. Damn. It’s funny how dependent we get on being able to fly stuff around the place. It occurs to me that there has to be a better way of doing things, but I’m buggered if I can think of one.
See you in seven, my foolish friends!
*TWENTY-ONE YEARS AGO??????!!!!!! You have no idea how old this makes be feel…
**Why do they always refer to superhero suits as “uniforms” by the way? I mean, sort of the point of these things is that nobody else really dresses like them and their outfits are as a result the very antithesis of a “uniform”.
***Which now I think about it isn’t a side effect of being ill; it’s a side effect of being married…
****As a non-comics reader, my wife has found the anatomy of your average female comics character to be a source of amusement and irritation for many years now.
*****Well, I would’ve said that if my lungs were working. I certainly thought that. I suspect that what I actually said was along the lines of “wuHUH, wheeeeeeeeze haK Kuff, Kuff”. Which didn’t entirely convey the meaning I was aiming at.
******And yes, I know I wasn’t allowed to read comics as a kid, but I didn’t exist in a state of cultural isolation. I knew who all the characters were.