When The Old DC Dies, Robin Might Smile
So apparently there are enough people upset about the upcoming DC relaunch that they are actually going to stage a protest at this year’s San Diego Comic Con.
Now, sure, this can be viewed as stupid.
For one thing, they’re boycotting something they still don’t really know anything about, on the grounds that it’s throwing out everything they loved about the “old” DC Comics, even though since the initial (somewhat jarring announcements), it sounds a lot more like it’s simply dressing up and streamlining existing properties, with a few continuity tweaks here and there.
In other words, this is Zero Hour, not Crisis on Infinite Earths.
For another, the protest is ostensibly to get DC to see the fans’ passion, realize its folly and abandon its broad, sweeping publishing paradigm that’s been in the works for about a year at least, and, umm. A protest is a bold gesture, sure, but a boycott – the “voting with your wallet” notion that all the big publishers insist is what they really listen to (and the buying public has shown, time and time again, that they will buy these event books they so often decry) – is really the way to go here.
But at the heart of this protest is the central idea, “We were happy with how things were, and we don’t want you to change it.”
And…this is really the part that I can’t quite grasp. Because despite our periodic needling about the relaunch (mostly on aesthetic grounds), I think I’m actually on board with changing things up. The reason for this is one name long:
Well, actually, it’s two: Tim Drake.
You guys have to understand: I am a BIG fan of Tim Drake. He became Robin around the same time I was really getting into superhero comics, and was close to my age when he put on the costume.
And because Tim was the first Robin who wasn’t a laughing, leaping, bright-red target, but rather a Boy Detective, it was the first time I felt like the character’s original intention (“It’s like you, young reader, get to hang out with Batman!”) made sense. As a kid sidekick, Robin’s an outdated, dumb idea. But as Batman’s Apprentice…well, what pre-teen wouldn’t like to be in Tim Drake’s shoes?
(Especially since Batman had by this point become so grim and moody that it would be hard for any young reader to imagine being him.)
Through the years, the idea of Tim as a detective and strategist first, and a fighter second, remained. On his own (and later as Teen Titans field captain), Tim always planned his moves ahead of time to ideally avoid a direct confrontation, and both his more protective costume and weapon of choice – a bo-staff – set this Robin apart from bounding, bare-legged acrobat Dick Grayson or impulsive fighter Jason Todd.
And then, starting with Identity Crisis (not that the plagues, earthquakes, and lawless wastelands of the Batman books of the time were any picnic, but this was the clear turning point), the DC Universe became astonishingly bleak – and as a tossed-off consequence, crippled Tim Drake.
In Identity Crisis, Tim Drake’s dad was murdered by, for no good reason, Captain Fricking Boomerang, as part of a (ludicrously convoluted) plot by the Atom’s ex-wife to get superheroes worried about their loved ones.
Skip ahead to Infinite Crisis, where the demented alternate-universe Superboy Prime seeks to destroy/recreate reality because he thinks it’s gotten too grim (oh, Geoff Johns version of irony…). In the fracas, the current Superboy – Robin’s best friend – dies. Again, Robin had nothing to do with this book. But he loses his best friend all the same.
Fast-forward a little bit to Final Crisis, where Batman – who had recently adopted Tim as his own son – is seemingly killed. In the aftermath, Dick Grayson takes up the mantle, and appoints, the recently introduced psychotic bastard son of Bruce Wayne (long story) as his new Robin.
Now on his own as Red Robin, Tim goes around the world, looking for clues that Bruce Wayne is still alive.
I am not criticizing this part – in fact, Red Robin is a pretty cool book, and Tim is still recognizably Tim, albeit one in a serious funk, and coping with the death of FOUR of the people closest to him.
But in one issue, there’s this moment, and I think it encapsulates for me why I’d like the DC Universe as a whole to recreate itself a little:
Tim Drake heard the Anti-Life Equation, and it more or less matched what he’d already been thinking.
THE ANTI-LIFE EQUATION. THE THING THAT MAKES YOU A HOLLOW SHELL OF A HUMAN AND A SLAVE TO DARKSEID. Which Grant Morrison explained as:
“loneliness + alienation + fear + despair + self-worth ÷ mockery ÷ condemnation ÷ misunderstanding x guilt x shame x failure x judgment n=y where y=hope and n=folly, love=lies, life=death, self=dark side”
This equation, apparently, is an accurate representation of the Boy Wonder’s mood for the last couple of years.
(And by the way, this is a card-carrying super-hero who’s currently walking around the DC Universe with this attitude. I would imagine a lot of psychologically-unequipped civilians heard the equation, too, begging the question: Just how high is the suicide rate in the DC Universe?)
Full disclosure, since reading this collection, everyone but Tim’s dad has returned from the dead, so presumably Tim’s in a better mood now.
But my point remains: If I had to nail down just why I think this protest is a bad idea, I think it’s that the DC Comics of the last decade crushed Robin’s spirit to the point that Anti-Life didn’t seem all that bad.
Who the hell would want DC Comics to continue along that path?