Robin’s blown secret identityPosted: 06/25/2014
It’s a normal day at Gotham County High School. No supervillains unleashed deadly chemicals into the water fountains. No bad guys let loose dangerous wild animals throughout the halls. No evildoers stashed explosives in the lunch meat. But Tim Drake wishes any of those would have happened instead of what actually occurred. Y’see, being Batman’s partner takes not just incredible skills and intelligence, but the ability to lie your balls off to anyone you care about. And today in Robin #124-125, written by Bill Willingham and drawn by Francisco Rodriguez De La Fuente, poor Robin receives a massive blow that won’t heal with a few bandages and some pills.
So when Robin’s job involves leaping on rooftops and karate chopping criminals, he’s bound to receive a few scratches and bruises along the way. But having to explain to his father that a football smacked him in the eye as opposed to being clawed open by Killer Croc makes for far less questions later down the road. Unfortunately, his lies have caught up with him. Jack Drake knows Tim’s harboring a secret and it’s his fatherly duty to figure it out. What if Tim fell in with a bad crowd? What if he smokes cigarettes? What if he sneaks out of his house every night helping out a man dressed as bat to jump kick armed thugs inside abandoned warehouses? Spoiler alert: it’s the third one.
Oh come on, you say, this is a comic book: surely Tim’ll just describe this as a secret Halloween costume and his father’ll apologize for all the frenzy. Except notice those journals at the bottom — the ones he writes details about all his missions, his fellow crimefighters, and any other important information needed for a later date. Even Batman keeps a written journal — Batcomputers tend to go down or short circuit or explode during major events. But with all this new knowledge in devastated Jack’s hands, he has only one job now: keep his only child from becoming sidewalk goo.
We accept without a second’s hesitation that glasses make Superman unrecognizable. But if Clark Kent takes off those glasses, then whoever witnesses the transformation triggers some sort of magic kick in the brain that connects the two identities. Seriously, Robin wears a “mask” that barely covers his eyes, but unless hard evidence is provided, no one can magically make the connection. It’s a suspension of disbelief we accept as comic book readers. Now that Tim’s dad holds hard proof in his hand, the gig is up. No mask or glasses or colorful lies’ll stop this train from coming.
Like all good after school specials, the thrill climbs to its highest point before the inevitable crash back down to misery. Break into an abandoned amusement park? Wait till the police arrive just before commercial break. Kiss the girl of your dreams? Your girlfriend walks in your front door mid-embrace as the studio audience gasps. Put on a flamboyant costume and solve mysteries to protect a corrupt and broken city? Dad’ll be waiting back at the Batcave when you return.
The Joker has nothing compared to the wishes of Robin’s father. Legally, Batman is completely at Jack’s mercy. He carries Tim’s journals. He knows all the secrets. Batman holds no legal right to keep Tim and without complete agreement to whatever Jack demands, the whole Batman game ends with the newspapers shouting from the mountaintops. Plus, to be fair, Batman is using a fifteen year-old without hesitation to fight the most dangerous people in the most dangerous city.
Unfortunately, Tim’s a teenager, so he reacts appropriately. Also, he somehow becomes Asian.
Remember back when Jack and Tim’s stepmom were searching Tim’s room? Stephanie Brown was mentioned, the girl who had a child out of wedlock. Y’know, the superhero Spoiler, eventually Batgirl, and Tim’s on-and-off again girlfriend. More importantly, in the next issue, she premieres as Robin. You can imagine then what the outcome of our story today is. Meet the new Tim Drake, definitely not swinging across construction sites to bash in bad guy’s skulls.
Notice Bruce Wayne mentioned as an expendable identity. Batman’s the real deal and Bruce Wayne’s the mask, but that’s a topic discussed many, many times by people with actual psychology PhDs or by cosplayers during lunch time at Comic Con. Tim Drake returns in his Robin costume four issues later, but his dad can’t un-forget this whole Batman’s partner thing. Y’know, until Identity Crisis — but we don’t have to discuss that.