I just finished the Batman: Death in the Family trade paperback yesterday. A lot of folks care to discuss the death of the second Robin to appear in the series, Jason Todd–whether it was necessary, whether it should have stayed permanent, so on and so forth.
But the trade also includes the origin of Tim Drake, the third boy who became Robin in the Batman series. The authors go to great lengths to make Drake the opposite of the Robin they just killed, a jewel that is supposed to gleam so bright that it would forever outshine the angst-ridden jewel-in-the-rough that was Jason Todd. Yet I think they were trying so hard to polish Drake’s image that they failed to stamp out an aspect of the boy’s character that made me (and likely many others) cringe.
The kid is a total creeper.
He’s a creeper in the sense that not only was he obsessed with Batman to the point of watching/reading every news story that ever featured the caped crusader, he followed Batman around snapping pictures without hero’s knowledge, dedicated many of his waking hours to deducing Batman’s secret identity, and then took it upon himself to psychoanalyze Batman’s recent bout of reckless behavior.
This is supposed to make Drake look smart. Sure, he’s smart. No matter how you look at it though, he’s a stalker.
Because he was following Batman, not Batgirl around, the skin-crawling sexual aspects of stalking are sidestepped, but does that really make what Drake did any less creepy? I mean, he scouted the Teen Titans tower with binoculars, then went to the apartment of Dick Grayson’s girlfriend before tracking the original Boy Wonder down at Haly’s Circus. And once he was there, even though Grayson was performing in full make-up as one of the clowns, Drake was able to “deduce” Grayson’s identity because of his familiarity (read: obsession) with Robin’s acrobatic abilities.
It was no surprise that Grayson had a reaction along the lines of “WTF kid?” when Drake accosted him and begged him to don the suit of Robin again, which was probably the first thing that made sense in the entire story line. Despite that momentary bit of sanity, the story chugged along the tracks that the author laid out for Drake to become Robin.
Whether the author intended to or not, rewarding Drake’s stalkerish actions with the Robin suit catered to the deepest, darkest fantasy of every fan–that their dedication (read: obsession) to the person they admire most will lead not only to acknowledgement, but mutual love and acceptance by their idol.
Someone will undoubtedly point out that Drake’s origin story has been scrapped and revised for the New 52, effectively erasing this weirdness associated with Drake’s initial introduction. I read it last night, and although it was better than the first origin story and the author made it easier to stomach Batman taking the kid on as Robin, Drake still stalked Batman, going so far as to hack into the vigilante’s computer system.
Still, despite the awkward origins of Tim Drake, I have enjoyed the intelligent character he has evolved into. The DC Universe is a better place with him around. And that’s why it’s such a shame that in his first interactions with Batman, he comes off as a bombastic, fanboy creep.