Making Batman’s Robin Bisexual Is A Weak Attempt At Relevance As U.S. Comics Fade

Making Batman’s Robin Bisexual Is A Weak Attempt At Relevance As U.S. Comics Fade

Western comics are a dying industry with one single trick left in its bag – to turn an established popular character into a shallow and more diverse, woke version of itself.
Peter Pischke
By

Did you hear that Robin is bisexual? If you are a dedicated comics reader, it may surprise you, as it did me. In DC Comics’ anthology “Batman: Urban Legends issue #6,” Batman’s sidekick, Robin (the third one, Tim Drake), transforms into a bisexual.

While rescuing his old buddy Bernard, Drake finds himself smitten. Meghan Fitzmartin, the writer of the story, described to NPR that Drake finally admitting to being bisexual is his “light bulb moment.” The significance “has been others seeing themselves in the character and feeling seen and cared for in a way that speaks to something that they’ve seen for a long time,” gushed Fitzmartin.

Glen Weldon’s NPR headline reads: “Batman’s Sidekick Robin Comes Out. It Makes Sense, If You Were Paying Attention.” As if comic book history doesn’t exist. For you see, the message isn’t now Drake is bisexual, but that he always was.

Four Robins

So how did we get here?

If you ever read a Tim Drake comic before this week, you would know that the idea Robin always was LGBTQ is bonkers. Drake is up there with the top players of the DC universe. He’s dated and snogged at least a dozen popular female characters to date and has been in a relationship with fellow Batman family member, Spoiler, since 1993.

Tim Drake, a.k.a. Robin, a.k.a. Drake, a.k.a. Red Robin, was created in 1989 by Marv Wolfman and Pat Broderick. Tim was the replacement Robin after the infamous reader-demanded death of the second Robin, Jason Todd. For 21 years, Drake proved to be a prevalent character, appearing in comics and the famed Batman Animated Series.

However, by 2006, DC dumped Drake and introduced Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne’s biological son and the new Robin. Since at least 2009, DC would push Drake from project to project, hero name to hero name, having no clue what to do with their once most popular but now expendable Robin.

The Comic Industry Is Dying and has One Trick Left

Western comics are a dying industry. Weakened initially by the comics crash of the 1990s, the industry is now being finished off by a necrotic social justice infection and a business model obsessed with turning dirt-cheap comics into films, while hopelessly blind to the tsunami of Japanese manga. Their best talents have left for Substack.

Desperate to turn media attention into a life raft, the comics industry only has one trick left in its bag – as seen with Batwoman, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Kid Flash, Ice Man, Loki, Star-Lord, and seemingly half of DC comics. That trick is to turn an established popular character into a shallow and more woke version.

If you’re a comics executive, your lone strategy left is to milk the media attention for hot one-off sales, float the franchise’s popularity on Twitter hits, and pray to God you can keep the ship from sinking another quarter. Brilliant, right?

No, These Characters Weren’t Always Queer

Corporate media, however, argue comics were always like this, and they are willing to build that case on the flimsiest of evidence. Weldon at NPR argues that Drake’s characterization as “analytical, self-critical” and tending “to over-intellectualize” proves he is gay (I thought we used to call those gay stereotypes).

The other proof is that Drake is great friends with other male superheroes because, as we know in our new media landscape, there is no such thing as a platonic friendship. In regards comics history, leftist media is only partially correct.

During the first 20 years of Batman comics (Batman was first published in 1939, Robin a year later), writers routinely would troll prudish critics by leaving gag homoerotic innuendo and funny comments. However, after comics were almost made extinct by Dr. Fredric Wertham and the Comics Code Authority, the fun and games had to end. Now there could be no hint of homosexuality.

Thus entered Alfred the Butler and Bruce Wayne, the ladies’ man. The occasional hilarious cover aside, there wouldn’t be an officially gay Batman family member until Batwoman in 2006.

Note that the comic’s early writers hadn’t said nor agreed that either in the dynamic duo was gay. Early Batman comics writer Alan Grant himself predicted this future charade when asked if Batman was gay by Comics Bulletin in 2002:

In my 40 years as a Batman reader, that question never occurred to me … the Batman I wrote for 13 years isn’t gay. Denny O’Neil’s Batman, Marv Wolfman’s Batman, everybody’s Batman all the way back to Bob Kane … none of them wrote him as a gay character. Only Joel Schumacher might have had an opposing view.

Grant would go on to predict the cheapening of comics and how less talented future creators would latch onto better works:

One of the hero characteristics most admired by comic readers is consistency … What I don’t understand is why people want to impose themselves on established characters. Why don’t they create a new character espousing the extra characteristics they’d like the established character to have? Why don’t they do a spoof version? The partial answer might be that they’re incapable of creating an iconic character; much easier to leech onto someone else’s creation.

What annoys fans the most about this story is the stench of hypocrisy and obnoxious opportunism. DC may now justify its neck-breaking change, but only a year ago advertised a Drake comeback by publishing a story with Robin reconciling with his girlfriend Spoiler.

Nerddom Goes Woke

There is a nerd culture war raging. On one side, traditional fans look at intellectual properties with respect and appreciation, as part of a comic history. They understand that comic creators are only stewards and fans only worshippers. We don’t need to update old, white, and straight Drake, not because nerds are conservative reactionaries (a study by psychologist Chris Ferguson proves they’re not), but because Drake is a character of the 1990s, and that is okay. Nerddom is inherently inclusive.

On the other side are the woke aggressors. They harp about turning nerddom into a vehicle to fix historical grievances and encourage equity in society. But what they truly are is vandals. They complain about gatekeeping, but they are vindictive and cruel. Their generals are the nerd media. Their purpose is to control and subjugate others, not to elevate or adore. They mouth compassion, but what they crave above all else is ownership and asserting moral superiority.

For their project to work, the woke have to trick us into believing that subversive and mean nerdery is the native form of geek culture. That the scooping out of the centers of nerd characters is the just thing to do. As DC and NPR make it clear, you’re a bad person if you think otherwise.

Tim Drake is de jour for the puritans today, but anything could become the fight tomorrow. While the appreciators will win out in the long run, how much of our modern cultural heritage will burn in the meantime?

Peter Pischke is a journalist and health and disability reporter. He can usually be found manning the Happy Warrior Substack and Podcast, providing commentary on news and nerdery of the day. You can find him on Twitter: @happywarriorp.

Copyright © 2021 The Federalist, a wholly independent division of FDRLST Media, All Rights Reserved.