Because there are multiple Batman books released by DC Comics in any given week, there’s always something going on with the Bat-family. Events might include a devastating death, the introduction of a new member, or, as is the case in this week’s Batman: Urban Legends #6 from writer Meghan Fitzmartz, artist Belén Ortega, colorist Alejandro Sánchez, and letterer Pat Brosseau, someone revealing a new facet of their identity.
In the Robin-focused “Sum of Our Parts” story — the third of three — featured towards the end of Urban Legends #6, a solo Tim Drake flies into action to save Bernard, a longtime friend of his who hasn’t yet been properly let in on the whole secret identity thing. This chapter picks up immediately after the events in Urban Legends #4 where Tim and Bernard’s reunion was suddenly interrupted by the arrival of Chaos Monster, a new Gotham villain who wears a grotesque mask and attacks people using chloroform powder.
After waking up in a daze to find Bernard kidnapped, Tim makes a quick costume change and immediately tracks the new villain to a lair where he and a group of his followers have chained Bernard to an alter.
Though there are plenty of other kidnapped victims locked up in cells who Chaos Monster presumably also meant to sacrifice, Tim’s focused on Bernard as he charges the villains head-on. From the pregnant pauses written into Tim and Bernard’s dialogue, you can immediately get the sense that while Tim might not have explicitly told Bernard that he’s one of the Robins running around Gotham, he knows. What’s quite explicit, however, is Bernard’s hope that he gets a chance to finish his date with “Tim,” and “Robin’s” very self-assured smirk in response.
While some may be quick to take issue with Urban Legends establishing Tim Drake’s canonical queerness — and/or that he and Spoiler (Stephanie Brown) have broken up — these are elements of the character’s story that the creative team put a considerable amount of thought and care into.
In a recent interview with Polygon, Fitzmartin explained that this path for Tim came from her poring over the character’s previous arcs. “[“Sum of Our Parts”] happened because this is who Tim is,” Fitz Martin said. “I love this character very much, and as I went back to reread as much as I could to do Robin justice, it became clear this is the story Tim needed to tell.”
As Polygon notes, Tim has had a far more nebulous identity over the past few years compared to Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Red Hood (Jason Todd), and the newest Robin (Damian Wayne), and this new development introduces a facet of his identity that’s prime for exploration. On the subject of how Tim identifies, though, Fitzmartin was careful to explain that Tim’s coming out doesn’t at all retcon or lessen the feelings he’s had for Spoiler. “I wanted to pay tribute to the fact that sexuality is a journey,” Fitzmartin said. “To be clear, his feelings for Stephanie have been/are 100% real, as are his feelings for Bernard. However, Tim is still figuring himself out. I don’t think he has the language for it all… yet.”
While there are sure to be some diehard Red Robin-Spoiler shippers and/or run-of-the-mill homophobes who will get up in arms about the fact that yet another member of the Bat family is queering up the place (see: Batwoman), late in (fictional) life comings out are part of the queer experience that are important to spotlight, and can be a solid way of adding new dimensions to (again, fictional) characters. Now that Tim’s queerness has been put on the table for readers, the question is how DC is actually going to go about addressing it.
Tim Drake doesn’t need to become the “queer Robin” any more than Kate Kane needed to become the “lesbian Batwoman who is also Jewish.” There’s a depth and complexity to Kate’s life that’s stemmed from different creative teams putting thought and care into building out the larger context she exists in as a person. The same has been true of Tim in the past, and it almost certainly will be in the future. It’s just that now, Tim’s queerness can and should be an important aspect of his identity that he embraces because it’s part of who he is.
Batman: Urban Legends #6 is in stores now.