Robot 6

Are Tim and Stephanie the New Dick and Barbara?

rrob-cv10-cmykBy Joshua S Hill

My name is Josh, I’m 25 years old, and I like comics.

No, this isn’t some introduction to a “comics-anonymous” editorial, but rather an acceptance of something I’ve long ignored: Dick Grayson is not my Robin.

That’s a hard pill to swallow, considering how long I’ve been of the belief that Grayson was my Robin. But the reality is that Dick Grayson gave up the job of Robin the year I was born (how is that right?). The Robin I should have known is either Jason Todd or Tim Drake. But I didn’t start reading comics until the early 2000’s, and I used to watch Batman: The Animated Series a lot, so all I knew was Dick Grayson as Robin (we shall not speak of Chris O’Donnell, okay?).

I’m not going to talk much about the time between 1984 and 2009, as it’s not really important to what I’m trying to say. I’ve read a fair bit of the stuff from those years and garnered these thoughts: Jason Todd never got a fair shot; Dick Grayson as Nightwing is a brilliant character; Tim Drake was a really great Robin; and Barbara Gordon is a brilliant character.

It’s amazing, actually, how much time has passed, almost without our realizing it: some 26 years since Nightwing made his appearance, and 21 years since Tim Drake appeared as Robin and Barbara Gordon debuted as Oracle. A lot of people still consider Dick and Barbara the “feature couple” of the Bat-universe. They are Robin and Batgirl, the No. 2 and 3 of that close-knit Bat-family after Batman/Bruce Wayne. But so much time has passed, and I’m forced to ask the question, are they still that feature couple?

These questions have surfaced as I read two books: the third version of Batgirl, issues 1 to 9, featuring Stephanie Brown as Batgirl, and Red Robin, issues 1 to 12, featuring Tim Drake as Red Robin. For two issues the pair came together, there was mutual respect, hints at what they once had, and then they parted and got back to work. One of them is brother to Dick Grayson and the other is being mentored by Barbara Gordon. And this is what I’m saying: Whether they are doing it intentionally or it is happening in some amazing cosmic convergence, DC is creating the next generation of Dick and Barbara in the form of Tim Wayne (Drake) and Stephanie Brown.

I think for a long time the Bat-family has really been the DC family — the heart of the DC universe. I realize that the other major DC characters have their families; Superman has his, and the Speedsters would pack out a small motel when they have their reunion. But I sometimes feel as if those families are only there if a writer wants them, whereas the Bat-family is a real family, there whether you want it or not and doing its own thing regardless of anyone else.

So when a new “couple” begins to form in the DC Universe, I think it’s important. They don’t even need to be “together” to be this couple. There was always tension between Dick and Barbara, and their relationship has taken lots of twists and turns, but they haven’t always been an item. They’re not even together now, but you’d be hard pressed to suggest they’re not the relational heart of the Bat-family and, in my opinion, of the DC-family as a result.

So it’s only natural that a new younger couple emerges.

On top of these two relationships are other trends taking place within the Bat-family. Batman and Robin are now in a similar pattern to the beginning of Bruce and Dick’s relationship (minus the homicidal little Lord Fauntleroy character). Red Robin has emerged as the new Nightwing in his “I’m not Robin anymore” role as Red Robin (minus the flares). And there’s a new Batgirl receiving training from the old Batgirl who isn’t just comic relief or a “problem” for the others.

Tim has been growing into the “man on his own” status for a while now, being referred to by Dick as a brother and an equal, and finally getting the “how can I help?” from him at the end of Collision. Stephanie is also stepping out becoming less the character who ends up spoiling a mission or getting something wrong and more the trusted independent Bat that Barbara often was.

It’s as if the whole Bat-family has received a reboot without any of the clichéd “it was all a dream” sequences.

The reboot can’t just focus on two characters, because with the Bat-family it has always been about all of them. Dick couldn’t just strike out on his own without a new Robin taking his place. And how many female characters have they introduced into the Bat-universe over the years to try and ferment a replacement for Batgirl?

Now, with the death of Bruce Wayne forcing the issue the reboot seems to have taken root. And is working, allowing for a new Dick and Barbara to emerge out of the ashes. They’ll be the ones that end up with crossovers, that leave Gotham for a while to chase down a villain or strike it out on their own, and they are the ones that will end up in other teams. They’re the bright and cheery aspect of the darkest city in the DCU.

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Comments

8 Comments

I’m curious where all these characters are going to land when Bruce Wayne returns. I’ve come to enjoy the current set ups quite a bit.

I agree that Dick and Barbaras time as Robin and Batgirl is over, but I’m also reminded that Wally was a fully fleshed out character that took over the Flash Mantle for 20 years only to have it pulled out from under his feet and take a back seat to Barry Allen. Yes, of course they say Wally will stay around and will stay “a” Flash…but we’ll see him slip away like Conner Hawke has as Green Arrow. One day we’ll say..”hey..whatever happened to Wally”. So as much as I want Barbara to stay Oracle, some writer that is given total control of the DC Universe and has a hard on for Silver Age Characters can come along and “please the fans” and make her Batgirl again.

Derivative characters never supplant the originals. Legacy characters never truly take over the mantle. Ever.

If you want new characters to follow, then read a new franchise.

Stephanie sure as heck ain’t no Barbara though.

“Well done, Detective”

Ra’s approves.

Tim will never be the cheery anything. He’s a big dour sourpuss.

Cheer will have to be Steph, and maybe Dick, if he survives Morrison’s tender handling.

I don’t really see Tim and Stephanie together. I don’t know… it just seems that Tim flirts to much with other girls and Stephanie thinks Tim is cheating to much. Besides, Stephanie is way to cheerful and Tim is just plain broody, so that’s not really bringing them together. All in all, Dick and Babs are a much better couple, because they have a great history and manage to argue, fight, and yell at eachother without ever breaking their friendship. As for Tim and Stephanie… let’s just say when Tim kicks Stephanie into a wall, that pretty much leads to abandoning eachother and going back on promises, WHICH HAPPENED RECENTLY!!!
BTW, Stephanie will never be as likable or as popular as Babs was. Plus, she sucks at fighting and is VERY annoying and pointless as a character. Babs would beat Stephanie in a fight any day, whether she is in a wheelchair or not.

Spot on comparisons of the Dick/Babs and Tim/Steph relationship. I have to disagree with some posters up here; it’s not about Dick vs Tim or Babs vs Steph (where I’m seeing a lot of Steph hate coming from), but it’s more about the dynamics and influence of the relationship has upon us readers.

Tim/Steph is basically a mini Dick/Babs. No denying it. I don’t think it’s deliberate, but circumstances just happen to make these two relationships look similar. First of all is the all-too-obvious ‘Robin/Batgirl’ legacy. Sure, both Dick and Tim have been Robin before, and Babs and Steph have been Batgirls. But the funniest part is that neither any of them were dating when BOTH of them were Robin and Batgirl. Dick and Babs had a mutual attraction thing going on while they were Robin/Batgirl, but they only started dating each other years later, as Nightwing/Oracle. When it comes to Tim/Steph, Tim was Robin when he dated Steph, but she was Spoiler then, not Batgirl. And when Steph became Batgirl and Tim became Red Robin, they had broken up already. So the ‘Robin/Batgirl’ legacy is an illusion really.

Then we have the balancing-out-each-other’s personalities with both relationship. We have Dick/Babs, the outgoing and bubbly guy with the brainiac, technogeek girl. Then there’s Tim/Steph; the outgoing, bubbly girl with the brainiac, technogeek guy… Whoops, seeing a pattern here? Yes, Dick is similar to Steph and Babs with Tim, not the other way around. Despite the contrastinh personalities, they complement each other perfectly and are equals.

It is also noted that both relationships are ‘second loves’. Yeah Dick’s first crush was Babs, but his first relationship was with Kory (or in some retcons, an Asian college girl). Technically, Babs was his second love. Babs was seeing James Bard before she got together with Dick, Tim’s first girlfriend was Arianna and Steph got pregnant with ex-boyfriend Dean before she started dating Tim.

I’m aware my points are pretty nitpicky and trivial, but overall I do think that Tim/Steph is the new Dick/Babs. Or more specifically, they are in the same boat as Bruce/Selina and Dick/Babs in terms of them being the ‘default’ or ‘official’ couple even after many editorial-mandated break-ups and fights. No matter how much you tear them apart, somehow in the future they’ll probably get back together lol.

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