Bernard and Tim’s Big Date
By Jeff Baker
Word is out: Tim Drake has made a date to go out with his buddy Bernard Dowd. Just a nice story, right? Except that Drake is the secret identity of Batman’s partner Robin and the comics world is abuzz.
To be more specific; Drake is one of several young men (not sure how old he is, I suspect about sixteen) to have donned the costume as Batman’s athletic young sidekick since the original debuted in 1940. The close relationship between Millionaire Bruce Wayne and his youthful ward has been the subject of a lot of speculation over the last eighty years and Robin himself has been speculated over by a lot of young fans in the LGBT spectrum. Before I knew I was Bisexual, Burt Ward’s well-defined build in the skimpy Robin outfit of the TV series caught my attention in the 1960s when I was around seven years old.
Drake has not actually labeled himself yet (good for him!) and he has dated girls so the term bisexual is being thrown around a lot. And there’s a lot of opinion in the online world saying that Tim is being used to capitalize on the current trends and that this was just rushed. It doesn’t look or feel that way. There seem to have been some hints: the way Tim observes people for openers, not just the way someone following in the footsteps of The World’s Greatest Detective would do, but the way somebody would discreetly “check out” both girls and guys.
The plot of the story is fairly straightforward, and spoilers follow: Seeking information on a series of kidnappings of teenagers, Drake (in his costumed and non-costumed identity) infiltrates a “pain cult” in the gritty, noir Gotham City that has become the norm in the Batman world and is so well-done here. As Robin, he rescues Bernard from the cult and then finds himself in a battle with the baddies alongside Bernard who tells Robin of his feelings for Tim, not realizing that Robin is Tim. (Holy Clark Kent and Lois Lane!) This leads to Tim showing up at Bernard’s house, telling Bernard basically that he has the same feelings and responding delightedly when Bernard suggests they go out on an official date. (Their previous unofficial date being interrupted by the issue’s bad guys.) Much of the three-part story “Sum of Our Parts” which concludes in “Batman: Urban Legends # 6,” having played out in the previous two issues is narrated by an inner dialogue by Tim Drake (Tim Wayne, he explains, having been officially adopted by Bruce Wayne.) Tim voices his determination and his uncertainty and his desire to live up to Batman as Robin.
The story is scripted by Meghan Fitzmartin, with fine artwork by Belen Ortega and Alejandro Sanchez. The usually unsung task of lettering is by Pat Brosseau.
The buzz about Tim’s coming out has made the issue very sought-after: issues with Batman and Robin on the cover (there are several different covers) are going for $50 and up! (Mine was about $15, thank you, kind comic book store clerk.)
Comic books were an integral part of my younger years, and I was still reading them well into my 30s. They probably taught me a good deal about story and character before I realized I wanted to be a writer. They were a refuge and entertainment when things weren’t going well and a lot of fun anytime. And yes, I gave an eye to the original Ms Marvel as well as the well-drawn (by Mike Grell) guys and girls in the Legion of Super Heroes stories in the 1970s where a couple of the male and female characters wore outfits that left little to the imagination (Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl for openers!)
The story of Tim, Bernard and Robin is to be continued in “Batman Urban Legends” #10, on sale in December. And as we remember that these comics, uh, graphic novels and their characters are fictional, let us at the same time wish Bernard and Tim all the best on their first official date. With all the sweetness and awkwardness of potential young love.
Just hope Darkseid doesn’t interrupt!
AUTHOR’S NOTE: As I was preparing this column, I came across an interview with the late Dennis O’Neil, the comics writer credited with restoring the dark noir tone to Batman in the early 70s, a tone that continues to this day. In the interview, O’Neil acknowledges some of his personal struggles with alcohol and that he was able to overcome his own demons and write a bunch of very good comics. Thanks, Denny!
Jeff Baker’s fiction has appeared in “Invoking Chaos, Summer Sun Edition” (as by Mike Mayak) among other places. His non-fiction has been posted to the Lambda Literary and Amazing Stories sites. He blogs about reading and writing sci-fi, fantasy and horror around the thirteenth of each month in this same space. He is old enough to have almost ended this column with a reference to “Starbreaker” instead of “Darkseid.” He lives happily with his husband Darryl. Jeff regularly posts fiction on his blog https://authorjeffbaker.com/and wastes time on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Jeff-Baker-Author-176267409096907