This is perhaps the worst week to be a Batman Family fan. Particularly if you are a fan of the Robins. Not only has Grant Morrison killed off Damian Wayne, the current Robin in the pages of Batman Inc this week which of course has sparked lots of debate, contention and massive media coverage, but other members of the Bat family haven’t fared very well either. And with the release of this week’s comics and the solicits for future Batman issues it, when looked at all at once, well it paints a very ugly picture. How ugly? To take a line from the film Houseboat which I reviewed last week; “I hate everybody. I hate everybody in the whole wide world.”
The Batman Family is in stitches in terms of likability post reboot, and with the death of Damian, for me personally nothing that was interesting, fun and engaging remains, and that is sad. Characters I liked are still there, but they are not the way they used to be characterization and personality-wise. The large communal family and personal army the Batfamily felt like preboot has all but been dismantled. And you would think that Damian dying would be the absolute worst thing to happen this week for the Bat Family, well you’re wrong. It’s just one of three particular traumas or ongoing narratives for the Bat Boys in the past few weeks that are absolutely awful.
In addition to Damian’s death, just a few weeks ago Jason Todd, the second Robin now known as the Red Hood (a former alias of The Joker) in Red Hood And The Outlaws #17 has had acid flung upon his face by one of his own helmets. The helmet was seemingly rigged by the Joker during the Death of a Family cross-over event and was left as a lingering surprise for Jason complete with a taunting recording. Ouch.
You may ask, “Hey Max, well yeah that sucks and Damian just died…really would could be worse than either of those?” Well…the third instance of awful leads us to this week’s Teen Titans # 17 which also came out this past Wednesday, the same as Batman Inc #8, and it is surprisingly the true cause of my personal ire this week, not Damian’s death. Why? Because of Tim Drake and the inexcusable things that are happening to him and the plot that is taking place. Tim Drake the “ Once a Robin, nope not a Robin only ever Red Robin” in the Nu52 canon is acting strangely erratic and is seemingly being influenced by something, essentially he is being mind controlled and looking like they are going for a “Red X” narrative if going by future issue covers. The real clincher? This week’s issue has him suddenly out of nowhere seducing Kiran, otherwise known as the criminally underused Solstice still caught in her smoke form which conveniently dissipates when being seduced. In doing so she is effectively cheating on Bart Allen, Kid Flash whom I believe she is dating, if you go by Kiran’s statement of “But Bart”, to which Tim responds with “Isn’t here”.
This is bad in itself, disgusting porno-ish dialogue alone can make me cringe but the added actual sexual assault and the way Kiran is drawn as submitting so quickly and enthusiastically is just gross and paints her in a bad way which is unfair. Bad yeah? Okay, it gets worse when later in the same issue Tim seduces Cassie, otherwise known as Wonder Girl and it is insinuated that they then most likely have sex and it is perhaps not for the first time with Cassie saying “Red, are we really doing this, again?” Note, Tim still hasn’t shared his identity with his teammates yet which has always been a Tim thing that is actually never one of his nicer traits in any incarnation. Why has he kept that Batdickery habit out of all things to keep in this new version?
It then cuts to the new incarnation of Raven seemingly eavesdropping while holding a goblet of blood or red gunk that screams of mall-gothic broodiness which adds even more seedy tones to the entire thing.
Tim is later fully revealed to be under full mind control by the end of the issue complete with glaring red energy eyes and a sadistic Joker smile.
This is not only disturbing because it means not only was Tim probably not in control, but the girls on the team don’t realize Tim isn’t himself either so effectively his advances were sexual assault for both the girls and for Tim himself and if Tim and Cassie actually had sex it constitutes as rape for both of them. If he was aware of what he was doing but couldn’t help it due to the mind control and couldn’t stop it? Well, then that’s really awful. Even worse is if he knew exactly what he was doing.
Is this Trigon’s doing? A Joker parting gift like Jason’s booby-trapped helmet? Raven?! A little bit of all three? You know who is really responsible? Scott Lobdell. The common denominator between Jason’s face getting doused in acid and Tim Drake being possessed or under Joker’s mind control is their writer. And he is the true villain of the week, not Talia or the Heretic, not Trigon, not The Joker. Scott Lobdell. Lobdell’s books while consistently selling rather well are openly criticized for being, well, not very well written. And skimming through these latest issues I must agree. He is awful. He has always been awful. Ever since the first issues.
Red Hood and the Outlaws makes very little sense as a book, replace Red Hood with Nightwing and you’d have a Titans book. Why is Jason running around with Dick’s friends again? Well, to be fair Jason was a Titan. Okay, so there is some validity for him running around with them – but it should be so much better. But no, Lobdell has erased the original Titans. Well sorta, it’s kind of really up in the air, Starfire at one point knew Dick as Robin but now she cannot fully remember things and Dick is cold towards her anyway and now Jason will protect her “every damn day of his life”. Whoops. Yeah that’s so much easier to remember.
It would be different if Jason’s book was about was a quest to find Donna Troy whom he had sparked a friendship with in the (sometimes for the better, ignored) Countdown to Final Crisis or something of that ilk and given her usual “multiverse anomaly” self might have been an interesting figure to feature in the post reboot world since she would remember the pre Pandora constructed reality. A Dick lead Titans book of the same plot would be fantastic as well but alas no Donna, she doesn’t exist at least that we know of. We’re not getting that. Teen Titans as shown above is also is pretty insipid and very slow narrative-wise, starring characters that deserve so much better and this new plot development just puts me over the edge. If Damian Wayne’s death is a tragedy then allowing Lobdell to write comic books and the fact he is moving onwards to Superman too is an absolute nightmare. What happened to the promise to foster new and engaging writers and artists DC? I am not seeing them here if you’re letting Scott Lobdell write them all.
His dialogue is generally terrible. His characters and new canons for them are equally lacking. Wonder Girl? Awful new origin story revolving around her boyfriend. Who needs that? Seriously? For Cassandra Sandsmark? Please. Pacing is horrible and everything drips of 90’s grim-dark drama clichés.Wasn’t this the reason for the reboot? Because the franchises had become so awful? Or does this hurt even more due to Teen Titans towards the end of the preboot run with the introduction of Solstice was slowly, sorta getting it’s groove back after a few years of disastrous arcs and roster shakeups? It feels like DC Comics isn’t learning anything and are doing the same pattern of lather, rinse, and repeat especially with Teen Titans and its patented brand of teenage slaughter and sexual misconduct that ultimately caused it to be rebooted in the first place. I cannot in my right mind seeing this getting any better. And with the coming of a new villainous Doctor Light in this book it seems the criminally undervalued heroic Doctor Light, Japanese scientist Kimiyo Hoshi, is probably also wiped away with the reboot too because having two Doctor Light’s like they had before, one villainous, one heroic, will be no doubt “too confusing” to readers. She’s also been characterized as being in her thirties so probably doesn’t have a chance. How fun for diversity. But really, the biggest thing of this is Tim Drake. Just poor Tim Drake. What Lobdell has done to the character as a whole is just atrocious and unforgivable. And now this. Possible rape. This is just the cherry on top of of this nastiness that has broken the camel’s back for me.
Tim Drake has been butchered by Lobdell since the donning of the so called “swan wings”. You could almost say Tim was under mind control long before this…actual case of mind control. His new Lobdell origin story is now extremely creepy with him being watched by Bruce in secret, essentially scouted. His real name might not even be Tim Drake. He was also given Olympic level athletic skills from the get-go which negates his original role as the Robin who wasn’t chosen or scouted out by Batman but was a normal, rather geeky kid from an upper middle class family with less than stellar athletic skills who nobly volunteered himself for the mantle despite physically probably not very suited for the role aside for his skills of deduction. Lobdell has thrown a wrench in that entire concept which for the most part was the reason why Tim was so popular and perhaps one of the most popular comic characters of the 90’s. I mean they paired him up with Jubilee in the 90’s DC/Marvel crossover, they were the company’s 90’s darlings! And he’s lost it. Tim has lost his role as the “relatable” brainy Robin that quickly came into his own despite some of his limitations and was the favorite of many, evident in that he held his title for over twenty years and his costume has become the base for redesigned and revisited Robin costumes everywhere ever since. He was the only Robin, I myself at age twenty-three today, knew of growing up and could identify with. I knew Dick was Robin and was now Nightwing, I knew Jason Todd died. I knew Tim was now Robin. And he was great at it. It felt like if he was Robin, I could be too.
Additionally while not Lobdell’s fault or doing but it is worth noting is that the removal of Stephanie Brown from the family has also hurt his character immensely. It truly hurts Tim Drake’s person considering Stephanie was featured in his solo title practically as co-star since her creation in 1993 all throughout the early 90’s and early 2000’s until she took the book herself briefly as Robin and then her return from the dead in its final span of issues leading up to R.I.P. And while things relationship wise sort of soured between the on and off again boyfriend and girlfriend particularly during R.I.P and Tim’s taking of the Red Robin mantle, they were pretty much each others match and a great team as Red Robin and Batgirl. At the least they were a pair and would have made a great trio book with Cassandra’s Black Bat. They should have made them the new Outsiders along with Misfit since Morrison wanted Tim to lead the Outsiders anyway. Well there’s a place you could have stuck your “spare” Batgirls and female Batfamily characters DC, look at that! Whelp, we didn’t get that now did we. Looking at this new Lobdell Tim, overall I can pretty much says that the Tim Drake we knew, along with Damian, is sadly dead.
Now, the issue with Lobdell and use of mind control causing this new Tim to seduce his teammates is well, it comes off as the most distasteful thing done probably so far in the reboot, and there have been many instances of distasteful material mostly coming from Lobdell too, but this, this includes rape. And it is inexcusable. Marvel comics already caught a lot of flak not too long ago with I believe Peter Parker seducing his roommate but then it was revealed it was not Peter but the Chameleon in disguise as Peter or something of that ilk. Essentially rape. DC not too long ago in the preboot canon itself had the rather naïve and sweet Miss Martian being occasionally possessed by an alternate evil future self stuck inside her own head and found herself at one point awaking in a bathroom stall supposedly about to be raped by two men; her evil self’s doing. Not Lobdell’s pen but just as bad. DC also had Trigon’s sons influencing the original Titans with different cardinal sins causing Starfire and Nightwing to hook up inexplicably on the spot despite being broken up. Nightwing was raped by Tarantula while he was in a state of shock. Tim was poised to be raped by the villainess he was battling against who had the goal for him to impregnate her towards the end of Red Robin run when he was saved by Cassandra Cain in her first solid appearance as the newly fashioned Black Bat. Bad plot set-up. Awesome Cassandra Cain.
Why so much rape guys? Why? Why continue with that? Can you not think of better ways to write?
Why is it that to show that Tim is being mind controlled the first thing he does is seduce the women on the team? And why would they so easily reciprocate Tim’s advances no matter how good looking and fit Tim is? Is this the same Cassie from earlier issues? That is so sick. Can writers please stop assaulting their characters this way? Sexual assault is not appropriate in all these stories. This is terrible writing and you should be ashamed for perpetuating this. It’s not fun. It’s not edgy. It’s tired. And it’s inappropriate.
Why would you go there Lobdell? Why would you even repeat this trope considering the amount of ire and flak people have gotten for similar plots like this in the past? Again weren’t awful plot lines like the above scene with Miss Martian the reason Teen Titans slipped down in sales and was a mess for years? It is sick. It is sicker still (as if it can get worse) when you take into account that preboot Tim was pretty unique among a lot of male teen heroes. Tim was written as a bit girl crazy, yes, and he had quite a number of girlfriends (and even cheated on them with other girls, he’s not a saint at all) and had tons of girls interested in him (in some cases literally fighting over him) over the years but Tim Drake was unique in that despite his love for girls and girl’s liking him, he was never shown or had ever been written as having had sex with anyone in canon, not even Stephanie his longtime girlfriend who was often shown as the more sexually aggressive and flirtatious party in their relationship anyway. And if he had, they never acknowledged it. That, for many readers was sort of different and refreshing and a big point as to why people liked him or found him endearing.
His perpetual supposed virginity, chaste behavior and prudish streak were often gently mocked by Stephanie in comic (but she did not dump him over it ever either), as well as fans in fanart or fanfiction. It naturally also sparked persistent theories that he was either demi-sexual, romantic-asexual or simply a closeted homosexual or bisexual particularly after his meltdown following the murder of Superboy. I personally have no opinion on any of those theories even though I agree some things Tim has done could be viewed as evidence for all of above care for perhaps pure homosexuality which I will firmly say no to (sorry to those that think so, you are entitled to think that if you choose). Regardless it was an interesting and endearing character trait and as stated, uncommon for the depiction of teenage male superheroes, and further uncommon given that Tim was and had no problem with dating or attracting women especially as he got older.
While sex is fine, and it is okay for Tim to have sex, a fictional character can have sex, especially a teenage one, it is just incredibly awkward going by that history to see Tim Drake doing this kind of thing or being used as a pawn in this kind of plot. The two just don’t go together. And it’s even grosser considering after twenty three years the first time that we are seeing Tim Drake possibly having sex on canon paper, it’s under the circumstance of mind controlled rape and not just that but raping a teammate. Instead of something sweet or nice based on character development and his own choice we are shown something cheap that stinks of male power fantasies all for the sake of showing he is being influenced by evil or gone wrong. It demonizes sexuality and also victimizes Kiran and Cassie reducing them to accessories to show that Tim has gone bad, real bad. Regardless if this new version of Tim has had sex before or not this issue, it really doesn’t matter; this is the first time we’re seeing him doing anything like this in-comic and this is what we get. That’s not very respectable towards the character and the character’s history. At all.
It is one thing that he kissed Cassie preboot while they were consoling each other when in grief over Superboy’s death. While misguided such a reaction is plausible and human. This is not analogous to that. He was being raped and Cassie was being raped if they had sex. Pure (not pure) and simple. If they backpedal and claim they didn’t well then they shouldn’t have gone there in the first place. This trope is gross, the “corruption” of relatively “good boy” and “good girl” characters (poor Mary Marvel) purely for sake of scandal, or drama, or whatever this is it’s just, not good, it’s tired and cliché. And it needs to stop. People can’t get behind this. People should get angry because of this. This isn’t entertainment. This isn’t engaging. And I want it out of comics.
DC Comics, you need to shape up, because people aren’t going to stand for this much longer. It’s no wonder your ‘Young Justice’ line of books of which Teen Titans belongs to is failing aside from that title. And any company that are getting such scathing remarks from your supposed demographic, as in, oh ME, you should take notice, because you are not getting my money. The only money you’ll get from me is for Dustin Nguyen’s Lil’ Gotham digital book, the only book of your entire lineup that is actually fun and the only one where characters are actually…well sort of themselves. Oh and it’s for all ages too. I can read it, I can then show it to my six year-old cousin (who’s a girl does that make you shudder in fear DC?), my fifty-six year old father and my eighty-five year old grandfather all without hesitation and it would make all three laugh. Teen Titans; I wouldn’t show this garbage to anyone or recommend it even to the appropriate age group or older. No one.
Shame on you Lobdell, and shame on you DC Comics and the editor that allowed this plot line. There are better ways to show Tim is being manipulated than to subject characters to this particularly your female characters as those being deceived. You all should be fired immediately or at the least step back and take a good look at yourselves and your business of entertaining people. The Batman Family is just in an incredibly gross state right now and quite frankly I just can’t deal anymore even though I am all but checked out already. Lobdell, I hope you’re in for a lot of negative press, because boy, it’s coming. And I’ll light the torches if need be.
Dear readers, what are your opinions?
I’d love to hear them. Bring kerosene if you want.
Staff Writer/The Doctor