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Batman: Heart of Gold

What makes Batman Batman? With the hero not being a billionaire anymore and not being able to afford his famous toys, it might be the right time to ask that question.

Just prior to the Joker War, when the Joker stole Bruce Wayne’s fortune, it was revealed the billionaire had been embezzling money through shell companies and illegitimate accounts. That money, of course, was intended to fund Batman’s war on crime, but Bruce couldn´t explain that to the financial regulators and, even if he could, it was illegal anyway.

Catwoman then outsmarted the Joker and transferred the fortune to Lucius Fox, who offered to transfer it all back to Bruce. The problem was that, with the embezzling revelation, the USA government was sure to keep an eye on each penny spent and that would make secretly funding Batman’s activities impossible.

That put the Dark Knight in a delicate situation, in which his operations would need to be less costly and his resources less vast.  

And this invites the question of what does this mean for Batman? Who is Batman without his deus ex machina gadgets?  Is he even defined by his money?  

Every time I see a status quo change in Batman or a different media interpretation, I always remember that interview Grant Morrison gave to LA Times in 2010: 

“It’s really weird. Batman can take anything. You can do comedy Batman; you can do gay Batman…it all works. It’s something intrinsic to the character. It’s so strange and amazing”.  

https://web.archive.org/web/20100815191623/http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/herocomplex/2010/08/grant-morrison-.html

Of course, Batman is famous for paying for the Justice League Satellite in the JL cartoon and for joking that his superpower is being rich in the Justice League movie, but stories in which his mega-expensive tech isn’t all that important aren’t rare. Just a grappling hook and some batarangs and he’s ready to go.

Quoting Frank Miller,

“Batman isn’t interesting because he has a cool car. It’s great that he has a cool car. But he’s interesting because he straightens the world out. And he brings order to a very chaotic world. Especially when you’re a child. You need somebody, even if it’s a fictional character, to tell you that the world makes sense and that the good guys can win. That’s what these heroes are for”.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-features/a-rare-interview-frank-miller-871654/

Miller even writes that Batman in his seminal work “Year One”, in which we see a Batman with no technology, outside of a sonic device designed to attract bats. In Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke”, considered one of the best Batman stories ever, he doesn’t use any kind of tech at all. In “The Long Halloween”, another beloved story, Batman doesn’t use any expensive gadget either.

During the 90s, in the famous Alan Grant run, Batman might have used special suits and fancy computers, but they are mostly a device to accelerate the development of the plot as opposed to an actual necessity or an integral part of the character. What is essential to that era is how the rich hero reacts to the constant social and political issues present in the stories: there is an extreme effort to present Batman as a compassionate person, using his money to help people in need.

In Alan Grant’s words,

“Because Batman is human. He’s experienced the full gamut of human emotions – grief, fear, rage – so he understands how people feel. Plus, he’s a self-made hero. He didn’t need an alien with a power ring, or to be born on a high gravity planet, or have an accident with chemicals. Instead, Batman took human powers to their limit with no external help (except for Alfred, perhaps). It just made sense to me that he would be a man of huge compassion – not obsessed to the point of insanity which some writers have proposed”.

https://www.trashmutant.com/tmi—alan-grant-interview.html

Grant’s Batman is probably the most compassionate and least emotionally detached version of the character we’ve seen in the Modern Era. While it is very interesting seeing him engaged in social justice activities, it is sometimes very easy to overlook the role rich people have in the unequal distribution of wealth. There is a danger to reading stories that humanize the rich and save them from scrutiny, even though that isn’t the writer’s intention. I will come back to this in a moment.  

What Grant brings upfront in his stories is Batman’s heart. That is the foundation for Bruce Wayne to become a hero. Alan Grant clearly sees Batman not as a selfish figure who dresses like a bat to avenge a personal tragedy, but as an altruistic hero who doesn’t want what happened to him to happen to other people. That’s why he trained to be one of the world’s greatest martial artists and detectives: for other people, not for himself. But with all that altruism, it’s difficult not to question his relationship to wealth distribution. A gold heart without sharing is an awkward capitalist invention. 

If we look at the reason behind James Tynion IV’s creative decision to take away Batman’s money, we will see that there is a plot reason and there is a civic responsibility reason:

“The hero’s endless fortune doesn’t just invite questions about his civic responsibilities, it’s also come to function as a deus ex capitalism, handwaving any level of property destruction and excusing any reveal of a new gizmo or vehicle.

Batman’s money allows writers to transform him into a grim version of Silver Age Superman, who could travel backwards in time by accidentally flying too fast. And while that may be a realistic depiction of the power of a multibillion-dollar fortune, it’s not particularly good for creating high stakes comics.”

https://www.polygon.com/2020/10/20/21524863/batman-how-much-money-net-worth-rich-dc-comics

The plot reason has more to do with the writer himself, while the civic responsibility reason speaks more of Batman as a character. Is he socially responsible? Getting rid of his fortune is a smart way to avoid that question, but that’s not what I am going to do. If the heart is part of him being a hero, then we should ask if Batman’s heart is in the right place.

Some characters like James Gordon expressed concern that Batman might attract his mentally ill villains, but what about the common villains: the robbers, the thugs, and the muscle for the crime lords?

Some scientific studies suggest there is a relationship between income inequality and crime.  When money is concentrated in the hands of a small number of people and a great number of people in need, the result is a great crime rate.

The French economist Thomas Piketty discussed in his best-seller book Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014) the history of wealth and income inequality in Europe and the United States since the 18th century and demonstrated how an unequal distribution of wealth causes social instability.   The problem is that the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few means a lack of wealth in the hands of many.  Billionaires are made out of the exploitation of labor, oppression of marginalized people, and the neocolonialism of underdeveloped countries.  

This means that for Batman to be a billionaire, several Gothamites, and people everywhere there is a Wayne Corp., need to be poor and if there is poverty, there is crime. So with that said, it stands to reason that the Wayne family wealth is partially responsible for Gotham City’s crime rate.

When Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted in 2019 that billionaires should not exist, he brought to the general public a discussion about the moral question behind the existence of super-rich people.

More and more people are seeing billionaires not as an epitome of success, hard work, and talent, but as an epitome of greed, privilege, and exploitation; characteristics that do not fit a hero.

Comics have always been political and a product of their time, so as society’s view of super-rich people starts to change, maybe Batman’s relationship to wealth needs to change too.  If part of what makes him a hero is his heart, it should be in the right place and associated with good characteristics.  

Maybe, if we don’t see more social responsibility, Garth Ennis’s view of Batman could one day become the mainstream view:

“What we’re talking about here is a billionaire aristocrat who beats up poor people, as well as the mentally ill. I don’t know what that has to do with a code of honor.”

https://www.cbr.com/garth-ennis-batman-reptilian-dc-interview/

I don’t intend to give a definitive answer to what makes Batman Batman, but I definitely think it’s important to analyze his heart, because what is a hero without a heart?

With all that in mind, we should ask ourselves: should Batman ever be a billionaire again? 

Alex (@QueerlyNerd).

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Comics

Nightwing: Is Tom Taylor’s Dick Grayson the Philanthropist That Bludhaven Needs, but Might Not Deserve?

Bree and Rook converse on the closing of Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s first story arc on Nightwing (Issues #78-83). One party thoroughly enjoyed the 6 issues, while the other was not quite as impressed. There is much to be discussed from either camp, read on to find out who thinks what! 

Warning for spoilers on all six issues.

Bree: There’s no denying the technical strengths of everyone involved at every step of creation for all six issues. The art, colors, and lettering are phenomenal, the pacing is consistently great and the dialogue flows very well. 

Rook: Yeah, absolutely. The book had my attention locked in from its very first double-page spread — very deliberately set at dawn in Bludhaven — and it continued to show off how Taylor, Redondo, Lucas, and Abbot are masters of their craft throughout. 

Bree: The bulk of my personal criticisms are likely more indicative of decisions made at various stages of the pitch and editorial process. The ‘big 2’ function somewhat uniquely, and it is quite possible I’ll be eating my own words if/when other books are announced. As it currently stands, Barbara Gordon exists in Nightwing and occasionally Batman and Detective Comics. Her role in Nightwing initially made a lot of sense – a friend had experienced a great amount of trauma and could use some support- but the finale of issue #83 made me realize how underutilized her skill set is in this book. If the Rebirth approach of “everything is canon” still holds up, Barbara would have served as a member of the United States House of Representatives (Detective Comics #423). Even if this Barbara is earlier on in her professional career, I would like to believe that she would still be a better fit as the head of a massive charity operation than someone who hasn’t had any experience with bureaucracy.

Rook: That’s a great point, Bree. I personally wouldn’t be surprised if Barbara continued to serve as the brains of Dick’s new Alfred Pennyworth Foundation — her running the logistical end of it, while Dick handled the glad-handing, social politics, and general operations as the face of the charity. Because you’re absolutely right — with or without her political background, Babs is without a doubt the better pick to handle that.

I feel like there are two main reasons we don’t see Barbara with her own foundation. One is just the reality of the setup — Alfred raised Dick, so Dick was his main beneficiary and gets the money to try and turn the city around. 

Two, I think this run’s first arc, “Leaping Into The Light,” has been a statement of purpose: Taylor is in this to evolve Nightwing’s role in the DCU. He’s aiming to maneuver Dick into a position that is arguably long overdue as an A-list major player, and part of that plan is letting his operation become a bright mirror of Bruce Wayne’s setup. Instead of trying to help the world primarily through crime fighting, corporate activism, and shrewd business moves intended to consolidate more wealth for more crime fighting, Dick Grayson wants to solve the biggest non-criminal threats in the city first. He’s not fighting a one-man war, he’s just here to help. That’s a big distinction in the character — he got closure with Zucco that Bruce never could, and as a result, he has a wider view than his mentor. 

Now with the Pennyworth Foundation, Dick has his own way to help a whole city of people. And that’s going to require his famous skills as the most likable, genial guy in the DC universe, because making a charity like this work is going to require a ton of charisma. After all, if he wants to help the city, he’s going to have to partner with public officials, navigate fundraising events, all sorts of that crap. 

Then there’s the secret third reason, which is that there may be a Batgirls book in the making that could occupy a lot of Barbara’s time in the future. Here’s hoping she gets to be Oracle in some capacity in all of these bat-books because I’m really enjoying the distinct dynamics she has with each cast. 

Bree: I have a hard time wrapping my head around Dick being “likable” on that kind of scale and on that type of stage. Some of my favorite moments of his are when he’s had slightly too much for one day and some sarcasm slips through (“Do I get a kiss? It’s just that I like a kiss when I’m getting screwed”, the time he barricaded himself in a cave to avoid Donna asking him questions he didn’t want to answer). It keeps him feeling human. The most snark he’s had in Taylor’s run thus far is saying “acab” once. 

Charities as massive bureaucracies can be a hell of their own making; we don’t know the scope of the Pennyworth Foundation quite yet but the implication that some of it will be international is slightly concerning for me. The problem with a lot of corporate activism and large-scale charities is they often rely on top-down decision-making, and the people in the boardroom making said decisions are very removed from the actual crisis at hand. The lack of transparency about how the money is being spent can lead to corruption and embezzlement as well. Dick still currently owns all of his inherited wealth, he will be signing the checks and therefore he is still participating in top-down decision making. The people he’s talking to are functionally his employees, this isn’t a non-profit co-operative. The game hasn’t changed, the reader is currently supposed to believe Dick will be an ethical billionaire simply because he is an ethical person. There has been no shift in how wealth is owned and redistributed. The story has the potential to be very leftist in optics but ultimately neoliberal on a functional level. 

The people that are often doing the most work are often the least talked about because they’re too busy doing. When it comes to mutual aid networks and grassroots organizing (which is what Dick is currently positioning the Pennyworth to be, or at least borrowing the language a lot of these orgs use), you don’t necessarily need a face to represent the whole org. One of the most effective ones I’m familiar with is Common Grounds. They started by organizing aid for those affected by Katrina, and now operate in many different states with a roster of staff and volunteers in the 30,000s. Scott Crow (one of the initial founders) was on Robert Evans’ podcast (Worst Year Ever) and talked about how they initially had a tiny, public office and kept all cash donations in a shoebox. They are effective because they operate as a non-profit co-operative, every team is empowered to make their own decisions about their allotted funds. I think all of those tidbits make for an interesting podcast, but I am unsure it’ll work within the DCU. 

Taylor is steering into tackling very real and very topical issues. Why is there a housing shortage when you could get a few Speedsters and a Kryptionan to build (at least) a house a day? Starfire and Donna can fly all the trash to the dump in minutes. I think there’s a way to go about it in which every problem can exist in the context of the threats the DCU offers, i.e. how do you rebuild after Darkseid scorches half the earth? Personally, I’d probably prefer that than an attempt to borrow directly from life. Telling real stories without sensationalizing them or caricaturing (i.e. the helpers versus the helped) would be a near-impossible line to tread within the DC imprint. The medium is the message.

Rook: Yeah, that’s absolutely something to be wary of. Charity operations can really let their initial promises fall by the wayside when partnering with massive corporate organizations. 

I think you make a great point here about how Taylor is walking the book into some seriously thorny territory by using real-world issues in a universe that isn’t always compatible with real-world problems. When you make it clear that Nightwing can virtually end homelessness in a city with his wealth, it makes you wonder why Batman hasn’t done the same thing. (The answer is probably that supercrime is a much larger problem in the DCU than in ours, so it eats up more of Bruce’s budget, but that doesn’t feel like a particularly satisfying answer even if it’s built into the genre.) 

I’m definitely interested in seeing what you describe, dealing with DCU-scale problems that parallel our own world’s issues without trivializing them. Frankly, I’d love to see more of that kind of worldbuilding and subject matter. However, I think hewing closely to real-world issues has a specific advantage.

I’m mostly thinking of the bit in Dick’s issue 6 speech, where he begins by saying “I don’t think there’s anything heroic about being a billionaire.” Despite everything, large segments of liberals and conservatives alike worship at the altar of Musk and Bezos. That is heavily influenced by Tony Stark’s status as a messianic figure at the center of the biggest pop culture franchise in the world. (And Bruce Wayne helped pave the way for that.) 

Framing the act of being a billionaire for what it is — hoarding money — is a pretty bold move, one I’m not sure DC’s editorial will be willing to commit to. Still, it has so much power in this Nightwing arc specifically because it’s so close to a real-world issue. Maybe this is giving Tom Taylor a little too much credit, but I think he’s trying to redefine what being a billionaire hero means. Punching Ultron or the Joker with expensive tech is great, and an important part of the genre, but our heroes need to use their wealth to deal with problems like homelessness that our society overlooks. 

Bree: Lastly, Dick doesn’t really demonstrate any flaws that aren’t also endearing. He does admit to being “off” due to his recent injury many times, but it’s likely that will eventually heal. Or be forgotten by whomever takes over the book next. He’s attractive, he’s fit, he’s kind, he’s smart, he’s skilled, and he’s now incredibly wealthy. I’m aware that he’s always been a well-rounded and capable person- and that’s part of why he’s a character that’s easy to love- but the needle is moving a bit too far for me. This is especially apparent in his relationship with Babs. We don’t really know what she’s thinking because her perspective in any book is currently minimal, but we don’t even need to because why would she reject someone like that? The initial ‘conflict’ they had pre issue #83 felt manufactured, in my opinion. A very Hallmark movie “will they won’t they”, in which you know they will because they’re both well-adjusted, attractive people in their late 20s/early 30s with similar goals and ideals. Although, Taylor is certainly not the first to manufacture similar drama with those characters, in all fairness. 

Rook: You make great points, particularly about how flat the conflict with Dick’s relationships has been. I’d attribute that to all of this arc being setup, but that’s definitely not going to work for everyone and it’s dependent on the story sticking the landing.  

You’re absolutely right that Dick seems a little too perfect — it strikes me as consistent with his characterization in books like Grayson and Batman & Robin, but less so with (what I’ve seen of) his appearances in the Teen Titans. 

Still, I’m not quite sure Dick doesn’t have any flaws in this run. The big one that always sticks out in my mind is overreach. We downplay it a lot because wanting to be everything for everybody and help as many people as possible is, well, admirable. But I think it’s very deliberate that Dick gets gradually more battered as these issues play out. If he sees there’s someone to help, Dick Grayson will always put himself last in line. That really wears on a person and putting yourself through that can lead to mistakes and unintended consequences. 

Basically, things worked out this time because it’s Nightwing’s first leap into the light, but putting himself last might lead to some serious consequences down the line. And hey, maybe I’m giving the creative team a little too much credit here, but I feel like they’ve set up a variety of circumstances that will really test Dick in the future. Melinda Zucco, Heartless, and Blockbuster all complicate his life quite a bit in different ways, and I’m looking forward to the trials he’s going to go through as a result. (Sorry, Dick.)

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Robin: An Exploration of Queerness in Tim Drake

By: Queerly Nerd

“Sum of Our Parts” by Meghan Fitzmartin, Belen Ortega and Alejandro Sanchez is one of the most important Batman-related stories ever written.  If you look at it in terms of comic book history, it is the first time a world-renowned male character and huge intellectual property like Robin has been portrayed as something different than the common heteronormative template.  Alan Scott Green Lantern and Iceman can’t even compare. Tim Drake was the sole character to use the Robin title for 20 years. He has action figures, statues, t-shirts, and a 100+ issue comic series. He has appeared in cartoons and DC animated movies; he has every sort of product you would expect from a popular superhero.   Saying he is important is an understatement. Such a big brand being associated with queerness marks not only a new chapter in representation, but how companies – in this case DC Comics, Warner Bros., AT&T and Discovery – see diversity.  Gone are the times when queer people were forbidden, coded, only villains, a one-time tragic character or a supporting cast.  Now they can be heroes; they can be important heroes and not just a blemish on a brand. 

If we were to look back at comic book history and identify the turning point(s) for queer representation, most people would say it was with The Authority #29 (2002) or Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #9 (2012). These comics featured characters that were more than queer in name only; they had explicitly queer relationships. They featured the first kiss between Midnighter and Apollo and Wiccan and Hulking, respectively.

In 1954, the psychiatrist Fredric Wertham released the book “Seduction of the Innocent”, in which he used questionable evidence to defend the theory that comic books were a serious cause of juvenile delinquency.  At the time, homosexuality was still viewed as a mental disorder and he caused great alarm when he  presented his reading of Batman and Robin as a homosexual couple. In the years that followed, DC Comics adhered to the Comics Code Authority, self-censoring their titles and trying to distance Batman and Robin from homosexuality as much as possible, a policy that lasted for decades.  In a 2011 Comic Vine podcast, Judd Winnick, creator of Red Hood, made that clear, stating that “there’s things that DC Comics doesn’t like me talking about and they don’t like us talking about things like that” when asked if Jason was “a little bisexual”. Tim Drake being queer means that policy is no longer in effect and DC is not afraid of male queerness in the Bat corner of their universe anymore. They don’t think queerness taints the Robin brand and therefore the Batman brand.  

But why Tim Drake?  Did DC editors wake up one day and decide out of nowhere they wanted a queer Robin?  And did they simply choose which one by drawing straws? If you look at Tim’s publishing history, you will notice there is no shortage of references that can very easily put him in the LGBTQIA+ community.  Surely, the first scenes were not supposed to be read as queer coded, but that’s the beautiful thing about art: it’s open to interpretation.  Here are some examples below:

These panels come from Robin #40, which is regarded as the first time Tim was queercoded.  His then girlfriend, Ariana, offers to have sex with him, but he declines the offer, saying they were not ready. The message the writer wanted to pass was likely that of celibacy and responsibility, but that didn´t prevent people from reading it as a gay teenage boy not wanting to have relations with a girl.  Back then, there weren’t discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation as there are now.  People were quickly labeled, faster than they are today!  “Queer” was still being reclaimed from its pejorative use, “genderqueer” still hadn´t been popularized by the internet and being transgender was still considered a mental illness.  Non-heterosexual people were constantly being shoved into identities and orientations that didn´t actually represent them.  Tim was immediately labeled as gay on the message boards after that issue, despite Tim never giving or accepting a label himself, something that continues still today, despite openly dating another man.

In 1998, Robin #56 brought the conclusion to the Ariana-Tim-Steph love triangle and, while the writer probably intended for Tim to question if he didn’t want Ariana, the situation was also read as Tim getting Steph, who he supposedly wanted, but feeling empty because he was starting to realize he was not really into girls.  

Then things started to escalate with a new player: Conner Kent, a.k.a Superboy.  Of course, fans have been pairing them romantically and been reading queer content between them since they first teamed up in 1996, but it was from 2003 until 2015 that this content became more intimately explicit.  From the writings of Geoff Johns and Scott Lobdell came the most popular Tim x Kon scenes.  We don´t know if these scenes were all misread, if the writers subconsciously put queer content there, if they were trying to gay code them and wanted to convince Warner to take them out of the closet, or if they were simply queerbaiting the readers.  The fact is: these scenes are numerous and pretty obvious.  Johns and Lobdell are the writers responsible for cementing the homoerotic relationship between the characters in fans’ minds.

It all started with writer Judd Winnick, actually, in the pages of “Graduation Day” #2, in which we see Superboy putting on his clothes inside a closet with Robin.  15 years later, answering a fan, Winnick confirmed he intentionally planned the queer content.

And then the Geoff Johns Teen Titans run started.  For 2 years (2003-2005) Tim and Kon interacted several times in a flirtatious way that blurred the line between friendship and romance.

In those scenes from Teen Titans #1 and #6, Tim paused like he was trying to figure out his feelings towards Conner. Sadly, their relationship was cut short in 2006, when Conner died in Infinite Crisis #6, which sent Tim into a spiral.  

He changed his costume to reflect the colors Conner used and kept trying to clone him as a way to get a substitute.

By that time, Tim’s father had already been killed and Stephanie Brown was presumably dead, but he didn’t try to clone them.  He just tried to clone Conner, even though it would be easier to clone either Jack Drake or Steph, since Kryptonian DNA is too complex.

The fact is: he simply couldn’t stand being without Conner and he would even settle for some clone remotely close to him.  

Geoff Johns gave us a memorable run in which it was very difficult not to read Tim as obsessed and in love with Superboy. Conner was brought back in 2009 and Christopher Yost and Marcus To gave us a second reunion in Red Robin #9 (2010) that stays as one of the most tender moments between them.

And J.T. Krul closed the pre-Flashpoint era with one of the most famous dialogs between Tim and Conner in Teen Titans #92 (2011).

Then the New 52 happened and with it the Tim x Superboy trope lived on by the hands of Scott Lobdell. Technically speaking, New 52 Red Robin is Prime Earth Tim Drake with his continuity messed up by Dr. Manhattan, but New 52 Superboy isn´t Prime Earth Conner Kent, who got trapped in the Gemworld, escaping the reboot.  Although we don’t have an official confirmation, we can assume that the New 52 Superboy is an alternate reality Conner Kent, with whom Tim Drake established a very similar kind of relationship. From 2012 until 2015, we had Tim Drake saving Superboy, going against his Teen Titans team to help him when he was accused of murder and breaking down when he left with Harvest.  

While Tim Drake usually has an intellectual and rational personality, Superboy remains a trigger element that makes him lose control and act emotionally.

When the Rebirth era started, Conner was there like a mysterious shadow in his mind and heart until he was rescued from Gemworld.

So, looking at Tim’s publishing history, it is easy to see how he can be read as a queer character. His feelings for Superboy are very apparent, but he doesn’t seem to know exactly what they mean.  The sensation is that he still hasn’t figured it out yet.

Maybe that’s why Meghan Fitzmartin starts the first chapter of “Sum of Our Parts” with Barbara Gordon asking Tim what codename he is going by.  That goes beyond a name itself, because it’s a question about who he is.  We can easily exchange it for “who are you, Tim?  Have you figured it out yet?”.  And the answer “Robin’s fine, Oracle.  At least while Damian’s “out of town” is related not to himself, but to another person, which is a very Tim Drake thing to do, because he tends to focus on the outside, not the inside.  That’s his defense mechanism: ignoring his emotions. Babs here has a role very similar to that of a psychoanalyst.  She invites Tim to reflect about his desire, making herself an intermediary between him and his subconscious.  And what is beautiful about this move is that she locates the suppressed(?) knowledge in Tim, stating that only he can access it.  This was a very respectful way to handle an intimate and sensitive moment and subject.

Contrast that with how Iceman came out and the role that Jean Grey played in that ordeal..  When she confronted him and said he was gay, she took it upon herself to force his sexual awakening.  That’s a very violent thing to do, because the road to self-knowledge must be walked by the person themselves.   But that’s a thing that happens a lot to queer people.  Quite often, they are informed by others they are “sissies” or “dykes” before they even start to experience any kind of sexual attraction. A similar thing is being done to Tim by people calling him bisexual when he hasn´t labeled himself yet.  People decided he was bisexual, not him.  The difference, of course, is that he is a fictional character and will not suffer anything because of it. But how can Tim have not figured himself out when he is 16-20 years old?  Well, that happens a lot.  The first thing we need to have in mind is the concept of compulsory heterosexuality.  This concept is the idea that heterosexuality is assumed, promoted and enforced by society and, if a person does not comply to the heterosexual standards, they risk social exclusion and psychological or physical violence against them.

The effects of compulsory heterosexuality vary from people to people, but it can reach a level in which a person will use a defense mechanism called “repression”, that “ensures that what is unacceptable to the conscious mind, and would if recalled arouse anxiety, is prevented from entering into it”.  So, what Tim did was repress his desire for men.  He excluded it from his consciousness and subdued it in his subconscious.  It was apparent that he liked men, but he didn’t notice it until the lightbulb moment with Bernard. When we think about Tim, the first thing that comes to mind is his intellectual ability. What we rarely notice is how emotional he actually is.  The fact that he has the tendency to bottle up his feelings and focus on the outside masks that and is a trait totally compatible with repression. Not surprisingly, Superboy is an element that makes him lose control and act emotionally, even against reason, because his feelings get so intense his defense mechanism fails.

In a way, Tim, as a fictional character, acts exactly like the story behind his creation.  He was created to please.   Warner Bros. ordered Denny O’Neil, then Batman editor, to create a new Robin, even though Jason Todd had just died.  Tim was developed to please both the fans that voted for Jason to die and those who voted for him to live.  A worthy Robin, not fueled by rage or revenge, but for the desire to do what is right.  He was designed to be respected and to sympathize with.  The focus of his creation was always what other people needed of him. Marv Wolfman created that commitment to please others and it seems that each new writer Tim had, knowingly or unknowingly, took on that commitment, cementing in Tim’s personality the tendency to focus on other people’s needs and neglect his own.  Gradually the art became alive and each new writer was consciously or unconsciously guided to add a new element of queerness, until it became unmistakably obvious in Geoff Johns’ and Scott Lobdell’s Teen Titans runs.

If you follow Tim’s publishing history, you will see that he started as an emotional teen, already focused on what Batman needed, becoming more emotionally detached after his mother died and his father went into a coma.

Little by little, he became more stoic, pragmatic and cerebral, in a way similar to Batman, but in another, just the opposite.  While Batman becomes grim and closed off from people, focusing on his grief, Tim becomes closed off from himself, focusing on other people.  Similar defense mechanism, but with opposite directions.

When Bruce Wayne supposedly died in 2008, Tim tried to emulate Batman’s defense mechanism, so he would be more like him, but it was a struggle that didn’t last.

It is totally understandable why Meghan Fitzmartin saw in all of this a potential for developing the character.  Looking back at where he’s been, there was a shadow in his mind that could totally use a “lightbulb moment”.  

For the first time in his life, Tim has grasped what he wanted and not what people needed.  Tim has finally started his journey of self-realization and we will be here to watch this Robin fly.