Tim Drake, one of several characters to have taken up Robin’s mantle in the comics, accepts a date with a male friend in the new issue of “Batman: Urban Legends,” a series that debuted earlier this year.
The issue’s final page sees Drake visit his friend Bernard at his home after the two shared a moment of unexpected connection (and Drake, as his alter ego Robin, must rescue Bernard from a villain). In the last panel, Drake tells Bernard, beaming, “Yeah … yeah, I think I want that” after Bernard asks him out.
“[The issue] happened because this is who Tim is,” comic writer Meghan Fitzmartin said in an interview with Polygon. “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.”
Fans have long seen Batman’s loyal sidekick as a potentially queer character since the first Robin, Dick Grayson, made his comics debut in the 1940s. In a 2016 article for Slate, adapted from his book on the World’s Greatest Detective, culture critic Glen Weldon documented a few instances that made readers’ ears perk up. These include depictions of Batman and Robin lying next to each other, naked, in separate beds; Batman and Robin waking up in the same bed; Robin throwing jealous fits when Batman entertained female love interests. Former Batman comic writer Grant Morrison even told Playboy magazine that “gayness is built into Batman.”
Despite decades of fans clamoring for queer Robin content, the sidekick’s sexuality was never overtly stated, though various iterations of Robin, from Drake to newer addition Damian Wayne, have had relationships with women in the comics.
Speaking to Polygon, Fitzmartin said that Drake’s new relationship doesn’t erase his past dalliances with women (most notably Stephanie Brown, who moonlights as the hero Spoiler).
“I wanted to pay tribute to the fact that sexuality is a journey … However, Tim is still figuring himself out,” Fitzmartin told Polygon. “I don’t think he has the language for it all … yet.”
The door is open for Drake and Bernard’s relationship to evolve in the next issue of “Batman: Urban Legends.” But they join a growing constellation of LGBTQ characters in the DC universe: There’s Batwoman, also known as Kate Kane, who at one point was punished for her relationship with another woman under the US military’s former “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy; Harley Quinn, who’s ditched the Joker for her friend Poison Ivy in recent comic runs; and the transgender scientist Victoria October, who debuted in a 2017 Batman series.
DC and fellow comics juggernaut Marvel have both started to include more LGBTQ characters in their stories. Both companies released special anthology comics starring queer and trans characters in June to coincide with Pride Month.