Queer Comics from a Queer Perspective – DC Pride: Tim Drake Special – CBR – Comic Book Resources
In the first installment of a new monthly column, Queer Comics From a Queer Perspective, John Petrie takes a look at Tim Drake: DC Pride. Special.
Well, hello. Thanks so much for stopping by! My name is John, and I want to welcome you to Queer Comics from a Queer Perspective. It's the first in a monthly series where I take a look at how comic stories relate to the Queer experience. I can't speak for every LGBTQ+ person, and I wouldn't even attempt it, but I can speak to my experience, and as a comic reader since 1976, well, I've got experience.
October 11th is National Coming Out day. Coming Out is many things: joyous, stressful, freeing, painful, and powerful, usually all at once. How do comics handle such an important part of self-identification? Let's talk about how DC did it. Now's your chance to read DC Pride: Tim Drake Special before I spoil it. Don't worry. I'll be right here waiting when you get back.
Tim Drake has had more codenames than Kitty Pryde. He became Robin after seeking out the job because "Batman needs a Robin." Tim's been portrayed as the smartest Robin, but "smartest" doesn't always mean most self-aware. His girlfriend was Stephanie Brown, AKA Spoiler, his BFF was Conner Kent, AKA Superboy. But that was before, you know, reboots and stuff, so what may have once been might not hold true today.
There's been a lot of chatter about why DC decided to explore Tim's sexuality. Some of it is valid, some of it is vitriolic, and some of it is hilarious. Me, though? I can't help but wonder, is this a great coming out story for people who are Queer? And is it a story people who aren't Queer can relate to?
The answer to both questions is: maybe. Part of the problem is that it's four ten-page stories published over the course of four months. There's a lot that could be explored with more breathing room, but we don't have much breathing room, like wearing a corset one size too small. Another issue is that there's no real indication of any attraction between Tim and Bernard before the story starts. There's not a particular inciting incident or inciting attraction. We know Tim broke up with Stephanie and ghosted her — as if they met on Tinder instead of fighting supervillains on a nightly basis — but we never see what sets Tim on his path of self-reflection.
One of the bigger problems is that there's no moment where Tim actually says, "I'm bisexual" or even, "I'm exploring." There's a brief conversation between Tim and Stephanie where he says, "I don't only like girls," but the chat reads as if its more about why he stopped talking to her as opposed to his coming out. Coming out to everyone else in the Bat Family happens off-panel as if the storytelling adage "Show, don't tell" wasn't a factor because the marketing department took care of it.
The creative team of Meghan Fitzmartin, Belen Ortega, and Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque have the perfect character to take on a journey of self-discovery. But they skip a lot of the journey, as if someone asked, "Are we there yet?" The fights in superhero stories are supposed to be a metaphor for the emotional core of the story like song and dance in musicals. Instead, the emotion is lost here because of the superhero elements. On the plus side, when Stephanie and Bernard meet, they don't battle it out as if Tim is the Broadway revival of Funny Girl, and they're Beanie Feldstein and Lea Michele. (If you're not sure about how funny that joke is, ask a gay friend. They'll explain it.) I think the story could have been better served with less fighting and more talking. If you want an action sequence, there are plenty of stories to read, but not every story needs a punch to pack a punch.
Is it a good story? Yes. Is it a great coming out story? Not really. It doesn't give the people who've never had to come out an understanding of how difficult and complex the process can be. Not every story will emotionally connect with every reader, but every story has the potential to do so. Am I going to be picking up the new Tim Drake: Robin series by Meghan Fitzmartin and Riley Rossmo? Absolutely! I look forward to seeing what the creative team does with the space and time to build a new part of the Bat Family mythos. It's important to show that being brave isn't just a matter of punching out a supervillain. True bravery is being yourself out loud.
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