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Tim Drake was almost Blue Beetle. Could it still happen?

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07/11/10Tim Drake was almost Blue Beetle. Could it still happen?(Blog) (Forum)Red Robin(Back) (Next)

That might sound crazy to a lot of people, but it almost happened, and may happen still. I have told this story in a few other places**, but not yet at Comic Vine. Back when Chuck Dixon was writing the books for all of the Bat-support-titles (Nightwing, Robin, Azrael, Birds of Prey, Batgirl, and probably something I'm forgetting) he was directing Tim towards getting out of the Robin suit, and into the Blue Beetle costume. "Impossible," you say? Here's what was going on at the time:

Tim was proving himself to be quite the detective. Bruce and Dick's identities weren't the only ones he had figured out. He figured out Huntress' true identity, and figured out either that Oracle was Babs, or where she was located (which then would have told him who she was). He may have figured out one or two others, but the point is: he was figuring out heroes' identities, and he was getting good at it. He was also having trouble with Batman at the time, and in a conversation with Nightwing (in Nightwing), he confided that he couldn't see himself being Robin forever. Shortly after that, he was seen over in Birds of Prey, where Ted Kord was helping Oracle get some stuff rewired and installed. He and Ted wind up going on a mission together, and during the issue, Tim gushes about how big of a fan he has always been of Blue Beetle, and how great it is to be working with him. At the end of that issue, Barbara gives Ted a check-up (because, y'know, her technology includes medical equipment so thorough she doesn't have to be a doctor to use it) and tells him that he shouldn't be doing anything more strenuous than lifting a pencil.

So, I was reading all of this at the time, and I said to myself, "Holy crud, I think they're going to put Tim Drake in the Blue Beetle costume!" To me, it made perfect sense. Blue Beetle is one of the few non-powered heroes in the DCU who isn't associated with the Batman Family (appearances in Birds of Prey aside). Wedging him into the Bat-Family would have been transparent to the fans, so there needs to be an "organic" way to draw him in. Tim is perfect. It was Tim who made Robin popular again, not Robin who made Tim popular, and it's the character of Tim that carried the Robin series for so long. So if Tim can sell Robin, it's not illogical to think that fans would read Tim in another costume - the Blue Beetle costume. He doesn't even have to stay in the costume. He could've been in it for just a year, and Blue Beetle would have been firmly entrenched in the Bat-Family, and DC would have yet another Bat-title they could sell books with. It was the perfect time for it too, because DC had Stephanie Brown running around in that horrible Spoiler identity, so she could take over as Robin, while Tim was Blue Beetle.

I posted this theory in a message board at one point, and someone suggested I go to Chuck Dixon's website and ask him about it, because they thought I was actually right about it. I thought, "Hey, good idea," and headed over to ask Mr. Dixon that very thing. To my great surprise, he answered that this was "pretty much exactly" where he was headed at the time, but DC said no, and that was pretty much when he quit writing all of those books for DC. Now, let me gush for a minute, and tell you that I was super stoked about this. I had related this theory to a few different people, and on a couple of message boards, and been scoffed at. Here was the writer himself though, telling me that I was dead on. Super cool! This is still one of the cooler moments in my comics reading history, probably because I'm just a big fan of the 1986 Blue Beetle series.

For those who might be thinking that Blue Beetle doesn't fit with the Bat-Family, I always say this: When DC was getting ready to release the Nightwing series, they hyped it on these points: Dick was in his own identity, no longer tied to "Batman and," he was in his own city, and would have his own villains. Blue Beetle already had all of that. He was never tied to "Batman and," had Hub City as his own patrol, and his own villains in the Madmen, Firefist, Catalyst, Overthrow and others. And he also had those cool gadgets like the BB Gun and The Bug.

Well, okay, DC told Dixon "no," and instead, shot Ted Kord in the head, gave Stephanie Brown a disastrous stint as Robin, gave us a new Blue Beetle (whose origin makes no sense, without the retcon they did on BB history, and could have been named anything other than Blue Beetle and still been the same character), and systematically destroyed the life of Tim Drake, killing first his girfriend, Stephanie (he thought), then his dad (who we'll more than likely never see again), then his best friend, Superboy (who of course came back), and then Bruce Wayne (who he's still looking for, but we all know is making his way back through time). So along the way, Tim has become the new Red Robin, and is now out there being proactive about taking down the villains.

Still, I'm looking at this Red Robin book, and I'm thinking. Tim took up this identity so he could pursue a sketchy course of action, and not sully the good names of Batman and Robin. First, that doesn't make a lot of sense to me. He's named Red Robin, with a similarly colored costume, and people aren't thinking he's just Robin with a bit of an update to his costume? Second, as we were shown in one of the Unscripted Reviews, people are mistaking him for Doctor Midnite, and Tim's at least a little worried that DM might come and kick his butt for sullying his name. So why wouldn't he change his costume to something more original? He turned down Dick's apparent hints that he be Nightwing, presumably for the same reasons he left the Robin identity. It's probably safe to assume that he will stick to the Red Robin identity until he has taken care of his "hit list."

What then though? Once he's done with this morally sketchy course of action, and once Bruce is back (whether he becomes Batman again or not [yeah, yeah, he probably will]), I really don't see Tim remaining as Red Robin. I don't see him going back to being Robin either. For one thing, after being on his own for so long, operating under his own rules, why would he want to go back to the restrictive partnership of "Batman and Robin?" For another, Damian is currently Robin, and I don't think that's going to change anytime soon.

To me, that leaves one course of action: take up another identity. I might be wrong on this point, but I think it was revealed somewhere along the way that Kord Incorporated had become a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises. And surely, someone has taken control of Kord's Blue Beetle stuff? There's a lair out there somewhere, housing The Bug and whatever else goes with it. So why would DC make up another identity for Tim, when they can resurrect Kord's version of Blue Beetle? At this point, I'd say they're not going to bring Ted back from the dead (which, as much as I like Ted, I'm kind of glad about) so let's put someone else in that costume (or updated version thereof). And who better than that gushing fan of Blue Beetle, Tim Drake?

Possible? I dunno. DC seems to be in love with that Red Robin identity, which I don't get. The extra material in Absolute Kingdom Come (originally printed as the Comicology Kingdom Come Companion, from Two Morrows) tells us that they got that name from the Red Robin burger chain, so why on earth would they want to keep it? They seem to be having Tim do all this stuff in this identity, that flirts with the line between hero and menace. It just doesn't make sense that he'll stay in that identity, any more than it makes sense for him to go back to being Robin. I think a new identity will eventually be called for, and Ted Kord's Blue Beetle stuff is just sitting there. What do you guys think?

**For anyone wondering, I have told the part of this blog, up through Chuck Dixon confirming my theory, on several areas of the DC message boards, once at the Image message boards (don't look at me like that - it came up), and of course, posted my theory at the Chuck Dixon website. Thanks. -cb


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