August 12, 2021
But this week, DC Comics has published its own, even more impactful glass-closet-shattering story, in which Robin, long considered by readers to be the not-so-straight sidekick to Batman, has a moment of self-acceptance—and then agrees to go on a date with a very nice boy he just fought the bad guys with.
With this move, Robin joins the limited ranks of a handful of DC comic book characters, including Batwoman and Midnighter, and a slighter longer list of Marvel heroes (Loki, Iceman, Wiccan and Northstar) as part of a small but growing LGBTQ+ pantheon, NBC News notes.
As the character finally catches up to the Robin that the audience has seen for decades, the genre shows it finally has recognized that it needs to be responsive to the demands of diverse readers rather than stay closed off to them.
In the new comic, the current Robin’s alter ego is Tim Drake. (Batman may eternally be Bruce Wayne, but his sidekick position has been held by multiple people since the Robin character was introduced in 1940.) This particular anthology run is a Robin-centric story featuring his circle of acquaintances, including Bernard, a longtime friend who nonetheless has no idea of Drake’s secret identity. That follows the same trope as most traditional love interests in the comics, like Batman’s Vicki Vale or Superman’s Lois Lane.
When Bernard is kidnapped by the comic’s current baddie, Chaos Monster (just go with it), it necessitates a rescue by our titular hero, now in Robin costume. As they take on the Monster together, Bernard confesses his feelings for the suddenly absent Drake and his wish, should he survive, to get another chance at love. The comic then ends, post-rescue, with Drake back in his street clothes going out with Bernard.
Despite the hoopla of Loki’s coming out this summer, Robin’s story is far more boundary-breaking, NBC News opines. Unlike the TV screen, where Loki’s identity was revealed, the comic books are where the stories first develop, meaning the impact going forward can be far larger. Just as significantly, Loki wasn’t allowed to act out his bisexuality in the Marvel TV production. The single gesture it included was of Loki saying he likes both men and women — the rest of the series stayed staunchly traditional, even handing the character a female version of himself to rescue and fall in love with so the heterosexual status quo could be maintained.
The DC Comics issue of Robin, on the other hand, hands this gay couple the full trappings of a traditional romance, allowing them to have a developed superhero story just like any other. Allowing Robin to rescue a male love interest instead of a female one and otherwise have all the same romantic tropes play out shows people that these stories are universal and apply to everyone. A character’s making a passing reference to being bisexual before ending up with an opposite-sex partner doesn’t do that.
Photo source: NBC News