Nicieza Searches for a Hero in "Robin"

What's that adage about asking a stupid question?

When CBR News asked new "Robin" writer Fabian Nicieza ("Trinity") if Tim Drake was going to be the Batman coming out of Grant Morrison's bestselling DC Comics "R.I.P." storyline, the veteran scribe responded, "Yes, of course he's not, though maybe he will be, but won't."

Confused? That's okay, we are too. But the title of Nicieza's first "Robin" arc certainly will get the chatter going in the forums. "The upcoming story arc is called 'Search for a Hero' which says quite a lot right there," said Nicieza. "I'm coming into this with nothing but excitement and positive expectations for an incredibly intense, dynamic run."

While his first "Robin" issue was announced in DC's September solicitations yesterday as #177, Nicieza confirmed he is also writing the two-issue "Batman R.I.P." tie-in story arc in #175 and #176 with artist Joe Bennett on pencils, which were previously solicited with Chuck Dixon and Chris Batista as the creative team. Starting with #178, Freddie Williams II returns as regular series artist.

These creative changes follow recent news that Chuck Dixon would be leaving "Robin" following #174. Dixon wrote the original "Robin" solo miniseries featuring Tim Drake, the current Robin, beginning in 1991 before launching the ongoing title in 1993.

"This [project], obviously, was all a little unexpected," Nicieza confessed. "Without getting involved with how I came to this title, I will assure readers of two things: no one has more respect for what Chuck Dixon brought to this character than I do. And no one cares about the mantle of Robin more than I do. I have every single issue of 'Robin' and I have tremendous admiration for how Chuck developed Tim. You won't see a radical deviation in who Tim Drake is, though our storyline will push him into some very unexpected directions that are not of his own making, but he will have to cope with the changes to his world."

Nicieza continued, "I am feeble enough to have a Robin shelf in my office filled with Robin collectibles, not the least of which is the picture of me dressed as Robin before leaving for a Halloween party in college. Trust me, it's there, but I don't think I'll let anyone see it unless I see some big bucks."

For obvious reasons, Nicieza couldn't say whether of not Tim would be donning the cape and cowl of his mentor later this year, but said if the task fell to the ..., he'd be up to it �" at least mentally. "I can say that the 'R.I.P.' storyline has tremendous ramifications on all the Bat-titles, and 'Robin' certainly will be very affected by the repercussions. It is an opportunity to explore Tim Drake in very new, interesting ways.

"I don't know if Bruce Wayne had what it took to be Batman at 16 or 17 years of age," Nicieza continued. "In many ways, Tim is far more prepared for the role than Bruce was at the same age. Tim sure has gone through enough suffering the last few years, hasn't he? But it hasn't crippled him emotionally. In many ways, it's matured him and made him stronger. So on the inside, I think Tim does have what it takes, but on the outside? I don't know, with a padded suit and elevated shoes maybe!"

Nicieza, who penned two-issues of "Nightwing" before current writer Peter Tomasi assumed the reins, said he's looking forward to writing "Robin" because Tim is such a complex character, who exemplifies so many of the great characteristics held by others in the Bat-family. "From his conception and especially from the very first page of Chuck Dixon and Tom Lyle's first 'Robin' miniseries, Tim has been shown to be an intelligent, driven, capable, emotional and altogether human character," explained Nicieza. "He's the teenager we all wish we had been, but we also don't wish what he's gone through on our worst enemy.

"I think Tim has a little bit of all the Bat-family mixed in, the determination of Bruce Wayne, the ability to relax and be normal that Dick Grayson has, the ability to see the big picture like Barbara Gordon, and the sense of duty that Jim Gordon has. He embodies little bits of all that, but remains his own person and always has been."

In comparing Tim Drake to Dick Grayson, Nicieza said, "I don't think Tim has the same sense of flair, style or spark for life that Dick does. Dick is, at his core, a circus acrobat, so there's always a part of him that is both entertained and entertaining while he is crime-fighting. Tim has a sense of dry humor, but Robin had a whole lot of Spider-Man in him long before there even was a Spider-Man.

"And Tim doesn't have the same comfort level socially with other people that Dick does, especially the ladies. Tim might be a little bit more of a 'deep thinker' than Dick is, which isn't to say Dick is stupid, not at all, he just doesn't get mired in the minutiae of problem solving the way Tim tends to."

Asked for a similar comparison of his titular character to the Dark Knight himself, Nicieza responded, "He doesn't have as much of the burning, righteous fury churning inside him that Bruce does. Bruce didn't have a father for most of his childhood like Tim did. For Tim, becoming Robin was a choice, for Bruce, becoming Batman was forced on him. In many ways, Tim is a balance between Dick and Bruce, which is one reason he has been able to get along with both of them as well as he has. In many ways, he's a bit more mature than both of them are."

Nicieza's remarks sound like those of a new ongoing writer for "Robin" as opposed to a fill-in, as he has lots planned for the rest of 2008 and beyond. "Plans aren't finalized yet, but I know Spoiler will be very heavily involved in the proceedings, though how she plays into things will surprise people," said Nicieza. "I hope to bring Ragman in for an issue. I have some interesting plans for the General. Jaeger. Scarab. A new Lynx. A return of a character from the original 'Robin' miniseries with his sites set on some delusional vengeance. Anarchy in Gotham. Dogs and cats having sex in the streets. Maybe not that last one."

The writer joked, "I have plans for a major, important post-'R.I.P.' story arc. It will be several issues, but the length isn't finalized yet. If I play my cards right, it will be a 200-issue storyline and no one at DC will be any the wiser when I've been writing the book for almost 20 years."

Nicieza, who has been writing comics for more than two decades, said the fact he is also writing 52 backup stories for Kurt Busiek's weekly "Trinity" series will have little effect on his duties for "Robin." "I have no idea what you're talking about," laughed Nicieza. "Deadlines? Feh. Let lesser men worry about deadlines. Deadlines are a thing I see in my rear view mirror. I'm going to pay for this rant, I just know it. Seriously, we're fine right now. I can't tell you how tight it will get later, but right now, I'm in good enough shape on 'Trinity' and I have to hit the ground running post-'R.I.P.' on 'Robin.' I type fast. Sometimes, I just close my eyes and type and let the editors worry about it.

"Plus I do a lot of non-comic work several days a week for Starlightrunner Entertainment doing corporate I.P. management, but I tend to be a lot more focused when I have more work, not less. And right now, I got me a workload, don't I? I'm supposed to be an old has-been, what's going on here? That which does not kill you, makes you stronger."

Fabian Nicieza's first issue of "Robin" is #175 and is scheduled for release on July 23.

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