Some teens spend their summer's backpacking through Europe, tasting wine and hanging out with colorful hobo types. Former Robin Tim Drake set out for a rather different vacation in DC Comics' "Red Robin" #1, as his global jotting involves fighting ninjas and searching for his presumed dead mentor Bruce Wayne.
But it's pretty much the same thing, right? Just regular kid stuff?
"That's the funny thing about Tim Drake," writer Chris Yost told CBR of his aged up lead. "I still picture him as 16, even though he's probably 17 at this point. He's still a teenager, but he's almost the most put together teenager on the planet. Anybody who's been reading 'Robin' for the past couple of years knows that he got pretty grim with everything that's been going on in the Batman universe, with everything the Black Glove did, with him facing down the gang wars -Â he was in a place where he was trying to out do Batman. He basically thought he might have to take down Batman at one point. So he got particularly grim, getting half his head blown off in a fire and wearing the Red Robin costume. It crossed a few lines. All of that is going to get addressed in 'Red Robin.'"
Teaming with Yost on the series, artist Ramon Bachs said he's gearing up to bring an older edge to the hero while keeping his teen age intact. "For some reason, when I started doing the book, I had some difficulties drawing Robin without making him look an adult like Batman, because in the series he's 'doing what Batman does,'" Bachs told CBR. "But step by step, I've been able to make him look like a believable teenager. His suit reminds you of Batman's, in a certain way, and the cape makes it even more similar. The readers will be the judges, I guess."
The first issue of Tim Drake's solo career saw a falling out with former best bud Dick Grayson and an uneasy alliance with one of Batman's greatest foes. But if that wasn't enough of a tease, Yost promised the future of "Red Robin" would take the character through an emotional gauntlet, most of which he'd face alone. "I don't know how people are going to react to this, but I've written some pretty grim stuff in the X-Men universe and Robin to me was always the balance to Batman," the writer said. "And Tim has said this before, but Batman needs a Robin. The great thing about Grant Morrison's 'Batman & Robin' right now is that that dynamic is flipped on its head. Dick is a fairly upbeat guy, and Damian is a psychotic ten-year-old killer. But with Tim Drake, he was and is in a lot of people's minds Batman's partner. He was the light to Batman's dark. Now it's almost a position where Tim Drake needs his own Robin because he's so grim.
"When it comes to death in the DC Universe (or Marvel Universe), he gets pretty cynical about it. Like at the funeral of Martian Manhunter where Superman says, 'Let's hope for a resurrection soon.' With Batman, Superman brought out the body, and it's Batman. He doesn't have any special powers or a lot of the things that keep bringing people back to life. I think a lot of people in the DC Universe really think he's dead, but Tim does not. Tim somehow believes he's alive, and it worries a lot of people. It worries Dick. It worries Stephanie and the people close to him."
But getting closer to Tim will be his former foe - the Demon's Head known as Ra's Al Ghul - who shares in the former Robin's quest to find Bruce Wayne. "Tim gets, in his mind, evidence that Batman is alive and starts out on a quest to prove it. That's where the first four issues go," Yost revealed. "The big reveal at the end of the issue is that Tim had somebody who wants to help him, and that somebody is Ra's Al Ghul. Ra's, like Tim, thinks Bruce Wayne is alive, so as horrific an idea as this is to Tim, Ra's is going to help him. It gets out of control quickly."
"Ra's is deeply rooted in my subconscious, and I didn't want to base my version of him on just one artist's rendition," said Bachs of his take on the immortal rogue. "In fact, I let him flow from images and memories that I had in my brain, with some of them coming from the Ra's version we saw in 'Batman Begins,' one I find very powerful and believable."
However, "Red Robin" is first and foremost a Bat title, and the rest of the Gotham family will find a way to play a role in Tim's adventures moving forward. "You're going to see guest stars from Tim's life, and in the first four issues see the days directly following 'Battle For The Cowl' #3," said Yost. "You see the conversation Tim and Dick had about Damian becoming Robin and how Tim reacts to that. We get to see Alfred. We get to see Spoiler. We see Tim's entire life in Gotham and the choices he made in leaving it. By the end of issue #4, you'll see that journey play out."
The final piece of the puzzle that had both writer and artist most excited was the international feel of the book, which allowed them to introduce new characters into "Red Robin." "Something's going on that involves a new set of villains coming to the forefront in issue #4," said Yost.
"I've always been attracted by the Batman family of characters, and the villains, above all," added Bachs. "In 'City of Crime' [with Davide Lapham], I had the chance to draw a lot of them and I loved it. This time it's Red Robin and the League of Assassins, which is an even bigger motivation. Everybody who knows me knows I love drawing real environments and landscapes, decadent scenarios... and with this book, people who love those kind of environments are going to have a blast."
Bachs continued, "I think the most interesting part of the Batman universe of characters are the villains, although the ones appearing in this book are part of the less 'picturesque' side of Batman's rogues' gallery. Anyway, I've had a lot of fun creating international assassins with precision rifles. Everything in this book reminds me (and I hope the reader) of spy movies. As Chris said, everything is going to have a similar flavor to the one of the 'Bourne' movies."
Yost described the fast and furious pace the book will have in regards to the locales he's tapped Bachs to draw. "The first four issues are a blur of locations. He's in Spain. He's in Germany. He's in France. By issue #4, he's in the Middle East. He's all over the place. I really wanted to take Tim out of Gotham and separate him from everyone else and take him on this quest. It's for various reasons that will be explained one day. He's looking for something very specific."
Bachs plans on using every bit of research he has to deliver a true picture of the world at large. "I've always been interested in using real research and documentation in the comic books I draw, it's a big part of my ongoing learning process as an artist. I think part of the magic of comic books is based in how truthfully you are able to transfer the real world to paper. I'm also really conscious, though, that comic books are in and of themselves a language that is based on abstraction and the reader must be an accomplice of what you do and be a part of it, in an unconscious way, while they read the story."
"Red Robin" #1 is on sale now from DC Comics.