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Sunday, 19 June 2011

When DC Comics introduced Tim Drake in late 1989, the character was still solidifying. A couple of unclipped loose ends slipped through in that early material to show how he might have been a little different.

The first panel here comes from the collection of world-class Robins fan and occasional Oz and Ends commenter Icon-UK, shared on the Comic Art Fan website. It’s from the pencil of George Pérez and the pen of inker Bob McLeod. Our helpful pal Ike reveals:
Tim’s hair has been altered after the inking stage with an overlay, to what would become his trademark appearance; originally he seemed destined to have the same side-curls as Dick and Jason had had at the start of their Robin careers, but clearly they wanted to give him his own look both in costume and civilian looks.
It’s interesting how in the same stretch of issues show Timmy as a younger boy appears with a side part. As a teenager, did he start trying to imitate how his idol wore his hair the same age?

Those double forehead curls appear in a classic Dick Grayson image to the right. They stopped being standard for Robin with the “New Look” of 1964. For the next quarter-century, various artists instead depicted Dick with his hair combed straight back or a side part. (And then came the dreaded mullet years.)

After the first and then the second Jason Todd came into the picture, that character inherited the classic Robin hairstyle. Until recently he retained those forehead curls in most artists’ depictions, along with a streak of white through his black hair. In Jason’s most recent appearance he has long red hair. And who knows what will be under the red hood after the upcoming reboot?

The panel to the left comes from another issue of the story that introduced Tim Drake, Batman, #441, drawn by Jim Aparo. In this image, Dick addresses Tim as “Jeff.”

Originally DC planned for Batman’s new sidekick to be named Jeff, but plans changed toward the last minute, probably because editors wanted to put more distance between this character and his predecessor Jason, often addressed as “Jay.” The revision process caught most of the old name’s appearances in Marv Wolfman’s script, but not this one. (Many years later Robin, #167, told us that Tim’s middle name is Jackson.)

The first three male Robin names aren’t really that far apart. Despite the characters’ different backgrounds, they’re all WASPy names of the sort American pop literature has given young heroes since the dime-novel days. They all built around percussive consonants (D in particular) and that strong long A. And so far each male Robin has a given name sharing a rhyme or first letter with his predecessor’s last name.

The girls, Carrie Kelley and Stephanie Brown, are of course left out of these patterns.

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