(The following post would be much cooler if I could find the box that contains all my childhood drawings, including my Katy Keene Fan Club notepads and pins.) (I came close, though, I found all my Cabbage Patch adoption certificates and a bunch of pictures of my grandparents that made me cry!) (You will have to settle for photos of me in various stages of awkwardness.)
Laura suggested a "DC Week" to sort of celebrate / commemorate DC's last few days leading up to the reboot. I asked if our content should be ranty, or wistful, or what. She responded that she's sick to death of complaints about the reboot, and that the various musings about "the old days" were becoming a bit much, too. "It's just comics," she said.
And she's right. Even though comics have been with me almost since the beginning, I'm learning how to let go of this anxiety I have about "missing out."
When I was eight or so, my dad would take me along with him to the local newsstand every Sunday to purchase the Sunday edition of the newspaper. He'd also buy me a little something, usually a comic book. What started out as an interest in the occasional Archie or Katy Keene digest turned in to a fascination with Batman. That led to my father making sure we got to the very first screening of Tim Burton's Batman in the summer of '89. An obsession was born.
What really caught my imagination was that you could be a kid and get to tag along with Batman. The creation of the sidekick was a device to hook a younger audience in to comics, and it completely worked with me. (Not so much with Laura, who found it creepy.) The thing I loved most in the world was Robin. Not Tim Drake or Dick Grayson, but the idea of Robin.
What I was completely convinced needed to happen was, there needed to be a girl Robin. Oh sure, there was Batgirl, who was interesting enough in the flashy new Batman Animated Series. But who wanted to be a superhero that had to have your gender right there in the title? Robin was ambiguous. Robin could be a boy's name or a girl's name.
Robin represented more than just a caped crusader that was about my age. With Wonder Woman or Superman, the die's already cast. There wasn't suddenly going to be a new Batman that was a woman -- that'd be Batwoman, and that's not the same. Over the course of my exposure to the world of Gotham, I went through three different Robins. (Burt Ward and animated Dick Grayson being most of my experience with the first Robin.) Granted, they were all dudes, but the possibility that someday a young woman could take over the role captivated me.
I spent hours doodling up different sorts of Robin costumes that could accommodate the average 13 year old girl. I gave Robin her own hideout in the Batcave. It was called -- wait for it -- "The Nest."
After a while, I got older, and I stopped doodling and started focusing on high school and college. I stopped reading comics when I stopped making that Sunday morning trip with my father to the newsstand. Venturing out on my own to the local sports memorabilia / Magic the Gathering gathering place to see what was new with the Bats was kind of a weird idea for me as a 17 year old. Instead, I got in to sports and music. (Not a bad way to spend 8 or 9 years.)
(Fan art by Gabzilla.)
However, in that no-comics time period, I missed it: The first female Robin. I'd started reading comics again with Greg Rucka's run on Wonder Woman, but sadly I had no idea that over in the Robin title, Robin was no longer Tim Drake, but was actually a sassy little blonde. I wouldn't start reading comics weekly until a few years ago, and unfortunately didn't become acquainted with Stephanie Brown until Bryan Q. Miller's Batgirl run was almost over. I'll miss her version of Batgirl a lot. (According to rumor, she'll be back as Spoiler after the reboot. We'll see.) I may have missed her Robin run, but I know she probably did me proud.
What I learned from my lengthy separation with comics (DC comics, as I'd never had much exposure to Marvel characters other than the X-Men cartoon in the 90s,) was that characters come and go, and will undoubtedly return again. (Who the hell thought Jason Todd would ever be back? WE VOTED YOU OFF, JASON.) New versions of costumes and personalities are re-invented often, sometimes even bringing in a new person altogether. But no matter how long it's been since you've picked up an issue, comics are like soap operas. It won't take you long to catch up again, and you can usually find something familiar to latch on to, to help navigate your way back in to the storyline.
My decision to stop buying DC books (not including Vertigo -- you'll have to pry American Vampire and iZombie from my dead hands, and even then I might sit back up and rip your head off, post-death) is mostly because my interests in comics are diverging from what they've been for almost 20 years. So the DC Reboot is mainly a good place for me to switch over my pull list to stuff I normally get in trade, like Chew and The Unwritten and Fables. It's been a weird two years, what with Dick being Batman and the Gotham City Sirens somehow surviving up to the reboot. I'm grateful for the interesting times, but it's time for me to make a change. I'm not going to worry about missing out on the good stuff, because I know that I can come back to Gail Simone's Batgirl or Duane Swierczynski's Birds of Prey, or Azzarello & Chiang's Wonder Woman, and still enjoy it in trade paperback a little while down the road.
It's time to let go of the fear of missing another girl Robin, because eventually, you're going to get something just as special down the line. It's a new age for comics, and there are plenty of stories to read. Besides, if you don't like what's happening in your favorite title, the ride's going to circle back again eventually for another shot at that brass ring. So sit back and have fun.
It's only comics.