A QUESTION OF AGE

This page has not been updated since 2011. For an updated and correct version of this timeline, please redirect to THE REAL BATMAN CHRONOLOGY PROJECT.COM.





So how old are these comic book characters supposed to be anyway?  Damn, what a question.  The one that DC doesn't want you to ask.  But, let's try to answer it anyway starting with a most annoying conundrum: figuring out how old Tim Drake is.

BUT FIRST, let me say that the DCU doesn't run on a system which allows for us to give specific ages to these characters.  Batman debuted in 1939, then re-debuted in 1985, then re-debuted whenever DC wants to say (1989-ish, 1994-ish, whatever).  Like the scientific laws of time, the laws of age also act differently in the DCU.  The multiverse has its own unique timeline which DC writers and editors follow, one that is distinctively different than mine.  Basically, the point I'm trying to stress here is that because my timeline is specific, I'm attempting to give the characters on my timeline specific ages.  So, don't let anyone ever tell you how old Bruce Wayne is, or how old Tim Drake is, or how old Dick Grayson is, or how old Tweedle-Dum is.  They will all always have "approximate ages" that rarely change.  I'm not trying to tell anyone how old Batman characters are.  I'm simply doing what I've been doing on this blog since day one: attempting to construct and/or suggest a detailed, specific, and realistic canonical chronology.  And like I've said since day one: this is technically an impossible task.  We can't inject realism (in the form of chronological time and age restraints) into a science-fiction unreality that has a seventy-five year history which ignores conventional passage of time.  BUT, we sure can have fun trying.

Okay, let's get back to the "Real Batman Chronology Project" version of Tim Drake.  I'm specifically examining Tim because he is an excellent case study for the unique durational phenomena which occur in the DCU.  To really understand the problem (if it may indeed be referred to as a problem) here, one must be well-versed in the history of the character as originally depicted by DC editors and writers.  So here is that history in a nutshell.  (I suggest reading this next paragraph and skipping over anything in parenthesis regarding "Bat-Years" and then re-reading the paragraph again, in full.  This exercise will help you to better understand the point I'm making).

We first see Tim Drake chronologically through flashback in Batman #436.  He appears as a toddler that seems to be around 3 years-old, where he witnesses the deaths of the Flying Graysons at the circus (Bat-Year Six on my chronology).  Tim's next appearance is his debut in Batman #440 (Bat-Year 13) where he is 13 years-old.  He meets Batman and Nightwing and becomes the new Robin.  In Robin #1 (Bat-Year 14), which is a "Knightquest" tie-in, Tim gets his driver's license early due to the fact that he needs to be able to drive his disabled father around.  It's not long after "Knight's End" that we are told that Tim is 15 years-old and in the 10th grade.  In "Bruce Wayne: Murderer?" (Bat-Year 17), Oracle tells us that Tim is 15.  Tim celebrates his Sweet 16 in Robin #116 (Bat-Year 18).  In Identity Crisis and Robin #136 (both in Bat-Year 19), Tim is still 16.  52 takes place and functions as a literal year of time (passing from Bat-Year 20 into Bat-Year 21), and after it is over Tim is 17.  By the time Tim becomes Red Robin (Bat-Year 22) he is still 17.  So, everything looks okay, that is until you look at the Bat-Year numbers.  We go from Bat-Year 13 to Bat-Year 22 (9 years), but Tim starts out at 13 and only ages to 17 (4 years).  There are five whole years missing there!

Even if my chronology were completely incorrect (which it isn't), take a look at the fact that DC tells us that Tim is 17 years-old before 52.  If 52 is literally one year long, how is it possible that Tim didn't age a year older during that year!?

Why does this inconsistency exist so blatantly?  Around 2006, DC editors decided that they wanted Tim Drake to remain a "perpetual teenager" who doesn't really age.  Basically, the editors exclaimed, "the hell with continuity, Tim is better as a teen!"  Of course, you and I both know this is bullshit.  At this point DC editors were fine with keeping Tim 17 years-old with the intention of keeping him that way for as long as possible.  In fact, in the current ongoing Red Robin series, Tim is still supposed to be 17.  Essentially, my opinion is that DC really fucks up when it comes to Tim's age, which is why he was seen in high school well past a time where he should have been in high school and also why he now keeps being referred to as a minor.  I've also read in the Comic Book Resources forums that DC editors wanted to age certain characters (including Tim) using a rough formula of 4 years of written material equaling 1 actual chronological year.  If that was the case then Tim would indeed be 17, since he turned 16 in Robin #116, which was published in 2003.  However, this formula is completely irrelevant since writers have shown definitively that several "in-story years" have come and gone since 2003.  Writers show holidays, different seasons, etc...   Both age and time (duration)  use the exact same units of measurement.  Therefore, you can't have one formula for age and a different formula for the passage of time, which what ostensibly has occurred in the DCU.

How can this be reconciled?  An easy retcon would be to make it so that Tim became Robin at age 8 instead of 13.  Here's the obvious problem with that: I can believe in the existence of a 10 year-old Robin (albeit one that has been genetically engineered since birth to be a super-warrior) since it's been shown to me in the form of Damian Wayne.  However, I have serious trouble believing in the existence of a normal, non-genetically engineered 8 year-old child as Batman's sidekick.  Plus, if you do make Tim's Robin debut at age 8 that completely erases the fact that he watched the Flying Graysons die.  I guess, an easy additional retcon would be to throw out that little tidbit entirely.  Another retcon is to throw out the idea of a chronology all together and (similarly to what I've already said above) ignore the fact that seasons change, holidays come and go, and time literally is shown passing over the years.  In this retcon you would more or less assume that from the time Tim arrived on the scene as Robin all the way up to the current Red Robin storylines, only 4 years have passed.  Put another way: The Death and Return of Superman, Knightfall, Cataclysm, No Man's Land, Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, Countdown, Batman RIP, Final Crisis, 52, Battle for the Cowl, every single Morrison and post-Morrison JLA story, and a nearly uncountable number of other tales all take place in a mere 4 years.  This is ludicrous to a point where I needn't even comment!  So, what can be done?

Here's what I've done.  The "Real Batman Chronology Project" has retconned things so that Tim becomes Robin at age 11 (in Bat-Year 13).  This allows for Tim's 16th birthday to still take place where it originally was meant to in Robin #116 (July, Bat-Year 18), thus eliminating most inconsistencies regarding his age up to that point.  After that, very minor inconsistencies are sparsely peppered throughout the comics compared to what my chronology says, but there aren't any huge problems until the early issues of Red Robin, where Tim is referred to as a minor, when he should be 20 years-old.

Another great reference to comic book character ages is Chris Miller's Table of Birthdates.  (Chris lists Tim's current age at 22 because he has kept Tim's Robin debut at age 13, hence the 2 year age difference compared to our chronology).



In writing above about formulaic consistency, the ontology of my own personal "age theory" and "age retcons" must be applied not only to Tim, but to other characters as well.  Bruce Wayne, for example, is actually less of a problem than Tim due to the fact that DC has always been very vague regarding his actual age.  But, just to be thorough, we'll tackle him next to round out the full argument and analysis.

1 comment:

  1. hahaha this kind of thing is always insane. Hopefully they'll let Tim grow up eventually, especially because he's not robin right now (And maybe doesn't need to be again.)

    this is why I just worry about reading order as opposed to chronology. And why I enjoy the stories that have characters interacting with the fact that they exist in a fictional universe. hah

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