Jan and Cindy Brady: The relationship between middle brothers Tim Drake and Jason Todd
A fan recently posited that in order to be a fan of Jason Todd you must not like Tim Drake and vice versa.
I think that’s absolutely not true. I happen to like both characters and know of many others who do as well. In fact, I think once you become a fan of these two middle brothers, you can see there’s a lot of potential, sadness and complexity in their relationship.
As we know, Tim came into the fold only after proving himself worthy of being Robin, but had to prove himself to a man who had just lost his son/soldier in battle and was deeply, deeply grieving. As Tim starts out in the Robin role, he often talks to Jason’s memorial case, telling the ghost that he thinks his predecessor’s a hero and talking out the clues he’s currently working on. Still early on in his career, Tim tells Nightwing on a “train-training”* outing that he thinks about Jason all the time. That’s enough to make a new Robin and young teen crimefighter insecure, isn’t it?
And then along comes the Hush storyline and a faux Jason** kidnaps Tim. Jason calls Tim an “imposter, a pretender.” Jason taunts Batman by threatening to slit Tim’s throat. However, none of the Batfamily knows that this was actually the real Jason in that moment. (It should be noted that it’s really hard to place current Jason in proper context in this scene as it was written to be Clayface and only retconned to be actual Jason years later.)
The next time Tim and Jason meet is in Teen Titans tower, where Jason goes out of his way to prove Tim’s worth. Tim knows what Jason has been doing and tells him he’s been cleaning up Gotham the ‘easy way.’ They fight and Jason has some really good moments in this, but now in terms of their relationship, all Tim has ever seen is violence from the predecessor he used to idolize. So, talk about fallen idol for Tim, right?
Then we come to Robin, as written by Fabian Nicieza. Jason reaches out to Tim and Tim rejects the kind of questionable way Jason wants to save Gotham. Then when they meet again in the Batcave so Jason can see Bruce’s last message to him, Jason reaches out to Tim again. And once again, Tim rejects him. Now, remember: at this point, Bruce is gone, believed to be dead. In a very short span of time, Tim lost his father, his girlfriend (Steph), and two of his best friends. (Steph, Kon and Bart are all back now…) And now he’s lost the man who was his not only his father figure, but also his adoptive father, mentor and idol. Tim was not really in a good place to accept Jason reaching out, which is what makes their relationship a really sad one. Because then Jason fell apart completely and we have the events of Battle for the Cowl, in which Jason stabs Tim with a batarang and Tim beats Jason with a crowbar. (I know, don’t even get me started. Those weren’t funny, but rather terrible echoes of how Jason was killed and Tim’s dad was killed).
Yet, still, despite all of the goings on and everything that’s happened, Tim still refers to Jason as the Jan Brady of their family. And calls himself Cindy, to boot. Which shows, yes, Tim still continues to view Jason as very much a part of the family.
Recently I asked Fabian Nicieza, writer of Robin and now Red Robin about his thoughts on Tim and Jason’s relationship. I feel Fabian has written both characters (actually pretty much all the Bat-characters) well, and he will hopefully continue to write Red Robin for some time. The question I asked is here, and here’s what Fabian said in reply:
I think since the depiction of their relationship since Jason’s return has been handled by so many different writers, many of whom were missing the pulse of Jason’s difficult character to write (a pulse only Judd, IMO, has his finger firmly on), making the entire run of their relationship is pretty hard to judge.
I think Tim thinks that Jason has been dealt a really raw hand. I think he would have given Jason the benefit of the doubt a lot more than he might now. The truth is, I tried to write a moment where Jason MIGHT have taken the right course when he went to the cave to hear Bruce’s last will in #183. Right then and there, Jason was asking — as much as he could — to stick around and maybe work things out — but it was Tim who rejected him.
Had I a chance to write Battle for the Cowl, I think I would have stressed that aspect of their failed relationship (along with Tim and Dick’s conflicted lack of trust and guilt) a bit more than simply a “fight” for the cowl.
As it is, it’s hard for me to discuss too much since I don’t have “control” over Jason and can’t really dictate the terms for his development on his own, much less within the Red Robin book.
I look forward to the chance to write him again in Red Robin, but I don’t know right now when that will be.
Fabian knows these characters really, really well. I mean he’s pretty much a self-professed Tim Drake and Dick Grayson fanboy (Though I think he likes all the Batkids, and he certainly seems to write them well). It’s interesting that he brings up Tim and Dick’s “guilt” in regards to Jason. I think that guilt can be equated to the fact that they too want to “save”*** him and want him back in the family, but perhaps feel as though they aren’t doing enough to achieve those means. They’re just sort of pushing it aside and making it so that Jason is Bruce’s problem, not theirs.
And yes, I absolutely wish Judd Winick, who was initially supposed to write Battle for the Cowl, or Fabian could have written it. I think we could have gotten a much better characterization on all three boys and perhaps, a much better story in general.
So now Tim is wearing Jason’s old Red Robin costume. He put it on in order to see things from the other side. So it will be interesting to see where their relationship goes from here.
*Dick actually took Jason on a “train-training” outing, too, in Nightwing: Year One.
**Initially it was believed to be Clayface the whole time, but then we later learned through a retcon in Batman Annual 25 it was the actual Jason and Clayface switched later on. On a sidenote, I remember reading Hush a few years ago and being relieved it wasn’t Jason as I didn’t want Jason to be a villain.
***Jason on the other hand would laugh and say, “Be saved? Be saved from what?!”