So then, Tim Drake is gay now. See?
This recent revelation has been dealt with, both pro and con, to an exhaustive extent in other articles, videos, and so forth, so I won’t retread that here. Even though I wrote the character of Tim Drake for just over a year of his Robin run, he’s not mine. I didn’t create him. Through the retroactive legal magic of Work For Hire DC Comics created him, owns him, and can do whatever, in its corporate wisdom, it wants with him.
But I want to deal just a bit with that other guy — the fellow Tim Drake plans to be gay with. The character’s name is Bernard Dowd and I created him. Here’s his first appearance, in my first issue writing Robin:
Yes, I know, when dealing with Work For Hire it means DC Comics actually created him, as I admitted above. But, before the retroactive reality imposed itself, I conceived the character, wrote his first appearance, wrote many subsequent appearances, and decided who he would be and who he wouldn’t be. Only then, by submitting those stories and accepting DC’s paycheck, the magic kicked in and it turns out DC created everything all along.
As originally conceived, Bernard Dowd was many things, but he wasn’t gay. I can know this for a certainty because, unlike living historical figures, it’s possible to know the secret inner workings of a fiction character, because they are whatever the author wrote them to be. And in this case Bernard Dowd liked girls. He had a crush on Tim Drake’s hot stepmother, and that’s about it for the romantic/sexual front. There were no other deep hidden secrets to uncover. No big deal.
So then, what’s my point? Why bring this up? I don’t have a compelling reason, other than to make two observations. First, in Tim’s big coming out scene, not one but two fictional characters had to be retconned to make it happen. More than one beloved funnybook character had to be repurposed, and yes, this may be pride of authorship rearing its ugly head, but I liked Bernard. Would it be too much to ask all of you crusading journalists of text and video to dig a little deeper in your investigations? Sure, Tim is the uncontested headline of the story, but Bernard’s parallel transformation deserves at least a mention, right?
Second, unlike historical living people, fictional characters can be changed at a whim, and you can even go back in the past to do it. You can add evidence that wasn’t there before. You can remove evidence that was there before. You can redraw or re-letter scenes to conform to the new reality, as someone online already has with the scene above:
You can do anything you like, because these characters don’t actually exist and never did.
This does however open up a larger discussion on the advisability of doing Work For Hire, knowing (or at least you should have known) that the new legal creator can do anything it wants with your creations. Maybe we’ll explore that someday.
By the Way…
This article will likely inspire questions and comments. No guarantee on comments, but the questions can be dealt with in a future posting, probably titled something clever like “Questions.” So do feel free to ask away.
Since Bernard's comments about Dana take place during Stephanie Brown's tenure as Robin, I definitely noticed and was bugged about the change. I could definitely see the argument that "Bernard is overcompensating for his internalised homophobia", but...that's a lot of special pleading for a retcon that is clearly a retcon.
Honestly, you bring up and reasonable point worthy of discussion. Of course it's a little awkward that Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm aren't around to add their thoughts on the topic.