Tim Drake held the mantle of Robin the longest of all Batman’s friends in DC comics. Debuting in 1990 as a Child Prodigy and continuing to work to this day, Tim Drake became the definitive Robin for at least one generation of comic book readers. To many fans, Tim Drake is widely known as Batman’s smartest Robin, but his compassionate side remains one of his best qualities. And while it’s easy to take Tim’s emotional intelligence for granted these days, his earlier Robin comics show how this trait was instilled in him by Alfred Pennyworth.
Tim Drake’s intelligence is one of the greatest assets of the bat family, as he has proven time and time again how useful he is in the field. Of all the Batman Robins, Tim is the only one who volunteered for this role, independently concluding that Bruce Wayne was Batman, and Dick Grayson used to be Robin. Although Tim is not the best fighter of the bat family, he makes up for it with his leadership qualities and quick thinking. But as other members of the Young Titans can attest, intelligence itself is not a quality that automatically deserves praise, a fact that Alfred quickly reminded him of when he got into a fight with the fourth Robin, Damian Wayne.
In “Robin” #168 by Peter Milligan and Freddie E. Williams II, Tim caught Damian sneaking around the Wayne Estate in search of Batman. Unbeknownst to him, Damian was looking for his father for protection, as his grandfather Ras al Ghul was tracking him down. Terrified, Damian was comforted by Alfred, and as they walked down the hallway to the Wayne Estate, Alfred tripped over a carpet. After seeing Alfred fall to the floor, Tim jumped up and punched Damian in the face, causing Alfred to scold Tim for his poor thinking and lack of compassion for Damian.
Undoubtedly, it is shocking that Alfred raises his voice to someone from the bat family, but in this case he pointed out to Tim the qualities that would later determine his place in DC comics. Tim may be the smartest member of the bat family, but without his compassion, it doesn’t mean anything. Suspecting that Damian was up to something evil, Tim demonstrated Batman’s level of paranoia instead of offering to help him. This behavior is shocking when taken into account now, as his recent appearances in the films “State of the Future: Gotham”, “Batman: Urban Legends” and “Nightwing” support his image as the most sensitive member of the bat family. But if we go back to this point in the history of his publications, it shows how much Tim’s character has grown over the years. This is especially evident in his later appearance in Adam Beechen and Jim Calafiore’s Batgirl series, where Tim provided emotional support to Cassandra Cain as she struggled with the impact her villainous father, David Cain, had on her life. It’s clear that Tim grew out of this Damian incident, and Alfred taught this important lesson.
Now that Alfred is dead in the era of the “Endless Frontier” of the District of Columbia, the bat family lacks a basic figure of conscience. Tim Drake’s past with Alfred, along with the growth of his own character, makes him an excellent candidate for this position. With Tim Drake’s new Robin series on the horizon, he’s never had a better opportunity to move on to the next stage of his life as a vigilante. Tim Drake is undoubtedly the smartest Robin is Batman, but as he learned from Alfred, his intelligence means nothing if he can’t back it up with empathy for others.