How Old is Tim Drake?

A QUESTION OF AGE: TIM DRAKE

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We’ve already established that DC writers and editors established a different Modern Age timeline than mine. To briefly recap, two major differences in my timeline include: Dick starting as Robin in Year 6 instead of Year 3 due to my stricter (more literal) reading of Long Halloween and Dark Victory; and treatment of Zero Hour as a soft reboot (as opposed to a hard reboot). As a result, some of the age references in the comics don’t always jibe with my timeline, which is 23 years long (as opposed to DC’s 15-year-long timeline). I’ve retconned Tim Drake debuting as Robin a bit younger based upon the aforementioned timeline differences and a stricter (more literal) reading of the overall passage of time in the DCU, following Tim’s first appearance onward. (The latter is our topic of discussion here.) Bear in mind, I’m not trying to define or redefine Batman character ages willy-nilly—I’m simply attempting to construct and/or suggest a detailed, unambiguous canon. And like I’ve always said, this is technically an impossible task. We can’t inject realism (in the form of perfect continuity and age restraints) into a science-fiction unreality that ignores conventional passage of time. But we can have fun trying. Let’s begin by examining Tim’s history as depicted by DC editors and writers on their mega-compressed 15-year chronology.

We first see Tim Drake chronologically through flashback in Batman #436 where he appears as a three-year-old toddler that witnesses the deaths of the Flying Graysons at the circus. Because of this, the number of years Batman has been active should always be within a couple years of Tim’s age. Keep that in mind as we forge ahead. Tim’s next appearance is his debut in Batman #440 where he is 13-years-old. He meets Batman and Nightwing and becomes the new Robin. In Robin #1, a “Knightquest” tie-in, Tim gets his driver’s license early due to the fact that he needs to be able to drive his father around. It’s not long after “Knight’s End” that we are told Tim is 15-years-old and in the 10th grade. In “Bruce Wayne: Murderer,” Oracle tells us that Tim is 15. Tim celebrates his Sweet 16 in Robin #116. In Identity Crisis and Robin #136, Tim is still 16. Just prior to 52, we are told Tim is 17. 52 takes place and functions as a literal calendar year, after which Tim is said to still be 17. By the time Tim becomes Red Robin, he is still 17, but soon to be 18. Flashpoint happens before Tim reaches the age of 18, though.

Things are mostly unproblematic, but the fact that DC tells us that Tim is 17-years-old both before and after 52 stands out as a red flag. 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? For one thing, around 2006, DC editors decided that they wanted Tim Drake to remain a “perpetual teenager” that never really ages. Basically, the editors exclaimed, “the hell with continuity, Tim is better as a teen!” At this point, DC editors were fine with keeping Tim 17-years-old with the intention of stunting him there for as long as possible. In fact, for the entirety of the first volume of Red Robin (2010-2011), Tim is still supposed to be 17. (Basically, DC has it so that Tim never reaches the age of 18 in the Modern Age—by the time Flashpoint happens, he’s still referred to as 17.) Essentially, my opinion is that DC does relatively okay in regard to Tim’s age until just prior to 52 (mid 2006), at which point they start to fuck up. This is why Tim was seen in high school well past a time where he should have been and also why he was continually referred to as 17, even in 2011. According to numerous sources in the Comic Book Resources forums, 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 (in mid 2011) would indeed be 17 going on 18 since he turned 16 in Robin #116, which was published in late 2003. However, this formula becomes irrelevant since writers have shown that many “in-story years” come and go from 2003 to 2011. Writers have detailed this passage of “in-story time” by scripting holidays, different seasons, topical events, asterisk notation, and more. Since both age and time (duration) use the exact same units of measurement, you really can’t have one formula for age and a different formula for the passage of time. Yet the use of contradicting principles is what ostensibly has occurred. While DC’s timeline ostensibly works for Tim on a surface level, it only does so in a vacuum where few other characters exist and there is willful ignorance of the fact that seasons change, holidays come and go, and time literally passes over the years. (As highlighted previously, Tim’s debut at 13-years-old and end at 17-to-18-years old only works if we subscribe to a timeline where a mere four years pass between Tim’s debut and Flashpoint, 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 <em>JLA</em> story, and every other non-Batman comic between 1990 and 2011, must happen in a measly four year span. Unless both Zero Hour AND Infinite Crisis are hard reboots, this ain’t kosher.

Let’s address my timeline. Obviously, Tim’s age must be rejiggered a bit to make sense on a 23-year-timeline (the Real Batman Chronology Project’s timeline) versus a 15-year-timeline (DC’s timeline). To account for the difference, we could retcon it so that Tim became Robin at age 8 instead of 13, but that seems incredibly far-fetched. Plus, if you went this route, it would completely erase the fact that Tim watched the Flying Graysons die. However, a more elegant solution, and the one I’ve taken on my Modern Age timeline, is retconning Tim’s debut as Robin as occurring a month or two before Tim turns 11-years-old (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, only very minor inconsistencies pop up every now and again throughout the comics—and most of the huge errors are eliminated. Even in the Red Robin series where Tim is referred to as a minor, this is totally legitimate if we think of the term “minor” to mean “under 21.” On our 23-year-timeline, Tim is 20-years-old (with his 21st birthday happening in July of 2011) during the the Red Robin series. Thus, by the time we reach Flashpoint, Tim has turned 21-years-old.

Another great reference to comic book character ages is Chris J Miller’s “Table of Birthdates” from his brilliant “Unauthorized Chronology of the DCU.” (Chris lists Tim’s age in 2011 at 22 because he has kept Tim’s Robin debut at age 13, hence the two year age difference compared to our chronology.)[1]

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. Again, this is necessary simply because my timeline is 23 years long instead of 15. Bruce Wayne, though, is actually less of a problem than Tim due to the fact that DC has always been very vague regarding Bruce’s actual age. But, just to be thorough, we’ll tackle him next in order to round out the full analysis.

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  1. [1]COLLIN COLSHER: A footnote from YEAR ONE, but worth repeating (with added detail). As already eloquently stated above, depending on which chronology you subscribe to, the ages of DC’s characters will fluctuate and don’t hold fast to an exact mathematical science, especially since there are so many contradictory references and time gets retconned so much in the comics. According to the Real Batman Chronology Project’s 23-year-timeline, the Modern Age birth-years of major players are as follows:

    Bruce Wayne – born in 1963, debuts as Batman in 1989 at age 26
    Selina Kyle – born in 1969, debuts as Catwoman in 1989 at age 20
    Talia al Ghul – born between 1976 and 1979
    Barbara Gordon- born in 1977, debuts as Batgirl in 1995 at age 18
    Helena Bertinelli – born in 1977, debuts as Huntress in 1998 at age 21
    Dick Grayson – born in 1981, debuts as Robin in 1994 at age 13
    Jason Todd – born in 1985, debuts as Robin in 1998 at age 13
    Cassandra Cain – born in 1987, becomes Batgirl in 2004 at age 17
    Tim Drake – born in 1990, becomes Robin in 2001 at age 11
    Damian Wayne – born in 1999, becomes Robin in 2010 at age 10

    Discrepancies between my site and others not only stem from personal headcanon fanwanking/retconning, but also from continuity errors within the comics. Let’s use Damian as an example. Batman & Robin #2, which takes place in the same year as Damian’s debut, tells us he is specifically ten-years-old. This means Damian is ten when he debuts in “Batman and Son.” Most sources, including mine, will list “Batman and Son” as occurring in 2009. Therefore, in order to be ten-years-old in 2009, Damian would have to have been born in 1999 (where I have his birth). Unfortunately, most sources (both external chronologies and in-comic references) tell us that Bruce lost his parents when he was around eight-years-old. In “Batman and Son,” Bruce says that he was “not much older than Damian when his own parents died,” which suggests the boy is eight at that point. A contradiction! See what I mean? These comic book ages are fairly fluid. With that being said, depending on what references you take as gospel, there is a slight range of birth-years that could be appropriate for Bat-Family characters:

    Bruce Wayne – born in 1963
    Dick Grayson – born in 1979 to 1982 range
    Jason Todd – born in 1985 to 1986 range
    Cassandra Cain – born in 1987 to 1988 range
    Tim Drake – born in 1989 to 1990 range
    Damian Wayne – born in 1999 to 2000 range

    To reiterate, character birthdates and ages depend solely on where you initially start and what you choose to take as gospel. Other chronologies might use different references. The Real Batman Chronology specifically retcons Cassie, Tim, Jason, and Dick’s initial sidekick-starting ages to be a bit younger than most other chronologies, hence the differences there. Taking such liberties with the Robin boys (and Cassie) might seem blasphemous, but it actually makes continuity work out better in the end—plus, it’s essential if you are operating with a different length timeline (i.e. 23-year versus 15-year).

11 Responses to How Old is Tim Drake?

  1. Jemima Spill says:

    I am so glad that there are such thorough Batman fans out there as you!

  2. Foxskip says:

    I’ve been making my own DC/batfamily timeline & Tim really just made it impossible lmao :””)

  3. Jack James says:

    “Bruce Wayne – born in 1963
    Dick Grayson – born in 1981
    Jason Todd – born in 1985
    Cassandra Cain – born in 1987
    Tim Drake – born in 1990
    Damian Wayne – born in 1999”

    More dates to the list:
    Selina Kyle – born in 1969
    Barbara Gordon- born in 1977
    Helena Bertinelli – born in 1977
    Talia al Ghul: born between 1976 and 1979.

    I wonder if there’s any hint of Alfred’s and Gordon’s ages in the modern age.

  4. Jade Austin says:

    I made my own DC timeline and Tim and Damian specifically gave me conniptions, but I finally got things sorted. Nice job with this, tho I think I’ll be picturing my own timeline 😛

  5. Will says:

    Hey, Collin. I was attempting to create a timeline but I found the ages of the Robins to be completely jumbled. How may I fix this? I acknowledge that these ages and dates are rather flexible but I was just wondering if there is a simplified headcanon you follow. Also, I was wondering which year each person turns into their respective hero or villain role. Many thanks! Here’s my timeline.

    1963 born (February)
    1971 parents die (Autumn)
    1981 leaves to train
    1988 returns to Gotham
    1989 becomes Batman (April)
    1992 adopts 12yo Dick
    1994 adopts 12yo Jason
    1998 Jason dies at 16 & Dick becomes Nightwing
    2002 Tim becomes Robin
    2011 Bruce is 48 (August/Flashpoint)
    2015 Bruce is now 52 (New 52)

    Bruce Wayne born 1963
    Selina Kyle born 1969
    Talia al Ghul born 1976-1979
    Barbara Gordon born 1977
    Helena Bertinelli born 1977
    Dick Grayson born 1981
    Jason Todd born 1985
    Cassandra Cain born 1987
    Tim Drake born 1990
    Damian Wayne born 1999

    • Hi Will. I have teenage Bruce leaving earlier (by forging documents) to train at age 14 in 1977. And I have Bruce returning and becoming Batman both in 1989. And I have Dick born in 1981, which places his adoption by Bruce (at age 12) in 1994. (Dick turns 13 in 1994.) I have Jason being adopted by Bruce in 1998 (also at age 12, going on 13). Dick becomes Nightwing around the same time Jason debuts, around 1998. I have Jason dying in 2000, age 14/15. Tim becomes Robin in 2001 at age 11. By the end of the Modern Age, Bruce is 48 (in 2011).

      Selina and Bruce both don their costumes in 1989. Dick becomes Robin in 1994. Babs becomes Batgirl in 1995. Helena becomes Huntress in 1998. Jason becomes Robin in 1998. Tim becomes Robin in 2001. Cassie becomes Batgirl in 2004. Damian becomes Robin in 2010.

  6. Asger Bugge says:

    I think it’s unwise to retcon stuff this much. Tim has always been thirteen when he became Robin. Dick has always been 18 when he quit. If a story came out and legit said he was ten when he became Robin sure but that’s never happened. It ends up making the entire thing so disingenuous of you. I respect the hell out of you trying to put everything in this chronology but you make so much stuff up that I can’t say this makes any sense whatsoever.

    • Hi Asger, having a bad day, are we? Tim’s age is a tough nut to crack, which is why this addendum to the Modern Age timeline exists. (Admittedly, I do think, now re-glancing at this article, that it is a tad out of date and needs some editing, which I will definitely do—so thanks for brining it to my attention.) My timeline, for reasons explained throughout the site (and above), is longer than DC’s ultra-compressed timeline—by about seven to eight years. A lot of that discrepancy has to do with how I view Zero Hour and how I read seminal stories like Long Halloween and Dark Victory, but that’s a topic for another discussion (and is also discussed throughout the site). Because of the these differences, which are based on a logical straightforward reading of the comics, Tim’s age—along with some other character ages—becomes problematic.

      If you don’t subscribe to the logic or methodology surrounding my Modern Age timeline-building (which in and of itself is based upon Chris Miller’s Unauthorized DCU Chronology), then you aren’t going to subscribe to any of my age rationales. And that’s cool. Personal headcanon is personal headcanon.

      • I’ve re-ordered some of these articles and edited some to better explain my methodology. The age-changing is only necessary because my timeline is 23 years long where as DC’s seems to be 15 years long. With that discrepancy in lengths, the ages have to shift accordingly. It’s as simple as that. Again, though, and I can’t stress this enough—everyone interprets the comics differently. That’s how canon works. So, feel free to regard or disregard what I’ve done here, but I think I’ve backed it up with a lot of research and well-though-out explanation. If I haven’t convinced you, it’s no big deal. Happy to chat about it more, if you’d like. Every conversation I have about this always leads to some epiphany or change on the site, so thanks for that provocation.

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