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REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE ALL-STAR CLASSICS RED ROBIN
By Thomas Wheeler

Maybe you've noticed, but it's getting tough to find DC Universe Classics type figures. The line has, for the moment, run its course at retail, department stores like Target and Walmart seem to be cutting back on their toy departments in general, and the forthcoming "DC Unlimited" line has a heavy emphasis on the "New 52" -- which means you won't be seeing any reviews of those figures on this Web Site, as I refuse to have anything to do with that.

There was supposed to be a couple of assortments of figures called "DC All-Stars". However, even this was truncated from its original plan, reduced to one assortment, half of which was "New 52" based, and then, I never saw it at retail, and ended up having to get the other half online.

I'm not all that fond of mail-ordering action figures, unless there's just no alternative, such as with some of the lines offered through, for example, MattyCollector.Com. You never quite know what you're going to get, and I tend to be very particular about a figure's appearance. However, it seems that increasingly, places like BigBadToyStore and EntertainmentEarth, along with Web Sites run by the companies themselves, have a better (not to mention more interesting) supply of toys than you can find at retail. So I find myself in what I regard to be the somewhat unenviable position of having to send away for these figures, and then say a prayer and cross my fingers that what shows up is in good overall condition.

Thankfully, in the case of the half of the DC All-Stars assortment that I did want, consisting of two characters known as Superboy-Prime and Red Robin, I was most fortunate. Both figures are in excellent condition. This review will take a look at RED ROBIN.

Now, technically, the modern Red Robin -- pre "New 52", anyway, is Tim Drake, who first became Robin after the death of Jason Todd, who also took on the role of Red Robin briefly after his return. Confused? Yeah, it can get that way. Allow me to try to explain with some help from some online research.

On the alternate world of Kingdom Come, a middle-aged Dick Grayson reclaimed the Robin mantle and became Red Robin. His uniform is closer to Batman's in design, rather than any previous Robin uniform.

Later, Red Robin then reappeared in promotional material for the DC Countdown event; Eventually, it was revealed that this Red Robin was not Dick Grayson, but rather Jason Todd who appeared under the cape and cowl.

In 2009, a new ongoing series was introduced titled Red Robin. The new Red Robin is revealed to be Tim Drake (under the alias of Tim Wayne).

In Kingdom Come, a middle-aged Dick Grayson reclaimed the Robin mantle and becomes Red Robin, not at the side of his former mentor Batman, but rather with Superman's group. Age has not slowed him down, as he possesses all of his stealth and fighting skills. In this story he has a daughter with Starfire; Mar'i Grayson, known as Nightstar. Starfire has apparently died by the time of the story, according to the Elliot S! Maggin novelization, and Nightstar mocks Robin's age, calling him "Grandpa". At the end of the comic and the novel, Bruce and Dick had reconciled.

In Countdown to Final Crisis #17, Jason dons a Red Robin suit from a display case in the "Bat Bunker" - Earth-51's equivalent to the Batcave as he and the Earth-51 Batman join the fight raging on the Earth above the bunker. Jason keeps his new suit and identity for the rest of his tenure as a "Challenger of the Unknown", only to discard it on his return to New Earth and revert to his "Red Hood" street clothing.

At the start of Countdown, Jason Todd resumes the persona of the Red Hood and rescues a woman from Duela Dent. After a Monitor shoots and kills Duela, he attempts to kill Jason, but is stopped by a second Monitor. This second Monitor apologizes to Jason before they both disappear, leaving Jason alone with Duela's body. Later, at Duela's funeral, Jason hides until all of the Teen Titans have left except Donna Troy. Jason tells her what happened the night of Duela's death, and about the dueling Monitors. He knows that both he and Donna Troy have come back from the dead, and wonders which of them is next on the Monitor's hit list. The two are then attacked by the Forerunner, but before she can kill them, the apologetic Monitor stops her, and recruits Jason and Donna for a mission to the Palmerverse (a section of the Nanoverse discovered by Ray Palmer, the Atom), in an attempt to find Palmer. During the trip, Jason takes it upon himself to name the Monitor "Bob". Jason seems to have a romantic interest in Donna, and is shown to be visibly disgruntled when her old boyfriend, Kyle Rayner, joins their group as they take their tour to the 52 Earths which comprise the Multiverse.

A teaser image released to promote Countdown showed a figure resembling Red Robin among assembled heroes in poses symbolic of their roles in the series. After a series of contradictory statements about this figure, executive editor Dan DiDio firmly stated in the July 2007 DC Nation column that the figure is Jason Todd; Todd, a major player in Countdown, has gone under the aliases 'Red Hood' and 'Robin'. The Red Robin costume, originally designed by Alex Ross for the 1996 Kingdom Come limited series and worn by Dick Grayson, is seen in Countdown to Final Crisis #16 in the Earth-51 Batman's base of operations. In issue #14, Jason dons the Red Robin suit and goes into battle alongside Earth-51's Batman. During a battle with a group of Monarch's soldiers, Earth-51 Batman is killed by the Ultraman of Earth-3, deeply affecting Jason. In his grief, Jason murders an alternate version of the Joker who mocks his loss, vacating alongside Donna, Ray, and Kyle to the planet Apokolips before Earth-51's destruction.

After the group is sent back to Earth, Jason leaves the group and returns to his crimefighting ways. When the Morticoccus virus is released from Karate Kid's body, Jason is forcibly brought back to the group by Kyle, much to his dismay. When the Challengers return to the true Earth, Jason disposes of his Red Robin costume and abandons the rest of the group, though they go on to declare to the monitors that they are now the monitors of the Monitors.

Timothy "Tim" Jackson Drake (also known as Tim Wayne) was created by Marv Wolfman and Pat Broderick. From 1989 to 2009, he was known as Robin in the Batman comics, becoming the third character to take up the identity. Tim Drake made his first comic book appearance in Batman #436 in a flashback as a child who was in the audience when Dick Grayson's parents fell to their deaths. Following the events in Batman: Battle for the Cowl, Drake has taken up the identity of Red Robin.

Tim Drake is the son of Jack and Janet Drake, coming from the same social class as Bruce Wayne. When he was a young child, he visited the circus for the first time with his parents. The Drakes asked the Flying Graysons for a photo together, resulting in a momentary bond between Dick Grayson and Tim Drake as they met for the first time.

This was done largely because the previous Robin, Jason Todd, had been a street kid, and a rather unruly one, and had never been fully accepted by the fans, In fact, he was killed as a result of fan response to a telephone survey. Believing that Batman needed a Robin, but one that was more acceptable, the writers created Tim Drake, a far pleasanter individual, and gave him a backstory with a closer connection to both Dick Grayson and, indirectly, Bruce Wayne.

After reaching the age of nine, Drake deduces the identities of Batman and Robin as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson after witnessing a gymnastic move by Robin that Grayson displayed while performing with the Flying Graysons.

Noting that Batman has grown reckless and violent following the death of second Robin Jason Todd, who was murdered by the Joker, Drake decided to intervene and Batman eventually enlisted him as the third Robin after the death of his mother and crippling of his father. Jack Drake also appeared in Identity Crisis. When Jean Loring sent him a gun he used it in self-defense and killed Captain Boomerang, but at the last second, Captain Boomerang threw a boomerang that killed Jack Drake. As a result Tim became an orphan, continuing the long held tradition that Robin is an orphan.

Before joining Batman as the new Robin, Tim Drake was given a modern redesign of the Robin costume and sent to train abroad with numerous masters. When Bruce Wayne briefly retired after Knightfall, Robin goes solo to defend Gotham. Robin would eventually go on to co-star with other teenaged superheros in Young Justice and Teen Titans. He also made guest appearances in other DC comic books such as Nightwing and Azrael.

Following the deaths of his father in Identity Crisis (2004), his girlfriend Stephanie Brown in Batman: War Games (2004–2005) and his best friend Superboy (Kon-El) in Infinite Crisis (2005–2006), Drake was relocated to Blüdhaven for a period of time in order to escape the "ghosts" of Gotham City and to stay close to his stepmother Dana Winters who was admitted into a Blüdhaven clinic after going into psychological shock over Jack Drake's murder at the hands of Captain Boomerang.

After Dick Grayson takes up the mantle of Batman, following the apparent death of Bruce Wayne, he gives the title of Robin to Damian Wayne, claiming that Robin is a student of Batman and that he sees Tim as an equal. Tim Drake, Robin up until then, begrudgingly accepts. Tim goes on to tell Spoiler that he will be leaving Gotham for an unspecified period of time. He became the new Red Robin - traveling the world searching for Bruce Wayne. While doing his search, Tim meanwhile is being monitored by Ra's al Ghul, who appears not only interested in Tim himself, but also Tim's quest for Batman.

Once Bruce Wayne returned, Damian Wayne remained in the Robin role, while Drake continued as Red Robin, eventually rejoining the Teen Titans and taking over as the team's leader after Wonder Girl stepped down.

So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive. This is not the first Tim Drake figure in the DC Universe Classics-type line, however. Let's discuss the history of Boy Wonder costumes, though.

When Robin was first introduced in 1940, he was given a costume that consisted of a bright red tunic with short green sleeves, a bright yellow cape, green gloves, green shorts, and green shoes with little flares behind them. Robin also seemed to be maybe 10 years old, give or take.

Now, I wasn't around in 1940. So I couldn't really tell you what 10-year-olds were like back then, or what it would take to convince one of them to wear a costume like that. I think if you tried to persuade a 10-year-old boy to dress up like that today, you'd probably get arrested.

It can be fairly argued that since the young Dick Grayson came from a family of circus performers, he was used to wearing bright, gaudy costumes. This does still leave the question of why Batman, who operated in stealth, would dress up his sidekick like this, but at the time, logic wasn't one of the bigger motivating factors in comic books.

This would be Robin's costume for the next forty-plus years, even as Dick Grayson aged into early adulthood. In the late 1960's, we see him heading off to college, still dressing like this, and in the mid-1980's, he's established as being nineteen years old. Never mind a ten-year-old, try asking a 19-year-old to dress in an outfit like this. Or, for that matter, even wanting one to. I saw an individual dressed in the classic Robin costume at a comics convention one time, and even the DC Comics Writers' Panel was having trouble with it.

Grayson was even getting kidded by his peers in the comics. In the pages of Teen Titans, Changeling, perhaps better known as Beast Boy, remarked, "We call him the Teen Wonder. Actually, the only thing we wonder about him is how he keeps his legs warm in the winter."

Finally, the way was clear to have Dick Grayson graduate into his new persona as Nightwing, and his new costume definitely did not include shorts. Amazingly, the streetwise Jason Todd accepted the traditional Robin costume. This from a kid whom Batman met when he was trying to take the tires off the Batmobile...

When it was Tim Drake's turn, the in-comics reason was that, in light of Jason Todd's death, Bruce Wayne wasn't about to take on another sidekick without making sure the kid was better protected. It was as good an excuse as any to do away with the green speedos once and for all.

This Robin's costume consisted of a red tunic with short green sleeves like the original, but the tunic went into red trunks, and there were green leggings with black boots. The outfit was completed with green gloves, and a cape that was black on the outside and yellow on the inside. The whole thing was bullet-proof, fire-proof, and a few other proofs.

Following the events of Infinite Crisis, especially the death of Superboy, and effective as of the "One Year Later" stories that commenced at that point, Tim Drake had a new costume. It featured a red, long-sleeved shirt, red leggings, black trunks, black boots, and black gloves, with a black cape that had a yellow interior. It was a radical redesign for Robin, even though the distribution of colors was a fairly standard super-hero design.

There have been DC Universe Classics figures of both of these versions of Robin. The first one out was actually the "One Year Later" version, which was part of Wave 4 of the individually packaged figures. Sometime later, the earlier version of Tim Drake was released as part of a two-pack with a Batman figure.

Both figures used the same set of molds, just repainted, but the details were similar enough so that it worked. At that point in time, the teen heroes of the line, of which Robin was actually the first, later followed by Kid Flash and Beast Boy, were distinctly shorter than later entries, such as Kamandi, Superboy, and most of the Legion set. They had the musculature of teenagers, but the height of -- I don't know, maybe a tall ten-year-old. They're still cool figures, though.

Red Robin, somewhat to my surprise, uses the full-grown adult male body molds. I almost think it might have been more appropriate to use the current teen body molds, but I'll also admit I'm not entirely sure how old Tim Drake was supposed to be when he took up the mantle of Red Robin, and honestly his look tended to differ in the comics depending on who was drawing him. In some, he looked nearly adult. In others, not so much.

Red Robin costume consists of a long-sleeved red shirt or tunic, along with black boots, tights, gloves, and a black cape and cowl. It also includes a black-and-gold utility belt with other utility storage devices, in two straps similar in appearance to the utility belt, crossing over the chest in an "X" shape, meeting at a circular Red Robin insignia.

In the comics, aside from the trademark bo staff, grapnel guns, and a customized red motorcycle for transportation, Tim also uses throwing discs, similar to batarangs, but circular and adorned with the Red Robin insignia, the latter also used by the previous wearers of the Red Robin costume.

The figure comes with the bo staff. You'll just have to use your imagination for the rest of it. I don't think a motorcycle would fit on one of those cards, anyway.

Interestingly, the tunic bears some resemblance to the original Robin costume, at least in how it flares out a bit at the belt. But the rest of the costume takes a lot of its color cues from its "One Year Later" predecessor, but in some respects is even darker, especially given that the leggings are entirely black, as is the cape, and Tim Drake is wearing a cowl that covers nearly his entire head, rather than just a mask around his eyes.

I initially thought that the Red Robin figure had quite a number of unique body parts, which surprised me, as it's not something that Mattel does except when truly necessary. That's not a criticism. I honestly appreciate the consistency that this line has, thanks to the multiple use of parts. However, there weren't quite as many unique aspects as I thought.

The boots threw me off. I thought they were unique. Now, since Red Robin's leggings AND boots are black, it's not really as though the figure could have just used the standard lower leg and had boots painted on. Admittedly, Mattel has painted the boots and gloves with a glossy black finish, and the leggings do not share the same glossy treatment, but to have just painted the boots on would not have looked very good. So there is a sculpted distinction to the boots on the lower legs.

But then I thought that this particular design looked just a little familiar, and I was right. It's the same lower legs that were originally used on Sinestro Corps member Romat-Ru, who was offered in a Sinestro Corps two-pack a few years ago. What the heck, they work well enough here, and certainly provide Red Robin with some distinctive boots.

The truly distinctive parts to the figure include the belt and lower tunic piece, which is flexible enough so it isn't too much of a hindrance to leg articulation, and the cape and chest straps, which contrary to initial appearances are not one piece. The straps are separate. It's possible that the cape might have been used before, but I'm not going to analyze every cape in my collection here.

Obviously, the headsculpt is unique. The black cowl makes Red Robin look something like Batman without the ears. But the expression of the mouth is not quite as grim, and has something of a youthful look to it.

There's a surprising minimum of paint details to this figure. Mostly it's the eyes and lower face, gloves, boots, and details on the belt and straps. Here is where it is most intricate, as the narrow yellow sections of the belt and straps need to be neatly painted, and certainly the Red Robin emblem does, and fortunately, they have been.

As one would expect, the figure is superbly articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. His bo staff is just shy of 6 inches in length, and painted silver.

So, what's my final word? Red Robin, by that name, is an interesting character. He started out as a later incarnation of Dick Grayson in the epic "Elseworlds" series "Kingdom Come" that really helped to put painter-artist Alex Ross on the map. Jason Todd as Red Robin was hardly a high point of the use of the character name. I was a little reluctant to accept Tim Drake as Red Robin, since it initially seemed as though Drake had taken a less than positive turn with his obsession about Bruce Wayne, but that seems to have worked itself out well enough, even though I've never been terribly fond of Damian Wayne as Robin. And of course, all of this was pre-"New 52" where everything got messed up -- including Tim Drake as Red Robin, and I'm not going to get into that here.

But certainly, both Red Robin and Tim Drake, separately and as the same person, have had more than enough history in the DC Universe to warrant this figure, and I'm pleased it's been added to the overall DC Universe Classics-style collection. It really is an outstanding figure, and I believe that any DC fan will enjoy adding it to their collection.

The DC UNIVERSE ALL-STARS figure of RED ROBIN definitely has my highest recommendation!