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Failure to launch: Supergirl and Robin’s disastrous first date has deeper consequences

Robin and Supergirl finally go on a date together, but, as bad as the date goes, it signals something more important for the DCU timeline.

Robin and Supergirl ask for a dinner check
Image credit: DC Comics

The ongoing series Batman/Superman: World’s Finest has chronicled the joint adventures of the DC Universe’s premier superheroes in stories set years in the DCU’s past at a time when Dick Grayson was still Robin. The series’ 12th issue, with writer Mark Waid joined by penciler Emanuela Lupacchino, inkers Wade von Grawbadger and Norm Rapmund, and colorist Tamra Bonvillain, features a fun standalone story of Robin and Supergirl going on a first date together. Though an intriguing idea on paper, one that could maybe even bring the Bat and Superman Families closer together, this innocent attempt at young love descends into good-natured disaster by the date’s end.

More than just providing a breezy interlude between World’s Finest longer-form stories, Robin and Supergirl’s date raises some interesting questions about the current state of the DCU timeline, particularly in regard to Dick and Kara Zor-El’s respective ages. With the DCU under a regular state of revision and evolution, the shared superhero universe may have quietly altered its own chronology in the aftermath of the recent crossover event Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Here’s how Robin and Supergirl’s non-starter date goes, why it ultimately fails to give fans its next DC power couple, and how the age shift to facilitate the date could impact the DCU, especially the current iteration of Supergirl.

Note: Spoilers for World's Finest #12 ahead.

A superhero first date

Supergirl and Robin's date goes poorly
Image credit: DC Comics

Though set years into the DCU’s past, World’s Finest takes place at a point in the universe’s history where Dick has not only firmly established himself as the vital younger half of the Dynamic Duo but has already co-founded the original incarnation of the Teen Titans. Similarly, Kara has been on Earth for some time and taken up the mantle of Supergirl, working closely with her cousin Superman. The two heroes are implied to have a rocky history together stemming from a rocky first date at the start of the series, somehow involving a monkey.

World’s Finest #12 finally unveils this date in full, including the revelation that it was Supergirl who asked out Robin in the first place. While the two were defending Boston from a swarm of Man-Bats, Kara was visibly impressed by how well Robin carried himself during the incident despite not possessing any superpowers. Both Superman and Batman encouraged their respective proteges to enter this tentative courtship. That is, before it all falls apart.

A mismatched couple

There’s a myriad of reasons why Robin and Supergirl’s date doesn’t work out, from Robin failing to take into account that Kara uses a secret identity to their inability to emotionally connect over awkward dinner conversation and a rescue mission involving a monkey that puts the heroes in a publicly embarrassing position. However, this romantic misfire runs deeper than slapstick and screwball comedy flourishes, with Kara correctly assessing that this budding relationship was always destined to fail.

Even before he was taken in by Bruce Wayne and started his superhero career, Dick Grayson was always a showman, living in the spotlight every night as a crucial part of the traveling circus act the Flying Graysons. With that performer’s mentality, Dick has a constant need for attention and approval that, by extension, makes him needy – at least at the least at the time in his life that his date with Kara takes place. During this particular story, Dick is still very much in the shadow of the bat, vying for Bruce’s approval before eventually striking out on his own to become Nightwing. That break signaled an enormous amount of growth for the character as Dick developed his own sense of autonomy, a progression Batman himself observes in Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s Batman: Hush as an inevitability for Dick to take the spotlight as a superhero solo act.

Kara has her own differences with Dick stemming from her emotional maturity at the time of her date. Unlike Superman, Kara is old enough to remember Krypton and her family and friends that perished with its destruction as she was sent to Earth as a teenager. This has made her incredibly mature for her age but also someone shaped and hardened by trauma. The acclaimed miniseries Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow by Tom King and Bilquis Evely opens with Supergirl on the far side of the cosmos attempting to drown out that unresolved trauma. Kara and Dick are at far different places emotionally in their lives and, at the end of the day, Kara really just doesn’t have the time or patience for Dick’s usual showboating antics and cavalier attitude.

The DCU timeline discrepancy

However, perhaps the most curious thing about Dick and Kara going on a date is a gentle change to the DCU’s chronology from its status quo since at least prior to the reality-resetting 2011 crossover event Flashpoint. In pre-Flashpoint continuity, Dick Grayson was already a young adult and had long since settled into his role as Nightwing by the time Kara arrived on Earth as a teenager and took on the role of Supergirl. Kara developed an unrequited crush on Nightwing, which was never acted on due to the age gap between the two characters, with Dick in his mid to late 20s at the time.

Placing Dick and Kara at the same approximate age in the Dawn of DC era following Dark Crisis suggests that there has been at least a slight alteration to Supergirl’s origin story as initially told by Loeb and Michael Turner in their 2004 story for the ongoing series Superman/Batman. With Dick presumably in his late teens during his date with Kara, this would place Supergirl in her mid to late 20s during the DCU’s present-day, no longer the naive and occasionally moody teenager that she had been since her reintroduction to continuity after Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Following Wolfman and Perez’s story, Supergirl has had something of a tumultuously inconsistent history throughout the DCU. Following the Crisis, Superman was established as the sole survivor of Krypton, with versions of Supergirl that came about from genetic experiments. Loeb and Turner restored Kara to modern continuity as Superman’s cousin, albeit as a teenager rather than the young woman she had been during her sacrifice fighting the Anti-Monitor during the Crisis.

Dawn of DC has subtly closed the age gap between Kara and Dick, not so much to set them up as a failed couple but to bring Kara one step closer to her classic depiction. Waid and Lupacchino, et al, have some fun at Supergirl and Robin’s expense with this screwball interlude but the longer lasting consequence of this standalone story is the update to Supergirl’s placement in the current DCU timeline. And as far as bad first dates go, that is definitely an unexpectedly momentous occasion.

Written by Mark Waid, penciled by Emanuela Lupacchino, inked by Wade von Grawbadger and Norm Rapmund, colored by Tamra Bonvillain, and lettered by Steve Wands, Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #12 is on sale now. The story continues in issue #13, on sale March 21 from DC Comics.

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