Dick Grayson, the first Robin, remains one of the most important characters in comic books by design if for no other reason. Created as a through-line to the reader, allowing the young fans to imagine themselves fighting alongside the grim dark knight, Robin went through several stages of development, mirroring the passing of time for readers. A rebellious teen, he struck out on his own and even led a team of young heroes, the Teen Titans, in several incarnations. Later, he discarded his uniform for a new one along with a unique moniker, Nightwing.
Nightwing Year One cover by Ryan Sook
Sure, it may look silly today with a built in dickie and high lapels collar, but at the time this was a big step for fans and for Dick Grayson as a hero. No longer was he was the extension of Batman, he was his own man.
Given that, Grayson’s path has not been without pitfalls. A cult favorite, Nightwing has a devoted following, but there were times when he was very close to being killed off, especially when EIC Dan DiDio made it clear that Nightwing was intended to die in the pages of Infinite Crisis.
Dick Grayson as Batman
Not only did he not die, Grayson also graduated into his mentor’s role when Bruce Wayne was lost in time, courtesy of Darkseid’s Omega Sanction (it’s complicated). What could have been a dreadful idea resulted in some of the best Batman adventures in years. So popular was this run that the collection Black Mirror which contains the astounding stories penned by Scott Snyder, is very close to being out of print.
Back in his old namesake and with his own monthly book again, one has to ask what is next for Nightwing. Will he simply be defined by who he is not (neither Robin nor Batman) or will he show readers why he has earned a cult following all these years?
If you’ve been reading the Kyle Higgins/Eddy Barrows series, you know the answer to that question, but things are about to get more intense.
Higgins spoke to Newsarama about what’s to come for Dick Grayson and how Nightwng will play a role in the upcoming Night of Owls crossover.
(Read the entire interview over at Newsarama , excerpt below)
Newsarama: Kyle, as we’ve been talking about Nightwing, I can’t help feeling Dick should share the Book of Names with Bruce. Will they be working together once Dick gets back to Gotham?
Kyle Higgins: They will, if for no other reasons than Scott and I have a lot of fun working together. But yes– Dick and Bruce will be collaborating. Bruce obviously has his hands full right now, with everything going on with the Court of Owls. But Nightwing’s been racking up some frequent flyer miles going back and forth between Gotham (in Batman) and the traveling circus.
Of course, this mystery is very personal, so it’s something that Dick is currently trying to solve on his own. It’s something he wants to get to the bottom of, because he doesn’t even know how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Nrama: One of the things that is unique about Dick Grayson is he’s a rare example of a hero who has really evolved. We’ve seen him change from a child to a man, and while his core attitude has always been there, he’s evolved as a person. Is it difficult to portray a hero who has evolved like that? Has it challenged you? Or do you like the fact that you have to establish who he is — along with who he’s been — to these potential new readers?
Higgins: Well, if you look at issue #1 and the sheer amount of voiceover in that issue, I think you’ll see that it’s a definite challenge. Nightwing is trickier to establish than a character like Deathstroke, for example, which we got to—almost—completely start fresh with.
Nightwing is one of those few characters that is actually defined and built on a core of change, which is very weird in an industry and a medium that relies on the illusion of change. Dick Grayson is one of the few characters that are built around the idea of growing up.
Cover to Nightwing #7
While it’s something I don’t want to shy away from, you can only go to that well of “I’m trying to get out of my father’s shadow” so many times. With Nightwing, I think it’s stale at this point. So that’s something I wanted to stay away from, and hopefully, by keeping him in Gotham City going forward, it will be a way of doing something new with Nightwing and Dick Grayson in the way that he’s not looking for Bruce’s approval. He’s just doing what he thinks is best and what he wants to do. If that puts him in unison with Bruce, then great. If it puts him in conflict with Bruce, then he’s fine with that too.
Cover to upcoming Nightwing #8
Nrama: Yet you established in the first issue that he has been Batman. Will we see more of what he learned from Batman Inc. show up in this series?
Higgins: We will. There are some things that come up during the Night of the Owls storyline that raise questions for him as to the way that he operates, and the way that he and Batman operate in the city. Nightwing is in the unique position of having been both Robin and Nightwing, and also Batman. So he has a lot of experience to draw from, as well as a lot of ideas about what he thinks works and what he thinks doesn’t.
Nrama: I heard you say on a podcast that, “in some ways, Nightwing is a better hero and a better fit for Gotham City than Batman is.” Can you explain that?
Higgins: I think that a lot of what’s happening in “The Night of the Owls” story and in Scott’s Court of Owls storyline — and I don’t want to speak too much for him — but a lot of it up to this point has been the Court saying to Bruce, “you don’t matter in Gotham City.” And in a lot of ways, they’re right. Batman has been in Gotham for several years now, and the city is still terrible. You can make the argument that it would be much worse without Batman, but the other side of the argument is… would it be better with someone else? Would it be better with different tactics and a different approach?”
I don’t know the answer to that, or if there even is an answer, but I do think that in some ways, Nightwing might be a better fit. He’s more accessible than Batman, he’s someone who is more empathetic than Batman, and while Batman is more of an urban myth and symbol of fear to criminals, Nightwing can be a little bit brighter symbol to the city. If you’re going forward and trying to save a city that’s as corrupt and down-beaten as Gotham, sometimes hope and optimism are powerful tools.
(Recommended adventures of Dick Grayson as Batman below)
Batman: The Black Mirror
Batman Eye of the Beholder
Batman: Life After Death