Friday, August 19, 2011

Robin to Nightwing to Batman... to Nightwing?

So with DC's new 52 Dick is back as Nightwing (with not as cool a costume as the blue one, but oh well). The thing is, as much as I loved the Nightwing persona it was almost always, in the past 5-10 years, written poorly. Devin Grayson, Bruce Jones - even Marv Wolfman didn't seem to be able to recapture his previous quality portrayal of Dick. I feel that writers didn't know what to do with Nightwing and until he had the chance to be Batman with Damien as Robin I felt that I hadn't seen the "real" Dick Grayson in years. I worry that DC is taking this character a step backwards but only time will tell.

Now most everyone who reads comics knows that Dick Grayson started out as Batman's wise-cracking side kick, less permanently traumatized by witnessing his parents' death than Bats (in the sense he managed to still smile, where Bats takes everything very seriously). Many readers seem to be of the opinion that Nightwing is little more than the guy who used to be Robin. I think that with his time in the role of Batman it's been easier to see that Dick is very much his own kind of hero. Even in a role like Batman writers have taken the opportunity to show the differences in how Dick is Batman rather than writing a Bruce-like caped crusader. I can only hope that by throwing him back into the Nightwing role that the new creative teams don't forget how far this character has come.

Let's go back to Nightwing's beginnings. I have both Nightwing Year One and The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract as references here. The whole idea was for Dick to become his own man and step away from the role of kid sidekick. In the Teen Titans book We have just a general grand entrance even down to the hokey "Are you people ready? Say hello to---Nightwing". I would like to mention that even in-between vigilante gigs Dick is the only Titan to get away from Deathstroke. In fact the whole time period of the Judas Contract is key to understanding the character of Nightwing. There are some pretty character defining quotes in here:
DGrayson: Don't you see? Robin will always be the back half of "Batman and...". But Robin belongs with Batman fighting at his side. Touble is - I don't.
Deathstroke: Tricky brat - gotta admire him though. Took one chance in a million and he made it. He got away.
Deathstroke: Grayson's their leader beacuse he's the best. Powers augment a person, they don't make 'im.

I worry that when a writer gets a character like Nightwing they don't realize how much of an individual he is - they only see him in the context of his Batman origins. Reading through the Infinite Crisis story lines I've noticed that all the people who write Nightwing as a "guest-star" give the character the respect he deserves. I attribute this the the idea that when writing someone else's character you try to respect that character and work within the personality that has been established for them. Yet his own writer's often can't seem to find his voice with the recent exception of his time as Batman. This, I believe, is due to two issues.

1. The tempatation to screw around with a pre-established character to make them into your own creation. This creates problems in continuity based books. If you want to create your own character, do so. Don't try to turn a pre-established character into something it's not. Character growth = awesome. Character butchering = NOT COOL.

2. Lack of respect for a character. The #1 rule of writing (as far as I'm concerned) is to love your characters. Why was it so sad when Barry Allen died? Because the writers loved that character - and so the readers did too. If you don't respect your characters neither will the readers. Devin Grayson didn't respect and love Nightwing - so she made him into someone no one likes (at least no one who liked him as an actual hero).

Nightwing is a true hero - because it's not about the costume he wears, or his physical prowess, or even his intellect. It's about his spirit. I will continue to hope for the day that DC puts a writer on Nightwing who loves the character the way I do. I wish he'd just be the only Batman in some ways because he's made the costume his own as of late - and Dick paired up with Damien is a perfect duo. But if he's on his own as Nightwing again I hope it'll work out because he's always been one of my favorite characters.


  1. So, what do you think of the current Nightwing series now, Gwen.

  2. I think that Dick should still be Batman but I'm not a fan of the new DC.