“Bruce [Wayne] is pathological,” explained Kyle Higgins, the writer of Nightwing #1, out tomorrow. “Dick is a much more well-rounded person. Whereas someone like Bruce as Batman does what he does because he feels like there's this sense of guilt and that he has to do it, Dick as Nightwing helps people because he likes people—because he enjoys it. And that's a huge, fundamental difference to me.”
During an interview with my Panel Discussions podcast, Higgins talked about what makes Dick Grayson—best known to non-comics-readers as the first Robin but familiar to DC fans as either Nightwing or, more recently, Batman—tick.
“With where the character's at right now and the approach we're taking, it's very important that he was just Batman,” Higgins told Panel Discussions. “Not to mention that the character is coming off of one of his most acclaimed years, from Grant's Batman & Robin run to Scott's brilliant Detective Comics run...and I'd like to think that what we did in Batman: Gates of Gotham seems to have been pretty well-received as well. So...it doesn't make any sense to not acknowledge that he was just Batman.”
Which is, of course, one of the things that got people talking in the first place. In a DC Universe where so many characters are being restarted from scratch and some never even existed, it's hard to imagine a Gotham City where Dick Grayson has grown from teen sidekick to Nightwing to Batman in just five or so years. For Higgins, it was a challenge he embraced head-on in the first issue.
“In terms of baggage, I'll say this: Anyone reading Nightwing, the first issue has...there's some exposition in there. Subsequent issues have a lot less internal voice-over, I'll put it that way.”
And while the original Nightwing series (written by Chuck Dixon) also began shortly after Dick had a short run as Batman (in the post-Knightfall storyline Prodigal), Higgins said that the mission statements for the two books are much different.
“At his core, Dick Grayson is the ultimate legacy character in the DC Universe, so he's built on this core of trying to get out from under the ultimate shadow,” said Higgins. He explained that in the Dixon run, Dick's move to Bludhaven was about the character trying to prove himself and to create a life for himself as both (Dick Grayson and Nightwing) without the rather profound influence of either Bruce Wayne or Batman. “Once you move past that, there hasn't been much for him to do.”
He reflected that while he loved the Chuck Dixon run on the character, he didn't want to just retread the same territory.
All of that's well and good, of course, but will we ever see him take the mask off? After all, he isn't Batman anymore.
Higgins says, “His life as Dick Grayson is very much a part of this book. Our first six, seven issues alone, Haley's Circus is a very prominent aspect of the book. Haley's Circus is Dick Grayson; Haley's Circus is not Nightwing.”
Higgins particularly liked Dixon's idea of Nightwing becoming a police officer in Bludhaven, but didn't indicate that the character would join the Gotham City Police Department (a setting which is already featured a bit in Batwoman, with Captain Maggie Sawyer appearing to be lined up as a love interest for the titular character).
He said that in the earliest issues of that run, there was still some resentment against Bruce after the events of Knightfall. There's none of that now, as Dick's turn as Batman this time around was something that allowed him to grow in unexpected ways this time around, whereas last time it was more of a footnote to get both his and Bruce's characters from a certain point, to a certain point.
“So now we're kind of at that same point—obviously we're not referencing all that stuff, but just in terms of the cycle of the character and the story that we're telling. Bruce comes back, Batman is his. Dick was never Batman. I mean—Dick was Batman, but he isn't Batman. He's his own character; he's his own character. He's Dick Grayson, and Nightwing is his. So putting on that Nightwing suit, it would be very easy for him to just leave Gotham again.”
Easy, but not the direction he was interested in taking the character.
“I think it's a lot more interesting, following what Scott did in the last year on Detective Comics--which was all about the idea that Dick has stayed away from Gotham for all these years almost because of a fear of the city,” Higgins said. “Putting on that bat cowl and coming back to Gotham is him facing this place, and the city has changed around him.” He further explained that now that he's been there and done that, Dick finds himself in a position where his skills and confidence are at an all-time high and he realizes that Gotham is a place where he's really needed. “So why would he leave? It's a slightly different direction, but it's still a progression of the character.”