The years preceding DC Comics New 52 relaunch of its superhero titles were significantly busy ones for Dick Grayson. The former Robin turned solo vigilante called Nightwing had seen his homebase of Bludhaven obliterated in a nuclear explosion, and just when he was landing back on his feet, Bruce Wayne was "killed" forcing Dick to take up the mantle of the Dark Knight. But after a harrowing period as the Batman of Gotham City, Grayson returned to his previous identity in this week's "Nightwing" #1 by Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows. And the writer behind the book promised a more confident and more driven take on a familiar DC hero.
And as Higgins explained to CBR News, the return to the his old mask shouldn't be seen as a step back for the character but a return to his core. "He's the guy who's trying to escape the biggest shadow in the world, to get out on his own and make a life for himself," the writer said of what makes Nightwing connect with fans. "He’s DC’s greatest legacy character, built on a core that’s universally relatable. For me, the idea of creating a life for myself and cutting my own path in the world has been something I’ve always related to. Not to mention, Dick is the type of guy you would want to be. For lack of a better term, he’s a more 'accessible' Batman. Let’s be honest—no one could ever be Batman… but they could be Nightwing."
And as accessibility has been one of the watchwords for the New 52, Higgins noted that the idea of "sidekick grown-up" remains one of the best in roads for fans into the DCU. It certainly worked for him. "I grew up a Batman fan and knew who Robin was, namely from the Burt Ward portrayal, but it wasn’t until 'Batman: The Animated Series' came on the air with Loren Lester voicing Dick Grayson that my interest really piqued," the writer recalled. "Then, a few years later, I stumbled across the 'Marvel/DC Amalgam.’ I remember flipping through the pages and seeing this guy with a black and blue costume and a pony tail, fighting Gambit. The caption was something like 'Dick Grayson: once Batman’s sidekick Robin, but now out on his own as Nightwing.' My ten year old brain exploded—‘what do you MEAN he isn’t Robin anymore?!?'
"Just the fact that this guy had moved on from one identity to another made him incredibly interesting to me – not to mention that the blue and black color scheme was huge to me at the time because the Carolina Panthers were my favorite NFL expansion team in 1995-1996," Higgins laughed. "I fell in love with everything about the character, immediately. It must have been a year or so after, or maybe I picked up the Amalgam book late, but I remember my first Nightwing comic was issue #14 from [Chuck] Dixon and [Scott] McDaniel. And even though I'd been reading comics before that, it was the first time I started collecting a series. I went back and picked up the previous 13, and continued each month until it was canceled a few years ago. It was MY book."
Like that first "Nightwing" series, the current ongoing finds Dick Grayson in a state of transition, but Higgins promised that this series will reveal a more confident Nightwing. "What a lot of people forget is that the Dixon/McDaniel series came out of the 'Prodigal' event where Dick Grayson was Batman. At the start of the series, there was actually a lot of animosity between him and Bruce – from feeling slighted when he was passed over by Bruce in favor of Jean Paul Valley, to taking on the Batman cowl only to have Bruce return and take it back. However, at the same time, you could still pick up the first issue of that series cold. It simply opens with Batman saying, 'I need someone to investigate these 21 murders in Bludhaven. Can you do it for me?'
"We're in a similar situation now in the way that Bruce has come back. In 'Gates of Gotham' we hinted at the conversation between Dick and Bruce that would lead to Dick returning to Nightwing, but we haven’t shown the actual conversation where Bruce fully returns. I think there’s something interesting to the ambiguity, but it’s also clear when you read issue #1 that the level of animosity that some people have wondered about won’t be there. This wasn’t any sort of 'demotion' and a big testament of that, to me, is the fact that Dick is firmly entrenched in Gotham. He’s at a point after Scott [Snyder’s] run in 'Detective Comics' where his confidence is at an all time high. Being Batman forced him to come back to Gotham in a more permanent way and deal with the city he’d avoided, as it used his fears against him. It created a twisted version of him – the adopted son of Gotham who comes back – in James Jr. One was forged by Gotham, the other was ruined by it. So now, Dick's at a point where he's much better and stronger because of that experience. So why would he leave? The city needs him. He knows it better than anyone and in some ways better than Bruce."
But as across the rest of the DCU, there are a few newer threats on hand in Grayson's immediate future. "At the forefront of everything I want to do involves the villains – the twisted inversions that the city is going to throw at him," the writer said. "In a lot of ways, what's going to happen in my first arc and the mystery that deals with Dick as well as his past, will help create several new villains… although it won’t be in the way you expect. I would also say that I'm a huge fan of James Jr. After what Scott did with him, I have some ideas that I would love to develop. He’s a fantastic character, and one that I think challenges Dick in very unique ways."
And fans picking up the issue this week would do well to remember that Higgins isn't only writing "Nightwing" but another ongoing New 52 book starring one of Dick's worst adversaries: "Deathstroke." Could an eventual crossover be in the cards? "I'll be honest, I'm still sorting out what Deathstroke’s past relationship with Nightwing actually is," Higgins admitted. "Slade's past is changed, and he doesn’t really have that strong connection to the Teen Titans anymore. So while I definitely want to do a crossover between Deathstroke and Nightwing, I also want to wait for the right time and the right story. But I promise it'll be big, whenever it comes. It'll be really big."
Stay tuned to CBR this week for a look inside Higgins "Deathstroke" ongoing.