Nightwing: In the shadow of the bat – a character 101
Nightwing, also known as Dick Grayson, is already one of DC comics’ most popular non-flagship characters, and with rumors of an upcoming live action film and the upcoming Titans TV he’s poised to become an even bigger star.
Dick Grayson started his comic book adventures as the original Robin, palling around with Batman in the campy crime fighting days of the 1960s. When his family is murdered at the hands of a mobster, Dick is taken in as a ward by Bruce Wayne where he eventually becomes Batman’s sidekick Robin. As a member of the acrobat family The Flying Graysons, hero work came naturally to Dick. His heightened speed, agility, and reflexes coupled with Batman’s training made him an instant success, eventually allowing him to lead a team of sidekicks called the Teen Titans.
By the 1980s, shifting tastes had altered the comic book market. Characters and creators alike had grown up and Dick Grayson was no exception. Although still partnering with Batman under the Robin moniker, he is eventually approached by the enigmatic hero Raven who recruits Robin to join a team of teenaged heroes.
Robin now assumes leadership of the New Teen Titans and begins to grow as a solo character away from the leadership of Batman.
Eventually Dick Grayson finds himself at odds with the Robin name after being shot by the Joker. Seeing that Dick is no longer a child after this event, Batman officially ends Dick’s career as a sidekick so he can continue his work as leader of his team. Vowing now that he has seen too much to continue as Robin, Dick finds himself a hero without a name.
Uncertain of what to do next and at a crossroads in his crime fighting life, Dick turns to a familiar face in Superman. Dick, now at his most vulnerable, tells The Man of Steel his dilemma and even considers giving up the hero life altogether at one point. Knowing the hard life Dick has led, Superman tells him the legend of a Kryptonian who fights crime after being abandoned by his family.
The Kryptonian man had only one name: Nightwing.
Now a fully-fledged solo character with a name to call his own and with an increase in the character’s popularity, DC comics gave Nightwing his own solo miniseries in 1995. In this miniseries, Nightwing again considers retirement, but is given documents concerning his family’s murder by Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s butler. Through the documents, Nightwing discovers a death threat sent to his parents by Prince Balsik of the Duchy of Kravia.
Determined to find his parents’ killer he sets off for the small nation only to find it in the midst of a genocide at the hands of the Prince. Nightwing eventually becomes involved in the conflict and aids in ending the slaughter. In the process, he uncovers a devious plan which at first seems to include the murder of his parents but leads to a dead end.
Back in Gotham and with Nightwing no closer to solving the case of his murdered parents, he vows to continue fighting crime until the Grayson family murder can be solved.
Compounding on the success of his first miniseries, DC comics gave Nightwing his first solo ongoing series, and with it his very own city to patrol. At the request of Batman, Nightwing finds himself in Blüdhaven, a once backwater district of Gotham now booming with industry and crime alike. Nightwing is tasked with stopping a number of crimes linked to the villain Black Mask and his gang, but instead uncovers a vast conspiracy involving corrupt police, government officials, and organized crime led by Roland Desmond, the villain better known as Blockbuster.
Nightwing eventually resigns from solo superhero duty and instead opts to work with a team called the Outsiders in a move that would see Dick Grayson operating out of New York City for the next decade or so.
In 2008, a major shakeup happened in the Batfamily that saw Batman die in the Final Crisis event. Following Batman’s death, Nightwing relocates to Gotham and takes a renewed stance on crime fighting, and to raising Batman’s biological son, Damian.
Batman’s death hits Nightwing especially hard, and he is now seen by other members of the Batfamily as distant and cold. Throughout the aftermath of Final Crisis a power struggle for Batman’s cowl ensues which pits Nightwing against Jason Todd, a former Robin himself, in a battle for supremacy. Nightwing eventually wins out thus proving himself the superior former sidekick, and takes up the mantle of Batman temporarily.
2011’s New 52 relaunch saw the restart of DC comics’ entire monthly lineup. For Dick Grayson, this saw his return to the Nightwing character. To signify this change, the creative team of Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows gave the character the most drastic change to the costume thus far. The Nightwing symbol was changed from blue to red, and a bulkier body armor outfit was chosen instead of a skin tight unitard.
Another massive shakeup occurs in 2013 as part of a New 52 crossover event sees Nightwing’s alter ego Dick Grayson revealed to the entire world. Prior to this fact being leaked, however, Nightwing is captured by the Crime Syndicate and placed in Arkham Asylum with a bomb wired to a heart monitor that is set to go off should he be freed.
A massive rescue attempt occurs, which sees Lex Luthor, Superman’s arch-nemesis, stop Nightwing’s heart momentarily to deactivate the bomb. Realizing that the Nightwing code name is compromised, Batman asks Dick Grayson to go undercover in the spy organization Spyral.
DC’s newest relaunch, Rebirth, sees Dick back under the Nightwing banner after having infiltrated Spyral. The series debuted in 2016 and is an ongoing twice monthly book in which Nightwing deals with the events spiralling out from the Grayson book, as well as his ties to Blüdhaven, and past relationships with the Batfamily.
Nightwing’s popularity is poised to explode. With a potential film in the works, and the upcoming Titans TV show, more and more people are going to be exposed to an already fan favorite character with a rich history and complex relationships. When that day comes, look for Nightwing to once and for all step out of Batman’s shadow.
Image Credits: DC