‘Nightwing’ Writer Kyle Higgins on Redefining and Relocating Dick Grayson [Interview]
One of the relatively few DC Comics writers to be well into the second year of his original New 52 gig, Kyle Higgins has big plans for Nightwing, the original Robin who many fans think of as the first born son of the DC Universe; the younger readers’ original counterpart in Batman’s world of mystery, danger and adventure. But as Higgins explains in an interview conducted just ahead of Nightwing #18’s release this week, defining Dick Grayson by his relationship to the Batman has its dramatic drawbacks. Teaming with artist Brett Booth for what’s intended to be another long stretch of issues, Higgins aspires to define Nightwing as his own man with his own mythology, cast and indeed city. Issue #19 will see the superhero relocate to Higgins’ hometown of Chicago on a mission that has major emotional weight for the young hero.
Click ahead to read what Higgins had to say about the future of Nightwing, but not before you read issue #18. On sale now and drawn by Juan Jose Ryp, the issue concludes with a major revelation that will drive the action in Nightwing for the foreseeable future. In other words, SPOILER ALERT.
ComicsAlliance: So Bret Booth and your new storyline begin in next month’s Nightwing #19, but there’s a new issue out this week. Presumably that deals with the recent death of Damian Wayne Robin.
Kyle Higgins: Obviously issue #18 deals with the events of Batman, Incorportated #8 in a certain way– specifically the fallout of Damian’s death. As it relates to Dick Grayson, Damian was something of a light at the end of the tunnel for Dick. Having just gone through all the chaos and all these tragic events [in previous Nightwing issues], Damian is the one who was there for Dick like a brother. He was the one who essentially said, “You can lean on me if you have to.” Just when things were looking up for Dick, Damian was taken from him as well. So issue #18 is about Dick finding the resolve to pull himself out of this. It’s manifested in the way Dick stops the dealer who’s trying to sell Dick’s father’s Flying Graysons costume, which has been Jokerized. But just as Dick finds that resolve to get some closure on Damian, Sonia Zucco lets slip the bombshell that her father [Tony Zucco, the murderer of Dick’s parents] is still alive and living under an alias in Chicago.
CA: Ah ha. Hence Nightwing’s relocation to Chicago.
KH: Exactly. Issue #19 is the beginning of the Chicago arc. As far as Dick is concerned, it’s a one-and-done deal. He’s here to find the man who killed his parents. Tony being alive is an interesting dynamic for a few reasons. Firstly, he’s the man who really changed the course of Dick’s life forever. He’s the man that took Dick’s parwents from him. But also in the aftermath of all of this tragedy having struck Dick in recent months, Tony being alive and at large is something Dick can actually control. It’s something Dick can actually deal with. That’s very appealing at this point in his life.
CA: Why send Nightwing to another city? For the story purposes, why is Zucco in Chicago and not in Gotham City?
KH: Well clearly Zucco likes deep dish pizza and is a fan of the Bears. I really didn’t have a choice in that matter. But on a serious note, there are a couple of reasons. The first is primarily because… being a character in the New 52 and being involved in a lot of the crossovers, I’ve started to feel like we’ve been establishing a ceiling for Nightwing in the way that he is being defined by his relationship to Batman and the way that he fits into some of the crossovers. One of the things I really want to do going forward is find a way to define Dick Grayson and Nightwing in a way that the fact that he was Robin is just one aspect of his life. Not the overreaching defining trait about him. I think if you ask most people to describe Nightwing in two or three sentences, the first thing they’re going to say is, “Well, he used to be Robin, but now he’s grown up and he’s his own guy.” What I’m looking to do is develop a mythology, a cast and a rogues gallery and a world for Dick Grayson and for Nightwing that is centered on the fact that he was a circus performer who watched his parents fall to their deaths when Tony Zucco cut the trapeze wire, and now his motivating force as Nightwing is he wants to catch people when they fall. In order to do that, I feel like we have to tell the story outside of Gotham City.
KH: There’s also the logistics aspect of it. If you’re going to set a story in Gotham City, there is a logistical feeling that you’re up against in terms of how big the story can ever get or how terrifying the villain can ever be. At a certain point the reader tends to ask, “Why isn’t Batman getting involved?” That point speaks to what I was saying, the ceiling of defining Dick and Nightwing by his relationship with Batman.
CA: How is Chicago different for Nightwing in terms of being a masked superhero? Are there even any other superheroes in Chicago?
KH: There used to be heroes in the city. There were a handful of heroes and masked vigilantes several years ago. There are no longer “masks” in the city. They’re actually all dead. That’s a story point and a history that we’ll be developing, as Nightwing is the first “mask” to show up in in the Windy City in some time. We’ll start to draw that out and perhaps see some characters from that old group.
CA: And as far as Dick Grayson’s personal life is concerned?
KH: Most of the money he had burned up [in a previous story]. So now he’s heading to the city with, as the first issue of the arc puts it, “two pennies and a Nightwing suit to his name.” He’ll be subletting an apartment for a few weeks or months, depending on how long he’s going to be in Chicago for Zucco. And when the Nightwing suit gets torn up he’s going to have to figure out how to fix it. It’s definitely much more of an everyman approach to the character. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, ways to make him more relatable. That’s also another reason why I chose Chicago. I chose a real city because I think that setting helps ground the story in a way that readers can relate to.
CA: And it helps that you’re from Chicago, right?
KH: Oh, that wasn’t a factor at all…
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CA: And you’re working with Bret Booth on this story, he’s the new ongoing artist, right?
KH: Yes. Bret comes on with issue #19. His style is very much geared towards a character like Nightwing. It’s very expressive, very energetic. It’s a collaboration that’s been very rewarding for me personally. Bret and I talk a lot, we go through every story together. He’s someone I can call when I get stuck on something and we talk through it. He’s also someone who doesn’t sleep. The dude is so fast, it’s really very impressive! He’s working on the third issue of the run right now and we’ve got plans for a long tenure on the book. Knock on wood.