‘Nightwing’ Director Chris McKay Explains Why the DCU Needs Dick Grayson
I’m going to confess something: I don’t really understand the logic behind a Nightwing movie. It’s not that I don’t like the character. As a teenager, I was fascinated with the strained relationships that Dick Grayson and Tim Drake had with their mentor Bruce Wayne, and any Batman comic where the past and present Robins fought crime together without Batman’s involvement was a must-own for me. As a 13-year-old, Grayson seemed like the cool camp counselor who would talk to you like you were already an adult. He was the best.
But so much of Nightwing’s character is dictated by an adolescence spent fighting crime alongside Batman, not to mention his contentious decision to make his own path in the world. Why green-light a Nightwing movie before we’ve even gotten a solo The Batman movie off the ground? For better or for worse, though, this is happening, and Nightwing director Chris McKay recently went on the Shanlian On Batman podcast (via ComingSoon.net) to discuss his own feelings for the character and why he deserves his own film:
Bruce Wayne in my mind came from privilege and I think that’s why he’s more dour and angry. He’s self-made as far as his becoming all of these cool things we like him for… Dick Grayson didn’t come from that… He’s got some of the same negatives as Bruce Wayne and then from a society standpoint — obviously he was adopted into Bruce Wayne’s life… but he didn’t start that way.
To McKay’s credit, there is absolutely a place for a superhero movie that explores the importance of class. It’s not an accident that many of the self-taught superheroes happen to come from billionaire families that can support a life of crime-fighting; without his family fortune, the anger that drive Bruce Wayne would probably have landed him in juvenile prison, not the Justice League of America. Nightwing does offer McKay an opportunity to say something about privilege as it pertains to vigilante justice, and if done right, there’s a lot cultural anxiety surrounding this issue that McKay and company could tap into.
That being said, unless the Nightwing film is prepared to operate almost entirely in flashbacks, I fear it would be a film without a foundation. You don’t need to walk audiences through every bit of back story regarding Grayson’s upbringing at Wayne Manor, but Nightwing as a superhero doesn’t work without the shadow of Batman looming over everything he does. Grayson’s struggle for independence requires a little bit of Batman, and who knows if Warner Bros. is going to have anything resembling a viable Batman franchise by the time they start production on Nightwing? Still seems a little bit like putting the cart before the horse to me.