There have been 5 different people serving as Batman’s sidekick, Robin (not including Carrie Kelley). Though with the New 52, who knows how many now. The one that many people still associate with the role is Dick Grayson, the first Robin. Grayson has been a fan favorite for years, and personally one of my own as well. What’s always interested me about him, is that he seems to be the only character, DC or otherwise, that’s grown and evolved. Granted, DC has showcased many legacy characters (Wally West taking over for Barry Allen as the Flash for example), but he’s always been uniquely different.
Dick’s origin is pretty well known. Part of an acrobatic family act named “The Flying Graysons”, Dick was only a boy when his parents were murdered. Gangster Tony Zucco sabotaged a safety rope his parents were using that night to perform. Zucco was trying to extort money from the circus owner. His parents fall to their death in front of the audience, one that included Bruce Wayne. Bruce arranged to have the boy be placed in his custody as a ward of the state. Bruce saw himself in the young boy and wanted to offer him the chance to avenge their murder. And thus his training began.
For 40 years Dick held the role of Robin. It wasn’t until the 1980’s when things began to change. Writer Dennis O’Neal and artist Neil Adams set about repairing the damage done to Batman from the campy Adam West show. These two are largely responsible for the dark, brooding Batman we have today. The first thing they did was shuttle Dick off to college, removing the child like image of the book. Eventually, Dick became the leader of the Teen Titans. During his tenure as leader, he had a falling out with Bruce, and quit his status as the Boy Wonder. In an earlier adventure, Batman and Robin went to the Kryptonian city in a bottle of Kandor where they met a hero named Nightwing. This where Dick took his namesake from. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, this origin was retconned slightly with Superman telling him the story of Nightwing from his home planet.
As Nightwing, Dick continued to lead the Titans until the series ended. Dick was mostly seen in the background without a series of his own. After Bane broke the Bat, and Bruce returned to take the mantle back from Jean-Paul (Azrael), Bruce still needed time away from Gotham. He finally asked Dick to take over. Reluctantly, Dick accepted. The “Prodigal” story line was fun. Dick was always meant to take over for Bruce. It was interesting seeing him in this role as he did it out of loyalty, not want.
Eventually Bruce returned. After a few popular mini-series, Dick was given his own solo series from writer Chuck Dixon in 1996. This was an amazing series. Moving from Gotham to Blüdhaven, Dick struck out on his own, becoming a police officer during the day. Dixon wrote the first 70 issues becoming one of my favorite series. With this, and the Robin (Tim Drake) series, Dixon nailed the characterization for both. Hunt down issue 25 of Nightwing (Vol 2) – one of my favorite single issues. I promise this will instantly hook you.
Dan Dido announced that Dick was set to die after Infinite Crisis with recently resurrected Jason Todd set to take over as Nightwing. Fans lost their mind and Dick was spared, though it was obvious DC didn’t know what to do with him for years. Whatever spark he had under Dixon was gone. After Batman died at the hands of Darkseid in Final Crisis, Dick took the mantle once again, though there were many vying for the cowl. He took a new sidekick, Bruce’s son Damian Wayne as Robin. The relationship between these two sons of Bruce was interesting. Damian had a lot of anger, something Bruce wasn’t well equipped to handle, though Dick was able to temper.
Bruce returned, though Dick stayed on as Batman for Gotham while Bruce set up Batman, Inc. across the globe. The New 52 struck though, and Dick was removed from the cowl. I wanted more stories with Dick as Batman. Read Scott Snyder’s Detective Comics “The Black Mirror” and you’ll see why. Now, under the New 52, Dick is Nightwing again, though his costume is red and black instead of blue and black.
It’s worth mentioning that Dick has had a relationship with just about every female in the DCU. He nearly married Titan teammate Starfire, proposed to Barbara Gordon (not really sure how that one fell through), and was with Donna Troy for a while as well. Just to name a few.
After Forever Evil, the first big story in DC’s New 52, Dick’s quit being Nightwing after being outed to the world by the Crime Syndicate. Now, after faking his own death, he’s become a covert operative in a new series.
Obviously I had a lot to say about about Nightwing. He’s one of my favorite characters not only because of the humanity he has, but because he actually enjoys what he’s doing. He smiles when he wears the cowl. That and Chuck Dixon. Read those trades.
What’s your favorite Nightwing story? Rather he was Batman? Comment below!
Chuck Dixon is what the New 52 needs.