For the month of August, we’re celebrating my personal favorite comic book character of all time, Nightwing!
While most people aren’t familiar with Dick Grayson’s alter ego Nightwing, most people know him as the original Robin, Batman’s trusty sidekick. Dick Grayson debuted in Detective Comics #38 in 1940, making him one of the oldest comic book characters still in publication. Many people would argue that one of the greatest weaknesses of superhero comics is stagnation, especially for characters who have been around long before most of us had been born. Captain America will always return to his status quo, Tony Stark will always be Iron Man and Superman will always be mild-mannered Clark Kent. Dick Grayson is one of the few examples of a character has been allowed to grow into a new identity and grow as a character. Dick Grayson’s progression from The Boy Wonder Robin, to Nightwing and eventually to taking on the mantle of Batman is a strong character arc for an amazing character.
Dick Grayson was the child of world-famous acrobats, The Flying Graysons. As a child, he participated in the show alongside his parents, performing death-defying stunts for Haly’s Circus. Mafia boss Tony Zucco attempted to extort the circus, but Haly stood his ground against the extortion. Because of this, Zucco sabotaged The Flying Grayson’s act, killing Dick’s parents. Bruce Wayne, who was attending the circus, took pity on Dick and adopted him as his ward. It was then that Dick Grayson adopted the mantle of Robin, fighting alongside Batman as his sidekick.
After years of fighting alongside Batman, Robin eventually struck it out on his own, when Dick took over as the leader of a group called the Teen Titans, a Junior Level Justice League. While the group first banded in 1964, Dick Grayson would eventually return to the group in 1980, following an estrangement with Batman. Tired of being defined under the shadow of Batman, Dick Grayson dropped the alias of Robin and sought out a new identity as his own hero. Inspired by a Kryptonian Legend that Superman shared with him, Dick adopted the title: Nightwing.
Dick Grayson bonded with Batman over losing his parents to a horrific crime at a young age, which is the same event that set Bruce Wayne on the path to become Batman. While Dick and Bruce suffered a similar tragedy, Dick is vastly different from Bruce in many ways. What sets Dick apart is his undying optimism, humor, leadership, and charm. Having brushed shoulders with all of the greats alongside Batman, Dick has established relationships with heroes across the DC roster. Unlike Batman, Nightwing values relationships with others and thrives in team settings. The name Nightwing was an homage to both Batman and Superman. While Dick has the same motivation that Batman has for fighting crime, he’s a much more well-adjusted and emotionally healthy character than Batman.
As his own hero, Nightwing moves to the city of Bludhaven, which becomes his home. Working as a police officer, Dick Grayson uses his crime fighting abilities as an officer of the law, as well as moonlighting as a vigilante.
Nightwing does not have any superpowers of his own, but he is at the peak of both human strength and endurance. Being trained by Batman provides a ton of benefits, and Dick is skilled enough to defeat Batman on a one-on-one fight. Many of Nightwing’s abilities are inspired by his circus performing past, which allow Dick to perform incredible acrobatic feats.
Nightwing is much less reliant on gadgets than Batman, since Nightwing doesn’t have access to billions of dollars like Bruce Wayne. Primarily, Nightwing relies on a pair of Eskrima Sticks for hand-to-hand combat, as well as modified Batarangs, which are dubbed Wing-Dings.
While Dick was introduced as Batman’s Sidekick in 1940, 70 years later he would eventually take up the mantle as Batman during Batman’s absence. Many were thrilled, as Dick had finally earned the cowl from his adopted father. While Dick Grayson’s tenure as Batman only lasted a few years, the impact was tremendous and many fans were disappointed at Bruce’s return. However, Dick returned to his role as Nightwing, and has continued to grow in his own right outside the shadow of Batman.
Nightwing by Chuck Dixon – This is the definitive Nightwing run. Chuck Dixon’s run brings Nightwing to his new home in Bludhaven as he sets off to become his own hero. Fighting against Blockbuster and his criminal mafia, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in getting to know the character!
Robin: Year One – While not a Nightwing book, this story is the best one out to get a glimpse into Dick Grayson’s early years as in crime-fighting as Robin, the Boy Wonder.
Batman and Robin by Grant Morrison – Following the disappearance of Batman, Dick Grayson takes on the role as Batman, alongside Bruce’s son Damian Wayne as his Robin. Containing some of the best Dick Grayson and Batman stories ever told, I can’t recommend this run enough.
Nightwing New 52 by Kyle Higgins – Once the New 52 rebooted the entire DC Universe, Dick Grayson returned to the role of Nightwing, this series is the best place to get caught up with the modern character, and this run includes a huge tie-in event for Grayson, The Court of Owls.
Grayson by Tim Seely – When Nightwing’s identity is revealed and the world believes he is dead, Dick Grayson goes undercover as a secret agent. This book is a ton of fun, and it highlights Dick’s character and charm. He works perfectly as a secret agent, and fans of the character will enjoy this run entirely.