Everybody’s talking about Nightwing.
He had his Dick Grayson identity revealed to the world as part of DC’s Forever Evil event. Word is that actor Adam Driver is going to be cast as the Dark Knight’s former sidekick in the Batman vs. Superman movie. And writer Kyle Higgins has been delivering one of DC’s most consistent titles since the start of the New 52 more than two years ago.
I talked with Higgins recently about his thoughts about the character, why he brought Tony Zucco into the story and the challenges of writing a character whose status in the DC Universe is changing right before him.
In this week’s GOTHAM TRIBUNE, I bring you Part 1 of my interview with Higgins — including a battery of exclusive preview art of Nightwing #25, a Zero Year tie-in that’s out tomorrow.
Why is Nightwing your favorite character?
Well, he’s been a character that I have followed and been a huge fan of since I was about 13 years old. I discovered him kind of coincidentally after I’d been watching all of the Bill Dozier Batman series and the Batman: The Animate Series, and, y’know Robin is on there and I always liked Robin. And then to discover that Dick Grayson had moved on and become his own person, I mean it grabbed me immediately.
That kind of idea of getting out from under his shadow and growing up is something I always responded to.
He’s also a character that I feel like you’d wanna go grab a beer with. The common kind of description of him is Batman without the baggage. Or Spider-Man, but with Batman look. And those are totally applicable.
For me though, he’s always been the most optimistic character tha I’ve read. So If you look at Batman more as the symbol of fear and built on the idea of vengeance, Nightwing to me is someone who is way more hopeful, is way more optimistic. And he does what he does not because he has to but because he likes it.
He saves people, and helps them, because it’s just that: They’re people.
He’s a born performer, grew up under a spotlight and so, y’know, flying fropm building to building is just a continuation of that. And from a very young age he has had a connection with people, and so that’s really where everything kind of stems from for him. And that’s some thing I just always found really interesting and inspiring.
Now, before you got your hands on him, who do you consider the writer who really understood the character the best?
Marv (Wolfman)’s stuff is obviously great. My favorite stuff, though, is the Chuck Dixon-Scott McDaniel stuff. … Like the first 25 issues, the first 25-30 issues … is stuff that really attracted me to the character. The first … 15 issues are really built on Dick’s relationship with Bruce, even when Bruce isn’t in the book, he’s kind of always permeating it. And so growing up, I really enjoyed that. I really liked that dynamic.
Having written the character now for 2 and 1/2 years, I see how limiting that can be creatively, as well as for the character. … It’s very easy to define the character based on his relationship with Batman because he was a Robin. The stuff that I respond to now, looking back at all the writers, like Marv’s stuff, is stories about the character where the fact that he was a Robin, that may be a component but it’s not the … the overwhelming point of it.
When Ed Brubaker took over Captain America, he brought Bucky back. He built a story for Bucky Barnes as the Winter Soldier that is so cool and is so interesting that the fact that he had been Bucky doesn’t even matter, you know what I mean? So now the core of that character going forward is not defined by the fact that he was Captain America’s kid sidekick, it’s defined by the fact that he was brainwashed into working against the country that he had loved and served, and turned into basically a Jason Bourne of the KGB.
I mean that’s fantastic, y’know?
It’s kind of some of the stuff that we’ve been trying to do a little bit with Nightwing in terms of bringing the circus back and making the circus a bigger part of his life, and even bringing Tony Zucco in.
I’m glad you brought that up because I was gonna ask: Was it your idea to bring back Tony Zucco and was it a concern that you were going too far messing with the history?
Well, everything that’s ever been said to me by DC is its the New 52 so it should be new. So when I threw that idea out there, it was received pretty favorably. Because, y’know, we can redo things if we want to — but there has to be a reason. I wanna catch myself there. It’s redo it just to redo it. What’s the story reason for it? At least that’s where I come from with it.
For Tony, the reason I brought him back speaks to the very points that I was just describing: Trying to build Nightwing as a book, and as a character, that is not reliant on the fact that he used to be Robin, or was tied in with Batman, is really hard to do. The man that killed his parents is a really nice starting point for that, especially since he only became Robin to hunt down Tony Zucco. And we haven’t seen it in the New 52, we haven’t seen the transition from Robin to Nightwing in the New 52 …
Are we going to?
Uhhh, it’s possible. It’s possible. But um, I like to think in my mind, at least, that it’s tied into Zucco in some way as well. Um, so everything really started with the circus for him. Bringing Zucco into the book kind of continues the circus angle of his life that makes him unique without having the circus actually in the series either.
So that’s really where it came from.
Now with the big reveal as part of Forever Evil, how much role have you had, in terms of, you know, what you’ve had to do now looking ahead and planning your book, knowing that there are going to be ramifications over here? How is that a challenge for you as a writer?
It’s hard. … It’s a challenge. That’s kind of the name of the job, though. You get a curveball every once in awhile, or another writer has an idea for a series or an event, and it’s your job as a writer in a shared universe to find interesting angles to explore, to explore that story point.
So, like I said, it’s challenging but it’s also, it could be really cool.
NEXT WEEK: Part 2, with Higgins’ pick for Dick’s true love, his favorite Nightwing outfit … and what’s coming up.
From the Batcomputer: Big Batweek on the racks! In addition to a look at Dick Grayson’s earlier days in Nightwing #25, there’s pixie-haircut Barbara Gordon in the Batgirl #25 Zero Year tie-in … and Batman #25, the latest installment of Zero Year itself from Snyder and Capullo. It’s the Riddler’s turn to turn Gotham upside down! Plus there’s Forever Evil: Arkham War (as well as sideline titles like Arkham Unhinged and Li’l Gotham.)
STATUE CONTEST UPDATE: We have a winner … to be announced soon!