HIGGINS: NIGHTWING's Seismic Shift in DEATH OF THE FAMILY

Dick Grayson is back home in Gotham City after the events of "Night of the Owls," creating a positive life for himself and the residents of his hometown with a revitalization plan and a vision for the future.

But that doesn't fit with someone else's plans:

The Joker.

Beginning in issues #15 and #16 of Nightwing, series writer Kyle Higgins is creating what he hopes will be a monumental yet emotional showdown between Dick Grayson and Joker.

 

This week, the writer is also establishing the new official history of Dick Grayson in Nightwing #0, which focuses on the character's origin story. This month sees the origins of all three former Robins getting a focus, with Dick in Nightwing #0, Tim Drake in Teen Titans #0 and Jason Todd in Red Hood and the Outlaws #0.

Nightwing, which Higgins launched last year as part of DC's reboot, has recently re-established the title character back in Gotham after he was traveling with Haly's Circus. The #12 issue teased an upcoming showdown with Lady Shiva, which will take place in issues #13 and #14 by fill-in writer Tom DeFalco and artist Andres Guinaldo.

But Higgins and regular artist Eddy Barrows return in December for Nightwing #15, just in time for "Death of the Family," the Bat-family event spinning out of Scott Snyder's Batman story featuring Joker.

While Newsarama has already talked to Batgirl writer Gail Simone about Joker's "collision" with Barbara Gordon, and just got details about the villain's clash with Tim Drake and Jason Todd from Scott Lobdell, we now turn our attention to Dick Grayson.

 

What's coming for Nightwing as he battles the Joker? Newsarama asked Higgins and found out the confrontation causes some "seismic shifts" for Dick Grayson and the Nightwing title.

Newsarama: Kyle, this week's #0 issue looks like it's an origin for Dick Grayson. Is this going to give us his back-story in the New 52?

Kyle Higgins: It's the story of Dick Grayson becoming a superhero, which means Robin. It's the origin of the first Robin. It includes where the name comes from and where the decision to work with Batman comes from. And while it's a story that a lot of people are going to recognize, there are some new wrinkles to it, particularly on the emotional level, where we start to get into who Dick Grayson is and the way that he is always looking forward and never back. And you'll see what that means when something tragic happens, like his parents dying.

It was a very interesting opportunity to juxtapose Dick and Bruce, who are very similar in the way that they're both products of a tragic event, but they went about dealing with it in different ways.

That's the crux of the issue.

It's also setting up some threads with Lady Shiva, who Tom DeFalco will be doing a two-part story with, in issues #13 and #14. And Tom also worked with me on the #0 issue.

 

Yeah, so this sets up the next storyline while also establishing the origin of Robin in the New 52. It's exciting. I'm looking forward to seeing what people think of it.

Nrama: It's interesting that you say Dick is always looking forward, because in the last storyline, you really had him take what was essentially a negative for him with Haly's Circus and turn it into something for the future of Gotham with Amusement Mile. And the story even tied into the "Republic of Tomorrow." That was all part of this "looking forward" idea?

Higgins: Yeah, that's my whole approach to him as a character. It's a combination of story as well as who he is as a person. "Looking forward and not dwelling" is representative of the future and of tomorrow and the mindset that things will always be better in the morning. It's optimism.

The last arc, that was something that I really wanted to play with.

In Gotham, it's been established that Amusement Mile is this location where terrible things have happened. But it used to be something positive. So Dick's hope for that revitalization is going to be developing for the next couple issues.

But yes, that's the approach I've been taking with him, as he tries to shape the future in Gotham City.

Nrama: As you mentioned, there's a two-issue story arc by Tom DeFalco. Why is he filling in for a couple issues?

Higgins: Because the Joker issues are so important and so big, the decision was made to give me a chance to get ahead on them and jump forward and set some things up, as well as develop pretty in depth what's coming after the Joker story.

 

The Joker story is really a huge turning point and changes a lot of things. When you see what happens during "Death of the Family," it will be much clearer why there was a need and a desire for me to jump forward and spend a lot of time developing everything coming out of that.

Nrama: In the New 52, what is the mindset of this Dick Grayson toward Joker. And who is Dick Grayson or Nightwing to the Joker?

Higgins: Who Nightwing is to Joker is an interesting question. And that really taps into what Scott is doing in Batman, and what all of us are doing in our books.

The Joker has a very specific opinion on the Bat-family. As that relates to every individual member of the family, there are slight twists on it.

I know I'm being quite cryptic. But I'll just say that the Joker has a very particular opinion of Nightwing, but I don't want to get into what it is, because it would give a lot away.

But Nightwing's opinion of Joker is pretty much what you would expect and what's been seen before. He recognizes that this is probably the most deadly and threatening villain in Batman's rogues’ gallery. So he's not taking the Joker lightly.

And the second that Nightwing hears that the Joker is back, it puts him into a Defcon-5 mode to expect the unexpected. Like I said, he's not taking it lightly.

Nrama: Are you working pretty closely with Scott Snyder on "Death of the Family?"

Higgins: Yeah. I flew out to New York back in May, and we had a little powwow in the DC offices between myself and Scott and Pete Tomasi and James Tynion IV, who's doing all the back-ups in Batman as well as launching Talon. And then Gail [Simone] and Scott Lobdell were conference called in.

 

And we all worked pretty closely developing this story and what the particular pieces were going to be.

Even coming out of that, I've been working pretty closely with Scott, and I wouldn't have it any other way. It's a lot of fun.

That said, Scott's given me a ton of freedom — as he's given all of us really — to make this a story unique to Nightwing. His only mandate was: Make it the scariest, most impactful Joker story that you've ever seen for your character.

What's so exciting for me is, aside from a couple instances, I can't think of a really big Nightwing/Joker story. The moment that comes to mind would be during, what Last Laugh by Chuck Dixon. It was a big crossover where Nightwing killed the Joker.

Nrama: Yeah, yeah, and Batman brings him back.

Higgins: Yeah, so that's only big one in recent memory that I could point to.

Nrama: Are you having fun writing the Joker as you delve into your "Death of the Family" issues?

Higgins: Yeah, and I have a very specific version of the Joker that I like, and so it was fun to start working on that. And I plan to tell a huge story that will be lasting. I know it has big ramifications. But I hope that, when people think of Nightwing versus the Joker, this is the one that they'll think about.

Nrama: How many issues is your tie-in to "Death of the Family?"

Higgins: It's two issues: #15 and #16. And issues #13 and #14 have some set-up and development for my Joker story. I coordinated with Tom a little, giving him a heads up about some of the plot points I needed set up for the Joker story.

 

And then there will be some fall-out for several issues afterward.

Nrama: That sounds dire.

Higgins: That is certainly one word you could use to describe it.

Nrama: We've seen some changes in artists for Nightwing over the last year. Who's the artist on Nightwing going forward, especially during "Death of the Family?"

Higgins: While I'm off the book for a couple issues, Andres Guinaldo is doing the art for issues #13 and #14. That was done so Eddy Barrows could spend a lot of time on these upcoming Joker issues.

So to answer your question, Eddy is doing issues #15 and #16 during "Death of the Family."

Nrama: We got to see you write Damian Wayne in issue #11. Will we be seeing some of the other Bat-family characters during "Death of the Family," or any of your issues over the coming months?

Higgins: Yes, definitely. Barbara is in my issues of "Death of the Family." There may be something with Damian coming after that. I still want to write Tim. I haven't written Tim yet in Nightwing, and I'm trying to work him into some stuff after the Joker issues. We'll see if it works out.

 

I never want to use a character just to use them. I want to make sure there's a reason for them to be there, whether it be emotionally or thematically to what Dick is going through. So that's why I've been careful where I've brought people in so far in the series.

Nrama: It sounds like you've really planned what's coming for Dick. To finish up, can you give us a few words to describe what's coming for Nightwing in 2013?

Higgins: There will be seismic shifts coming out of the Joker story. Big things are coming for Nightwing, and there will be big changes ahead for Dick Grayson.

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