The entire world ended and started over, with some changes as small as the splash of color on a dark costume and some as large as revamped origins, characters and relationships disappearing, changed allegiances and even entire cities reborn.A year and a half later, and Kyle Higgins is still writing his all-time favorite character - and he still can't believe it. As Nightwing goes into issue 19 and beyond, the character has gone through some major strife of late. He found out he was supposed to be a Talon of the Court of Owls, had his "little brother" die, has been beaten and tortured, betrayed by his mentor and father figure Bruce Wayne, and has lost a lot of what defined him as both a person and a hero. And Higgins isn't letting up, as the man that killed Dick Grayson's parents, Tony Zucco, re-emerges in the New 52, still alive and well, prompting a move to Chicago to hunt him down. We spoke with Higgins about the move, the mourning of Damian Wayne, and what to expect from the next few months of Nightwing, and have some new art from incoming artist Brett Booth along for the ride. Newsarama: Kyle, you deal with the loss of a partner in a unique way, as Damian was both a partner and a little brother in a very real way; you called Damian Dick's "light at the end of the tunnel," and of course Dick seemed the most affected by the betrayal of Bruce in Death of the Family. Is there a danger in seeing his move to Chicago him "running away?"
Kyle Higgins: I think there's definitely a risk of that, if you don't do it in the right way. That's something I was definitely aware of as I was moving in this direction. The reason he's going to Chicago, as we've now revealed, is that Tony Zucco is still alive.
Tony Zucco, the man who killed Dick's parents, is living under an alias in the Windy City. So, he's moving across the country for a very specific reason. Also, in the wake and aftermath of all these events that have been occurring in Dick's life - these things that have been out of his control or have made him feel powerless at times - the Court of Owls reveal, Amusement Mile & the Joker, the Circus leaving him, Damian dying - Tony Zucco represents something that he can very actively solve in his mind. He also is the person who really set Dick's life on the trajectory to where it is now.
Nrama: Dealing directly with Damian, it seemed like Nightwing worked very well with a sidekick/partner. Is that something you think he'd ever explore again? What are the advantages for you as a writer when he has a second hero around to play off of?
Higgins: I think the dynamic between Dick and Damian was a lot of fun. Damian is a blast to write - or he was anyway. I got to tackle him a little bit in Gates of Gotham, and then there in Nightwing, and he was always a lot of fun to play around with. I think he provides an interesting foil to Dick Grayson. I think if Dick were ever going to explore a sidekick of his own, I think the dynamic would have to be just right.
I think it's something he'd definitely be open to. I think he's someone that what he does stems from his love for people. That all stems from the fact that he was born into performing - he was under spotlights from a very young age. So yes, it's definitely something that he'd be open to, but it's finding the right dynamic and the right story. But it's something he's good at, I will say that.
Nrama: Well, you have a new artist joining you, what is it like working with Brett Booth, and are there any specific strengths of his you've noticed so far, specifically in dealing with this very personal story for Dick?
Higgins: Well Brett's style is very energetic. There's a lot of kineticism behind his art, and that works very well when you're dealing with a character like Nightwing, who is an acrobat. Visually, what sets him apart from the other Bat-family members is that sense of energy and how great he is in the air. That's totally one of Brett's strengths and something I'm writing for a lot more.
Just as a collaborator, Brett's been fantastic. We talk through every story. Brett's written before as well, so it is definitely a partner-in-crime that I can bounce things off of and work together with him. He's drawing issue 3 of the run right now, and the pages look great! I'm excited for people to check him out.
Nrama: I think one of the things fans have responded to with your run with Nightwing is that all of the villains you've pitted the hero against have also been very personal for Dick Grayson. Why is that important for the character, what stands out about Nightwing that makes him so much more interlocked with his civilian identity, versus Batman with Bruce Wayne for example?Higgins: Well, I think a lot of that stems from, again, Dick's upbringing in the circus as a performer. I think there's the fact that from a very young age, his performance persona and his own persona have been intertwined. Whereas Bruce as Batman evolved those separate identities much later in life, relatively speaking.
I also think the biggest difference, the biggest reason why it's so intertwined is because Dick genuinely loves what he does. That's not to say Bruce doesn't - but Dick loves helping people. It's about individuals for Dick Grayson. That's why his Nightwing live, his Dick Grayson life, are very similar in that way. Everything in Dick Grayson's life, as we've been exploring the last couple months, is motivated by people, by the relationships in his life. And as Nightwing, he wants to catch people as they fall. I think that's why you see that interlocking there.
Nrama:To that end will we see him trying to establish a real life for Dick and not just the superhero ID when he makes the move to Chicago?
Higgins: Yes, actually, definitely. Right now, in the story, as far as Dick is concerned, he's moving to Chicago for one reason and one reason only, and that's to find and take down Tony Zucco. After that, he thinks he'll be back in Gotham and back to the life he's set up there. But, within this first arc, he's more or less penniless, he has very little money after what's happened to him. So he is subletting an apartment with a roommate, he has one Nightwing suit - it's much more of the "everyman" approach with Dick. So how that will develop as far as his personal life is concerned, will be very much dictated by how the Tony Zucco story plays out.
Nrama: Nightwing has of course left Gotham and gone off on his own in the past - what makes that a natural move for the character, why is it something he repeatedly does?
Higgins: I think there are two answers to that. First is that it's in the character's nature. He grew up on the road, going from city to city, from town to town. He never really laid roots, that's how he lived his entire life.
However, in this specific instance, again I just want to stress, he's leaving Gotham for a very specific reason. This is the guy that really changed his life, for the better and for the worse, depending on how you look at it. As far as Dick is concerned, this guy was dead. So the fact that Zucco is still alive and out there is a pretty natural reason for Dick to uproot at this time.
Nrama: Having spent a year and a half with this character, what has surprised you the most about Dick Grayson and Nightwing?
Higgins: The fan base! I always knew it was loyal, but it is fiercely loyal. It's much stronger than I was aware, and I'm a huge Dick Grayson and Nightwing fan.
I would say what surprised me the most though is the fact that I'm still getting paid to write my favorite character (laughs). I wake up every day and I have to remind myself that this is a job!
Nrama: Anything else you want to tease to get people excited for this arc?
Higgins: No, I think that's about it right now! Issue 19, we really hit the ground running. I just want to thank people for reading the book up to this point and anyone who jumps on with issue 19, welcome!
Nrama: And of course after this arc - after Joker, Damian, Bruce's betrayal, finding out Zucco's alive - after this arc we get an issue where Nightwing just goes roller-skating and pets puppies, right?
Higgins: (laughs) Oh totally, totally. He'll roller-skate with a puppy.