Since Kyle Higgins relaunched Nightwing as part of the New 52, the character has traveled all over the country, and his latest adventure has him on the streets of Chicago, tracking down the mystery of Tony Zucco.
But it's looking like Dick Grayson's move to Chicago is becoming permanent, as the title adds supporting characters and lays down roots there. (And Chicago is, notably, Higgins' hometown, which has allowed the writer to ground the story in a DC version of reality that feels familiar to anyone who's visited the city, utilizing landmarks like Wrigley Field and Hancock tower.)
While the comic has moved, the creative team is also making a change in October, when artist Will Conrad becomes the new series artist. The core of the story has also been changing gears in Dick Grayson's life, as he hunts for the previously-thought-dead Tony Zucco, his parents' killer.
The comic will finish up its first Chicago-based storyline in October, then will tie in to Batman: Zero with a story about young Dick Grayson's past. (DC has announced that several comics will tie-in to Zero Year, including Action Comics, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Corps, Batgirl, Batwing, Catwoman, Detective Comics, Birds of Prey, and Nightwing).
Newsarama spoke with Higgins about his Zero Year tie-in, the comic's change to Chicago, and what else he's got coming for Nightwing in the coming year.
Newsarama: Kyle, you've had Dick in Chicago a few months, and we're been getting introduced to the Prankster and the threat of Tony Zucco. What sort of themes are you exploring with Nightwing by putting him in this new world, taking him out of Gotham City?
Kyle Higgins: The idea to move cities came out of necessity for me, as a writer looking at the character that I've been working with for the last year and a half (and that's I've been a huge fan of for the last 15 years). I feel like we got to a place where, when we were done with the "Owl" crossovers and the "Joker" crossover, I had an opportunity to take Nightwing in his own direction again.
And one of the things that I became very aware of while doing the crossovers is that, as much fun as it is to play with the dynamic between Dick and Bruce, you have to be very careful that you're not defining the character by that dynamic. If I were to ask you to explain to me who Nightwing is, as if I know nothing, the first thing you're going to open with is, he used to be Robin. And that dynamic is further perpetuated the more that he is in Batman's shadow, the more that he's working with Batman, the more that his character arc is built on what his relationship with Bruce Wayne is each month.
So I was trying to figure out a way to give him his own world again that had the potential to build a supporting cast and a rogues gallery that is inherent to him.
The circus was inherent to him, obviously. So keeping that in mind, it led me down the path of Tony Zucco, which is the ultimate villain for Dick Grayson, in that he's the man who created him, you know?
From there, that became the reason to move him to a new city, the search for the man who kind of created him.
Nrama: And that includes The Prankster?
Higgins: Yes. The Prankster is part of building this new Nightwing world. The Prankster and Nightwing didn't have anything in common before, then he shows up in Chicago. Now, based on their interactions, the Prankster is very much not going to be a fan of Nightwing going forward.
He's a villain now that, there's a personal vendetta or grievance with Nightwing at the end of this arc.
It's all about building this world.
Nrama: But how connected will he be with Gotham going forward?
Higgins: Those relationships that he's made before coming to Chicago will still factor into Nightwing's story. This doesn't negate that part of his life or anything. And you'll see him interacting with people from the Bat-world a lot.
Nrama: But they won't define him as a character anymore.
Higgins: Yeah, I want them to be factors in the story and not the defining characteristics.
Nrama: You mentioned the end of the story arc. When does this story finish up?
Higgins: The end of the arc comes with issue #24, which is out in October.
We have a month off in September because of Villains Month taking over the DC Universe. So there's no Nightwing issue in September.
But we're back in October with Nightwing #24, which is the final issue of this first arc in Chicago.
Nrama: Then you also have an annual in the last week of October. What's the story you're telling in that comic?
Higgins: It's Nightwing and Batgirl. It will take place in... well, I don't want to say where it will take place. I love Barbara and Dick together.
Like I said, the dynamic of the relationships Dick has with the other Bat-characters are still there. They're not going away, even though we're changing cities.
It's a story about them working together again, even in the midst of all this crazy stuff happening in both of their lives.
It's going to touch on their relationship. It's fun to be able to write another story with Batgirl. We had her in issue #4 in a cool story down in Florida. And I had a lot of fun doing it. And when DC asked me to do an annual that focused on them, it sounded like it could be fun.
Nrama: And it will deal with the revelations at the end of this story arc in Nightwing and in the current Batgirl arc?
Higgins: Yes. Definitely.
At the end of this arc, where things end, it makes sense that Dick and Barbara would interact. It all dovetails really nicely.
Nrama: And DC just announced you're working with Will Conrad beginning in October. What's he bringing to the project?
Higgins: Will is great. I've known his work for awhile now, and the stuff he was doing on Red Lanterns was gorgeous. And when we were able to get him on Nightwing, it was a big sigh of relief for me. I knew we were going to be in good hands.
The couple issues Will has done now are gorgeous.
Plus, because we're setting the book in a real place, it's fun to see what Will is doing with the city of Chicago. It's been really, really cool. It's got a nice grounded feel. His Nightwing is energetic and fun. It's just a blast.
We work really well together, and I'm looking forward to people seeing Will's Nightwing.
Nrama: You've also got a Zero Year tie-in coming up in Nightwing. I assume that takes place in the same time period as Batman: Zero Year, which means it's before Bruce Wayne even becomes Batman. So what is the Nightwing story about?
Higgins: It's a fun story that I pitched that actually follows a night that Dick and his parents are out at the movies. Because of the timing of Zero Year, it takes place a year before Dick's parents died. So I wanted to do something with the Flying Graysons in Gotham City, and something that would be a lot of fun.
Obviously, things go wrong. A normal night out turns into a very abnormal night out. And it's just a fun adventure story.
Nrama: Then to finish up, can you tell readers what's going to be going on in Nightwing after this storyline finishes up, and through the rest of 2013?
Higgins: Characters we've already established in Chicago in the last few issues will be changing and coming back in different forms. Dick Grayson's world is only going to continue to grow and become much richer in the Windy City.