KYLE HIGGINS Looks Back at DICK's Final Days As NIGHTWING

Nightwing #29
Credit: Nightwing #29
Credit: Nightwing #29

Now that DC has announced the new series Grayson, readers are realizing that Kyle Higgins might have written the last story about the solo hero Nightwing — at least for awhile.

Higgins, who's still involved in the Bat-universe with Batman Beyond 2.0 and Batman Eternal, wrapped up his almost three-year run on Nightwing in March.

After Higgins' departure, the title is being canceled after a final (and oft-delayed) post-Forever Evil issue #30 later this month.

Higgins launched the title in September 2011 as part of the New 52 reboot, re-introducing Dick Grayson as Nightwing after he had previously been wearing the Batman cowl.

The series redefined the character for the New 52 (complete with an origin story that linked him to the Court of Owls), while also breaking down the hero's unique role within the DC Universe.

Outside the Bat-universe, Higgins' next project is a much anticipated Image series called C.O.W.L., which creates a whole new universe of heroes in the city of Chicago.

Grayson #1 cover
Grayson #1 cover
Credit: DC Comics

But before he starts the next adventure in Chicago, we looked back with the writer on his last adventure with Nightwing (who actually finished his superhero career in Chicago). Newsarama talked to Higgins about the final issues of Nightwing, whether they tie into the new Grayson series, and how Mark Waid gave him advice that contributed to his approach to Dick Grayson in the New 52.

Newsarama: I'd like to talk to you about your last issue on Nightwing, issue #29, because it really showcased everything you were able to accomplish in the series. The theme that really came through was this idea of moving forward, even when the past keeps coming back (which is particularly interesting in light of the new series he'll be starring in later this year, presumably moving forward after the adversity of Forever Evil). So this idea of moving forward — do you think that's what your whole run on Nightwing was about?

Kyle Higgins: Yeah, yeah. My last issue gave me a lot of anxiety for a lot of reasons. It was difficult to figure out how to wrap this series that I'd been doing for almost three years The book took a lot of twists and turns along the way, as any book does, so I was wondering… how do you wrap it, when there's been so many different developments?

But it's funny, because when I was first writing the book, I'd never written an ongoing series before. And I was having a lot of trouble figuring out how to make an ongoing series work. And I reached out to Mark Waid at one point, just to talk about writing.

I asked all these questions, and he wrote back and said, "Honestly, you're making this way harder than you have to. You're over thinking this."

He said that themes tend to find themselves. He said you go into it, and you have some thematic concepts and motifs in mind, but in a lot of ways, it's not for you to say what the theme of your book is from the get-go. He talked specifically about his Flash run and how, looking back on it, the run was about family. But he's like, "I didn't start with that in mind."

And so, after that conversation, I let the book develop naturally. And when I went back and looked at everything, in preparation for these final couple issues, I found the theme — he's always looking forward, never back, even though the past keeps coming back. You can't outrun it, you know? That was there in everything I'd written.

I think there was a part of me that was conscious of doing that over the course of the series, but when I was thinking about how to end the series, I didn't consciously know until I looked back at what the theme had been.

So when I got into my final issue, I knew I wanted to parallel Dick's story with another young person's story, a person whom he's there to help.

At a certain point, I had the idea to structure it so that I could show what some of the important storylines in the series meant for the character, and also tie them into the overall journey of a survivor getting past the tragedy.

It just gelled really well. I fought with it for a little bit, but in the end, I couldn't be prouder of how the issue turned out. And [artist] Russell [Dauterman] and [colorist] Pete Pantazis and [letterer] Carlos Mangual did an amazing job on it.

I really can't say enough about Russell's work on my final issue, and the issue before it. I've been incredibly blessed with all the artists I worked with. I really hope Russell and I get to work together again. I think our sensibilities work really well together, and those issues would not be anywhere near the level that I think they turned out to be if it weren't for him. I would argue that the art is way more than 50 percent — it's not a shared collaboration. And Russell really drove this thing home. I get chills looking through the pages. So I was really, really lucky on the last couple issues, getting to work with him.

It really was an honor and a privilege to have gone out on that issue. It encompassed everything I feel about Dick Grayson, and everything I've ever wanted to say, in 20 pages — which is pretty cool.

Credit: Nightwing #29

Nrama: And that final line, about catching people when they fall… it was ideal for a character with Dick Grayson's origin, watching his parents fall.

Higgins: Yeah, that's something I've been sitting on for about a year now. When I really started digging and figuring out who Dick Grayson was, and when I started moving him into Chicago and started driving the book into a place where he's really more independent, and when I started to build his world, I wanted to come up with a simple, articulate way to describe who he was in a few sentences.

And the idea of someone who catches people when they fall… I don't know. It just really gelled for me.

So I knew that's how I wanted to wrap everything, and I think it turned out really well.

Nrama: Great summation of your run, Kyle. But I have to ask you about the image that showed Dick Grayson as a Talon. That costume!

Higgins: Yeah!

Credit: Nightwing #29

Nrama: Very cool. Did the artist come up with that? Or did you have elements of that in mind?

Higgins: That was definitely Russell. I described what I was thinking what I was thinking just so far as to say, what would Nightwing look as a Talon? I suggested that maybe we could do the etching of the Nightwing symbol worked into the suit somehow.

And the one thing that I did give reference for, that I'm so happy about, was the Nightwing throwing weapons from the animated series. That was always one of my favorite designs. And Brett [Booth] started using them in our Chicago arc.

And so I asked Russell if there's any way he could work those throwing weapons into the bandolier that would run down Nightwing's chest. And it's so cool. I mean, it's so, like… I get chills looking at it.

And that whole sequence, to me, represents that idea of what he could have been, and what some say he should have been.

But it's also material that I wanted to get to eventually in the series.

I went back and looked at a lot of final issues that were done by writers that I really admire, and the one thing that has always stuck out to me about Bryan Q. Miller's finale on Batgirl was all of these moments — these flashbacks — that were Stephanie's hallucinations while she was drugged by, I think, a plant or something. But they were all these splash pages of what could have been. And it's kind of like the story of her life.

And the other big influence for me was what should have been the finale of Scrubs, before they were renewed for one final season. The finale has this amazing montage that has Zach Braff watching old, like, film footage of what his life going forward could be, with their families growing old. It was incredibly moving.

So I always loved that idea of an ending to a series giving a tease or hint of where things might go, just for the possibility of it.

So that's my favorite page in the issue, by far.

Nrama: It makes me want to see an Elseworlds story where Dick does become a Talon instead of Robin. You think you can write that?

Higgins: I would love to!

The one thing I've learned in all of this, and I know I haven't been doing it that long, is to never say never.

I have no plans for that, but you never know.

Credit: Nightwing #29

Nrama: I also liked that the little girl he saved, little Jen, was a redhead. It seems like that's Dick's weakness.

Higgins: You know, that actually wasn't something I was involved with. There are a lot of characters that, when we get to colorists, Pete's made them redheads or Andrew's made the redheads. I suppose there are only so many colors you can do for hair.

Nrama: Good point. And that color really pops the character.

Higgins: Yeah, but there is definitely an ongoing "thing" with Dick Grayson and redheads. But because of that, I've actually called out to the colorists sometimes that a character should not have red hair, because it would be too much.

But Jen turned out right. I think it's really cool. It's a good way to end the run.

Nrama: You said "never say never," and I'd love to see Jen grow up into a DC superhero or something. I kind of want to see what happens to her. Maybe she'll grow up and be in the background of Batman Beyond 2.0?

Higgins: Yeah, that's a possibility.

Nrama: I'd love to see it. Now that we know Dick Grayson is going to be in this new series Grayson, was there anything in the last issue of Nightwing that teases what's coming? Or was it purely your finale?

Higgins: It was my finale. I intentionally stayed away from whatever the Dick Grayson plans are going forward. My primary goal and focus on my last few issues was wrapping my almost three years on Dick Grayson, and telling a story that really got to the heart of who I think he is and going out on an optimistic note.

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