Since Grayson launched last year, the comic has been surprising critics and fans with its unique mix of international intrigue, mind-bending mysteries and street-level-spy action.
But Tom King and Tim Seeley, the series' co-writers, warned Newsarama that the status quo of Dick Grayson is going to change by the time Convergence ends, as the Bat-office recognizes the 75th anniversary of the character with "something special."
And thanks to the series' success, the writers are beginning to expand the world of former Nightwing Dick Grayson, as he infiltrates the DC spy organization known as Spyral, going undercover for Batman while the rest of the superhero world believes he's dead.
Featuring art by Mikel Janín, Grayson combines Seeley's extensive comics experience (including co-writing the current Batman Eternal and the upcoming Vertigo title, Effigy) with King's background in the CIA as a counterterrorism operations officer.
In the story of Grayson so far, Dick is working as an agent for Spyral, and he's been equipped with a Hypnos implant that allows him to temporarily confuse or hypnotize someone. On his spy missions, he's been partnered with a mysterious New 52 version of Helena Bertinelli (the name of the pre-Flashpoint Huntress), and keeps encountering Midnighter, as the pair's missions are at odds.
The central mystery in the first story arc concerns bio-implants that turn people into weapons, as various spy rings and organizations rush to recover them — some with good intentions and some with bad. And in this week's issue (spoilers!), readers learned a little bit more about who's behind Spyral and what Midnighter is doing.
So what's next in the plan for Helena, Dick, and Spyral? Newsarama talked to the co-creators to find out.
Newsarama: Tom and Tim, when Grayson was first announced, I think people expected a street-level spy comic, and you've certainly delivered on that, but there's also a utilization of the bigger, more sci-fi or even mystical ideas of the DC Universe. Was that the intention, to mix this street-level feel of an acrobatic fighter with the more imaginative, weird ideas available within the tapestry of the DCU?
Tim Seeley: I think these very dissonant things coming together is part of Dick Grayson's characters. You know, sort of putting this street-level guy who was a circus performer through anything, and having it be a good story is part of that character. Whether that's sending him to a satellite hanging in space or doing very grounded stuff, it's all part of, I think, what makes that character work.
Tom King: As long as we start with Dick Grayson and start with where we want to test this character and where we want to go forward with him, I think we can go into any genre or situation and see how he reacts to it. And that's where the interest of the story comes from.
I mean, he's got a 75-year history, and we want to do something new with the audience, so we can't just repeat what's been done before. So you're going to get a lot of surprises.
Nrama: In issue #5, you played with the "Robin Dies at Dawn" story. Was that your way to pay homage to that story?
Seeley: Yeah, that was a Tom King idea. And it was an homage; it was like a remix, I'd say.
King: Yeah, that's one of my favorite stories of all time. And I really wanted to pay tribute. It seemed sort of natural. I wanted to have one comic that said why Dick Grayson is great. And that's basically what I had written under my plot — "why is Dick Grayson great?" So that's where the issue started.
Nrama: Obviously, there's a lot about Dick Grayson that's great. But the message of that issue was that he keeps on fighting, particularly if it's something he cares about. Was that the right take-away from your exploration of the character in issue #5?
King: Yeah, I think you exactly nailed it. Dick Grayson doesn't give up. Whatever you throw at him — if he needs to save someone, that's who he is. He's the character who's not going to surrender, who's going to come back from it.
And that comes from being raised by Batman, and it comes from living a superhero life much sooner than most people had to live a superhero life. And that's what makes him great.
Seeley: And the pattern of the book we're trying to do is to always challenge everything that the reader knows about Dick Grayson, or the character knows about himself. And then either put that on its head, or reinforce it. And I think that issue was about that dedication.
Nrama: We've gotten a few clues about the identity and background of Helena, but the Annual you just did was originally billed as an issue that would focus on her origin story. I know you ended up taking a different approach to the Annual as your plans changed, but do you think you'll tell an origin story for Helena anytime soon? Or will it be more about dropping hints and making the mystery of her background part of the ongoing story?
Seeley: I think we resolved to use it where — because it's a mystery story, I think it's important to have some characters be mysterious. So Tom and I know it, but we're not necessarily going to make it the focus. We'll have her background lead us to a few stories.
So we're going to get more of it, but we're not going to do a "secret origin" tale of her just yet. It's cool to keep her a secretive person, and for that to come across to the reader too.
King: We had this issue marked, for the Annual, when we first did our outline in the beginning, as "this will be Helena's origin." And we outlined it in great detail, of where she comes from and how she got to where she is.
And then we got word that the book is a success and we'd have much more room and we could stretch out that story, so we didn't want to just lay it out for the reader. We wanted it to come out more organically than we originally planned.
Nrama: But we found out that Helena's father is a mob boss, similar to the Huntress character's previous incarnation. You guys recently touched upon the organized crime characters of Gotham. Is that part of the book's future in any way?
King: It's definitely going to play a role. And I think it's safe to say that what's going on in Catwoman now, and Helena's mob connections, and Selina's mafia connections — there's going to be some cool stuff going on between those two.
Nrama: You've introduced Spyder, which Mr. Minos interacted with in this week's issue, and then we also saw Dick traveling to the God Garden and meeting the Gardener in this week's issue. Can you reveal more about the origins of those concepts, and what role they play in Grayson?
Seeley: Yeah, both those ideas provide us with an expanded, Dick Grayson-centric comic book universe.
Spyder is sort of an extrapolation of the weird and the fun that Grant Morrison was doing with Batman Inc., which was the background of Spyral. What controls Spyral and what makes them do the things they do? And then you see the visual — like… the hell? But we actually know what it is and who's involved in it. So that's kind of another fun tweak on the interests of the readers, I hope.
King: I really love the Spyder concept, because what we want to say is that Spyral goes beyond Mr. Minos. There's a bigger story here to tell. We had it planned out, and it goes for many, many issues. It's the longer arc of the entire series.
Seeley: And then Dick traveling to the God Garden kind of opens up the book and allows him to see the wider effect of the superhuman arms race. And the God Garden is a consequence of those experiments to try to build a better human soldier or a "god" that can be on your side in any argument.
So the God Gardener is trying to help those people, but in her attempts, she sort of runs afoul of Dick and Spyral. I think her intentions are good, but her execution proves that the best intentions can go awry.
So yeah, it's just playing with the black and white aspects of the politics of espionage and superhuman experimentation. And putting Dick Grayson in the middle of it.
King: And you're seeing, for the first eight issues, he's collecting these Paragon organs, putting back together this superhuman body. And while he's doing this, he's witnessing what Spyral can do and what spycraft can do. His mission is supposed to end when those come in, but what he witnesses may or may not change that mission.
Nrama: Yet amongst those sort of "gray areas" that are challenging Dick during this mission, you have one concept that's pretty black and white, with the Fist of Cain organization.
Seeley: Yeah, the Fist of Cain was our idea to have something that is a universal representation for terrorists, and the cause of spreading fear and the dedication to something fundamental and unmovable.
Nrama: Which is a very real issue.
Seeley: Yeah, so they get to represent that to us without us having to deal with very specific real-world headlines.
Nrama: I think fans of Grayson are happy to see it sticking around after Convergence, a point when several other series are ending. But before we talk about your 2015 plans for the comic, we should probably talk about how much Mikel Janín's art contributes to the success of this title.
Seeley: We totally agree that one of the things that makes this book work so well is that, despite Tom and I having disparate writing styles, when it comes to the way Mikel executes it, and Jeromy [Cox], the colorist, they make it look so consistent and so cool.
Mikel is one of the most underrated artists, I think, in the entire industry.
And we give him a lot more crazy sh*t to draw in 2015.
King: Yeah, I try not to talk too much about Mikel and Jeromy, because I'm really afraid that Grant Morrison is going to find them and take them or something. So I say publicly that their work is "mediocre to pleasant."
Seeley: [Laughs.] That's good. Mediocre to pleasant.
King: Yeah, so if anyone is thinking about hiring them, I would go against it.
Nrama: I was looking at solicitations for March's issue, which is only a couple months off. And it looks like it's going to be a changing point for the series. I assume there are big changes coming ahead post-Convergence, when Grayson returns in June?
Seeley: Yeah. I mean, I think we owe it to people who read the book — if you're going to have two months off, we have to drop an awesome cliffhanger that makes you cling to that last page and just drool for the next one in two months. So it's up to us to add new and cool stuff, and to set a new status quo, and to always keep things interesting. We have to change it up.
King: You'll see that Grayson #8 will be the climax of the first season. A lot of elements will come together. A lot of things are happening in the background that you're not even paying attention too, and those will pay off there in a big action-packed, awesome issue.
And that's going to conclude with this… "what just happened?"
And then we start again, hitting the ground running, come June. We're looking at it as almost like… this has to be as big as our first issue. It has to be that cool. It has to be that groundbreaking.
Nrama: Anything you want to add about what's coming for the series in 2015?
King: We just came from the Bat-summit, which was amazing. And this is the 75th anniversary year for Dick Grayson. We're going to hit that hard. It's going to be something special.