In September's Grayson #12, Dick's going home to Gotham City to face the friends and family who believed he was dead. But that doesn't mean the hero is leaving behind his life as a spy, as the writers of his solo title plan to delve even further into the espionage corner of the DCU.
Written by Tom King and Tim Seeley, Grayson will recognize Dick Grayson's 75th anniversary with a homecoming of sorts, bringing the character back to Gotham after Bruce Wayne leaves behind his role as Batman.
The homecoming will change Dick's role in the DCU — he's been in hiding as a spy since 2014, when the Forever Evil mini-series not only made the former Robin's secret identity public, but it ended with everyone in the DCU (except Batman) believing that Dick Grayson was dead. When Grayson #1 was soon-after launched, the character had gone into deep cover as an agent for a spy organization called Spyral, working from the inside to supply information to Batman.
Now that there's a new Batman and Bruce Wayne isn't answering calls, Dick's on his own, and Grayson deals with the ramifications of that loss by bringing him back home in September's issue.
Yet as this week's Grayson #9 made clear, Dick's life as a spy isn't over, and he'll have to answer for the murders that have followed him as he worked for the Spyral organization.
Newsarama talked to Seeley and King about what's coming up in the series, what happens when Dick teams up with Superman later this summer, and what readers can expect from Dick's meeting with Lex Luthor next month.
Newsarama: Tom and Tim, one of the more interesting additions to the Grayson title with this week's #9 is this meeting between spy organizations. People are guessing who these people are and which organizations they represent. Is your hope to continue to expand this series beyond Spyral to include more spy organizations in the DCU?
Tim Seeley: I think that was our goal from the first issue, to show the inner working of the espionage community within the superhero universe. That's why we seeded in Midnighter right away, to show the unified universe.
And those characters — Tom and I have an idea of why we wanted them all to be together.
It made us excited, so we thought it would make the readers excited too. It made us geek out.
Tom King: From the moment we first got hired for the book, one of our orders was to sort out the alphabet soup of all the spy organizations in the DCU. And the book is not called "Grayson: Agent of Spyral." It's called Grayson. And there's a bigger mission here. So all those organizations are going to play a role in how they affect the DCU going forward as part of our larger story.
Nrama: That said, Dick clearly wants to come home to Gotham, and we've seen indications that he is going to be back in Gotham. And yet, you're saying that this is still going to be a spy book. Is it a mix of both — will Dick Grayson be able to tell everyone he's still alive and yet continue to be involved with these spy organizations?
Seeley: That would be a good idea, if we were to do that. It would probably be fun. So we have to figure out a way to make that work. And that would be clever and interesting. So yes, that's what we should do. Cool, that's our goal.
King: Your goal is clever and interesting. My goal is just naked Dick Grayson. And I got pretty close.
Nrama: Yeah, that's something you guys play with from time to time. Every once in awhile, there are hints about just how sexy Dick Grayson is. In this issue, he charms the necklace off a woman. You're not shying away from that part of his power set.
Seeley: No, I mean, that was one of the things we hope people respond to, and they really have. We have no problem pandering for fun. I think we've gotten good at it. And now it's really a one-upmanship game, where Tom really threw down the gauntlet with #9. So I had to really pick it up and sex this book up by #13.
King: I got tired of being at conventions and everybody asking if I wrote the "did you recognize his ass" Midnighter line. Looking down at the crowd and like, no, that was Tim.
Yes, I mean, one of Dick's greatest assets is his ass, and he's going to use it to save the world.
Nrama: You guys have an annual coming out in September, where not only does he come home to Gotham, but there are indications he's going to meet and/or team up with Superman. Why that meeting at this time in Grayson?
Seeley: That felt like the perfect opportunity, because Superman's going through a similar event in his own life. In his series, his identity was outed. And he's been sort of depowered. So it made sense to put those two guys together and sort of compare the way they've dealt with it. We look at what kind of friends they are. The friendship between Superman and Batman, I think, is very well know, but the friendship between Dick Grayson and Superman is less investigated. So that was a big opportunity to do that, and we really had some fun with it.
King: Yeah, people forget but the whole Nightwing identity was a tribute to Superman, not to Batman. That comes from Superman telling him a story of the heroes back on Krypton, and Dick Grayson being inspired by who Superman is.
Seeley: We also kind of play with the idea that they're both just dudes, you know? Like, I think Batman is sort of… even in his interpersonal relationship, he kind of retains that Batman attitude, but Superman, in his interpersonal relationships, is just kind of a cool guy. And that's kind of a Dick Grayson thing too.
Nrama: Obviously, Dick is going to find out that Bruce is assumed dead, but we also know from Batman #41 that Bruce isn't really dead. I know you can't spoil what that's all about, but is this book going to be involved with what's evolving with Bruce Wayne in the Batman book?
Seeley: Yeah. The Batman main title affects all the books. But I think he point of Grayson is still to be sort of its own title and its own genre within the Bat-universe.
So you'll see the influences and interactions, because we love that stuff — it's so valuable for stories. But Grayson is still going to mostly be about Dick in Spyral.
King: When Scott Snyder first pitched to us this idea of "Endgame," we got very excited, because it's almost exactly where we wanted to go, with this idea that Dick starts out being able to rely on Batman, and suddenly he's in a situation without that sort of crutch. Where does he go from there?
I think that sets it up perfectly.
And also, it raises the question of, you know, the last time Batman left the table, Dick Grayson stepped up. He was Batman. And so people have to know, why isn't he doing that now? And that question is an interesting character question, in terms of where he is in his arc.
Nrama: At the end of the March issue — and I think we touched upon this in our last interview — it seemed like Kathy Kane showed up. Will we see that character again? Can you address that at all?
Seely: One thing to remember about the book is that the Spyral organization specializes in misinformation and mind control and deception.
So some of the things we appear to tell you may not be true.
Or they may be. You never know.
But we'll definitely be dealing more with that — the plot left over from #8. We set that up to dig up and play with later. There will be some red boots walking in.
King: Yeah, that character, her name is Agent Zero. And we call her the spider in the web of all Spyral. And now that Helena's head of the organization, what Helena's relationship is with that character, and what that character's relationship is with Dick and Helena going forward, that's going to be one of the driving forces behind the series.
Nrama: Speaking of Helena, I think people really enjoyed her working directly with Dick, although that's changed a little bit. Dick's current partner may be down and out for awhile, after the events of #9, but with Helena heading up the organization, how has their relationship changed, and can you speak to her new role in the series?
Seeley: Yeah, their relationship totally changes now that, after you've read #9, and you see that she may have to have new alliances within her own organization. You can almost say her relationship with him as boss is in question because of the previous relationship. So yeah, we weren't going to let this not be full of drama and conflict.
She's still a core part of the book, and I think her role now just allows us to do more fun and interesting stuff.
King: Yeah, I think if you go back and read the first issues of our arc, and look at where Helena was then, I think it's just a natural evolution to where she is now. She's always been one step ahead of Dick Grayson, and now she's one step above him.
Seeley: Did you just come up with that? Because that's good.
King: Hell yeah, I did! I write for a living, man!
Nrama: Impressive. In the next issue, Dick Grayson gets to confront Lex Luthor, who basically killed him in Forever Evil and was behind him having to feign death. Can you describe what that's going to be like for this pair of characters?
Seeley: The reason we wanted to do this is just what you said: the tie back to that Forever Evil story arc, which put Dick in a strange position with Lex Luthor.
Now that Lex Luthor appears to be on the side of angels and the Justice League and Superman, he's certainly not that to Dick at all.
So it's going to be about those two guys, and how Lex fits into the international espionage superhero game that Dick's part of. So yeah, we'll get some good mileage out of it for sure.
And the way Mikel Janin draws Lex Luthor, he just looks like such a cunning sleaze bag. It's awesome.
King: Spyral's goal is to monitor the secrets of the world and decide which ones need to be kept and which ones need to be outed. And Lex Luthor has a very similar goal and is not so eager to let someone else do that job. So it's interesting to find out how much he knows about Spyral and how much he wishes he knew.
Nrama: You've introduced a new mystery in this week's issue, and that is in all the missions Dick's been on, someone's been clubbed to death, basically.
Nrama: That's what it is, right?
Seeley: Smashed, yeah.
Nrama: Smashed. At the end of this issue, he's left his partner, the Tiger, behind, and someone got clubbed at the end, which I assume we'll find out more about later. Can you talk about this new mystery and what Helena thinks of these developments?
Seeley: Yeah, we wanted to do a murder mystery within the confines of a spy story within the confines of a superhero story.
We all believe that Dick would never kill someone, but does Dick even believe that now that he's within this organization that seems to be able to control people's minds?
We really wanted to push Dick's own questions about his job and what he does, and if it's changed him as a person, and if he can trust himself and his partner — and can his former partner trust him?
So yeah, we'll be dealing with that for the next several issues.
King: This book, at its heart, is about, who do you trust and why? We wanted to put that to the test and have all these obvious murders connected to Dick, where someone in the organization is like, do we trust Dick? Does Dick trust himself?
As we wrote it, I was like, Helena would see right through this in 10 seconds, that the most obvious answer is not the answer. But then, maybe that's what the murderer wants her to think.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell readers about what's coming up in Grayson?
Seeley: We have a lot of crazy stuff coming up. One of the great things about the book is that people on Twitter or whatever will send me their theories, and I'm always like, that's a good idea, but that's not what we did. But I think what we did is a good idea.
So I like that people aren't quite sure what we're doing, so I think that's going to be continuing into the future. We're going to try to always surprise you. We put this book together and we get something that surprises both of us. So I think that's a good way to keep the book going, to keep you always guessing and always surprised.
King: That's a great, broad description of the book, so I'll finish with something a absolutely specific. We get a thousand requests a day, "When is Dick going to see Barbara? When is Dick going to see Damian? When is Dick going to see Jason?" And I've been waiting to write some of those scenes for a long time. And look at the cover of #12. That stuff is coming up.
Seeley: I'm somewhat envious that you got to write that issue by yourself.
King: It sucks to be you, Seeley!
Seeley: You're forgiven, man.