Although readers already know that Dick Grayson will soon be called Nightwing again — thanks to DC's upcoming Rebirth event — writer Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly are getting to wrap up his time as Grayson, including whom of the book's cast survives the transition.
And according to the writers, Dick Grayson's future can be traced back to Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns' Forever Evil mini-series — and they emphasized the character's importance in the DC Universe.
The two writers, who debuted at DC as co-writers on the weekly Batman and Robin Eternal, will be working with artist Roge Antonio, taking over the series for just three issues. But the writing pair said they're continuing and concluding some of the mysteries set up during the 17-issue run by their predecessors on the comic book.
Newsarama talked with Lanzing and Kelly about Grayson, what their issues are all about, and how they're approaching the character's transition to soon being Nightwing again.
Newsarama: Jackson and Collin, you guys have gotten to work with Dick Grayson in the weekly. What was it like to get this opportunity?
Jackson Lanzing: It is a very exciting opportunity for us as writers to come in and play with a character who means a tremendous amount to us, especially because on the weekly, on Batman and Robin Eternal, our focus, at least in our issues, was really on Tim Drake and Jason Todd. Dick Grayson was part of the book's story, but wasn't the real focus of our issues.
However, Grayson is my favorite book at DC. I love the book. I love what Tom and Tim have done with it. I've been reading it monthly from #1. So getting the call was incredibly daunting, because I respect so much what they've done on the book, which is kind of a magic trick, between doing a spy book and doing a superhero book, and living somewhere between there and really examining who Dick Grayson is — and what he means, not just to the DCU, but to himself.
Collin Kelly: With Batman and Robin Eternal, we got to look at the entire Bat-family. And the Bat-family is so robust, with so many different facets of heroism and internal torment.
But Dick Grayson is the ultimate! So the fact that we got to come in and work on this character, with all this rich history and all this excitement, and really tell these stories that Tom and Tim got started… I'm going to echo Jackson: Their run on this book has been tremendous.
So when I got this call, it was like asking to fill not only the biggest shoes, but the most stylish shoes.
It was an awesome honor, and we're thrilled.
Lanzing: And I think it's worth noting, one of the things that Tom and Tim have done — and they've spoken about this, I think, at some length — is that they've really gone out of their way to elevate Dick in the DC Universe. Grayson takes Dick Grayson and shows not just how important he is to Batman, or how important he is to Barbara, or how important he is to Tim and Jason and Damian, but what Grayson has done is build an entire universe around Dick Grayson. There are now Grayson characters.
All of the sudden, this character has his own supporting cast. He has his own people to bounce off of that don't have anything to do with Gotham City. That, to me, is the great triumph of the book. It's created this universe around Dick Grayson.
In our first issue, in Grayson #18, we get to write every single one of those characters — just by nature of how the plot was driving from Tim and Tom's book, and what we wanted to get to in issue #20.
We're creating a bit of a climax with that world. I think in issue #18, we have something like 17 speaking parts. And they're all Grayson characters. It's been a blast to realize how much awesome there is in all these characters that have been either created by or expanded by Tom and Tim.
Nrama: Who's doing the art on this series?
Lanzing: We're working with Roge Antonio. It's the first artist we worked with at DC back on Batman and Robin Eternal. Roge did our first issue, or at least part of our first issue, with Jason and Tim fighting Bane. He brought an amazing amount of kinetic energy to that fight. He helped us re-introduce Azrael. He's been a really excellent partner for us in this book now because we kind of know how to write for him now. We've seen how incredibly he does action and how he interprets things.
Part of what is fun about Grayson is that it's been so inventive. The creative team has done such a great job of creating this kinetic book that needs to be as inventive with its form as Dick Grayson is with his fight. And that's something we're trying very much to maintain.
And there's a fight scene in Grayson #18 that exists in three different locations with three different fights that are all going concurrently across three different pages. And Roge just knocked it out of the park. I cannot wait for fans to see what a new artist does on this book. I think the torch is passing really nicely for these few issues.
Kelly: And fans should rest assured that Roge is able to bring one of the most important aspects of Grayson to the forefront, which is his handsome face. That's very important that he maintains that boyish charm and good looks.
But seriously, Roge has such a great ability to pull off character in small little moments — the small character acting that really gets to the core of who Dick Grayson is.
Nrama: I'm sure fans of the series will be relieved to hear you say you're respecting the direction of the title. You said you're building toward a climax with that world. Can you describe what you're exploring in those three issues?
Kelly: There's been a lot of momentum building, and a plot that's been slowly brewing. What we're doing is taking a look at everything that's been happening, and we're telling the story that's really been going on.
In a spy book, the mystery is always the question of, who's actually in control? And who's pulling the strings?
What we're really getting to do is definitively answer that mystery, that question of who truly controls everything?
Nrama: That's going to be interesting to find out, in light of the ending of Robin War and what we learned about the Court of Owls. So you're going to give readers some definitive answers?
Lanzing: Yeah, who pulls the strings of Spyral? Who pulls the strings of Dick Grayson? Where do his true allegiances lie? Where do Helena's true allegiances lie? Where do Tiger's true allegiances lie?
As we've come onto this book, it's a lot less about running in and telling our own stories, to be entirely honest, and really, it's about respecting the thing that has been built and trying to bring our own flavor and our own brand of storytelling to a storyline that has already really had a lot of events.
We're working with the pieces that are already on the board. We're taking things that have built in this long game of chess between Dick Grayson and the espionage universe, and we're looking to bring that to a big fight — a big moment where the truth can come out.
And the fun becomes, OK, once these secrets are out, how does this stuff get resolved? The way Dick Grayson solves problems — his optimism, his fight — how does that work in a world where things are solved the way that spies solve them. And how much has being a spy affected and changed Dick Grayson — or how much has it not?
Kelly: The one thing we definitely did get to say — and as Jackson mentioned, we have 17 speaking parts in issue #18 — one of the things we're in charge of is, who gets to walk away from all this?
And those decisions, that have been a lot of fun. When you play this game of spies, the one constant is that not everyone gets to live through it.
Lanzing: We had a long conversation about who gets to walk away.
Nrama: Interesting. Kind of scary too. OK, so you're alluding to an ending that's coming, and readers already know that there's a Nightwing title coming with the Rebirth event this summer. Does the transition start now? Or is that something that's going to be kind of clean break in June?
Lanzing: It's really not something we can talk about, in part because we're really focused on what we're doing in Grayson now and not that transition. But… I would say, obviously, more information is coming, more things are coming down the pike. But our focus is telling a really awesome story in Grayson, from now through issue #20.
Kelly: And Geoff set something up in Forever Evil. He had plans. Dick Grayson's role in this universe is important. And things that got set up in Forever Evil — they're playing out.
So it's just been very exciting to be part of that process.
Nrama: Is there anything else you want to tell readers of Grayson?
Lanzing: If you are a fan of the story that's been building, it's our hope that you'll follow the book into our run, full in the knowledge that what we're creating is an attempt to honor that, to forward that, to bring that to some interesting new places, and to ultimately celebrate what Dick Grayson means in the wider context — not just Batman and Gotham City, but really the DC Universe in general.