As the Batman books gear up for "The Night of the Owls" event this spring, Nightwing returns to Gotham City to confront problems from his own past.
The Nightwing title, written by Kyle Higgins with art by Eddy Barrows, has been following a mystery surrounding Dick Grayson's childhood home, Haly's Circus. In Nightwing #5, the villain behind the mystery was revealed, and readers are trying to connect the dots behind how this could tie in with the upcoming "Night of the Owls" event.
Higgins, who has always professed being Dick Grayson's "biggest fan," wrote the character when he was Batman in the critically acclaimed Gates of Gotham. But then he transitioned Dick back into the role of Nightwing in September, just as the DC Universe relaunched with younger, more inexperienced heroes.
The writer also launched the new title Deathstroke in September, but DC recently announced that the comic would take a new direction in May as Rob Liefeld would begin writing and drawing the book while co-writing two others, fresh from his stint on the just-canceled Hawk and Dove.
In Nightwing, Higgins has established that this relaunched Dick Grayson is in his early 20's, became Robin when he was 16, has never had more than a flirtatious friendship with Barbara Gordon, and uses his circus-learned acrobatics quite effectively to battle evil.
Now that the Nightwing title has revealed more about the mystery of Haly's Circus and heading back to Gotham, Newsarama checked in with Higgins in this first installment of a two-part interview to find out more.
Newsarama: Kyle, before we dive into some questions about Nightwing, are you disappointed to be off Deathstroke?
Kyle Higgins: Well it’s certainly bittersweet, as I'm very proud of what Joe [Bennett], Art [Thibert], Jason [Wright] and I created, and I truly love the character. So in that regard, it’s sad that our story is ending, but at the same time I couldn’t be happier with how everything has wrapped up. Our final issue — issue #8 — takes a closer look at how Slade’s past, from his childhood to his first work as Deathstroke, informs his present. It brings a sense of closure to our run, while opening the door for Rob’s to begin. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does.
Nrama: So let's talk about Nightwing. For these first few issues, it feels like you've deliberately inserted scenes that really define the character by examining his many facets — his relationship with Barbara, his fighting style (with fight scenes that show off the kinetic energy of his acrobatics), and even the retracing of his circus history. Was that something you were trying to do over the first few issues of the relaunched comic?
Higgins: Yes, very much so. The idea behind Haly’s Circus coming back into Dick’s life is rooted in exactly what you’re talking about—an attempt to redefine the character for new and old readers alike. For new readers this arc serves as an introduction to who Dick Grayson is and where he comes from, and for old readers the arc will hopefully shine a light on some facets of Dick’s past that even he didn’t know about. Issue's #4 and #5 have been a little bit more stand-alone, one-and-done stories that push Saiko and the mystery of the circus to the background, but even those were about exploring relationships.
By the end of this first arc, Dick will have a lot of questions about who he is, and in order to build that story and really understand the decisions he’s going to be making, we’ve needed to build a solid understanding of who he was.
And from a visual standpoint, we’ve been working really hard to bring a kinetic feel to the book, whether it be the shadowed images of his acrobatic feats or even the poses that Eddy and Trevor [McCarthy] have used. The look of his fighting and acrobatics has always been very defining to me and is a big part of what separates him from other heroes. That’s something I was adamant that we maintain in our series.
Nrama: The motorcycle scene in issue #5 really worked for me as a reader, because I was wondering, how's he getting away with being Nightwing while traveling on a train?
Higgins: It was fun, right?
Nrama: Yeah! And seeing him fight a rhyming demon really showed off what he could do as a fighter, because it was exactly what you'd never expect Nightwing to be able to handle.
Higgins: Yeah. That was a weird issue to write. Twenty-page one-and-dones are tough to begin with, but then to do something that's so completely out of the wheelhouse of a Nightwing story made it even tougher. To me, the rhyming demon represents the extreme of what you might find on the road if you’re part of a traveling circus in the DC Universe (laughs).As for the motorcycle sequence, the logistics of a superhero’s career are incredibly interesting to me—since we decided to go “traveling circus” with the series, I’ve been pretty interested in how Nightwing might operate from a train.
Nrama: At the end of Nightwing #5, we saw the reveal of who's behind Saiko's mask. (And is it pronounced, "say-koh" or "sigh-koh?")
Higgins: It's "sigh-ko," and in Japanese it means "the best." And when we were trying to decide on a name for him, I liked how it looked in print… even though it sounds like "psycho" when you pronounce it.
Nrama: When will we find out more about Raymond and his motivations to be Saiko and attack Dick?
Higgins: Issue #6 and #7, which are the culmination and wrap-up of the first arc. The circus comes back to Gotham City for a memorial show, which ties into what Raymond and Raya have been planning for some time. We'll learn quite a bit more about Raymond and his motivations, and what exactly he means when he says Dick Grayson is the fiercest killer in Gotham.
Nrama: You said the circus starts heading back to Gotham next issue. What brings them that direction?
Higgins: There’s a tribute show for the Flying Graysons that Haly’s has decided to put on, which also brings back some of the ideas I've been setting up with Dick not always being comfortable confronting the things he doesn't want to deal with.
Nrama: Is that Nightwing's nature, to avoid confronting things?
Higgins: Well I think that's kind of human nature. We tend to avoid the things that we don't want to confront, and Dick's no different in that way.
Nrama: This story has been digging up a lot of Dick's memories about the tragic day that his parents died. In issue #5, we saw that Dick has a recurring dream and memory of that day, and it includes Raymond. Is that all playing toward the mystery behind the circus? Is the attack connected to those memories of his parents' death?
Higgins: Yes. The death of his parents is really the moment that everything changed — there’s the obvious ways, notably Dick Grayson becoming the ward of Bruce Wayne and then Robin, and then there are the not-so-obvious ways and how those affected other people in Haly’s. Those are the things that are really coming to light now.
And of course, a lot of these are things that if Dick had been better connected with his "past" and Haly’s over the years, he may have been aware of them. Zane's a good example of this, which Dick talks about in his voice over in issue 3: “Why didn't I know what happened to my friend?” And that's where Raya points out that Dick isn’t great at confronting the things he doesn't want to deal with, including people. He has a tendency to always move forward and never back, because looking back is painful.
But in not looking back… that's what's coming to get him now. That's where this Raya and Raymond plot is coming from.
Nrama: In your summer mini-series, Gates of Gotham, Dick Grayson talked about how Gotham City itself confronts the true nature of people. It's interesting that the circus is also doing that to Dick, isn't it?
Higgins: Well, I should clarify that: This is all connected to Gotham City. Not to say that Gotham City is this sentient being that is behind all this, but in the metaphorical sense Gotham City is using the circus against him. Even when you look back at issue #1, Dick's saying: I'm comfortable in Gotham City. Now I'm ready to go. Give me your best shot. I can take it. And then the city pulls a 180 and sends him on the road with Haly's Circus and this mystery. The city is saying “you think you know yourself. You think you know what you're past was. But we’re here to tell you that you don’t.”
Nrama: We know that Nightwing will tie into "The Night of the Owls." How many issues is the Nightwing tie-in?
Higgins: It's two issues, in #8 and #9.
Nrama: Solicitations tease that Nightwing is tasked with saving the mayor of Gotham during "Night of the Owls." Does this storyline we're reading now set up anything for Nightwing's role in that later crossover?
Higgins: It does. It sets up his involvement in Night of the Owls, especially from a thematic standpoint. In a lot of ways, Dick and Bruce are going through a very similar thing right now in Nightwing and Batman. Bruce is realizing that he may not know Gotham City as well as he thought he did, and Dick Grayson is learning that he may not know himself and his past the way the thought he did. And there's kind of a parallel story there about not letting your past define you, not letting outside facets define you. So this current arc sets up Dick’s role in Night of the Owls in that way. Also, Nightwing saving the mayor during the event is something that's going to be setting up the future direction of the series as well.
"The Night of the Owls" crossover is a big turning point for Nightwing.
Nrama: You had originally said this series was going to be set in Gotham, but now Dick owns a circus. I know he's coming back to Gotham pretty quickly, but can he do both in the future: be a circus owner and operate from Gotham?
Higgins: That's a question that Dick will be asking himself as we get out of the Night of the Owls crossover.Afterwards, as he's investigating a subplot I’m introducing in issue #6, he's going to be faced with a few decisions about the future of Haly's Circus, his future in Gotham and whether those things can co-exist.
Nrama: Does Bryan still have a role to play in the story?
Higgins: He does, although it’s going to be clarified in issues #6 and #7. The tease at the end of issue #3, with Bryan and Saiko, is probably a good clue for readers that Bryan knows something about what’s going on. He’s not exactly innocent in all of this.
Nrama: I expected him to show up at the end of issue #5 instead of Raya.
Higgins: Right. But you know, she has a complicated past. Like I said, after Dick's parents died, a lot of things changed. And not just for Dick. Readers will eventually get an understanding for why Raya is doing what she's doing.
Check back this week for Part 2 of our interview with Kyle Higgins about Nightwing.
- DC Comics' FULL April 2012 Solicitations
- BATMAN & ROBIN Explores Father-Son Dynamic On Way to OWLS
- SNYDER Spills Even MORE on NIGHT OF OWLS, BATMAN's Future
- SCOTT SNYDER Talks New BATMAN Back-Ups, NIGHT OF OWLS Event