The aftermath of "Death of the Family" will take the Nightwing title in a whole new direction this spring, and the character's motivations for changing his life begin this week.
Nightwing #17, this week's issue by writer Kyle Higgins and artist Eddy Barrows, will show the title character trying to pick up the pieces of his life after a devastating attack by the Joker in last week's Batman #17.
Nightwing's future as a superhero is in question, and he'll get some advice from an unlikely place in current Robin, Damian Wayne. (And if rumors about Batman, Incorporated #8 are to be believed, Nightwing #17 may be a particularly notable meeting between Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne.)
After this week's epilogue to "Death of the Family," Higgins promises a major surprise in issue #18 that will motivate Nightwing to move away from Gotham City, followed by a new mission for his life in April's issue #19. April also marks a creative change for the title, as artist Brett Booth joins the book.
On the eve of Nightwing #17, Newsarama talked to Higgins to find out how the events in "Death of the Family" have affected the hero so far, and where the title might go next.
Newsarama: Kyle, at the end of Batman #17, there's obviously a rift between Bruce and the members of the Bat-family after the events of "Death of the Family." What is it that's keeping Dick away from Bruce right now?
Kyle Higgins: It's a few things. In the past, Dick has been someone who is emotionally pretty solid and pretty stable. As we showed in issue #0, he tends to move on from things pretty easily. And I think that's one of the things people really like about the character, is that he's so emotionally well-adjusted.But coming out of all this stuff with the Joker, and hearing what the Joker said about him, and what he does to Haly's Circus and the Amusement Mile — and it may be a cumulative effect, or it may just be what Joker said — coming out of this, Dick is having a hard time adjusting to moving on the way he normally does.
I think that's only exasperated by Bruce lying to the family.
Nrama: What will we see this week in Nightwing #17 as an epilogue to the "Death of the Family" story?
Higgins: The story in Nightwing #17 is called "The Long Week," and it goes through, essentially, a week in the life of Dick Grayson, as he deals with the aftermath of "Death of the Family," and all the tragedy he lived through in Nightwing #15 and #16, and his life being pretty much turned upside down.
What the Joker said about him, about surrounding himself with people being the quality that makes Nightwing the weakest, is really sticking with him. Everything that he experiences in issue #17 kind of reinforces that, if you look at it a certain way, and Dick's having a hard time looking at it in any other way.
Nrama: Damian's involved in issue #17, and it's a reminder that Damian spent a lot of time with Dick Grayson being his Batman while he thought his father was dead. How would you describe Dick's relationship with Damian now that he's Nightwing?
Higgins: It's not a dynamic that we've explored much post-New 52, because Damian's spending a lot of time with his father. Pete [Tomasi]'s been doing such amazing work in Batman and Robin, and obviously Grant [Morrison] has been exploring the relationship as well in Batman, Inc.. And I know Nightwing has popped up in there a few times.But I think Damian has respect for Dick now, which I don't know that he had when they started. So even though Damian can be condescending and arrogant, and he'll still be the first to point out anything that Dick does wrong, I think he does genuinely care about him like a brother.
That's an aspect in issue #17 that I explore. There's a nice scene between them at the end of the issue that was a lot of fun to write. I love writing the character. He's a lot of fun. He's quippy and honest and arrogant, all at the same time, and I think when you see the scene between him and Dick, he really does care. And that's all you can ask for from a brother.
Nrama: During your first year, you really explored what was still haunting Dick Grayson from his past — part of it related to things he didn't even realize, with his connection to the Court of Owls, but also with his past in the circus. But once he got back to Gotham, it seemed like a real turning point, as he was ready to settle down and really do good there. Is this another turning point in Dick's life?
Higgins: Yeah, this is definitely a turning point for Dick because, if for no other reason, everything is different. As you're going to see in issue #17, after the fall of the Amusement Mile, the destruction of the circus and the death of Jimmy and Raya, there's no way he could go back to status quo.It's definitely a turning point emotionally as well. There are a lot of challenging aspects to this on an emotional level, even for someone as emotionally well-adjusted as Dick Grayson.
One of the things I really enjoyed exploring in this issue is that, for a character as well-adjusted as Dick Grayson, he's not someone that typically mopes. You know? He doesn't whine. He's someone who, even if the weight of the world is on his shoulders, if you ask him how he's doing, he's going to smile and say he's never been better.
That was a quality about him that I've always admired and I think resonates with a lot of people, because his optimism and his empathy make him a great character and makes him emotionally well-adjusted. But it takes a different path in issue #17, and I'm curious to see what people think of it.
The wrap-up and conclusion is in issue #18. And that's when you'll see that turning point really take shape. There are some things in issue #18 that are going to be sending him in a very new direction, which will then kick off with issue #19.
Nrama: Can you tell us anything about what changes come for Dick beginning in issue #19?
Higgins: Well, he's changing cities, but there's a very good reason for that which will be revealed in #18.
That said, Dick will still have opportunities in the future to interact with Bat-family members. He's still part of that group. And you'll see other DC heroes come into the book, heroes that Dick has a relationship with outside the Bat-family.
He also has a new mission. And there's also a reason for that. It will make sense once you see issue #18.I don't know that anyone will see it coming, which I'm excited by. Although, of course, now that I say that, I'm sure someone will guess it.
Nrama: You mean the event in Dick's life that motivates this change in direction for the book?
Higgins: Yeah. It's something I've spent a lot of time working on with my editor, Brian Cunningham. It's really cool, and I'm very excited by it.
There's a new cast of characters, there are new villains. Brett and I are world-building. We're taking a look at what worked in the series to this point, and what we can elaborate on and push further.
Some of the stuff we're doing with villains going forward will build a nemesis and a rogues' gallery for Nightwing that is inherent to him and has nothing to do with Batman.
I think we've got a fantastic opportunity here to really define Nightwing going forward.
Nrama: In Batman #17, the Joker really tried to convince Bruce Wayne that all the rest of the Bat-family was different from Batman, because even under his mask, he is still Batman through and through. What do you think of the allegation that Nightwing is "soft" underneath the mask? And is that part of what's bothering Nightwing now?
Higgins: In that scene, Joker's pointing out something that's true about Batman, to a great extent, especially compared to Nightwing. He's not nearly as compassionate or empathetic as Dick Grayson. I've always found that Batman's main goal and purpose is a pursuit of justice, and that's probably something that cannot be fully achieved. But for Dick Grayson, he's always been a character who wants to catch people when they fall, playing off the circus background, which serves as a metaphor for his life. He does what he does because he cares about people.
The Joker is saying that caring about people makes you weak, but at the same time, if you don't care about people, then why do the work? That's how Dick approaches it, and that's where his head is right now as he struggles with what Joker said.
Nrama: You mentioned Brett Booth. How has it been working with him?
Higgins: You know, when we talked about Eddie moving on to Teen Titans, there was a period of anxiety for me where I wasn't sure who we were going to get. But when Brett signed on, I felt a lot better obviously!I don't know what I can say about Brett that hasn't been said before. His stuff is dynamic, it's exciting, it's energetic. For me, someone who grew up on the Chuck Dixon/Scott McDaniel stuff, the kinetic energy of Brett's work reminds me of what Scott used to do, from an energy standpoint, because the styles are different.
But it's been a real treat to see these pages come in. I've definitely been trying to push it even further in the action, because I know Brett can do it.
He just really highlights the fact that Nightwing is an acrobat first and foremost. I think Brett's having a lot of fun drawing the book, and he's not drawing it like he's drawn other books. It looks different from Titans. So I'll be excited to see what people think.
Nrama: And this thing that changes direction for Nightwing in issue #18... does it come out of the blue for readers?
Higgins: No, the threads have been planted in the series for awhile. But they really start coming together in issue #18. And by the end of issue #18, not only will you understand why Dick has to leave Gotham City, but I think you'll cheer for him to go.
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