Over the two years since the New 52 launched, the history of the DC Universe has been slowly remolded to fit together in a more modern timeline.
For Batman-related books like Nightwing, that means a once decades-long history is being compressed into a five- to six-year time frame.
But the retelling of that timeline is affording the writers in the Batman universe the opportunity to enrich their characters' past with new stories, including tie-ins to history-rich storylines like last year's "The Court of Owls."
In November, the DCU gets another opportunity to expose the history of key characters when several comics will tie-in to the best-selling storyline Batman: Zero Year. Included in the Zero Year tie-ins will be Nightwing, Action Comics, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Corps, Batgirl, Batwing, Catwoman, Detective Comics, and Birds of Prey).
For Nightwing, that means readers will find out more about Dick Grayson's childhood before he became associated with the Bat.
DC has given Newsarama the cover and solicitation for the issue:
Written by KYLE HIGGINS
Art and cover by WILL CONRAD
On sale NOVEMBER 13 • 40 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T
A BATMAN: ZERO YEAR tie-in! Dick Grayson frantically tries to find Haly’s Circus—and his parents—as Gotham City is plunged into total darkness!
To accompany the exclusive art, Newsarama talked to writer Kyle Higgins about what readers can expect from Nightwing's Zero Year tie-in, and we took the opportunity to find out more about the evolution of Dick Grayson's history since his title was relaunched two years ago.
Newsarama: Kyle, since you've been writing Nightwing, you've been slowly filling in Dick Grayson's back-story. How much of it was sketched out before you started the series when it was relaunched in September 2011? What elements were in place as you started, and how much was that coordinated with the rest of the Bat-family?
Kyle Higgins: To be honest, a lot of it was up in the air. The big, seminal beats in Dick’s life — as far as I was concerned — were always going to stay. However, as we got into the series, and got a better understanding of the New 52’s landscape, we realized there would be a number of things we would be required to rethink or update.
For example, with our first arc hinging on the Court of Owls connection to Haly’s Circus, Dick’s childhood was something I went about developing in a slightly different way. That led to the story behind the Grayson name (in issues #8 and #9), which was something I pitched to DC and Scott to dovetail with the Court of Owls material.
Nrama: How would you describe the process you've gone through as his history has been fleshed out over the last two years?
Higgins: Lots of back and forth communication with my editors. Lots of conversations about what needs to be addressed, what’s best left untouched, and what pitfalls might develop from anything we do update.
Typically, the way this works is we’ll have a story — like Zero Year — that necessitates using elements from Dick’s past. When that happens, I’ll pitch what I think the best solution is and we’ll start a dialogue that way.
Nrama: But Zero Year takes place not only before Dick Grayson became Robin, but it's even before Bruce Wayne became Batman. Now that you guys are going back to "pre-Batman" history in the DCU, how long ago are you thinking this Zero Year story happened that you're telling in Nightwing?
Higgins: A year before Dick’s parents died. So, whenever that is [laughs]. I try not to get too hung up about the “five year history.”
Nrama: OK, so introduce us to the world of Dick Grayson during your Zero Year issue. What's his life like a year before his parents die?
Higgins: Well, he’s a trapeze performer/acrobat in Haly’s Circus. When we meet him in our story, he’s in the midst of one of his favorite activities — watching a movie.
Nrama: So will we see characters from the first story arc you did (when you had Dick traveling with the circus)?
Higgins: Yeah, there might be a few popping up.
Nrama: OK, give us a bit of a tease into what the story is. The solicitation said it's in Gotham? What happens to kick off the story?
Higgins: A night at the movies — gone wrong! We kick things off in Gotham, where Dick and his parents are at a screening of a new movie called Swordwalkers. During the movie, something big happens… which separates Dick and some of the other kids from their parents. And, in the spirit of the movie, Dick takes it on himself to lead everyone to safety, having to navigate treacherous Gotham in the process. It’s a fun, action adventure story.
Nrama: It sounds a lot like a done-in-one, but does the Zero Year story tie into what's happening now in Nightwing?
Higgins: A little bit, yes.
Nrama: What's the experience been like, going back to writing young Dick Grayson? How does it provide insight into how his current personality and psyche was built?
Higgins: It’s always fun exploring a character in an era different from the one they usually exist in. For Dick, it’s especially fun to watch him interact with his parents again… in scenes that aren’t just the typical “hey mom and dad, I’m super excited for our performance tonight in Gotham— I love you guys so much!” Cut to — Dick watching his parents fall to their deaths.
Nrama: Although this is a Zero Year tie-in, Dick Grayson didn't know Bruce Wayne before that fateful day when his parents died. So I assume this is just a Dick Grayson story? Or is Bruce and/or Batman involved in the story?
Higgins: It’s 100% a Dick Grayson story.
Nrama: Last time we talked, Will Conrad had just been announced as the new artist on Nightwing. You said you were familiar with Will Conrad's art, but how has it been working with him? What does he bring to the series?
Higgins: Oh, Will’s the best. He brings a ton of enthusiasm and energy to the title. He’s got his own style, but he’s so respectful of what Brett and Eddy did before him — especially Brett. We made a noticeable tone shift with the Chicago issues, and Will has been very conscious of maintaining that. My favorite thing about his art is how expressive— and unique— all his characters are. I’m really looking forward to what he does with young Dick Grayson and company.