DC is celebrating the 75th anniversary of Dick Grayson, and for the writers of his solo, super-spy series Grayson, that means putting the character back where he belongs — within the DCU.
In 2014, 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, of course) 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 Batman is apparently dead (as revealed in April's Batman #40), Dick's on his own, and Grayson deals with the ramifications of that loss.
According to series writers Tom King and Tim Seele, as a result Dick Grayson will be part of the DCU again. "He's a very social hero," King says. "He's a leader. He's a man that everybody depends on. And that's going to play a role in his future."
First up, with June's #9, Spyral goes through some reorganization after the surprising events of March's #7 — and readers will see what happens after a mystery character (who sure looked to be Kathy Kane, familiar to readers of Batman Inc.) killed Mr. Minos. As solicitations reveal, Helena Bertinelli (formerly Dick's partner) becomes the leader of Spyral, leaving the door open for Dick to get a new partner.
In July's #10, Dick will come face to face with Lex Luthor, the man who (briefly) killed him in Forever Evil. Then in Batgirl Annual #3, Dick Grayson and Helena Bertinelli interact with Barbara Gordon.
But does Barbara learn that Dick is still alive? How does Dick come back into the DCU? Newsarama talked to Seeley and King to find out more.
Newsarama: Tom and Tim, you guys really changed the status quo of the Grayson title in March. Was the plan always to have the storyline with Mr. Minos end this way?
Tom King: This is the end of season one of Grayson. And the idea was to get people used to the idea of Dick Grayson in this new role, and to show that we take this character very seriously, and we see a continuity between Nightwing and his new mission.
And so we wanted to do some really great one-and-done spy stories right off the bat, to get people on board with this new status quo.
So we always knew that would come to an end with season one, and then season two would be an expansion of this world.
Tim Seeley: Yeah, we had an end in mind. We always knew we could change stuff if it didn't work, but we always knew that we wanted to be able to refer to the good, weird parts of Batman Inc.. We wanted to make it a spy story where, you know, sometimes the people who are working for an organization aren't even really sure what they're working for.
Nrama: The twist came with at the introduction of a character that sure seems like she's Kathy Kane, who's been associated with Spyral in the past. That was her, right?
King: It may have been. It's definitely possible, and it could have been.
But hey, this is Spyral. Nothing is what it seems.
Nrama: I get the feeling that, even though she has been revealed to readers, she's not going to become a regular cast member and reveal herself to Dick and other agents of Spyral. Am I right? Or is she in the book now?
King: We have this plotted out quite a way in advance, and that character at the end of Grayson #8 is going to play a big role in those plans.
Seeley: Obviously, there's someone pulling strings, and it's someone with interest in Dick. But just to keep it fun, and to keep people guessing, you're not going to see her walk in and say, "Hi! I'm Kathy Kane!" It's going to be about playing with expectations, and using all the tools in the toolbox.
King: Dick was sent into this organization on a specific mission, but what he didn't know was that the whole idea — that he's on a mission and he's under cover — was a set-up by Spyral to get him to be in this place.
So this is someone who just out-played Batman, and that's going to have big ramifications.
Nrama: Speaking of Batman… we just found out that he's assumed dead, and things have changed a bit in Gotham City. Does that change things for Dick Grayson? Do you deal with that?
King: Absolutely. That's panel #1 in Grayson #9 — the ramifications of that.
But we've known for some time what's coming, and it's part of the story.
Batman had Dick out on this mission. He's the one contact, the one thing tying Dick to Gotham City and his family and friends, the one person who knows he's alive. And he's gone.
What does Dick do now?
Seeley: Yeah, and we really liked that idea when they pitched it — the Batman story that Scott Snyder was working on.
So for us, it was like, we can do an out-in-the-cold mission, you know? We can do a spy with no ties home, which just added cool ideas for us.
Nrama: We've already seen, in solicitations, that Huntress…. oops, sorry, I still call her that.
King: [Laughs.] So do we sometimes.
Nrama: Sorry… but we know that Helena's role in Spyral has changed, as she takes over for Minos and is no longer Dick's partner. Can you describe what her new role's going to be? Or are we stepping toward spoilers?
King: Yeah, but there's a new leader of Spyral, and Dick's got a new partner, so I think if you do the math on that, you'll know who the new leader of Spyral is, and you can probably figure out the partner, if you're loyal to the book.
But I think the line we have from #9 is, she says, "As far as you're concerned, I am Spyral now."
Seeley: Yeah, and that was a way to change up the dynamic from the beginning. I think having Dick and Helena as partners… like, they got a little too comfortable with each other. And now we're throwing in this whole thing where she has a different position, so it changes their relationship. Keeps things exciting for us, keeps things exciting for the readers.
Nrama: Right, 'cause she's above him now, so you can't have sexual harassment.
King: [Laughs.] Spyral is a weird organization, though. They turn everything on its head. So they may encourage that — female-to-male employees, as a way to break them down. So yeah, we'll see some weird stuff.
Nrama: We've also been told that in Grayson #10, we're going to see Dick Grayson come face to face with Lex Luthor. Can you tell us anything about what that meeting means?
King: That comes from Tim's brilliant mind.
Seeley: I just felt like, you know, Lex was the guy who "killed" Dick during Forever Evil and decided he was expendable.
Maybe he did save the world by doing it, but clearly Dick's going to have some issue with the dude that sort of killed him in front of his mentor.
But yeah, I think it ended up being a really good way to tie in, to make people question what Spyral's doing. So yeah, I think the scene we have there is one of my favorite things I've ever written.
You'll see some cool dynamics between, you know, a guy like Lex Luthor who is obviously the quintessential supervillain, but he's also a guy with some of the same interests as Spyral.
Nrama: Well Lex is only one of the people who appears to be interacting with Dick after the DCU returns in June. Is there a shift toward bringing him into the DCU?
King: Yeah, the next season will be about Dick Grayson returning to the DCU, and the impact that has on him as a character, and on all the other characters.
Also, this is the 75th Anniversary of Dick Grayson, and we have big plans for him throughout all of DC. Our goal from the beginning was to make him an A-List superhero, and you're going to start to see some of that come up in the next year.
Seeley: We also went realize that it worked really well the first eight issue, so we're not going to change the creative team and the direction and the feel, because I think the way it is works surprisingly well. Our creative team is used to working with each other and takes advantage of each others' strengths.
Nrama: OK, I'm hearing you talk about bringing him back into the DCU. Point blank — are a lot of people going to learn that he's alive? Or is he coming back another way?
King: Ah… I'm hesitating because I just want to shout out every single plot point, because I'm so excited about what's going to happen.
This comic was never intended to be Grayson by himself forever. That's not what we want to do, that's not what we want to write. That's not what Dick Grayson is. He's a very social hero. He's a leader. He's a man that everybody depends on. And that's going to play a role in his future.
Seeley: And you could also just look at the nice cover for Batgirl Annual. Our good friend [and Batgirl co-writer] Brenden Fletcher borrowed our boy for his issue, so… If there's any indication there.
Nrama: But wait, the Batgirl Annual cover doesn't say that Barbara finds out he's alive. Does Barbara end up knowing? Is she the first to find out?
Seeley: We don't even know, because we haven't read Brenden's script yet.
But I assume it's terrible.
King: [Laughs.] Yeah.
Nrama: OK, OK. As you mentioned, you're not changing the creative team. Have you seen what Mikel is doing for the upcoming issues? Anything you want to say about the work he's doing?
King: Issue #9 is the sexiest mainstream DC comic I've read in many years.
Seeley: I second that opinion. It's amazing what Mikel's pulling off in there. I think Tom and I, as writers, are started to play into what Mikel does well. He's done a very good job of making it feel like a very lived-in place.