Spoilers for Grayson #12.
In this week's Grayson #12, the previous status quo of Dick Grayson is not only turned upside down, but the comic's new direction takes the character straight into DC's upcoming event, "Robin War."
Written by Tim Seeley and Tom King, DC's ongoing Grayson has been portraying former Robin Dick Grayson as part of a secret spy organization called Spyral. No longer connected to Gotham City, the character was able to infiltrate Spyral because his family and friends believed he was dead — everyone but Batman, that is, who was behind Dick's mission.
Now that Bruce Wayne no longer remembers that he's Batman — and can no longer be Dick's contact with his former home — the situation for Dick Grayson has changed. As a result, Grayson #12, featuring art by Mikel Janin, shows the character coming clean to the rest of the Bat-family — with a little help from Alfred — including a touching meeting with Bruce himself.
Newsarama talked to Seeley and King about the issue, how they were able to make each scene not only meaningful reunions but set-ups for the future, and what this all has to do with "Robin War."
Newsarama: I know you guys plotted this thing together, and it obviously follows up on the recent events in Batman, but was this something you always knew you'd have to write — Dick coming back to life?
Tom King: We always knew it would happen eventually. And when Scott Snyder first sort of pitched the room on this grand Batman idea he had, Tim and I immediately saw the potential for what this would mean for Dick Grayson — the idea that his only connection home would be gone to him, and having to come back to that emotional state.
And then there was this big fight between us and Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart and the whole Batgirl team over who would get to tell the story first. We won. It was very contentious. A lot of noses were bloodied.
But I love this issue and I'm so glad we got a chance to tell this story.
Nrama: Dick had to deal with Bruce Wayne first in this issue. It was a touching scene, and it incorporated this splash page with past dialogue — something you used for every meeting he had. How did you come up with the structure of that scene and the others that followed?
King: I had 22 pages, and I had five characters, all of whom have these intricate histories with Dick Grayson. And each one is very important to me personally, and I think to our audience as well.
I needed a way to very quickly sort of get to that emotional point where the audience remembers they've been reading these characters for so many years and these characters have been together for so many years — not just in terms of continuity, but just in terms of their history with each other as pop culture icons and the history of what they meant to the audience.
The easiest way to do that was just to go back to the text and go back to the moments that I thought meant a ton to me, and hopefully connected to the audience. I wanted to reference all those moments, so I went to my own collection of comic books and sort of pulled out my favorite moments of all the people, took a quote from a lot of those pages and put them in the background to sort of symbolize that there's a lot of history between these two characters.
And then once you have that one page where you make that connection, then you can get to telling the story.
Nrama: And wow, those splash pages by Mikel.
King: Mikel killed it on this issue. I ask the world of him and he delivers the whole solar system, you know? I was like, here, we need to hold the camera super still, we need incredible amounts of emotion, and here we need to have an insane action scene, but you have like four panels to do it. And he went above and beyond on everything. I mean, I don't have to tell Mikel how to draw a comic book. His layouts are better than I can imagine. And they blew me away with this one.
And I think his Batgirl — his Barbara Batgirl — is stupendous. I just love the way he draws that character.
Nrama: How important was it for you guys as writers to put him back together with the Batman family, and how daunting was it to have that responsibility?
King: It was a big responsibility. I felt like I was definitely up to bat, and people put a lot of faith in me, and I owe them for that faith. But once I came up with that idea of having the thought balloons, it was really helpful, because just me going back through all those things looking for the quotations, I just relived the story. And re-reading story after story after story really helped put me in a place where I could write this issue. I wish I had more room. I feel like every scene in that could be its own issue.
Tim Seeley: We didn't want to do just another …. weepy, sad, another character's dead and let's all be sad about it type thing. It's just such a trope in superhero comics. And in the end, it loses its value because they don't stay dead anyway.
So I think it had to be about, and Tom correctly decided that the best way to do it was just to incorporate it all in one moment instead of trying to make it some long, explanation about their history.
Let's make it about how they feel about it instead of another scene of "you were dead and lived?" Let's make this about their emotional core instead.
Nrama: You also utilized the artifacts in this issue, to not only look back at each character's past with Dick, but also to incorporate the Cluemaster's Code from Grayson: Futures End to set up stuff for the future — particularly the reveal at the end of Agent Zero's identity. Was that part of your goal, to move the story forward for what's coming up?
King: Yeah, this issue was probably the most fun issue to write but also the hardest, because I had to use basically every single trick I knew about comics, storytelling-wise. Not that anyone's supposed to notice any of that stuff, but there's just so much to get in there and so much emotion in so few pages.
In this case, collaborating with Tim, we didn't want this issue to be just, like, look back and remember. You know, he returns to Gotham and everybody's mad at him and he feels bad. Grayson's not about that. It's not about looking at your belly button. It's fun adventure.
Grayson is about Dick Grayson saving the world, right? It's Dick Grayson saving the world.
So all of that — all of those remembrances had to be in service to the action elements.
So those elements — those objects that play a role in this issue — are all about getting to the end reveal and showing that Dick Grayson's not just out talking to people. Dick Grayson's on a mission.
Seeley: And that's always the job on this book. It's to be aware of the history and nostalgia for it, but we have to keep moving forward. That's why we had to figure out a way to make this book a trip home but also a job and a mission and a spy story.
That's always the goal — how do we make each issue of Grayson a spy story, even if it seems like it's going back to Gotham.
Nrama: So what does it mean to Dick's mission going forward, to know the identity of Agent Zero and to no longer be working for Batman? His reason — his motivation for being in Spyral — is different now. What does that bring to the book?
King: I think this is a total change of the momentum of the book and where the book stands.
This book started as Dick Grayson undercover to find out what Spyral is, being almost passive on a mission from Batman — a mission he didn't want to be on, a mission where he's serving his friend.
Now, going forward, Dick Grayson has his own mission. He's taken control, he's taken the wheel. And he has to find out what Spyral really is — to find out what their mission is — for him, not what Batman's mission is. And find out how to disrupt that or do it his own way.
Seeley: And that's also one of the jobs of the book, is to change focus every couple issues so that it's always new and fresh, and that every time you think you know what's going on, we have Dick in a new position, in a new job, in a new mission. And that's the fun of it.
Nrama: Let's talk about the Grayson Annual next week and what's coming up in future issues of Grayson.
King: We have two issues and then we get "Robin War." And what happens in "Robin War" is going to hit our book pretty hard.
This issue is sort of step one to "Robin War" — that's how I would put it. It leads up to "Robin War."
Nrama: So Grayson #12 is like a prelude to "Robin War?"
King: Yeah. What is being set up here is going to continue in "Robin War."
Nrama: What about the Grayson Annual?
Seeley: The Grayson Annual is a story about the connection Dick has with Superman — and the new status quo for Superman. So it's a cool, one-off story, and it also explores the relationship we set up between Dick and Lex Luthor.
King: There was a very special relationship that's always existed between Dick Grayson and Superman — a bond that is very different than the bond that's between Batman and Superman. And we want to bring that back to the fore of the DCU, and what that particular friendship means to the DCU.
And people who want to continue into "Robin War," the Annual does play a fairly large role, but it's in a subtle way that won't be revealed for awhile.
Nrama: Then to finish up, can you tease anything about "Robin War?"
King: Well, if you've seen the cover, you know the Owls are involved.
"Robin War" started with a small idea and we realized how much we could put into it and how big it could grow. And it became bigger and bigger until it became this huge event. And it's our chance to take stock of all these characters, what they mean to Gotham, and what they mean to each other. And when they all come together, they're going to leave each other different from when they came. People come in here, they're not going to come out the same. That's what events are for, a chance to change status quo.
"Robin War" is our opportunity to make the status quo as good as we can make it, and make that come out of the emotional connection between these characters…. with a lot of punching.
Nrama: Anything else?
King: No! There are so many twists and turns, I can't talk about it. Like, the opening page is a huge, holy crap moment. I can't even talk about that. Page one, panel one, I can't talk about.
I have to talk in these vague generalities. But the events I like best are the ones where… like, when Geoff Johns writes an event, I think he does it better than anybody else. I always think of the last page of Sinestro War when they revealed the Anti-Monitor has a yellow ring, you know? It's like, "I can't believe that happened!" But then you think, oh, but it's the natural thing to happen. That's what I want for this book. I want that kind of feel when people read it. They're like, "I can't believe they did that. What's going to come next?" That's the point of "Robin War."