Since being shot in the head, Dick Grayson …. or rather, Ric Grayson, as he now calls himself … has gone through a significant transformation — including a new creative team for his solo title that begins with this week’s Nightwing #51.
Writers Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza, known for their team-up on ‘90s X-Men stories, are taking over the series after the seemingly rushed departure of former Nightwing writer Ben Percy (one that required a rewriting of already-released solicitations for the next few issues).
On this week’s issue, Lobdell is credited with the story’s plot while Nicieza provided “additional scripting,” while Travis Moore and Garry Brown created the #51’s art.
According to Lobdell and Nicieza, Nightwing has lost the majority of his memories since the death of his parents, meaning his years as Robin and Nightwing have been almost completely erased.
After recovering physically — and learning that his life as Nightwing resulted in him being almost fatally injured — Grayson has no desire to return to his life as a superhero. As Lobdell and Nicieza explained, why would he risk his life again, particularly when the relationships he once has with his “Bat-family” are gone?
However, the former hero still has muscle memory from his years of battle training under Batman, so the future for Ric may be more heroic than he wants. Newsarama talked to Lobdell and Nicieza to find out more about the personality changes, what Barbara Gordon’s role in the comic book will be, and what else readers can expect from a non-Nightwing Nightwing.
Newsarama:Scott and Fabian, now that Dick Grayson’s gone through head trauma, how does that affect his personality? It felt like almost a different person in issue #50, but as you write the character, is he still that changed? Can you describe it?
Lobdell: Being friends with Fabian all this years has given me a lot of insight into head traumas and dysfunctional personalities. (I jest!)
Nicieza: Scott meant to say "these years." Just do what I do, hold his hand and point out the sparkly lights.
Lobdell: I think Ben Percy did an excellent job introducing us to the post-Dick Ric Grayson and establishing the status quo of someone who just now has the capacity to get on with his life...taking his first steps. What we'll be seeing in the book is the direction Ric decides he's going in his life.
I think the term "almost a different person" is an interesting way to put it. While Bruce and Barbara and Alfred and Dick Grayson fans the world over would love for someone to snap their fingers and make Ric "whole again," I think it would be a disservice to what happened to him.
Nicieza: It might be hard to find a bigger fan of Dick Grayson on this planet than me, but the entire concept of this storyline is incredibly interesting, and if done right, it will allow us to explore different facets of Dick Grayson while discovering who Ric Grayson is. Any idea can generate a long-term exploration of a character/concept that can surprise fans and creators alike in its durability.
Lobdell: For example, Barbara Gordan’s character evolved from being Batgirl to surviving a trauma and becoming something new — Oracle — which lasted for over 20 years. Now, I won't write Nightwing forever — a grateful nation cheers! — but while I am, I'm determined to make Ric as fully fleshed out and as interesting a character as Dick.
Nrama: You two have worked together a few times. How did it feel working with Travis Moore and Garry Brown sharing the art on this issue?
Lobdell: It has been a blast working with Travis, Garry and Chris Mooneyham in the coming issues. They are all excellent "actors" which really helps drive the character development we're focusing on for the moment. That said, none of them skimp on the action once the fists start flying. And wait until you get a load of the new look for the Scarecrow.
Nicieza: That's one of the good things about working with Katie Kubert again. She has this unerring knack for finding some of the best damned artists in the industry. The writers, not so much. But that's why she hired me to fix Scott's work.
Nrama: Man, you guys are rough! OK, let’s talk about “Ric.” Is that going to be a pretty permanent name change? Is he no longer Dick, but instead going by Ric Grayson?
Lobdell: Ric doesn't have any emotional connection to Dick, so he'd rather go by a name he's chosen for himself. And we'll show you the reason he chose the name in the book.
Nicieza: That one little bit you guys came up with convinced me more than anything that it was a storyline worth exploring.
Nrama: As you have tried to boil down the character to his key components — without his abilities or memories for a while — how would you describe him overall? And is he still someone who cares about victims of crime?
Lobdell: His memories pretty much only go as far as the last most traumatic thing that ever happened to him — the night his parents were murdered. So we're going to see a Ric Grayson whose personality was developed during his knockabout years in the circus. He's a born showman. (We'll learn Ric's greatest impact on the idea of a dual identity comes not from Batman, but from Boston Brand, whose act a young Dick marveled at years ago.)
This doesn't mean Ric suffers from arrested development. This isn't Big or Shazam. He knows some 16 different languages and his muscle memory has every self-defense move Batman ever taught him ingrained in his instincts. But personality-wise, he's a circus guy at heart. He may not go from town to town every night, but he's rarely going to sleep in the same bed more than a few nights in a row.
Nrama: So it’s this change and loss of memory that motivated him to leave the Bat-Family behind?
Lobdell: The "Bat Family" is something he's heard about when he was recovering in Gotham. But let’s be serious, if you woke up one morning and a bunch of strangers said you'd spent the last decade or so of your life dressing up in different identities and risking your life for strangers until you took a bullet to the brain...would you be, like "Awesome! Sign me up for that?” Or would you think "Um, that's what my adoptive father thought was a good idea? Yeah, um. I'm going to be over here in Bludhaven, but thanks for the offer?”
Nicieza: I do think that having just been brutalized by a bullet to the head and extended recovery and rehab time, it speaks to his innate sense of perspective and balance that Ric would think he'd be safer in Bludhaven than with the Bat-Family/Gotham.
Nrama: Well, I can’t say he’s wrong. But you know, one of the other drastic changes is that, in the past, Dick was always the more upbeat, fearless Robin, and that carried over into his role as Nightwing. But now, he feels a little more like Jason Todd in some ways—detached from the world and more comfortable around outcasts (and, dare we say it, outlaws?). Scott, have the similarities come to mind as you’re writing both characters? Or are there more differences?
Lobdell: I think Jason remembers every slight, every mistake, every act of violence whether committed by him or upon him. I think he is driven alternately and equally by rage, revenge and redemption. He is acutely aware of every busted and put back together again relationship with any of the other bats. And he feels his life was a disaster almost from the day he was born into poverty by his drug dealing father and his addict mother.
Nicieza: That was the one thing I had to feel my way through as I started helping out with the script. Scott really nails Jason well in his answer, I can only assume that in writing the character for what seems like 15 years he might have picked up a clue along the way. Differentiating Ric from Jason became a lot easier by the time I started working on #52. Just took a little bit of understanding Ric's headspace better.
Lobdell: Ric has zero baggage and he's good with it.
I get that some people think, "But Dick was always the happy free-wheeling one who got along with everyone!" And I don't think that's changed at all. When he was young his parents taught him from an early age that in order to get from one trapeze bar to the next, you have to let go of one bar in order to grab the other.
Nicieza: In that regard, Ric Grayson, ironically enough, is truer to who he would have been had his parents not been killed than the Dick Grayson who was saved by Bruce Wayne ever was.
Lobdell: This is quintessential Dick Grayson. He can try to hold both bars at once and get nowhere—or he can let himself swing through the air and grab the next bar in his life.
Long before the bullet, long before he met Bruce Wayne, this is a kid who was taught to be both disciplined and fearless. To let go. To be.
That is who Ric Grayson is — and he couldn't be any farther from Jason Todd.
Nicieza: Scott almost made me cry there. Almost.
Nrama: Me too! OK, so let’s talk about Barbara. Does she play a role in Nightwing’s recovery process? Or any other love interest?
Lobdell: Absolutely. But she's going to have some competition.
Nicieza: Dick Grayson never had any difficulties attracting the interest of the ladies (or the guys), so there's no reason to think Ric Grayson would.
Nrama: Oh boy, this should get interesting. So to finish up, is there anything else you can tell us about what’s coming up in Nightwing?
Lobdell: Nightwing? As in singular? Let's just saw we'll not only be following Ric on his hero's journey, we're going to be examining the impact Ric's trauma has had on the entire concept of what makes a Nightwing.
Nicieza: Hopefully, what is coming up is the day that autocorrect stops automatically changing Ric to Ricin or Rich. That would make writing scripts a lot easier.