For Dan Jurgens, taking over Nightwing in the midst of the title character’s amnesia meant approaching the book as a “character study” of the real Dick Grayson, “untarnished by Batman’s touch.”
By examining the character without all his Batman-baggage (but still retaining what Jurgens calls a “Jason Bourne”-type muscle memory), Jurgens is hoping to enhance the character’s “rich tapestry of story” with this new chapter in his life.
Jurgens, a veteran writer who’s redefined multiple DC characters in his career, is taking over Nightwing with this week’s issue #59, working with series artist Christopher Mooneyham.
As Jurgens takes over the title, the title character 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 vigilante life almost got him killed, he started a new life as in Blüdhaven without his Bat-family and without the costume.
However, Grayson’s muscle memory has allowed him to help out a group of police officers who are patrolling the streets in Nightwings absence. And by helping out this group of new “Nightwings,” Grayson’s slowly getting pulled back into the vigilante life.
Newsarama talked to Jurgens to find out more about the new Nightwings that will be working with Dick Grayson and what readers can expect when the writer starts his run-on Nightwing.
Newsarama: Dan, you’re inheriting a book in the midst of circumstances that have turned the title character’s life upside down , making him, in some ways, a different character. Why did the prospect of taking over the story of “Ric” Grayson interest you as a writer?
Dan Jurgens: To be honest, I was at first skeptical. Quite honestly, I think that’s the healthiest reaction a writer can have when weighing the prospects of taking on a new book. For me, it means I’m taking as measured a look at the character as possible.
In this case, the more I looked at Ric, the more I became interested and saw the possibilities. I think there’s something genuinely interesting in a character afflicted with amnesia. In this case, we’re talking about someone who remembers his family and the first portion of his life but nothing after his parents died. His life is marked with two extreme traumas — the death of his parents and then getting shot in the head in Batman #55. For Ric, the years in between don’t exist.
I think that creates the opportunity for some unique possibilities that will add to the tapestry of Richard Grayson.
Nrama: When you were discussing with DC what you wanted to do with the book, where did you land on the direction this book will take? How would you describe your approach?
Jurgens: I don’t want to go too far with that explanation as I would prefer for readers to experience it as they read it.
However, I would say that I don’t see this as any kind of rejection of Dick Grayson’s previous life. I see it more as a character study of someone who’ll be a bit more of his own person because, in terms of his personality and memory, he’s untarnished by Batman’s touch.
I also think there’s something very interesting in the idea that he’s a character for whom many years are a blank slate. Those years are unremembered, like the dream you can’t recall from the night before. I see potential in that.
I realize there’s a segment of fans who are frustrated with that direction but I think there’s something there that can add to, and not detract from, a character we’ve loved for so long. It can add to and enhance his rich tapestry of story.
Nrama: As you kick off your first storyline, how would you describe Ric’s situation? He still doesn’t remember his life as Nightwing, but it seems like he's still drawn to the superhero life with his new friends.
Jurgens: Well, there’s a certain “Jason Bourne” flair to him at this point. Jason Bourne had no memory of a broad swath of his life yet still had the skills.
Ric has retained his skills as well—a type of muscle memory that kicks in.
The question is, what does he do with those skills? Why does he get involved? Why does he help when he doesn’t remember his years as Batman’s trainee?
I think this is where we get into his character. At this point, he’s more formed by his parents than he is by Batman. I think Dick Grayson’s differences from Batman—the fact that he’s more humane and stable—have always been part of what’s made him a compelling character and this is our chance to dig even deeper into that.
Nrama: From solicitations, it looks like you’re getting to really delve into the stories of the supporting cast of “Nightwings” around Dick Grayson. We’ve already met these characters (unless you’re introducing new ones?), but can you describe what they’re like and what you’re getting to explore through them?
Jurgens: The four characters who are now calling themselves Nightwings are doing so in reaction to the idea that Blüdhaven has suffered since the original Nightwing stepped off stage.
If the message is that it takes four characters to replace one—then I think that speaks well of Richard Grayson.
Nrama: Is there a certain theme or idea you’re exploring with this “team” situation that Grayson has around him now?
Jurgens: I intend to explore the question of who and what is a hero? How possible is it to do these things?
What is Ric’s responsibility here? If he inspired this sort of copy cat behavior, how much responsibility does he share in their fate?
Nrama: What can you tell us about Burnback, the villain they’ll be facing in your first storyline?
Jurgens: Burnback is a threat that looms over Blüdhaven’s police force. There is a very direct connection to one of the Nightwings, which allows us to examine a bit of personal history. It also gets into the question of why some of these characters are drawn to the rather extreme life choices they’ve made.
Nrama: What’s it been like working with series artist Christopher Mooneyham?
Jurgens: Chris is great! The sense of energy, action and motion he brings to the page is fantastic.
Nrama: Is there anything else you want to tell fans about what’s coming up in Nightwing?
Jurgens: Let’s start with the fact that whether we call him Ric Grayson or Dick Grayson—we’re talking about a great character. He enjoys a remarkably rich history in the DCU.
I see great potential in his current situation and think there’s every opportunity to add to that rich history. I believe the road ahead makes for great material and something that will adds to the true nature of his character.