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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

An Unpopular Opinion: Random thoughts about Dick Grayson

I have to confess yet another unpopular opinion.

Dick Grayson, a.k.a Nightwing, a.k.a the first Robin...does absolutely *nothing* for me.

I'll admit, he's very physically attractive (as I suddenly realized after a long time reading bat-comics thanks to Supergirl of all books), but as pretty as he is, as soon as he starts to talk, he loses me.

I don't hate the character, he's likeable and appealing enough I suppose. I liked seeing him lead in Obsidian Age. But in general, the character doesn't appeal to me.

Which is weird, because most female readers love him, in my impression. Which actually might be my problem come to think about it. He's just so blatantly...well..."fangirl bait" that I wouldn't be surprised if DC's got some giant character database that has him labeled thus so...specifically designed to appeal to female readers. He's pretty, sensitive, angsty instead of stoic, of smaller stature, more vulnerable, much much more expressive... He really seems specifically targeted toward women.

Which might be why he falls so flat to me. I find...something contrived about the character that I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe the extreme angst...or the many, many images of him moping prettily on rooftops in the rain. Or the constant "you don't love me" woe with regards to Batman.

I can't blame it on Ms. Grayson either, much as I've complained about her writing style on Nightwing. I never really cared much for the character under Dixon's pen either. Or Winick's in Outsiders.

I do tend to like him when he's being a "big brother" to Robin. The stuff with Jason in Year One, most of his appearances in Tim's line, the taking Tim train hopping in Nightwing, his concern and answering machine message in Identity Crisis.

But he's so very easily relegated to "victim". And as odd as it sounds from someone who celebrates every time a Green Lantern is tied to a table in a disappating costume, and whose favorite JSA-er was stalked by a Lovecraft-reject... It doesn't appeal to me.

It seems to me like it's really really *easy* to victimize Dick Grayson, to take things away from him, whether it's his job as Robin, his job as a cop, his job as the Outsiders' leader, to blow up his building, kill his friends, have him sexually assaulted.

It's just too easy. Like some sort of giant cliche. Dick's very open to his pain, so they just keep heaping more on. Which isn't as interesting to me as when the same thing happens to a character that *doesn't* deal with it so openly, that holds it until it explodes in some fascinating way. (Dick Grayson would never have a story like Circle of Fire.) I find repression more interesting than moping, even if moping's actually the healthier outlet...comic characters don't need to be healthy.

I think my problem really is in how *weak* he tends to be written. He's the clingy one. The needy one. The one who gets slammed the hardest when even little Tim is sucking it up. When I see images of Dick moping on rooftops, I have the same reaction I used to get with Obsidian's tirades in JSA. "Yes, your life sucks. I'm sorry for that. But *Deal With It*! Go see a shrink, therapist, bartender, priest, Alfred, it out, get the help you need, just do something that's not moping on a goddamn rooftop! It's gotten *old*!"

That's probably not a very nice reaction, but Dick's internal monologue gets *old* after a while.

But there *are* portrayals of Dick that I've liked. And oddly, both times were by folks that don't write his own comic.

I'm really liking Dick in Infinite Crisis. I like the way Johns is taking his humanity and empathy and making them into the strengths they should be, rather than only constant sources of pain. And you know, actually *resolving* at least a little, all the crap between Dick and Bruce goes a long way too.

Obsidian Age had a Dick I liked too. It was nice to see a Dick who still understood what it was to lead, and who was able to use said humanity and empathy alongside the intensity learned from Bruce to get all of the others to shut up, listen and do their jobs. It might be noted that Kelly also, if indirectly through Faith, managed to insert a bit more reassurance/warmth in the Bruce/Dick relationship too.

But it probably says something that the only portrayals of Dick that I really like aren't in the bat books at all. As he's usually written in those stories, he does nothing for me.

Oh well, more for the other fangirls.


  • At March 15, 2006 7:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So you like Guy Gardner
    but Dick Grayson's not your thing

    very interesting :-)

  • At March 15, 2006 7:39 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Yes. I like the ones I can beat up if they're jerks and they'll *like* it. :-)

    Instead of needing more therapy. :-P

  • At March 15, 2006 8:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To me, Dixon took all that was interesting about Dick/Nightwing and stripped it away, turning him into Batman Junior. Dick had dealt with his feelings towards Batman over in the Titans and to see all that dropped just so that Dixon could manufacture more tension was painful.

    Heck, we even learned in the first Titans/Outsiders crossover that Dick is a much better leader than Batman, and Batman agrees with that. That was Nightwing's niche: he's a leader who trusts his team.

    Well, after Dixon's poor excuse for a Nightwing comic ended (which should win awards for the sheer number of lame super-villains introduced), he got to further destroy the character by showing that Dick was stepping out on Starfire with Barbara Gordon (though I guess Winnick got back by having Dick sleep with Kory, right before his popping the question to Babs, apparently).

    Then we get Devin Grayson just completing the destruction of the character.

    So, yeah, it's funny that when we get a barely competent Nightwing in Obsidian Age or Infinite Crisis, the fans love it: that's what the character is supposed to be. That's why the best portrayal of Nightwing in recent memory has been in the Batman Adventures book.

  • At March 15, 2006 1:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm curious if you've ever read the Wolfman/Perez Titans and find out how you reacted to that take on the character. I know that's where my affection for the character comes from -- affection that's been drained away in recent years -- and that's probably where a lot of his current fanbase first liked him.

    I attribute my current apathy to Dick Greyson to the direction the Bat books took in the last 90s. At that point, the line seemed to focus on how mentally dysfunctional Batman is, and Dick seemed to be the counterpoint to how Bruce was constantly supressing his emotions to unhealthy levels. All those scenes of Dick trying to get Bruce to talk about what's bothering him, seems to have become the dominant trait of the character.

  • At March 15, 2006 2:11 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    vincent and lyle:

    I have to admit I haven't read much Wolfman and Perez, Titans-era Nightwing, from what I'd seen though I probably would, admittedly, like the character more.

    As to the love triangles, well, at least those seem to be resolving themselves now...we'll see about the future though.

    I'm looking forward to Nightwing OYL though regardless. I'm hoping maybe with the developments in IC and a years worth of relative downtime, maybe Dick'll get a grip and I can like him.

    I've always been good at blind optimism. :-)

  • At March 15, 2006 11:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dick isn't my prefrence either.


  • At March 16, 2006 7:29 AM, Blogger Scipio said…

    Yet, I don't get the Dick Grayson thing, either.

    It's ROBIN, for pity's sake.

  • At March 16, 2006 7:33 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    mallet: :-) Knew someone would have the guts to make the joke.

    scipio: Basically, yeah. :-) I like all the Robins really...but not like that...

    It's just a little squicky.

    And I think they try too hard to make Dick into the "most desirable male of the DCU" or something. Whereas I'd date Kyle sooner anyday. At least if he gets clingy, you can distract him with something shiny. That should occupy him for a while. :-)

  • At March 16, 2006 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Kal; just don't ever get 'em a beer from the frige;-)

    My gripe is tha Dick became the DCU's emotional punching bag. No one ever goes through that much shit that @#%$ fast. Theres no way to believe it and therefore we can't connect to it. It's just "I've gotta read another full issue of them just friutlesslu @#%$ my fave character

    What needs to be done is to bring back his Robinness. Bring back the gung-ho take no shite, fling clever disses while bring it character I've not seen since the first 2 years of his book.

    My favorite dick hero moment was him going full tilt on Az-Bats in Knight End and also his early to Robin as he charges the roof top fray w/ the mob in the same arc "NOWBODY SHOOTS IN MY DIRECTIN!" to which Tkim hesitatingly followz up "ditto"
    I want that again thats what makes dick appealing

  • At March 16, 2006 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "Kal; just don't ever get 'em a beer from the frige"

    Man, you get a girlfriend stuck in the fridge one time...

    It's not like anyone says don't go down any dark alleys with Bruce...

    or don't get into a car with Hal when he's been drinking...

    or don't, um, be on the same planet as Superman when he's born.

  • At March 16, 2006 4:13 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    green: that was an okay moment, I think. I have to admit, I didn't connect much with Dixon's run either though...except the train-top scene with him and Robin. :-)

    steven: They don't say that, but they probably should. :-P

  • At March 17, 2006 12:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Frankly, the whole "Dick and Bruce At odds" thing is one of the Big Mistakes Of The Post-Crisis Universe, and the one that really laid the groundwork for Dick The Inept Whiner.

    The idea that Bruce FIRED Dick as Robin, rather than Dick merely outgrowing the short pants and moving on to find an identity for himself, calls both Bruce and Dick's competence into question. I LIKED the idea that Dick was ALLOWED to grow into his own role, and that Bruce supported him in that.

    I think one of the strongest moments in the Batman mythos was when Dick walks into the Batcave, gave that speech about how "'Robin' will always be the second half of 'Batman and...'", and gave Jason the box with the Robin costume, neatly folded.

    Alas, the first post-Crisis story arc that followed "Batman: Year One" relegated that scene to the same pre-Crisis junkheap as Bat-Mite and Ace The Bat-Hound, and there's no indication that Infinite Crisis has any hope of restoring it.

  • At March 17, 2006 1:16 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    athelind: Much as I tend to prefer post-Crisis DCU to what came before...I have to agree that taking that out definitely weakened the character.

    It wasn't the only thing, but it definitely didn't help. Only set a precedent for Dick's weakness/victimhood and Bruce's perpetual screwups as a parent figure.


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