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Friday, April 21, 2006

An Exercise in Egotism: Fixing Nightwing

Okay, so now that I've figured out what my problem is regarding Dick Grayson. I thought I'd try to answer how I, personally, would try to fix this whole mess.

It's an exercise in egotism really, but it's my blog so I can. :-P

How would *I* Write Nightwing
The first thing I would do would be a relocation. Again, I know, but I really think that as long as Dick stays in NYC, where there's Cheyenne and the modeling, and not to mention the Jason Todd mess, he's going to be bogged down with whatever's going to happen here.

So after this Jason Todd mess is over, I'd like to see him relocated. There are lots of cities in this country that aren't in or around New York City (or New Jersey). Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, Dallas, to name a few.

A fictional city loosely based on one of these would be fine. I prefer the thought of him on the West Coast for a while. This naturally would make his presence in crossovers a bit more difficult, but really, before he's up for crossovers, efforts really need to be made to define the adult Dick Grayson outside of his relationship with Bruce.

It seems like for too long they've been using "Bruce's Prodigal Son" as the sole defining characteristic of the character and that has to stop. The character has to work in his own right first.

So anyway, yeah, a relocation farther away would be my first step. Dick would decide after all that that a) he really needs a break from all this chaos and b) he needs to figure out who he is beyond his anger at Bruce and all the mess with Barbara, and all that crap. However, and this is key, he should Not be isolated completely. He should be portrayed as talking on the phone or via the computer with Tim, or Alfred, or Barbara, or even Bruce occasionally. These phone calls would allow for the maintaining of personal conflict and will be in parts wistful, wry, friendly and comforting. But at least for now, the physical distance is important.

When he does come back for crossover events, he'll have to hop a plane to do so. Which means his presence will be worth even more, and maybe he'll have time to let go of some of those complex struggles with Bruce.

Now, naturally, he needs a day job. I always liked the cop thing. It was a wasted opportunity in early Nightwing, because Dixon went with the corrupt cops thing instead. Which basically meant, Nightwing's role with them paralleled Bruce's with the Gotham PD.

I'd like to do that differently. Dick Grayson on an uncorrupt police force has a lot of potential. Especially if there was some way to plausibly swing him taking the detective exam. He's young, but you can't tell me Bruce's protege couldn't pass it.

One of the biggest differences as I see them between Bruce and Dick is that Dick isn't really in a mask. Whether he's Dick or he's Robin or he's Nightwing, what you see is pretty much what you get. And that's a strength of the character, a reflection of his spirit. Batman gets things done through fear, so he needs to be as distinct from any mortal, human identity as much as possible. Nightwing should work more through inspiration, and thus it's not as important.

Whereas Justice *is* important, and it really suits *my* idea of the character to have him fighting for justice by the light of day as well as by night. Being a Detective would also allow him to better exercise a lot of his personal emotional and people skills. The skillset that Batman decidedly lacks.

We would get to see him interact well with witnesses, where his charm and guileless niceness would both comfort and coax answers out at the same time. (One can imagine his partner will be of the more temperamental type. If I could I'd want to steal the woman he had in Dixon's run, I liked her. Or Montoya. That sort of personality might do nicely. Or we could run counter to that, I suppose, and get a Briscoe type older male mentor figure. But I like him partnered with an older woman that he will not be sleeping with.) He would also kick *ass* in interrogations. He was trained by Batman after all.

Now the advantage to a non-corrupt police station, is that we'd get to see Dick's natural ability and charisma pull the other characters into his orbit. He's very young but he's got Bat-training and Titans-honed leadership skills. He'll help them focus when case-solving, teach them to look for the right answers, he probably even practices hand-to-hand with beat cops and officers, giving them much better fighting training than they'd get normally. Maybe he can even form some familial bonds, like he used to in the Titans (and wasn't allowed to do in the Outsiders, weakening him). He can be the precocious little brother to his partner, the son to his lieutenant, big brother to a lot of the officers... The emotional ties would be the most important part.

Of course, one can't neglect the vigilante aspect. The nice thing is that, as a detective, Dick will already have the inside track. And Nightwing can go where Detective Grayson couldn't. The Nightwing stuff will be the same as expected really, though he will be decidedly competent. The challenge will be in using what he finds during his day job to save lives and keep the peace at night. I'd also like to see him on good terms with the Police Department. Good enough terms that possibly certain characters will make the connection between them, characters that are trustworthy enough to keep the secret.

I'd actually kind of like to wait a few issues before he actually puts on the costume again though. Let him have the chance to develop his interpersonal relationships in his new life before going back to vigilantism. That might not be feasible though, as the series would be called "Nightwing", fans would have expectations.

I think personally if *I* were writing, I'd avoid romantic entanglements right away. (I do like Clancy though, but it probably wouldn't be reasonable to somehow bring her along...). There will be a lot of female characters of course, but the relationships will begin completely platonic. If sexual tension does develop, we'd see where we'd go from there, but for a while at least there will be no sex. Because I think the character tends to get lost in the man-whore-dom.

Don't get me wrong, I definitely believe in fan service and male-objectification. But it'll be solo for a while. Changing clothes, possibly shower scenes. That's it. The romantic stuff should be built up to slowly, and the model stuff was pretty ridiculous. (Though I'd definitely have some of the other cops tease him about that. Heh)

There'd need to be a lot of well-developed minor characters. Dick is the sort of character that works best with others. I would focus, primarily, on the cops. And possibly some neighbors that *aren't* ex-villains or ex-heroes. Most of his villain set right away would have to be new. I don't really have any ideas for villains we've seen before, and I'd like to keep Dick away from Deathstroke for a while. Possibly I'd go back through old Titans books for a few villains, but mostly I'd focus on new ones. Meanwhile his fellow cops would be the minor characters to get real development, as I'd want to foster a titans-like familial relationship with them. The partner, some of the younger cops, a few bitter/jealous older cops that slowly come to respect his abilities, the lieutenant...that sort of thing.

Though it'd require quite a bit of research. All I know about cops come from Law and Order, Homicide and other TV shows. which won't make the most accurate portrayals. It does make me want to make a hot, vaguely-Angie Harmon, style ball-breaking prosecutor. But that'd require more thought. I wouldn't want to clone Kate Spencer (much as I love her) anyway.

The big thing though would be the tone of the series. As I mentioned in my last entry and here, the difference between Batman and Robin/Nightwing is that the latter is about inspiration and hope rather than fear. In that sense, Nightwing should be more like Superman. People should see him and be grateful and happy rather than afraid. Seeing him in action should make younger cops ready to work very hard to improve, and older cops inhale a breath in admiration. He should become a symbol for the police in a sense, even if his vigilantism is less than always legal. He embodies the sense of justice that inspired most of them to go into this line of work to begin with. Nightwing should make average people want to make a difference, leading teenagers to tackle that purse snatcher to return his prize to the old lady down the street.

That sort of thing. There would still be angst of course, but the series can't be saturated with it. That's what Batman is for. Nightwing, the series, should be, at heart, fun and uplifting. It should be about Justice in its most optimistic sense. Dick Grayson is *still* the symbol of morning and hope. He's a sign that things will be getting better.

So anyway, if I were writing the series, that's where I'd go with it. What about you guys?


  • At April 21, 2006 9:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I would get DG back in the circus and fight crime from town to town while entretaining kids and being a star

    That'll make him the "morning bird" again, give him a nice supporting cast, and, well, pretty much kill the chance of him having a rogue gallery, but then again, his "strongest" enemy has been Blockbuster

  • At April 21, 2006 9:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Personally,I always liked fan-fiction;it helps show potential of characters that might not always be noticed or applied. One question comes to mind that actually there in the character or are we projecting it there?

  • At April 21, 2006 9:34 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    anon1: That'd be an interesting idea too, though a bit harder to execute. I'm not sure a return to the circus would suit me as much, but it's gotta be better than it is now.

    anon2: Well, that's always a question. Thing is, when you've got characters that date back to the forties, who tend to be written by a lot of writers that are much younger than the characters themselves, fanfiction has something of a new legitimacy. Neither Mr. Dixon, Ms. Grayson, nor Mr. Jones have created this character, in some sense everything post Mr. Kane could be considered fanfiction...though some is more "canon" than others.

    In a case like this though, the audience projection of the character is pretty valid, I think. Especially as we're the ones who buy the comics. :-)

  • At April 21, 2006 9:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It sounds interesting, kal, but besides a new setting, story-wise. Theme-wise, I'd love a Nightwing that's just about Justice.

    That circus idea perked my interest, what about taking it one step foward and putting Nightwing in Hollywood, Dick Grayson - movie/tv star! He might even run into Manhunter, that dynamic would be interesting. There might be way too much angst in Hollywood, now that I think about it..."Aw, man, I didn't get the part!"

  • At April 21, 2006 10:00 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Heh, I admit, I'm not really trying for "new" here as much as a refocusing toward what *I* like about the character. The actual stories/adventures, I'd like to think, would be new and interesting, but in this thing, I'm focusing more on the overall revamp. Familiarity helps though, the closer the surface story is to what came before, the easier it is, I think, to hammer out the real problem areas. YMMV, of course. :-)

    I personally like the cop thing because it highlights Dick's training and strength, but other ideas are good too. The theme and story structure are the important things though, they need to not keep taking everything away from Dick. IMO. No matter how they set him up, they really have to let him set roots somehow, or nothing will ever change.

    Hollywood wouldn't work as much for me, I have to admit. He's pretty and he'd be good at it, I wouldn't doubt, but I tend to think acting/modeling...doesn't work for a vigilante. For one thing, way too much public recognition.

    Dick's got so many talents and skills to play with. He could be pretty much anything: a bodyguard, a cop, a teacher, he could go back to school and study something else...I don't really know why but Hollywood or modeling really doesn't work for me. :-)

  • At April 21, 2006 11:22 PM, Blogger Anthony Palmer said…

    I'd like to see Nightwing replace Batman.

    I don't mean literally, of course. I mean take over the main role that Batman has occupied for a long time: The absolute center of the DCU.

    Batman literally knows everybody. Personally. He's got experience with pretty much every major character in the DCU. This defines him so much that he is often used as a guest in other books to compare/contrast with various characters. Spider-Man serves the same role in Marvel.

    How did he get all these ties? Decades of team-ups in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, among other things.

    Nightwing is a perfect fit for that kind of role. He's got most of Batman's skills, but he's more personable - Everybody already likes him.

    Maybe he could set up a joint operation with Oracle where they offer their services to people in need in the hero community. He'd be sort of like a private eye hero who helps out others when they need a man who knows how to get information - Some of which is provided by Barbara, of course, but also some that Dick digs up himself on the street, using his fast-talkin' and quick-thinkin'. Maybe even his masculine charms, now and then!

    Get him routinely interacting with all sorts of different characters and sooner or later he'll be the new Batman - The most important character in the DCU - Because he's the common link.

    This doesn't address his personal situation, like where he lives or his day job (If he would even have one), and I can't claim to have any good ideas on that side. Anything that facilitates the teamin'-up would work.

  • At April 22, 2006 1:49 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Ooo, I like that idea a lot. It'd probably need to be built up to, but it'd definitely suit what we see in Obsidian Age or Infinite Crisis. The interconnecter role could suit him really well.

  • At April 22, 2006 3:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Tangenting off Anthony's comment, I observed a year or two ago that one of the problems with SUPERMAN was that they gkept trying to establish him in his Pre-Crisis Role as the Heart And Soul Of The Superhero Community -- but his Post-Crisis (Inter-Crisis?) incarnation hadn't really done anything to JUSTIFY it.

    The heart and soul of the Post-Crisis Universe is J'onn J'onnz. Writing Supes out of early JLA history and replacing him with the Martian Manhunter cemented that. Establishing J'onn as Last Of His Race while downplaying Kal-El's Kryptonian ties only reinforced it.

    But we're here to talk about Dick. Ironically, thanks to the Post-Crisis Retcon of Why Dick Passed On The Mantle Of Robin, he was actually a stronger, more independent, more Bruce-Free individual before he gave up the green short-shorts and the pixie boots. He gave up the yellow cape because he'd outgrown it, and it was time to move on.

    When they changed that to Bruce Firing Dick, that undercut the character. Hell, it fairly well disembolwed him. They took what should be the industry's single most iconic Legacy Character, the ORIGINAL sidekick, finally moved on to become his own man, and relegated him to Proving Himself, over and over and over. It's rather like Wally West's early days -- only Dick's Barry Allen didn't even have the good graces to find a grave.

  • At April 22, 2006 3:36 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    You're right really, in both cases. At least with Superman, the sheer likeability/charisma helps a little, but J'onn's really been the main glue in keeping the League and the heroes together.

    With Dick, you're right that it undercut him...thing is, it doesn't necessarily have to. In Nightwing Year One, he's fired because basically he favored leading the Titans over his patrols with Batman. Which could be, really, used to strengthen the character. His duties are important, but he has a wider view that Batman doesn't have. As well, he chose leadership over being a sidekick. That could be used to portray him as strong, but instead they continue portraying him as weak. It's irritating.

  • At April 29, 2006 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't know. I'd rather just admit that Grayson is part of Batman's supporting cast. I think of that as an asset rather than a detriment. There's plenty for non-Batman characters to do in the setting of Gotham City, as long as Gotham City itself is inherently interesting. This doesn't mean a plethora of muggers and vigilantes leaping down from rooftops to stop them, however.

    It'd be nice for the writers to use a character, "Nightwing" (I hate that name) Robin or whoever to explore the city itself. It's not impossible to do, there's tons of interesting literature that's built up around cities like Athens, Rome, Paris, London, New York, etc... Let the guy run around doing legwork.

    As an aside I think it should be Richard Grayson instead of "Dick." It's the twenty-first century for Christ's sake. Let Robin call him "Dick" if he wants to annoy him, but let the guy have a name that isn't inherently ridiculous.

    >sigh< Running on even longer, keeping him on as a Batman cast member might suggest I'm against the "sunnier, lighter" portrayal. I am, kinda. I don't want to read the adventures of Dick Grayson, clown. But I don't want to see wimpy, depressive and moping Nightwing either. An active, interesting character would be just good enough.

  • At April 29, 2006 6:57 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    anon: I see what you're saying, but I think we'll have to agree to disagree.

    I think it'd be a shame to downgrade Dick back to supporting character. He's lead the Titans since before I was born. He's always had a life beyond Batman and beyond Gotham. And has grown up to the point where he should. He's certainly dynamic enough for his own role.

    And sorry, nope. You're never gonna get them to change his name now. He's been Dick Grayson since 1940, no one'll ever accept that change now. As innately ridiculous as the name is, it's him.

  • At June 14, 2006 7:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think the fundamental problem with Dick is Batman. More specifically, he is never going to fulfill the great promise of the sidekick: to one day supercede their mentor.

    Now I don't really want Dick to become Batman or anything. But let's face it, Nightwing is never going to become the leader of the Justice League while Batman is still around. He'll always be a titan; he'll always be on a tier slightly lower than all the top guns. But, alas, Batman is Batman and he aint goin no where.

    Unfortunately for Dick, he has already gone through his character arc of maturing from the boy wonder into his own self-sufficient superhero and now, while Batman is still around, there isn't really anywhere else left to take him. Its the reason why writers keep piling on all this angst; they're trying to further the development of a character that has already really developed as much as he currently can.

    In my opinion, they should cancel his title and focus on Dick as a team player for a while. Because being a great team player is really the only trick in Nightwing's bag that Batman hasn't already got covered.


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