Everything You Need to Know: Nightwing

Last Updated on July 31, 2021

Dick Grayson is a name that has been synonymous with the legendary adventures of Batman since his first appearance in the pages of Detective Comics #38 (1940). Throughout his career, Richard John "Dick" Grayson has assumed a number of identities in his battle to defend both Gotham and the harbor city of Blüdhaven from the nightmare men, women, and monsters who would see the municipalities ruled with an iron fist or burned until there was nothing left but rubble and dust. Whether you know him as Robin the Boy Wonder, leader of the Teen Titans, the Post-Crisis Batman, a reluctant member of The Outsiders, an agent of Spyral, or as Nightwing proper, there's no doubt that the character's arrival will have a profound effect on the DCEU and Warner Bros. plans for the future.

With the announcement of THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE director Chris McKay poised to helm a NIGHTWING solo film as a part of Warner Bros. strategy for their DCEU slate of films, we here at JoBlo would like to offer a crash-course on everything you need to know about the DC's acrobatic blue bird and then some. There's a lot to cover, so let's take a flying leap off of the trapeze and soar through the highlights of Nightwing's legendary career as a defender of justice and a man worthy of the cowl.


Richard John "Dick" Grayson was created by legendary comic makers Bob Kane and Bill Finger and illustrated by Jerry Robinson in 1940. First named after the fictional character Robin Hood, the significance of Grayson's superhero moniker was later changed to better reflect the character's acrobatic prowess by having it relate to the robin bird instead. Later still, it was stated that "Robin" was a name that Dick's dearly-departed mother had given him during his time as a featured performer for Haly's Circus. Grayson's Nightwing persona did not come into play until several years later, when writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez established one of the most significant identity alterations in all of DC comics for the legendary character, by having him change his name and sport a black and robin-egg-blue body suit in the pages of Tales of the Teen Titans #44 in 1984. 


Born into a life of entertainment, Dick was once a member of the acrobatic spectacle "The Flying Graysons". Alongside his mother and father, John and Mary Grayson, Dick enjoyed being in the spotlight while flying through the air with the greatest of ease, until an "unfortunate accident" claimed the lives of both of his parents. As the story goes, Dick was just eight-years-old when he witnessed mob boss Tony Zucco menacing the ringleader of Haly's Circus, by demanding that the owner pay Zucco for the protection of his valuable performers. The proprietor would hear nothing of the sort, and denied Zucco his protection fees flat out.

As a way of getting his revenge, and setting an example for what would happen if the circus owner did not comply with his demands, Zucco sabotaged Haly's main attraction, The Flying Grayson's, by rigging the wires so that they would plummet to the ground. After the tragedy, billionaire Bruce Wayne motioned to adopt young Grayson as his legal ward, hoping that the boy would go on to know love and live a better life despite his tragic loss.

Concerning the origin of Dick's Nightwing persona, we're going to have to tread through some choppy DC comic book continuity, so strap on your floaties and allow the oncoming current of information to wash over over you. The decision for Grayson to leave his costume as Robin behind and become Nightwing can all be tied back to the major DC comics event Crisis on Infinite Earths (June 2004) – an event that caused the destruction of countless parallel universes within the DCU, resulting in the creation of one single positive matter universe and one made of antimatter as well. If you want to think of it in film terms, this was DC's way of committing to a hard reboot of their many fabled franchises and characters. 

Prior to the event (where there are many inter-connecting threads to unravel), Dick decides that the time has come for him to retire from his position as Batman's second-in-command (and subsequently, his role as the leader of the New Teen Titans as well). His respite from the superhero business doesn't last long though, as after a fight between Dick's civilian persona and Deathstroke convinces him that the world still needs him to fight the good fight. With his mind made up, Dick decides to take the name of Nightwing, in honor of a Kryptonian hero admired by the Man of Steel himself, Superman. Re-branded as Nightwing, the limber Lothario of the Batverse took the fight to Deathstroke (and his partner in carnage, Terra), defeated him with the aid of the honoraryTitan, Jericho, and established himself as the leader of the Teen Titans once more. 

After DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths event came to its conclusion (and many of the premiere comic book publisher's characters were re-purposed), the origin of Nightwing changed – which ultimately lead to Dick replacing Bruce Wayne as Batman for some time. Dick's re-tooled genesis begins when he decides to leave his position as Robin, after an encounter involving Two-Face and The Dark Knight goes horribly wrong and Batman nearly dies. Shortly thereafter, Grayson leaves the dank comfort of the cave in an effort to re-discover himself and plan his next steps. Eventually, his soul-searching journey finds him wandering the busy city streets of Metropolis, where he then meets Superman and is told of the Kryptonian hero Nightwing. Inspired by Clark's tale of the alien outcast, Dick then returns to Gotham under the name Nightwing, and begins making himself known to the criminal element therein.

For a time, it looked as if everything was coming up Milhouse for Nightwing, and that perhaps striking out on his own was the answer to his troubles all along. However, in a place where lunatics, madmen, and criminals are in no short supply, it didn't take long before Bane, the South American, Venom-infused gargantuan came along to change the course of NIghtwing's career, once again. Of course, I'm speaking of the events of DC's famous Knightfall story-arc, in which Bane breaks Bruce's back,

At first, the character of Jean-Paul Valley (Azrael) is asked by a recovering Bruce Wayne to wear the cowl, but the unhinged disciple of the Sacred Order of Saint Dumas soon proves himself to be incapable of the responsibility. With the weight of his poor judgement resting squarely upon his shoulders, Bruce then requests that Dick take up the mantle of Batman instead, In wanting to help his dearest friend and mentor, Grayson agrees to stand-in for Bruce as the new Batman until such a time when the billionaire playboy can heal from his injuries and return to his self-appointed mission of vengeance and absolution.

FREE BIRD:      

In 1995, it was finally time for DC to take Nightwing to the next level. As a part of the effort, DC launched a 4-issue Nightwing mini-series that served to elevate Dick's status as a character worthy of reader's dollars and affection. Written by Dennis O’Neil with art by Greg Land, the launch of Nightwing's solo debut was a smash hit, and ultimately lead to the character securing his own on-going series in 1996 – penned by Dennis O' Neil with art by Scott McDaniel. As a way of setting the character apart from his pointy-eared partner, O'Neil and Land moved Grayson's quest for justice to the whaling town of Blüdhaven – a dilapidated, industrial commonwealth whose populace was in constant need of protection from the nefarious gangsters and thieves who operated from within its ramshackle harbors and alleyways. Additionally, because of the minimal geographic distance between Blüdhaven and Gotham, NIghtwing was able to tumble between both locations, should the Bat-family ever need his assistance. 


Now that we know where Nightwing came from, let's take a look at where he's been. Throughout the course of his career as a superhero, Dick Grayson, as Nightwing, has aligned himself with several crime fighting groups across the DC spectrum. For the purposes of this next section, I'd like to take you on a brief tour to highlight some of the more significant team-ups in Nightwing's history. Understand that this is about as easy as Two-Face deciding whether he'd like to order the chicken or the fish for his evening meal, so you'll have to pardon my simplifying matters as we make our way through what is indeed a very long list.

The Dynamic Duo – Before he was Nightwing, Dick Grayson acted as Batman's Boy Wonder, Robin. Together, Bruce and Dick fought side-by-side to bring the likes of The Joker, Scarecrow, Catwoman, and countless others to answer for their heinous acts against humanity. Although it feels like no criminal ever stays incarcerated for long (be it in Arkham Asylum, Blackgate Prison or otherwise), there's no doubt that the storied efforts of this team helped keep the streets of Gotham safe, if only for enough time to catch its breath before the next disaster.

Teen Titans –  As a group of young superheros working collectively to make their mark on the world, Dick Grayson helped establish this organization with the help of Kid Flash, Aqualad, and Wonder Girl (between the pages of The Brave and the Bold #54-60. Since being established in 1964, Teen Titans has seen several members come and go, including characters like Speedy (Roy Harper), Aquagirl, Beastboy, Bumblebee, the original Hawk and Dove, Mal Duncan, Lilith, and the out-of-time neanderthal Gnarrk. Furthermore, of the many animated programs that DC has presented to audiences throughout the years, TEEN TITANS and TEEN TITANS GO! have been among the most successful. The former presents the team as young adults looking to kick crime in the face while the other is intended for kids – even though plenty of adults still tune in because the show is exceptionally written, well produced, and chock-full of chibi-style eye-candy.

The Outsiders – One simply cannot speak on Nightwing's involvement in the formation of this super group without first mentioning the events of the Teen Titans/Young Justice mini-series event "Graduation Day". The long and the short of it is that while Mr. Grayson is locked in the heat of battle with Indigo, a cybernetic automaton from the future, the rancorous robot manages to kill Titan teammates Omen and Troia – Dick's childhood friend. Shaken to his core by the loss, Dick moves to disband the the Teen Titans as a way of keeping the friends he has left alive out of harm's way. Not long after the Titans go their separate ways, Arsenal establishes a rag-tag team of supers called The Outsiders, and approaches Dick about joining the ensemble. Dick refuses, of course, until he finds the group (Arsenal, Jade, Shift, Thunder, Grace, and Indigo) in need of his guidance.

The arrangement proves to be a difficult one for Nightwing at first, given that Indigo (who you'll remember killed his friend Troia) is a part of the team. Oh sure, she's been re-programmed by S.T.A.R. Labs, but her visage still serves as a grim reminder of darker days. Over time, the arrangement takes Grayson to a strange place, mentally. As a result, Nightwing's leadership becomes quite militant in nature, and the Blue Bird of Blüdhaven starts making mistakes. Fearing for the safety of her teammates, Jade moves to replace Dick as team leader, and manage the team as a more careful and compassionate strategist.

Spyral – Created by writer Grant Morrison and artist Chris Burnham for the bizarre and gritty Batman Incorporated comic book series, the UN covert operations agency was founded by the character Otto Netz AKA Agent Zero with the purpose of using gifted individuals to commit various acts of espionage on the organization's behalf. Spyral has been featured heavily in the pages of Tim Seeley's GRAYSON comic book series, in which Dick has had to lie, cheat, and steal from those closest to him as a means to complete several assignments of a questionable nature.

Court of Owls – Established within the pages of Batman: The Black Mirror and Batman: The Gates of Gotham, and penned by writer Scott Snyder, the Court of Owls is a surreptitious organization whose roots dig deep into the history and formation of Gotham City. Despite being relatively new to the comic book scene, the Court is now considered to be an important part of the Batman canon, with many of its members working to manipulate the politicians, planning, and inner-workings of Gotham from the shadows. The Court's weapon of choice is a highly-skilled group of puppet-like assassins they call Talons. Fun Fact: Dick Grayson was intended to become a Talon before being adopted by the billionaire Bruce Wayne.

Quite recently, Dick has infiltrated the Court while working as a double-agent with the intention of dismantling the nefarious organization from the inside out. The Court (or the Parliament of Owls as they've since gone international), suspects that Nightwing is up to something, so they've paired him with a Talon by the name of Raptor as a means of keeping tabs on him.

Other Groups – As I'd mentioned earlier, Nightwing is a busy dude. During his time as the black and blue hero, he's aided the following groups as his way of changing the world for the better: All-Star Squadron, Batmen of All Nations, Bird Scouts, the Blüdhaven Police Department, Insurgency, the Justice League of America, the Justice League of Arkham, Mystery Analysts, Secret Society of Super Villains, Super Friends, the League of Titans, the Resistance, and yes … Pet Club.


Okay Bat-fans, I hope you're ready for this section of our breakdown, because like our Nightwing, the names of several characters and series are about to take flight. In the aftermath of the comic book miniseries Zero Hour, in which Batman is killed after an entropy fissure opens above him and does its worst, Nightwing takes on the mantle of Batman. Of course, Bruce is re-introduced to the DCU some time later, and becomes the The Dark Knight, once more. Later, because comics are sometimes very circular in their storytelling, Nightwing pulls on the cowl again after Bruce is apparently killed in a helicopter crash alongside Doctor Hurt of the Black Glove in Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel's Batman R.I.P..  

Additionally, Dick becomes the Batman again after Bruce is killed by a concentrated blast from Darkseid's omega-beams in the pages of Grant Morrison, J.G. Jones, and Marco Rudy's FInal Crisis storyline. Heh, Morrison sure does love to fluff Bruce's pillow in preparation for a not-so-permanent dirt nap, doesn't he? Anyway, while patrolling the crime-infested streets of Gotham, Dick surrendered his Nightwing persona to the Kryptonian biological son of General Zod and Ursa, Chris Kent.

It's also worth noting that while operating as Batman, Dick tends to partner with Bruce's biological son (and my favorite Robin), Damian Wayne, as his snappy sidekick. Another point of fact is that, as Batman, Grayson decided to move his base of operations from Bruce's Batcave to an underground bunker beneath Wayne Tower. While this was a questionable move to be certain (seeing as the Batcave is already equipped with the latest Bat-tech for every imaginable scenario), Dick felt that a change of venue would be better suited to his personality and needs while wearing the cape and cowl.

In the end, and after making a pilgrimage through a fractured space time in the pages of the six-part series Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne written by Grant Morrison with art by Chris Sprouse, Frazer Irving, Yanick Paquette, Georges Jeanty, Ryan Sook, Lee Garbett, Bruce reclaimed his position as Gotham's caped crusader.  


Holy cinematic capers, Batman! As one of the most significant characters of the Batverse, Dick Grayson has been represented on the big screen several occasions, including both live-action and animated features and series. His first appearance came by way of THE BATMAN (1943), a 15-chapter theatrical serial from Columbia Pictures directed by Lambert Hillyer. The Boy Wonder was portayed at that time by actor Douglas Croft, whose zeal for the character offered a fine compliment to Batman's penchant for deductive reasoning while speaking aloud. 

By far, the most iconic on-screen Robin was represented by actor Burt Ward, who was featured in the classic Batman television series (1966-68). As the pithy, fist-grinding yin to Batman's yang, Dick Grayson was an essential part of the show's whimsical charm. Though Dick came off as a fairly dense individual at times, Batman could always count on him in a pinch when having to escape from a villain's diabolical trap or solve one of The Riddler's quizzical conundrums. There's no doubt that Ward's Robin has been the best representation of the character to date, and yes, that includes actor Chris O' Donnell's turn as the flamboyant bird boy in BATMAN FOREVER (1995) and BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997). What? Oh c'mon, don't furrow your brow at me! I'll give you that O' Donnell's sock nunchuck laundry routine was cool, but those movies are laughably bad and you know it.

In addition to his live-action appearances, Dick Grayson, both as Robin and Nightwing, has appeared in several kick ass animated features throughout the years. The lineup is a mighty one, so let's just make a list and I'll bold the ones that I think are worth your time: BATMAN & MR. FREEZE: SUBZERO (this one is decent, though it's not among my top picks), JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER (this one is a mustBATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD (this is another outstanding feature involving the character, a must-see), BATMAN: BAD BLOOD (while not the best Grayson feature, this is an essential watch for Batwoman fans), JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. TEEN TITANS (you can pass on this one, in my opinion), BATMAN: THE CAPED CRUSADERS (probably by favorite DC animation of the past few years, an absolute must-see for fans of the '66 series), and of course, THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE (which I thought was a solid 6 or 7 out of 10). Lastly, Nightwing will be featured in upcming TEEN TITANS: THE JUDAS CONTRACT animated film which is scheduled for an April 4, 2017 release.

DC NEW 52:

After his time in the Batsuit (yes, I've lost count of how many times Dick has donned the cape and cowl as well), Grayson returned to his Nightwing persona at the launch of DC's New 52 continuity. At the time of the premiere publisher's hard reboot, writer Kyle Higgins and artist Eddy Barrows brought the character back to his roots by having his inaugural adventure center around Haly's Circus and the return of Tony Zucco for the first time after the gangster arranged to have The Flying Graysons put to death. Admittedly, I did not partake of this series, though it's important to note that toward its conclusion, Batman and Nightwing are involved in an altercation in which a secret is revealed that changes the Boy Wonder forever.

Ah, you didn't think we were going to move on from this section without telling you what happened, did you? Well, the long and the short of it is that, after the corpse of Court/Parliament of Owls Talon William Cobb finds his way onto Batman's autopsy table, it's revealed through a series of rigorous tests that Cobb is in fact Grayson's Great Grandfather. What? You mean to tell me that a member of DIck's immediate family was a part of Gotham's oldest underground organization of killers? Oh snap! Outraged by the information (and the idea that Batman kept it hidden from him), the Dynamic Duo then get into a bit of fisticuffs action – wherein a false tooth bearing the Talon insignia is knocked loose from inside of Grayson's mouth. Dun dun dunnnnn! You do know what this means, right? Dick Grayson, the trusted ward of Bruce Wayne himself, was meant to be a Talon all along. Oh what a tangled web comics do weave, eh? Because you see, Dick had no idea that he was meant to be a Talon pretty much since the moment he was born. 


After Dick gets the snot kicked out of him by an evil organization called the Crime Syndicate, Grayson is carted off to  the Justice League watchtower and brought before a counsel of super villains. As the Syndicate claims responsibility for having killed the Justice League (pfft, as if), one of their cronies does the unthinkable by revealing Dick's identity to the entire world. Ugh! Thanks a lot, Crime Syndicate! As a result of being outed, Grayson is left with no choice but to escape only to then fake his own death as a means of re-purposing himself elsewhere, yet again. For what it's worth, DC's Forever Evil event was one of their more engaging events of the past few years, and I highly recommend that you read it. Every issue of that series pumps with action and consequences for all involved and the art is fantastic across the board.  


We did it, we made it! This here is the most recent iteration of Dick's time as Nightwing. The launch of Nightwing Rebirth takes place directly after the conclusion of Seeley's GRAYSON series, wherein Dick's any trace of Dick's identity was wiped off the face of the earth. With the slate wiped clean, Grayson is able to return to his position as Nightwing, which he uses to infiltrate the Parliament of Owls after they tried their damndest to besmirch his legacy. By the by, I've heard a lot of good things about this series, and I've even read the first arc, though with so many Bat-related books on the shelves these days I could not justify keeping it as a part of my pull-list – especially when you consider its bi-weekly release schedule.   


So there you have it, folks! Now, I think we can all agree that it's damn near impossible to sort through every waking moment of Nightwing's career, but I hope this crash-course has served you well in gaining a better understanding of the character. It's a fact that Nightwing being introduced into the DCEU will mean big things for Warner Bros., especially if the powers that be decide to have him wear the cape and cowl at some point down the road. For my money, Chris McKay feels like a smart choice as the one to bring Dick Grayson into the spotlight. As evidenced by THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE, McKay has the talent and sensitivity to deliver a more "Happy Batman" vibe with the Nightwing character, and in DCEU's quite dour, monochromatic world, that might be exactly what we need for the black and blue bird to take flight in the hearts and minds of fans the world over.

Seeing as Chris McKay's plans for a NIGHTWING solo film were announced not long ago, it will be some time before we get word of anything concrete. In the meantime, you can check out Dave Davis' Cast This: Nightwing piece, and don't forget that JUSTICE LEAGUE opens in theaters on November 17, 2017.


Source: joblo.com

About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.