Dick Grayson is no stranger to playing the hero. As Batman’s “Boy Wonder”, Robin took to the scene in a green and red costume to fight crime. As Nightwing, defender of Blüdhaven, Grayson made his own calls in blue and black, free from the shadow of Batman. But when Bruce met an untimely fate due to the events of DC Comics’ Final Crisis, someone had to step in and take on the cape and cowl.
Throughout this list, you’ll find 15 reasons why Dick Grayson is the better Batman. Yes, that is a strong claim. But while Bruce Wayne created the idea of the Dark Knight, Grayson’s appreciation for Wayne’s teachings, his dependence and admiration for his friends and a quick-witted way to fight upended and improved upon everything we thought we knew about Batman. A vulnerable, trusting crime fighter and big brother to Damian Wayne, we can’t help but miss the days of Dick Grayson in the Batsuit. Let’s dive in.
15. HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH ALFRED
Dick Grayson’s relationship with Alfred has always been strong, and we see this dynamic throughout Dick’s time as Batman. For Bruce Wayne, Alfred is often playing mission control; operating as involved as possible in all-things Batman. But with Dick, Alfred takes a bit of a backseat to the rough and tumble of patrolling the streets, or at least watching Batman’s every move while he does that.
There’s a trust Alfred has in Dick and Damian, one he certainly had with Bruce, but seeing two new vigilantes fighting side by side as a product of Bruce, Alfred can breathe a bit of a sigh of relief. Toward the end of Dick’s run, Alfred plays a large part in preventing The Joker’s schemes, holding his own against The Clown Prince of Crime, and playing just the right part to position Bruce Wayne’s return. But that care Alfred has for Dick doesn’t fade and even as Batman Incorporated takes flight, the two stay in touch.
Much of Dick Grayson’s stint as the Dark Knight goes to great lengths to show off just how agile and professionally-trained in acrobatics Grayson really is. While Bruce Wayne is no stranger to brute fighting skills and quick-witted combat, Grayson’s combat has a sort of song and dance to it — float like a butterfly, etc. It all looks natural, and why shouldn’t? Grayson is the product of a traveling circus and two acrobatic parents, and he didn’t let up on his ability for a second during his stints as Robin or Nightwing.
Throughout the pages of Grant Morrison’s run of Grayson as Batman, we’re often shown in explicit detail the intricacy of Grayson’s acrobatics, surprising the citizens of Gotham, the GCPD and even the villains he takes down that are typically used to Bruce Wayne’s tactics. It’s even an interesting contrast to his own Robin, Damian Wayne, who fights more like his father than anyone, effectively seeing the dynamic duo in a complete role reversal.
13. HE KNOWS IT’S NOT FOREVER
Dick Grayson is no stranger to finality. He’s always been privy to endings, leaving the moniker of Robin to take on a city of his own as Nightwing or leaving a cape and cowl to pick up a badge. This piece of Dick’s humanity allows his Batman to truly breathe as an agent of borrowed time. What would Batman do if he knew he couldn’t be Batman forever? He wouldn’t push away those closest to him or find ways to extend his own lifespan. At least, Dick Grayson’s Batman wouldn’t.
Throughout Grant Morrison’s Dick Grayson as Batman run, Dick is shown to be extremely uncomfortable filling Bruce Wayne’s shoes, something Alfred will often console him about. Villains and other allies will refer to him as the “new Batman,” taking ownership of Bruce’s Bats as “my Batman.” It’s a subtle thread throughout the run, but it makes the mystery behind Bruce’s “death” and Dick’s new mantle all the more bittersweet when it ends.
12. HIS COSTUMES
Another subtle touch, but Dick Grayson’s costumes as the Dark Knight reveal a lot about the type of crime fighter he is. As Dick’s run moves along, the costume looks and feels more slim-fitting, mirroring Dick’s own comfort level taking after Bruce. At the beginning of the series, the suit looks ill-fitting, dark and uncomfortable. As Dick wraps up his run, the suit looks natural on him, even when he shares page time with Bruce Wayne himself. They aren’t competing, but two sides of the same Batman coin.
The suit also sports a more classic blue tone to it, a hard turn from the black and yellow of Bruce Wayne’s cape and cowl. We can’t help but feel both the Nightwing influence in the color choice and the adherence to Bruce’s early days, days when Dick himself was fighting crime as Robin. The costumes look great, but they also provide needed imagery for everything in the background. A perfect touch.
11. THE CRAZY SPACESHIP BATMOBILE
One of the best parts of Dick as Batman comes in the form of all of the experimental gadgets and vehicles cooked up for the new Dynamic Duo of Batman and Robin. Most prominent of which is the spaceship-looking red and black Batmobile, complete with full ground assault and flight capabilities, voice recognition and much, much more. Honorable mention goes to the one-wheeled, semi-flying Batcycle, of course.
Designed by Bruce Wayne but developed to completion by Dick and Damian, the new Batmobile looks more like Ted Kord’s Blue Beetle draped in black than a slick, James Bond-esque classic car or a rough and tough military tumbler. At one point, Alfred does mission control from the Batmobile because it has full temperature control and the power in Wayne Manor is out. It’s a short moment, but one that gives as much character to the Batmobile as it does to those who pilot it.
10. HIS COMMITMENT TO BRUCE’S LEGACY
Of all of Bruce Wayne’s wards, Dick Grayson has always shown the dedication to not only Batman’s legacy, but Bruce Wayne’s. In Bruce’s absence, he has the task of holding Wayne Industries together while its patriarch is presumed “dead” or missing. Jason Todd is off playing villain, Tim Drake is doing his own thing and Damian Wayne has yet to go public, and Dick’s commitment to Bruce in this regard leads to the creation of Batman Incorporated at the end of the Batman & Robin series.
While this might not seem like a fair reason why Dick is better than Bruce as Batman, it makes sense in the context of Batman as a mantle, one not entirely owned by Bruce. Bruce’s own commitment to his legacy has faltered, whether it be while in a relationship with Selina Kyle or Talia Al Ghul, or when he takes off on a global adventure to prove something only to himself. Dick is steadfast in the future of Batman, giving him the edge over Bruce.
9. FRESH TAKE ON CLASSIC VILLAINS
One of the strongest bits of Batman lore has to be his rogues gallery. Dick Grayson’s run as Batman had a lot to prove, but its depiction of Batman’s many villains was done wonderfully. Classic baddies like The Joker and Professor Pyg show up, sure, but much of their malice is towards Damian Wayne, son of the Batman. The battles Dick Grayson endures, however, are of a fresh, but familiar breed of villainy.
Two of the early villains are Red Hood and a failed clone of Batman. Dick’s battle with Jason Todd as Red Hood is seen very obviously as a turning point in the series — the first time Dick sees himself as Bruce’s successor, with Todd’s failed career laid out in front of him. This comes to a full head in the “Blackest Knight” arc (not to be confused with Blackest Night) when Dick has to take down a zombified version of his mentor. Deathstroke, Talia Al Ghul, 99 Fiends and a demon-infused Thomas Wayne imposter round out the villainous line up. Not bad, huh?
8. HUMOR AND LIGHTHEARTEDNESS
Dick Grayson is a funny guy, and a charming one at that. His time as Batman is plenty more vocal than Bruce ever was, especially mid-combat. With the quippy skills that could only be championed by Spider-Man, Dick Grayson’s Batman is brutal, sure, but he’s hilarious, too. But aside from the jokes, the entire run with Dick as Batman is covered in a lighter tone that that of previous Batman runs, except for maybe the parallel-running Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne.
Between the flirting with allies brought up out of nowhere (like Oracle or Dick’s attempt at hitting on Batwoman), to the back and forth between Dick and Damian Wayne, the series is full of lighter moments that allows the grimmer, darker stuff to feel more important. During an early fight with Professor Pyg, there’s a sense of dread in the villain himself, but Grayson’s lighthearted attitude mixed with Damian’s stubbornness make the horror that much more palatable.
7. HE SEES THE VALUE IN HELP
One of the biggest, glaring changes to Dick Grayson’s abbreviated career as Batman is how open and directly he works with the denizens of the Gotham Police Department. While we all know Batman has an extremely close relationship with Commissioner Gordon, we often see the Dark Knight on the run from police, avoiding contact with them unless necessary. To most, he’s still that urban legend that the buddy cops reference in The Dark Knight Returns.
But Grayson was different, and much of that comes from his past experience as a cop himself. At one point in his career, Grayson joins the Blüdhaven Police Department, opting for a cape and cowl-less fighting chance against the crime of his city. Of course, he eventually leaves the force, but his respect and admiration for the work they do shines through during his stint as Batman. After all, they don’t need as much convincing in the wake of Bruce Wayne’s absence.
6. MORE ADAM WEST, LESS FRANK MILLER
Throughout the entirety of Dick Grayson’s run as Batman, the wacky, tongue-in-cheek humor of the classic Adam West Batman television series is peppered, subtly of course, as to not draw attention away from the mostly serious tone. At different times, there are callbacks to the show, including the most prominent “double-punch,” where Batman and Robin (or Squire and Knight or other pairings) take out a villain with a perfectly-timed, symmetrical punch to the face. There’s no cued “Bam!” behind it, but it’s still iconic.
And this is not to call any malice toward Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns series, which was refreshing at the time, to see a whimsical yet serious take on the character, who was recently rolled up in a handful of crises (including Final Crisis and Identity Crisis). Of course, the grim tone made a welcome return in “The Black Mirror”, but we’ll get to that.
5. HE’S A TEAM PLAYER
A good portion of Dick Grayson‘s story as Batman is filled with cameos and team-ups from members of the later introduced Batman Incorporated, Batman’s worldwide network of capes and cowls that aim to be the Batman everywhere and anywhere, all the time. Throughout Dick’s Batman career, he teams up with Knight, Squire, Batwoman, The Gravedigger (though that doesn’t last long) and plenty more, each offering unique expertise to the mission at hand — whether its fighting a group of cockney gangsters or Talia and her neural-controlled Damian Wayne.
Of course, this is all in addition to Damian as Robin, Alfred, Commissioner Gordon and Oracle, who are all supporting characters that Dick utilizes to a far greater extent than Bruce Wayne would, possibly due to his close relationships with each of them. Now, this doesn’t mean Bruce himself isn’t good to work with, but between his contingencies and trust issues, Dick’s cooperative attitude leads to more crowdsourced success and less lonely brooding.
4. HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH DAMIAN
Dick Grayson’s brotherly relationship with Damian Wayne may be one of the purest emotional arcs in comic history. Sure, that’s a bold claim to make, but when you really dive in to everything the two have to offer each other, it makes complete sense. Batman & Robin begins with Damian a bit sour that Grayson has taken up the cowl, rarely leaving himself vulnerable to a retort from Dick. As the arcs move along, including a spinally gruesome one that takes Damian down a peg, this new Dynamic Duo start softening up to each other.
Damian is shown to be overly confident, but his outbursts are tempered by Dick’s realism. Damian will often fish for validation, while Dick offers him the “positive” truth that he’s not Bruce Wayne — not his father, and sees Damian as an equal, aiming to emulate his own relationship with Bruce while bringing in lessons he learned when he had the helm of Robin. When Damian questions if Bruce’s return will mean the end of the Damian/Dick team-up, Dick simply responds with “Batman and Robin will never die.” It’s raw, familial and quite wonderful.
3. HE MAKES MISTAKES (AND ADMITS THEM)
Early on in Dick Grayson’s stint as Batman, Dick attempts to resurrect Bruce Wayne after the events of Blackest Night, taking his body to a primeval Lazarus Pit for rejuvenation. Here, he teams up with Squire, Knight and Batwoman, who are all wrapped up in a satanic ritual-thwarting scheme that happens to collide with Dick’s plan. They attempt to talk him out of it, but it’s too late — Dick had accidentally resurrected a dead clone of Bruce Wayne, one with all of his tragic memories in tact, leaving the new Bruce filled with rage and the fighting skill of a legendary warrior. Big mistake.
Now, to say Dick makes mistakes and admits them is easy enough, but Bruce Wayne wasn’t privy to making them. At the very least, he’d never admitted it. This adds another layer of humanity to Grayson’s Batman, one with humility and the understanding of how his actions effect people. Of course, the impulsiveness is still there, just with an added dollop of style and grace.
2. THE BLACK MIRROR
While much of Dick Grayson’s time as Batman was spent dropping quips and teaming up, “The Black Mirror” had Dick undertaking his greatest mystery yet, providing readers with one of the darkest, most enjoyable Batman stories in a long time. Dealing mostly with the aftermath of Bruce Wayne’s return and the invention of Batman Incorporated, the story has Dick Grayson still suited up as Batman on a mission with Commissioner Gordon and a host of his allies.
Throughout this Detective Comics run from Scott Snyder in his pre-New 52 days, Dick takes on The Joker, Tiger Shark, James Gordon Jr. and The Dealer, each with their own twisted plans to take down Gotham City and the House of the Bat. Being one of the last official tales of Dick Grayson as Batman, we can’t help but feel a little cheated that his time ended just when he perfected his place in the cape and cowl.
1. HE FEELS HUMAN
Though Batman is often seen as a man among gods, teaming up with the likes of The Flash, Superman and Wonder Woman, his career as the Dark Knight may as well be the stuff of legend. For all intents and purposes Bruce Wayne’s Batman is a god, one who can hold his own against Darkseid while knowing how to take down an army of Kryptonians — all without any real superpowers.
Dick Grayson, on the other hand, is human. Dick fails, admits his mistakes, and does it better the next time. He falls in love (a lot), and devotes his attention to those that care for him. There’s a reason no one really dislikes Dick Grayson. As Batman, we see a Dark Knight that bleeds, both emotionally and physically, one that climbs out of his mentor’s shadows to shine as the man Bruce could never be. Even Bruce knows that Dick Grayson is the better, more human, Batman.
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