DC Comics’ “Death Of The Family” crossover continues in the Batman line of books, but while the Joker is bent on terrorizing anyone and everyone associated with Batman, one character holds a special place of enmity in the Clown Prince’s bitter, twisted heart: Nightwing.
Written by Kyle Higgins and drawn by artist Eddy Barrows (who leaves the book during the crossover), “Nightwing” #15 kicked off “Death of the Family” as Joker sets his sights on Dick Grayson and Haly’s Circus — the latter of which Dick has spent considerable time and money trying to keep on its feet and in Gotham. However, as Higgins explained to the BAT SIGNAL, Joker has another compelling reason to want to hit Nightwing hard — he sees the ex-Robin as part of Batman’s slide into weakness, and a burden the Dark Knight would do well to live without.
As the Joker strikes at Nightwing and everything the hero holds dear, Higgins spoke about his “Death” story arc, sharing penciled pages from Barrows and diving into how the story doubles as the thematic culmination of his first year on “Nightwing.”
CBR News: Kyle, beginning with “Nightwing” #15, Dick gets embroiled in the “Death Of The Family” crossover. Set the scene for us — why is Joker one of the scariest foes Dick could face, and what does he have to do with Haly’s Circus?
Kyle Higgins: Well the Joker is going for the jugular with all the Bat allies — so, all of their greatest fears, all of their perceived weaknesses, these are the aspects of the characters that the Joker is targeting. As that relates specifically to Nightwing, someone who is arguably the most outgoing, social character in the DC Universe, there are a lot of ways to get to him, to whether it be through friends in Haly’s circus, whether it be through potential love interests. If the Joker does know Nightwing as well as he claims to know him, that’s pretty terrifying. Based on that reveal at the end of “Batman” #14 of the Joker knowing everything, I think if I were Nightwing I’d be quite concerned! [Laughs]
Along those lines, how does Dick view Joker and this new, faceless version of him?
I think Nightwing is in a unique position within the Bat Family in that he is the first of the allies to ever deal with the Joker. He has seen the Joker through different iterations over the years, he’s seen him terrorize different members of the family and he’s seen the impact Joker’s had on people like Barbara Gordon and Jason Todd, so Nightwing is not taking him lightly. From moment one when the reveal at the end of “Batman” #14 happens, Nightwing is very much in business mode. He’s not going to take any chances, he’s going to expect the unexpected; the Joker cutting off his own face, coming after Batman through the allies, none of this is that surprising. It’s new, but it’s definitely kind of par for the course with Joker. He’s been around long enough and had to deal with the Joker before and seen what the Joker has done to the other Bat allies as well as Batman, so it’s not a case of Dick taking the Joker lightly at all. He very much knows and realizes how serious the situation is. I think based on the events of “Batman” #14, he is very aware of the stakes that are at play here.
Because of Nightwing’s unique position in the Bat family, do you feel Joker views Dick differently than the rest of the family, or wants to hit him in a more personal way because of it?
I do, because the reason that the Joker is coming after Batman ties into the Joker’s feeling that Batman is weak and that has a specific connection to the family and the Bat allies, in Joker’s mind, making Batman weak. So as you’ll see, the Joker views Nightwing to be the biggest travesty of them all. He views Nightwing as the one who is the biggest hindrance to Batman being the force of nature that the Joker wants him to be. I think he definitely looks at Nightwing in a different light than some of the other allies.
So it’s not good for Nightwing to be the first “son” of Batman in this instance.
Yes! [Laughs] But at the same time, Nightwing’s not going to back down from that, and he’s not going to back down from the Joker, he’s not going to apologize for anything.
Looking at issue #16, how would you describe where that falls in the story? Is this where things ramp up for Nightwing in terms of facing the Joker?
Well issue #15 ends with a really big cliffhanger that is picked up with issue #16. #15 is big, it’s bombastic, it’s heartbreaking, it’s the culmination of a lot of things we’ve been planning in the series and building towards for the last at least six months, but maybe longer. From a thematic and emotional perspective, issue #16 is the convergence of Dick Grayson’s arc, having come back to Gotham and trying to lay roots in the city. Everything gets paid off here.
With “Night Of The Owls,” Nightwing also had a unique position in that as he could have been one of the Talons. You and Scott Snyder also laid down a lot of ideas for the Court in “Gates Of Gotham.” You mention that this new crossover is tying up everything you’ve been doing in “Nightwing” — was this something you had talked to about Scott ahead of time or was it more serendipitous?
No, it was very much by design that it plays out this way. I’ve had an idea for where I wanted to take Dick Grayson through bringing him back to Gotham and having him set up a more permanent shop there, and the timing was such that the Joker event was both logistically and thematically the right moment to build to. I was fortunate that I knew about the event early enough that I was able to build towards it in that way.
On your end, how is working on “Death Of The Family” different than “Night Of The Owls?” Or is it very similar to what the Bat books did before with the Court?
Yeah it’s pretty similar because we work with fantastic editors and fantastic writers on these other titles, so it’s always very smooth! Scott’s the captain of the ship, it’s his story first and foremost, but the way that we’ve constructed it is to allow for these books to all have a specific place to tie-in to the event, to fill a specific niche. So you can just read “Batman,” but if you want to see the way the Joker is targeting the allies, each one is going to be slightly different. That’s a testament to the idea being big enough and robust enough that you can spread it out into the ancillary titles like “Nightwing,” like “Batgirl.” It’s been a lot of fun! It’s my favorite way to do a crossover. I hadn’t done very many crossovers, but this model is something that I think is really cool, and it’s an exciting way to work.
Looking at the art, Eddy Barrows is on for “Nightwing” #15 and #16. For you, what does Eddy bring to the table in terms of depicting the Joker and Haly’s?
Eddy’s version of the character is quite terrifying! I gave him a lot of room in issue #16 to interpret the events the way however he decided. Eddy is a fantastic storyteller; I think that one of the most underrated qualities about him is [that] his storytelling is so clean and he’s so inventive in his panel design and layout. The idea of the artwork you guys have shows Nightwing moving through Amusement Mile, which has been Joker-ized, and the Joker speaking to Nightwing from somewhere in the facility — and that’s all Eddy. I told him what I wanted, what the Joker was going to be saying and how he was going to be taunting Nightwing and kind of the big beats I’d get him to. Eddy came up with the rest. The whole issue just completely exceeded my expectations, and this is his last issue on the book, but what a way to go!
Talking about Nightwing moving forward, as this is the culmination of everything you’ve been doing in the book, do you feel “Death” is going to significantly shift the book’s status quo in terms of Nightwing being in Gotham or risking everything from his finances to life for Haly’s?
I’ll be dealing with all of those things! [Laughs] Issue #15 is going to be throwing everything about the series into question. There’s going to be a lot of changes coming as a result of issue #16; there are going to be a lot of things that Dick is going to have to deal with both on the logistics side as well as the emotional side, a lot of fallout in issues #17 and #18, and a bold new direction coming after that.
Before Tom DeFalco’s issues with Lady Shiva, you did the “Republic Of Tomorrow” storyline and we’ve talked before about seeing Dick as the “Prince of Gotham.” With the Joker invading his home turf in both Gotham and Haly’s, how does Dick view himself now? Do you as the writer still view him as Gotham’s Prince?
That is a very good question! [Laughs] I think that’s hard to answer without really getting into what the Joker will be putting Nightwing through, but it’s definitely something that Nightwing will be taking a long look at his place within Gotham, within Haly’s, within Amusement Mile, pretty much all of the above. He’s going to have some big decisions to make coming out of this.
At this point in the comic, Dick’s invested a lot of time, emotion and money into Haly’s. Going into “Death,” what sort of place does Haly’s occupy in his mind and heart, and how does that affect his judgment when he’s going into something like dealing with the Joker?
Like you said about the arc I did before all this, Haly’s and specifically Haly’s and Amusement Mile represented to Dick an opportunity to bring a bright new future to Gotham City. It was a place of hope, especially in the area of Old Gotham, which is like the worst part of town. That’s what it represents now, but there’s also a place in his heart because it represents a place that he used to have. It represents the legacy of his parents, it’s the legacy of the Graysons. So even though he’s progressively on the move and doesn’t really move back and dwell, Haly’s Circus is kind of a bridge to his past. Keeping them around and keeping them in his life is a very important way for Dick to still have a connection to the kid he used to be.
“Nightwing” #15 hits stores December 19; “Nightwing” #16 is on sale January 23.