In April, DC Comics sends Nightwing away from Gotham into the Windy City of Chicago for an all-new direction at the hands of writer Kyle Higgins and new artist Brett Booth, which sees Dick Grayson hunting down the man who murdered his family: Tony Zucco. In the events of “Nightwing” #18, Dick Grayson receives the stunning news that Zucco is alive from his daughter Sonia, whom he attempts to let into his life on a deeper level. In April’s “Nightwing” #19, Dick heads to Chicago to bring the man that murdered his family to justice, and enters a new chapter in his life.
To shed some light on the new “Nightwing” developments, CBR’s THE BAT SIGNAL spoke with Higgins, who discussed everything from the motivation behind Nightwing’s relocation and how long he might stay to the fallout of Damian Wayne’s death and how the former Batman deals with the demise of his friend, brother and one-time partner.
CBR News: Kyle, “Nightwing” #19 follows some pretty heavy events in the Bat-books. It’s tough to discuss Nightwing without also discussing what many readers regard to be “his” Robin, Damian Wayne. How did you approach writing the fallout of Damian’s death and its effect on Dick?
Kyle Higgins: It was tough. That’s a history and an era of comics that I actually love, which was Dick as Batman and Damian as Robin. To this point in my series and the New 52, I hadn’t really referenced that era very much and a big reason for that is we’re trying to be attractive to new readers and trying to look forward with the book with the new continuity. But when it came up that Damian was going to be dying and the fact that Dick was going to be there at that moment in “Batman Incorporated,” that era was something I was looking to tap back into. In issue #18, which is already out, there are some specific lines that Dick references about them being partners, about Damian really being a brother to him. It was a hard thing to write, it was a hard issue to write. As far as Dick is concerned, he’s been through hell the last couple of months, and Damian kind of represented the light at the end of the tunnel — someone that Dick would be able to lean on going forward. In [“Nightwing”] #18, as you see, that was snatched away as well.
It was definitely something that I wanted to deal with head on. Even though he hadn’t been in the book that much, his role in Dick’s life is an important one. We’ll be moving forward past that now, but I think it’s all there.
One of the scenes in “Batman Incorporated” #8 that really resonated with fans of Dick as Batman and Damian as Robin was the moment right before Damian’s death when he said, “Richard, we were magnificent.” Did you know that scene was coming? Were you aware of it when you were prepping to write the aftermath?
Yes. I wrote a good chunk of issue #17 and #18 before Grant [Morrison] actually wrote “Batman Incorporated” #8, but I left it loose enough that once Grant wrote the issue, I would be able to [go] in and really tailor it much more. When I read that scene, it definitely pulled at my heartstrings as well. That’s really what opened things up for me in regards to what I was just discussing with the old/new continuity and Dick’s time as Batman and Damian’s time as Robin. In issue #18, that’s definitely something we call back to.
Let’s look forward toward “Batman” #19. You’ve mentioned previously that Dick’s been through the ringer in the last year. There was “Night of the Owls,” then “Death of the Family” and now the death of Damian — it’s kind of a one-two-three punch for him, and it seems like it might be time for a change. One of the major developments in the last published issue of “Nightwing” was Dick’s growing desire to push people away out of fear they might get hurt. Is his relocation to Chicago primarily based on this desire to become more of a lone wolf?
It’s not, actually. That was actually something I wanted to stay away from. I made the decision that if Dick was going to change cities, it needed to be story motivated. It couldn’t just be because of emotional fallout and state of mind. I think that would’ve worked fine, don’t get me wrong, but I basically developed a story and the move to Chicago — as you’ll see in the final pages of “Nightwing” #18, it’s about Dick getting closure on Damian as best he can at this point in his life. It is still fresh, but it’s him getting closure the best he can. It’s also setting up Sonia Zucco as someone who Dick is looking to let into his life in a bit of a bigger way. In those final pages, Sonia reveals to Dick that in order to let him into her life, she realizes she needs to open with him and there’s something she has been keeping a secret. She hasn’t known when to bring it up and she realizes there will never be a good time, but she reveals her father is still alive. Tony Zucco, still alive and living in Chicago, is what motivates Dick to make a change in direction.
The way that you’re talking, it seems as though this relocation may not be permanent; that Nightwing may come back to Gotham at some point.
That’s definitely a possibility. He’s heading to Chicago to find the man that killed his parents. As far as he’s concerned, that’s the only reason he’s going and once that’s over, he’ll be heading back to Gotham City. We’ll have to see how the story plays out, as to whether or not that will happen, but as far as Dick is concerned initially, that’s what he’s headed to Chicago for. And, speaking to the point that you mentioned of the one-two-three punch of big events that have really shaken Dick’s world up, Tony Zucco in my mind represents something that Dick can control — specifically, bringing him to justice is something that at this point in time represents something Dick has the power to change.
The concept of control is certainly interesting. Since the New 52 started, Dick’s had very little control over his own life — whether that’s because the Bat-family has been put through the ringer or because he simply leads the kind of life that’s unpredictable. When he goes to Chicago, how much does he really desire to have control over his life and over the events that affect him?
I think that’s a big motivating factor. Again, the fact that the man who shaped what Dick has become and really shaped the trajectory of Dick’s life for the last several years — the fact that he’s still around when Dick was under the belief that he was dead represents something that Dick can do something about. It’s a very, very powerful force that altered the course of his life, and it’s something that Dick has the chance to bring to justice. That’s a very attractive proposition for anyone, but especially for Dick that at this point in his life has just gone through a series of events that he’s pretty much been out of control of.
This is a big change of direction for the book and on top of story, you have Brett Booth joining the title as incoming artist. What about Brett’s style do you think really makes him well-suited to take on the new story you have planned for Nightwing?
Brett’s stuff is very energetic, it’s very dynamic, very fluid. When I think of Nightwing, I always think of the Dixon/McDaniel run for the mid-’90s. For me, what that run captured better than anything was the dynamic quality of Nightwing as an acrobat. Within the Bat-family, Nightwing is definitely the most acrobatic. That’s the niche he literally fills. So, to have an artist like Brett, who really excels in that style, that type of energy, and the fact that Nightwing is one of Brett’s favorite characters — it’s been a blast. He’s drawing his third issue within the run right now and we’re having a lot of fun. We talk every day and throw stories back and forth. It’s a treat. I’m hoping people check it out and they stick around.
With Nightwing relocating to Chicago, does that mean we’re done with Haly’s Circus, or do you have plans to circle back around to that part of Nightwing’s life? Is his relocation permanent?
At this point in time, Haly’s has left. This story represents a fresh start in that way where Nightwing moves to Chicago to get closure on that era of his life and a new purpose at this point in time. Chicago has its own mythology and its own history that we’re tapping into and it’s definitely going to be playing a big part in Dick and Nightwing’s life moving forward.
“Nightwing” #19 by Kyle Higgins and Brett Booth goes on sale April 17.