Writer Kyle Higgins isn’t done with Dick Grayson just yet.
This April, the writer who has shepherded DC Comics hero Nightwing since the launch of the New 52 will have one last story with the hero in the pages of “Secret Origins” #1 — the new anthology series revealing the pasts of some of the publisher’s biggest heroes. But this time around, the writer will be looking back in time at Grayson’s early days as Robin the Boy Wonder — a rare flashback for the character and the writer.
On the other side of the Bat Universe, Higgins will join Scott Snyder, Tim Seeley, Ray Fawkes and James Tynion IV on the April-launching weekly series “Batman: Eternal” as well as continuing his run on the digital-first “Batman Beyond 2.0.” In the latter series, a crossover is set to launch with Christos Gage’s “Justice League Beyond” which will bring some shake-ups to the DC Animated Universe as Wonder Woman hits the Beyond future for the first time as Terry McGinnis and team battle classic alternate universe villains the Justice Lords.
With all these stories rolling out, CBR spoke to Higgins for THE BAT SIGNAL, our ongoing discussion of the Dark Knight’s world. Below, the writer explains why his final issue of “Nightwing” is more of a farewell than “Secret Origins,” why Robin’s name holds new significance, how he’ll be fitting into “Eternal’s” massive plan and what revelations await “Batman Beyond” in the Justice Lords story and further into the future.
CBR News: Kyle, since we last talked you announced that you’re sadly leaving DC’s “Nightwing” title. Does the Dick Grayson story in “Secret Origins” serve as a capper on that run at all?
Kyle Higgins: Not exactly. The “Secret Origins” one-shot is a little weird. It’s something they asked me to do while I was wrapping my run on “Nightwing,” and in some ways, I did a lot on Dick’s early days in our issue #0. So this was about trying to find a different point of view on a lot of the ideas we’d already introduced. This is not a bookend to my run. It’s a 12-page primer on Dick Grayson and how he became Robin. It’s a fun story, and I’m working with an artist I’m a big fan of. The whole thing’s been a cool side project for me.
It’s interesting because unlike some other characters like Tim Drake, there was no mystery as to Dick Grayson’s past in the New 52. Did that free you up some in what you could do?
Yeah. It’s not really me jumping in to try and redefine anything. Honestly, my final issue of “Nightwing” kind of says everything I have to say about the character, so it’s a little weird to be doing this origin story too, but it’s fun.
Over in the core “Batman” book with “Zero Year,” we’re seeing a lot of Bruce’s early days that draws on some of the formative Batman comics. I know you’ve always been a fan of Dick as Nightwing, but are there things from his history as Robin that you draw inspiration from?
Yes! The one story point that I really wanted to explore was the Robin name. It’s something I hadn’t done in issue #0, and it was something that I’d had an idea for for a while. We had kind of touched on the bracelet that Dick gave his mother in issue #0 as the origin of why he ultimately took the Robin name, but there’s a little bit more to it than that. What a Robin actually means to Dick Grayson hasn’t been defined, and that’s something I wanted to bring into his origin. Originally, the Robin identity came out of Errol Flynn and the “Robin Hood” movie, but that’s not exactly the direction DC wanted to go with the New 52 version, so this was all about finding a new spin on the Robin moniker. We’ll show where it comes from and what it means to Dick in this “Secret Origins” story in a pretty cool way.
It’s also been announced recently that you’re stepping onto the writing team of the incoming weekly series “Batman: Eternal.” What’s it been like to step into the writing team after they’ve gotten the ball rolling and be a different set of eyes on the idea?
It’s been cool. I had a little bit of trepidation for the very reasons you mentioned. But everyone’s been very welcoming and supportive. These are all guys that I know really well, so it’s been a lot of fun to come in and step on a train that’s already barreling down the tracks. In some ways it’s liberating because the direction is already set. I’m able to come in and just execute. There are some things specifically I’m bringing to the table because we all have our own writing voices. But my job is to come into the story and make what’s already in the works flow. If I’m able to bring small flourishes with it, I’m going to. But it’s cool overall. They had things pretty well mapped out, and we’re getting into the second half of the story now. I think there are going to be a lot of things where you’ll see something for everyone. There’s a lot for fans to dig, and the whole thing is epic in scope.
You came up as a fan when the massive Batman event reigned supreme, from “Knightfall” to “Cataclysm” to “No Man’s Land.” Were there things you saw in stories like those that made you feel this was a kind of story you’d want to do in Gotham?
Yeah. I grew up on “Knightfall,” and then in my teenage years I read the “Cataclysm” stuff, and even later I really loved the “Bruce Wayne: Fugitive” story that Ed Brubaker was a big part of. I think big stories like that work well in Gotham because it has so many characters, and the city has a number of different facets for you to explore. Those big stories really lend themselves to the Bat world, and “Eternal” is no different. The thing that’s most fun about working on it is that there are so many different subplots, and each one of us writers are responsible for a different set of cast members and plots that we’re progressing. We weave back and forth and in and out of other peoples stories. Eventually, they’ll start to connect in different ways where there’s this hive mind effect between us. I was a big fan of the “52” weekly series from a few years ago, and from everything I’ve read about that, the creative process here feels very similar. You’ve got four writers, and there are no egos. Everyone is in service of the larger story. In a lot of cases, it’s invisible who is doing what. Obviously, each one of us will be a “main writer” on different issues, but there’s a lot of all of us in each issue.
Can you say anything about which specific characters you’ll be working with?
I don’t think I can yet. I don’t know what’s out there even! [Laughs] But since I haven’t followed everything that James, Ray, Tim and Scott have been saying online, I don’t want to reveal anything that I shouldn’t. But there is one character in particular where when he was brought up in a conference call a few weeks back, my eyes lit up. This is someone I really like and that I’ve worked with in the past, but it’s not Dick Grayson. When he came up, I immediately went, “I could do that! I’d love to do that!” It’s a character that hasn’t been in the New 52 yet, but it’s very cool to work with him. This is a character near and dear to me.
Lastly, your “Batman Beyond 2.0” series is headed towards a crossover story with Chris Gage’s “Justice League Beyond” which will feature the Justice Lords from the animated series. How long did it take from when you both stepped on those digital books for this idea to come together?
It was pretty early on. We didn’t actually know how we were going to do this or what it would entail except that it would focus on the return of Wonder Woman in the DC Animated continuity. The Justice Lords were a bit of a later addition. That came when we were figuring out the mechanics of what the event would be. It was pretty cool because Chris’ side of it takes place in “our” world, and my side of it takes place in the Justice Lords’ world. What’s a lot of fun is that Wonder Woman is back, and the Justice League is not sure why. They’re not even sure it’s really her. We’ll get into the history of what happened after those original Justice Lords episodes of “Justice League” as well as explaining where Wonder Woman has been from the “Justice League” era through to “Batman Beyond” times. How does she relate to the Justice Lords world? Ultimately, Terry will go over to that timeline to investigate things. That’s the angle I get to play with, and the books will come together in the last few chapters.
The other really cool thing about how this story works is that when we collect it in print, we’re going to be ordering the story so that the chapters alternate. It’ll be a chapter of “Batman Beyond” and then “Justice League Beyond” and then “Batman Beyond” again. Up to this point, it’s been two chapters of one and then two of the other in the print versions. But this is something where Chris and I really wanted to take advantage of the digital structure in print as well as online. We’re using the story to do reveals on one side and then play off of them in the next chapter which also happens to be in a different timeline. It’s cool to be playing with the medium a little bit.
Is it easier to play with cliffhangers a bit when you have the animated series and “commercial fadeouts” to rely on for inspiration?
Yeah, that’s definitely how this crossover is working. And the timeline of Gotham in the Justice Lords world is another fun asset I get to play with in that respect.
I know you’ve pulled specific stories and scenes from previous DC Animated shows in your past stories, but here you’re definitely pushing the continuity forward in a big way. Is that daunting considering how beloved those series are?
I’m aware of that, but it’s nothing that scares me or makes me worried. I’m writing stories that I’d have like to see as a fan on the show. It’s all about being respectful of what the shows did before us, but it’s also about taking things to the next level so we’re not just retreading story points that have been done before. That’s where the whole dynamic between Terry and Dick Grayson came from. As we get out of the crossover, and you start to see what’s happening on the “Batman Beyond” side of things, you’ll see that it takes things up another notch. If you want to talk about reveals, the stuff we have coming after the Justice Lords crossover gets into why the break between Bruce and Terry came about as well as some other secrets from the past. Those are going to be the story points that people will be talking about.
“Secret Origins” #1 ships April 23 from DC Comics. The “Justice Lords Beyond” crossover starts in March from DC Digital.