A few days ago, DC Entertainment Publisher Dan DiDio revealed on “DC All Access” that Nightwing will return to Bludhaven in the near future. It was Nightwing’s home base for roughly a decade, from 1996 to 2006, and as he gets set to return to patrolling the streets, we thought it would be nice to providing a guide to a city that hasn’t made an appearance since the New 52 began in 2011.
In 1996, DC’s Batman office was in a bit of a bind. After a decade in which Dick Grayson more or less left the Bat-titles for the pages of “New Teen Titans” and its successor “New Titans” (to the point he even changed his superhero identity from Robin to Nightwing), he was once again in the office’s control. He filled in as Batman for a storyline in 1994, and then in 1995, starred in a one-shot that brought Alfred Pennyworth back into the fold (Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler had left his employ during the “Knightquest” crossover, as he felt that Bruce was pushing himself too hard after being healed from his Bane-inflicted injuries during “Knightfall”) and a miniseries where he gained a new, darker costume. The natural next step was an ongoing series, but that was where they had a problem: How do you make Nightwing stand out as a hero? If he’s also operating in Gotham City, which was the case at the time, then isn’t he just going to always play second fiddle to Batman?
The answer was found in the debut issue of Nightwing‘s ongoing series, “Nightwing”, in 1996 by Chuck Dixon, Scott McDaniel and Karl Story. That issue revealed that there was a city a little bit south of Gotham City called Bludhaven. A coastal city, it started as a whaling town that was incorporated in 1912, just a decade or so before the whaling industry completely collapsed in the United States. The town then began known as “Asbestos Town U.S.A” — that also did not work out. By the 1990s, it mostly survived on a small manufacturing and shipping industry, but it paled in comparison to its neighbor to the north, Gotham City. Batman and his allies mostly ignored the smaller city, but one day the bodies of twenty-one members of Angel Marin’s gang washed up in Gotham City. Marin was the leading ganglord in Bludhaven, so Batman knew that something was particularly wrong in the city, so he asked Nightwing to investigate.
As it turned out, there was an invasion of Bludhaven by the Black Mask gang from Gotham City, as well as a war between rival gangs now looking to step up in Marin’s absence (no one knew where Marin was). Dick Grayson soon found himself enamored with the idea of setting up shop in his own town, a town that never had its own protector like Gotham City had Batman. So the “Batman” office had their solution to their Nightwing problem – he would become the hero of Bludhaven, which would give him his own stories while still keeping him close to Gotham City so that he could be involved in “Batman” crossovers and so that guest stars from Gotham City could easily make their way down to visit (and boy did they ever).
Here is a map of Bludhaven, by Elliot Brown, from the 1999 “Nightwing Secret Files and Origins” 1…
Dick found an apartment and soon began working as a bartender at a bar owned by a former Bludhaven cop. A major way that Bludhaven was different from Gotham City was that its police department was flat out corrupt. There was no Commissioner Gordon in Bludhaven. Eventually, Dick decided to fight the problem from within by becoming a member of the Bludhaven police department.
Here is Dick’s Bludhaven apartment building…
As it turned out, the in-fighting between the Bludhaven gangs was caused by Roland Desmond, also known as the supervillain Blockbuster. His superhuman strength was what killed the twenty-one men who washed up in Gotham City. Blockbuster soon took control of the Bludhaven gangs and ruled the city throughout Nightwing’s time there. It was actually Blockbuster who ultimately drove Nightwing from Bludhaven, albeit through an odd direction. One of the other residents in Dick Grayson’s building was John law, who was the costumed vigilante known as the Tarantula. He was a hero to a young girl in Bludhaven named Catalina Flores who grew up and became the new Tarantula. She tried to work with Nightwing but he rebuffed her due to her violent methods and even arrested her when she killed Bludhaven’s corrupt chief of police. She went to work for Blockbuster in his attempt to get revenge on Nightwing for Nightwing’s many attempts to take Blockbuster down, but when one of Blockbuster’s attacks involved blowing up Dick’s building, Tarantula switched sides and helped to bring Blockbuster down. In fact, she actually ended up murdering Blockbuster. Nightwing was distraught that he let her do it, so he left Bludhaven (he was in bad shape at the time mentally – Tarantula even ended up forcing herself on him at the time).
During Nightwing’s absence, both Batgirl (Cassandra Cain) and Robin (Tim Drake) temporarily opened up shop in Bludhaven as its resident heroes. However, soon aftewards (with both Batgirl and Robin out of town), the villainous group of supervillains known as The Society decided to show their strength by dropping the walking toxic meldown Chemo on Bludhaven in “Infinite Crisis” #4 (by Geoff Johns, Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning). The resulting explosion destroyed most of the city and killed over 100,000 people.
Bludhaven ended up still playing a major role in the DC Universe after its destruction, as there was a mini-series called “The Battle for Bludhaven” that involved various DC characters fighting over the wreckage of the city, as the villainous Father Time had taken up residence in the city and was experimenting on survivors in the city. That mini-series ended with Captain Atom basically nuking the entire city (after having it evacuated) to, in effect, clear out any possibility of the city being used again.
That was not the case, as Grant Morrison used the wreckage of Bludhaven as the home base for the return of Apokolips on Earth itself, as the nuked Bludhaven was a perfect place for Darkseid and their minions to set up shop for their takeover of Earth, so we got to see the Evil Factory installed…
The battle against Darkseid was the last time Bludhaven was used before the New 52 and it has not appeared since the New 52 began, so it’s most likely going to be reinstated in its original form, as the smaller, slightly grimier Gotham City. Which is a really interesting place for a superhero to be based, so this homecoming for Nightwing sounds like it will be a lot of fun to read.
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