Co-writers Tom King and Tim Seeley tell CBR News that their goal upon launching "Grayson" was to make the superhero formerly known as Robin, Nightwing and Batman into a player on par with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.
That's no easy task, especially when the writers, along with series illustrator Mikel Janin, have converted Dick to a world-class superspy, leaving the former Flying Grayson swinging from adventure to adventure without his superhero safety net.
Thought dead by the rest of the Bat-family and the superheroes in the DC Universe following the events of "Forever Evil," Dick is currently operating as an undercover agent for Spyral, a mysterious covert operations agency. And now that his lifeline back to Gotham City is also missing in action, Dick is fully out in the cold, and he's not sure his new allies at Spyral, including a reimagined Helena Bertinelli, have his back.
CBR News connected with King and Seeley to discuss the unique opportunity they have to write a spy book set squarely in the DCU, why Dick has to find his way back to Gotham and why long-time Superman adversary Lex Luthor makes a perfect arch nemesis for "Grayson."
CBR News: You've been writing a spy/superhero comic for nearly a year. How long have you been waiting for your tuxedo moment?
Tom King: Since Day 1, obviously. [Laughs] Every spy book needs a good tuxedo moment -- when I think of James Bond, I think of him on the back of a train adjusting his suit. We all want to go for that moment. And I knew that Mikel would be able to draw the hell out of it.
Tim Seeley: And not only did we get in a tuxedo moment, we got in some nice Tumblr bait because it's the perfect splash for everyone to post on their Tumblr wall. [Laughs] It totally worked. I've seen it all over the place.
I love all of the action in "Grayson" but my favorite moments have been the Mr. Malone/Birdwatcher conversations between Bruce and Dick. These moments really showed how tight that bond between Dick and Bruce is, so what can you tell us about that relationship and how that changes moving forward in "Grayson," with Jim Gordon currently serving as Batman in the DCU?
King: Of all of the scenes, the ones with Bruce and Dick are the easiest to write. The relationship is so easy to see, and it's the one that you always wanted with your older brother. It's the kind of relationship where he not only guides you but he challenges you to be better. That's what makes "Grayson" #9 so interesting -- Dick is reaching back for that experience, and because of what happened in the 'Endgame' arc in "Batman," Bruce can't answer. That creates a new conflict for the book.
Seeley: One thing that we always wanted to do with "Grayson" was that there was never going to be a question of trust between Dick and Bruce. There is no question for Dick that Bruce would not abandon him, and for Bruce, that Dick won't do the right thing. But when something happens that's out of their control, how does Dick respond to not having his line home anymore? Having the spy out in the cold, and the little brother without the guidance of the big brother, gives us lot of storyline potential.
I don't want to leap to far forward, but the solicitations for "Grayson" #12 tease that Dick, for the first time since he faked his own death, will return to his home of Gotham. Is he going to back to see why Bruce isn't answering his calls?
King: These next three issues are a build-up to that climatic moment of pushing Dick back to Gotham. I can't tell you exactly how it goes down, but this whole second season is about bringing him back to the family and seeing what affect the family has on him, and what affect this new version of Dick Grayson has on the family. I am really excited about people reading "Grayson" #12. I think it's going to be amazing.
Seeley: A lot has changed in Gotham since Dick left, so that gives us a chance to pick up with the crazy status quos of other Bat-family books, and play against expectations and let the audience catch up with the family the same way that Dick gets to. We'll have a lot of cool character moments between the cast members.
"Grayson" has had a pretty big status quo shift too, with Helena now the head of Spyral. How does her new role affect her relationship with Dick?
King: If you've seen the setup, especially in the first four issues, which are collected in the new trade, Dick and Helena have a very complicated relationship, and possibly a very deep and lasting one. What makes it interesting, now that Helena is in charge of this organization, is that from the beginning, this organization has been set up as "not good." It's an organization that Dick has some conflict with. And now, Helena is closer to be in command of that conflict. Now, Dick has this connection with a person that has this connection to something that's bad. And that can only lead to quite a few explosions in the future.
Seeley: I think we also play along with the idea that she's his boss now. [Laughs] Her position as his partner was quite a different thing, with her watching his back, and now she has to watch the back of everyone that works for her. Her loyalty is now questioned, and that's going to make her reconsider her feelings for our Mr. Grayson.
Speaking of trust, in the latest issue, thinking he's a double agent, Dick knocks out Agent 1 in an attempt to gain some distance between him and his new partner. Based on the final pages of "Grayson" #9 and the solicitations for "Grayson" #10, it looks like Dick -- and his intel from Spyral -- may have been wrong. Can Tiger be trusted?
King: I will try not to spoil anything, but Tim wrote one of my favorite moments of the series so far that addresses that issue in "Grayson" #10. I will say that Dick was raised as a partner, and now his partner is in trouble and he has to deal with that.
Seeley: Dick is used to having partnerships with two people that get along. I think Tom and I have a lot of fun writing a partnership with Tiger where, like you said, they don't really like each other at all. And Tiger actually likes Dick more than Dick likes Tiger. [Laughs]
The next issue of "Grayson" also features Lex Luthor, who is, of course, traditionally a Superman villain. When you add a character of Lex's level, what does it do to your series that has up until now been a tighter story set in your own corner of the DCU?
King: We had a break for "Futures End," and a break for "Convergence," so we've been dealing with our place in the DCU since the launch. But our goal for the book, from Day 1, has been to make Dick Grayson a Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman-level character. Every time that we get a request from someone to use their character in "Grayson" or use Dick Grayson in their book, it's a big deal, because I feel that Superman and Batman get those requests all of the time. But every time, I'm like, "Yes, yes." I want to see Pat Gleason draw him, and I want to see Jason Fabok draw him. And I want to see Scott Snyder write the Dick Grayson that we've set up here. And Geoff Johns. Every time it happens, I get happy because we're getting closer to that goal.
Seeley: The book is far enough along, we've established the storyline and the first trade is out, so now the storyline can encompass some of the elements that we can draw in from other events in the DCU. Dick and Lex have a history from the "Forever Evil" crossover, because Dick was essentially murdered by Lex Luthor, to a degree, which is something that you can only say in comic books. [Laughs] They have a history, and we have a great way and a great moment to play against that animosity. I think taking advantage of the shared universe allows you tell more powerful, and frankly, cooler storylines.
"Grayson" #10 by Tom King and Tim Seeley, and illustrated by Mikel Janin, is available now.