THE BAT SIGNAL: Higgins Gets Personal With "Nightwing" & "Batman Beyond"

Scanning through DC Comics' upcoming plans, it may seem like writer Kyle Higgins has a lot of shock waves to unpack in the coming issues of his "Nightwing" and "Batman Beyond 2.0" series. But for now, at least, he promises that each story will remain focused on solo adventures.

With DC's "Forever Evil" event portraying the public unmasking of Dick Grayson, eventual fallout will be felt in the character's own series, but Higgins has three issues left before that incident impacts his lead. For the writer, that means two personal stories for Grayson as he deals with the psychosis of Marionette in this month's issue #27 before confronting some long-hidden truths in a two-part arc across #28 and 29. Meanwhile, DC has announced plans for a New 52 introduction of Beyond's Terry McGinnis in its upcoming "Future's End" weekly, but Higgins promises his "Batman Beyond 2.0" will continue its story unabated.

With all the changes swirling around the writer, CBR News spoke to Higgins for the latest in our Dark Knight-focused series THE BAT SIGNAL. Below, the writer tells how his plans have and haven't changed in regard to Nightwing's personal life, describes why the madness of Marionette and the Mad Hatter were a must-tell story for him, connects the dots between his "Batman Beyond" and the entire DC Animated Universe along how and when DC's big incoming stories will impact his own books.

CBR News: Kyle, there have been a lot of changes coming to Nightwing's world of late, and I'm sure that's presented a challenge to you as writer of his ongoing book. But in terms of big news for the character, I'm assuming the biggest for you was Scott McDaniel drawing a cover for December's issue #26. Does that qualify as "life goal" checked off your bucket list?

Kyle Higgins: [Laughs] Yeah, it was! The timing just worked out in such a way that Will Conrad was under a really tight deadline for issue #25, and so he wasn't able to do the next cover. I was on the phone with [Editor] Darren Shan talking about what we could do, and I said, "You know, Scott McDaniel would be a dream cover for me." He said he'd check on that, and then the next thing I knew, I saw the cover's final [art]. It was like, "We did it!" I was as excited as anyone.

The last issue before "Zero Year" hit really seemed to wrap a lot of the threads you've been playing with in the book for a while and in particular since you moved Nightwing to Chicago. Tony Zucco seems in a stable place if in the background, and the Prankster arc saw its big conclusion. Does that mean you get to turn a new page and dig into some more of this history of Chicago, or will the events of "Forever Evil" necessitate another turn in your story?

THE BAT SIGNAL: Higgins on "Nightwing's" New Reality

That's not really the direction the book is going, anymore. It was something I was excited about and thought was really cool -- this mythology in Chicago as it pertains to Dick's relationship with masks, the history of masks and the mystery behind it all -- but that's not something the book is able to explore going forward. So the wrap of this last arc was interesting because it put a little bit of a button on the Zucco thing, but I wanted to leave that situation open so it could be mined for future stories later. I've always had some ideas in mind about Zucco and where things could go with his trial or whether there would even be a trial. I think there's a lot of potential there still. But you'll have to keep reading to see how things shake out overall.

So what can you say about "Forever Evil"? DC has said that the full effect of the event won't be felt until April when the story has wrapped in full. Are you anticipating the impact of Dick's unmasking to hit the book then?

Yeah. Basically, the book won't deal with anything related to "Forever Evil" until after issue #29. That gave me four issues after the "Zero Year" tie-in of #25 to really deal with things in this world that I've been building for Dick in Chicago, and that's where the most recent arc with Marionette is coming from. She's a character I've wanted to introduce into the book for quite a while, so we've got this story with her that we're in the midst of. Then, issues #28 and 29 will be a different sort of story that I can't give away too much about. And after #29, the book will start to deal with the fallout of "Forever Evil."

Knowing you had four issues to do whatever you wanted with the book, what was it about Marionette as a character -- and also bringing in the Mad Hatter -- that was a "must tell" for you?

It scratched an itch I have, creatively. I love the idea of characters who are often unreliable narrators, even to themselves or in their own lives. Marionette, or Mali, because of the history she has with the Mad Hatter, which we'll reveal in #27, has a lot of things about her life that she doesn't know. There are a lot of things about her that are unreliable, and she also kind of fits into that femme fatale niche that characters like Catwoman or Black Cat have fallen into. She has a connection or a spark with our hero, but he might not be able to trust her. I wanted to do something in that vein, but add an extra spin on it. There's a little bit of a Typhoid Mary influence on her as well. I remember reading Typhoid Mary in "Daredevil" when Ann Nocenti created her, and I really responded to that type of character. Mental health has always been something I've been interested in. It's affected me in my own life for a long time, and the character allows me to explore some different avenues that I haven't been able to touch on so far.

You've gotten a lot of mileage out of Dick Grayson and doomed relationships, as well as the idea of the past coming back to haunt him. Are those the two big themes you're playing with the most in these two short arcs?

Yeah, that's a really good way of looking at it. In #28 and 29, the central idea is about exploring the repercussions that come up from Dick's life as Nightwing. Some of these things are small, but others are a bit larger. There are a lot of threads from throughout the run up to this point that I'm bringing back in in some small ways. So it's cool. It's been a really fun experience, and I'm a big fan of cycles -- a big fan of the past coming back to change things. So exploring and mining the past will always be attractive to me, and what better way to explore that them than mining into your own past issues?

What do you want to say about the impact of Dick's unmasking on him as a character?

I'm actually not able to talk about post-"Forever Evil" because I don't want to step on any toes. Geoff [Johns] has got a huge plan in place, and I wouldn't want to spoil anything he's got coming up in that story. I's probably just best if we wait on that until "Forever Evil" is done.

Higgins & Gage Shift the Status Quo in "Batman Beyond Universe"

Fair enough! On the other side of your DC writing load is "Batman Beyond," and I have to admit, I had a little bit of a fanboy moment when you started the new arc in that series with a flashback to an episode of "Batman: The Animated Series" that was always one of my favorites. Why pull in such a specific scene to start this new tale?

What's funny is that that episode -- "Fear of Victory" -- is one that never really makes the list of best "Batman: The Animated Series" episodes. There were so many great episodes in that series that it's hard to crack the top ten, but for some reason, that episode always stuck with me. I think it stuck with a lot of people; a lot of people have been contacting me since that issue came out to tell me! I think part of it is that Fox used to play part of that scene in their promos for the show. [Laughter] But another part of it is that that was the episode where Robin got to save the day. As a kid, I really responded to that part of it.

But I had a moment in my story where I needed Dick to impart some wisdom onto Terry, so I thought it'd be fun to do that by relating some of his past experiences. The first one that came to mind was from "Fear of Victory" because that visual of Robin swinging through the stadium and catching that vial of fear toxin before it could explode on everyone was such a cool scene. I'm really glad we got to do it, and the book in general is a total blast. I know people say that all the time about the work they're doing, but it really is true for me on "Batman Beyond." I love that continuity, and I loved the cartoon. So to have the opportunity to push it even further into the future and mine this new dynamic between Dick and Terry has been a lot of fun.

The arc we're in the midst of right now is called "The Bat Men," and it features the return of Kirk Langstrom, who if you couldn't tell from the final splash image in part 1 is now a smart Man-Bat. So the mystery of how that happened and what became the equivalent of "Grey Hulk," I guess you could say, is a huge part of this arc. And I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about Thony Silas on art and Emilio Lopez on colors. The book looked great in the first arc, and this story ups the quality level tenfold. It looks just like the show, in my opinion. I see pages come in, and Thony's killing it while Emilio's colors are so crisp. It does feel like a bunch of lost episodes, which is what we're going for.

Well speaking of the shows and of Kirk Langstrom, it was, of course, a Man-Bat episode that launched the entire DC Animated Universe with "On Leather Wings." Was that something you were thinking about when you came into telling this story about the original Bat-team divided?

I'm not going to lie: I definitely had Man-Bat in mind when I started for the exact reasons you mentioned. He's the start of "Batman: The Animated Series," and then there's an homage to the beginning of "On Leather Wings" in the "Epilogue" episode of "Justice League Unlimited" where we see Terry 15 years after the "Batman Beyond" show. In his own way, he kind of permeates the entire DC Animated continuity, which is funny when you think about it because he was only in two or three episodes. But Man-Bat had a lasting impression on me.

As far as some of the other classic characters permeating this new iteration of the series, that's something that resonates with me and something I'm a fan of. I try to write this book in terms of what I'd want to see as a fan and what I'd want to see Thony illustrate. So far, the reaction has been great too, so hopefully it stays that way.

People have noticed there are some "Beyond" elements to DC's incoming weekly series "Future's End." Does that impact your story at all?

They're totally separate. DC is introducing a New 52 version of Terry McGinnis in this story, but that is completely unrelated to what we're doing in "Batman Beyond 2.0." The version we're exploring is a continuation of the animated continuity. I'm as interested as anyone to see what the New 52 version of Terry will be like, but I don't know much beyond that.

"Nightwing" #27 ships on January 15, and "Batman Beyond 2.0" continues to update every week in the DC Comics App.

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