THE BAT SIGNAL: Nicieza Wraps Up "Batman"

Currently in "Batman," DC Comics' ongoing monthly comic book series written and drawn by Tony S. Daniel, Dick Grayson has been patrolling the night skies as the new Caped Crusader, picking up the reins while Bruce Wayne traverses the globe in writer Grant Morrison's "Batman Incorporated." While this is only the second time Dick has acted as Batman (the previous being in "Batman: Prodigal"), this is not the first time the character has put his life on the line for Gotham City, Dick being one of the few DC characters that date all the way back to the Golden Age.

Bill Finger and Bob Kane originally created Richard "Dick" Grayson in 1940. Introduced in the pages of "Detective Comics" as the son of murdered circus acrobats, Dick went on to become Robin, Batman's sidekick and Bruce Wayne's legal ward. His origins remained pretty much the same after "Crisis On Infinite Earths," with Dick joining the Teen Titans as Robin before becoming the masked vigilante Nightwing. In 2009 after the "Battle For The Cowl" storyline, Dick took up the Batman persona and has been Gotham's Dark Knight ever since.

While the current "Batman" ongoing series is both written and drawn by Daniel, "Batman" issue #713, the last issue before DC's September relaunch, features the talents of Steve Scott and Ryan Winn on art and Fabian Nicieza writing, who is the regular scribe of "Red Robin." Nicieza swooped into THE BAT SIGNAL to talk about his issue, his feelings on Dick Grayson's overall run as Batman, and how he became a fan of the first Boy Wonder.

CBR News: All right, so the solicits for "Batman" say Dick is at an identity crossroads--what does that mean?

Probably that Dick is a little confused about the solicitation copy and it's causing him agitation? That copy was very early in the process so it's not totally accurate to how the story turned out.

So what is your story in "Batman" #713 about?

It's about a boy who loses his parents to a violent crime and grows up to become a Dark Knight for a dark city!

Touche! Any other DC character you care to condense 70-odd years of history into a snappy sentence for us? Extra points if its 10 words or less.

Sugar and Spike, brother and sister with the uncanny ability to annoy. Damn, that was 12!

Now, we've got Red Robin, Bruce Wayne Batman, and Robin all on the issue cover--

Since the story covers many aspects and evolutions of the Bat family that means all those characters need to be involved in some way.

Will Catgirl or any of series regular writer Tony S. Daniel's other recent "Batman" characters (Riddler, Enigma, Two-Face, etc.) be involved?

No, the story is much more an overview of who Batman has been and what his extended family is all about then it is current continuity.

Did Tony give you an outline for this issue, or were you able to come up with your own tale to end "Batman" before September's relaunch?

No, [editor] Mike Marts just asked me to write a self-contained story that thematically encapsulates the 70-year history of the character. Sure, Mike, no prob!

Since this issue is you thematically capturing the whole history of Dick Grayson, do you personally have a favorite Dick Grayson era? 

For me, personally, the Batman TV show, because that was when I was first really exposed to the character. Then the Mike Friedrich/Gil Kane shorts that started Dick on the road to independence, followed by the Marv Wolfman/George Perez "Teen Titans" and finally the Chuck Dixon/Scott McDaniel "Nightwing" solo series.

You said before you feel Dick is a reticent Batman as he didn't really see himself in training to replace Batman before the "Cowl" storyline. Is Dick still reticent? Is Batman a mantle he doesn't wish to wear anymore?

I think Dick was reticent because he never wanted to be Batman and never planned for it. The role and expectations were sort of dropped on his lap when Bruce "died." I think he is such a self-confident guy that he knew he could handle the role in his own unique way, and subsequent writers across the DCU have shown that to great effect. I think he could keep playing the role of Batman as long as Bruce thought it was necessary, but conversely, he could drop the role and call himself Nightwing or Banana Man tomorrow and he would still be the same person.

You say Dick a very self-confidant guy--as a writer, is that something you like to play up?

The few--far, far, far too few chances I've had to write him--I've always approached him as absurdly self-confident, but hopefully not arrogant. Seriously, why shouldn't he be? He wore green scaly shorts and pixie boots and he still scored the hottest alien princess in the universe.

What do you think will be lasting affect of Dick Grayson's run as Batman on the DCU? Or will there be one?

I don't think you can predict history. Come back and ask me in 10 years!

As a fan of the character for over 40 years, I am very happy with how his role as Batman has elevated his status in the DCU--and I mean that across the board, both in the world of fiction and in reality.

I think many editors, writers and readers now see him a little differently than they might have before, and learned a lot about the character that they might not have previously considered. I also think many DCU characters see him in a new light, whereas other characters who knew him well only gained a reaffirmation of what they knew all along--that Dick is the coolest cat in town!

How do you feel Dick was viewed before his Batman run?

As the "sidekick in green shorts and pixie boots" by many readers, creators and editors. Now the smarter ones have joined the club. The club being officially called, "The Club Of Those Of Us Who Got A Clue A Long, Long Time Ago."

You're obviously a fan--how did you first come to know and love the character?

When I first came to this country, we watched the Batman TV series on ABC and I immediately got into the character. I don't know if it was the costume or the fact I felt I could be Robin, but I didn't think I could be Batman--same reason I thought I could be Chekhov but not Kirk! I don't know, it's dorky, but I always thought any kid in shorts and green pixie boots (have we mentioned he wore pixie boots?) who could hold his own up against Batman, much less all the villains in Gotham, was cool by me.

Many writers have talked about why they think "Batman" is so enduring--but what do you like about the Batman universe? What parts of Gotham and Dick and Bruce and the rest of the gang appeal to you?

All of them. I go back a ways; I'm old enough to appreciate the Dick Sprang Gotham City as well as Neal Adams. I loved Marshall Rogers' visual approach and Mike Golden's. My favorite Bat-art team of all time remains Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala. I don't know why, I know they might not have been technically the best, but they were my favorite. I haven't always followed Batman's titles faithfully, but on and off for 40 years I've always dropped in on Gotham to see what was percolating. Getting to play in that sandbox just a little the last few years has been a blast and I really thank Mike Marts, Janelle Siegel and Rachel Gluckstein for having given me that opportunity.

Now, DC has announced that in September they will be relaunching all their titles. Does your issue of "Batman" wrap up plot points and ongoing arcs from the larger "Batman" run?

No, geez, that would be a bit much to ask in one issue! I think the story serves to very nicely summarize the evolution of the Batman character and the Bat family, but that will be for readers to decide.

We've also heard that you are working on the new "Teen Titans" after the September relaunch. Is there anything you can tell us about that?

I can only say two things. One, though my comic book writing time is very limited right now--check out www.fungoplay.com starting June 15--I am very happy that the comics I'm writing still have a DC bullet on their covers. And two, not everything you read on the Internet is correct. [Note: after this interview was conducted, it was revealed that Scott Lobdell is in fact writing "Teen Titans," while Nicieza is writing "Legion Lost."]

Overall, how do you feel about Dick's run as Batman? Were there things that surprised you about how he handled the role?

I was glad to see him "elevated" in terms of fan perception. I was glad to see editors and other writers maybe learn to appreciate the character more. The only thing that could've made it better is if I'd been able to write the arc myself!

"Batman" issue #713 hits stores August 17.

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