With an almost 80-year publication history, Dick Grayson is a character who’s got a lot of history under his belt. His longevity is anything but a fluke. It’s been maintained by a constant evolutionary momentum; and defined by a transition between superheroic mantles, a laundry list of off-kilter civilian day jobs, a perpetually shifting familial relationship with Batman and a revolving cast of close friends and extended family.
Nightwing is one complicated, multifaceted guy with an equally complicated, multifaceted past. Also, as luck would have it, he was just recently put on the map for DC’s ever expanding live action film universe. Now ought to be a good time to brush up on your Nightwing trivia, so without further ado, here are 16 things you never knew about the masked vigilante.
16 EXTREME HOBBYIST
You might think that dressing up and risking your life fighting super villains on a nightly basis would be enough action for even the most hardcore thrill-seeker, but apparently that's not the case with Dick Grayson. During Peter Tomasi and Rags Morales’ appropriately titled “Freefall” story arc in “Nightwing” issues #140 through #146, Dick became obsessed with skydiving. Not just jumping out of planes with a parachute skydiving, but rather high altitude, going-for-a-world-record levels of skydiving. The sort of jumping that requires accessories like oxygen masks and a protective suit.
His family was not all that impressed with Dick’s newest hobby, but nevertheless saw fit to indulge him when they could, even if that meant hauling themselves out to the middle of nowhere to provide pick up at Dick’s drop zones. They may not have been totally able to understand why Dick was so interested in risking his life -- especially when the world records he broke could never be made official since no Guinness World Record authorities were present at any of his attempts -- but if there’s anything the Bat-family is old-hat at, it’s indulging eccentricity.
15 PATRON OF THE ARTS
After settling down in New York City after the events of “Infinite Crisis” and “One Year Later,” Dick found himself in need of a new base of operations. The solution came in the form of a New York art museum, called The Cloisters, with a massive network of caves weaving around underneath it. All Dick had to do was step in and fill a recently vacant curator position in order to get to work cultivating the cave system and historic museum tower as his own.
That, of course, meant he had to actually get the job first -- something that maybe proved a bit trickier than he had been anticipating, but luckily for him, years of training in research and detective work under Batman paid off. He was able to ace his interview and land the gig.
Dick later enlisted the help of the Green Lantern known as John Stewart as architect, and the Justice Society as construction crew to help build his new base in record time... which turned out to be just fast enough for Dick to make use of his new digs for about a year before he was made to return to Gotham after “Final Crisis.”
14 ACCIDENTAL FASHIONISTA
Nightwing’s pretty well recognized by fans as one of the sexiest male superheroes around, but did you know he once actually, canonically, worked as a male model?
Following the events of “Infinite Crisis,” Dick transplanted himself from the recently leveled Bludhaven to NYC in an effort to cultivate a fresh start. During this time, he hooks up with an up-and-coming fashion designer named Cheyenne. When he goes to visit her at her office, he wanders smack dab into the middle of a fashion photoshoot. The photographer gets one look at him and decided -- much to his dismay -- “Oh my god, he’s perfect!” Seriously.
Thus began Dick’s brief tenure in the world of modeling. He even walked the runway in Bruce Jones and Paco Diaz’s “Nightwing” issue #120, wearing none other than a look inspired by New York’s newest superhero sensation: Nightwing. It was, strangely enough, not as awkward as it probably could have been.
13 MENTORING DEATHSTROKE'S DAUGHTER
As the first in the Robin legacy line and the leader of teams like the Titans and the Outsiders, Dick’s had plenty of experience acting as a teacher for the next generation of heroes. However, one of his most unusual students was actually the daughter of one of his most bitter rivals.
Slade Wilson’s luck with children has never been too great. After the deaths of his sons Grant and Joey, he decides it’s time to change up his formula and tracks Nightwing down with his daughter, Rose, in tow. For all their bad blood, Deathstroke knows Dick’s moral compass won’t allow for him to turn Rose away, especially when Slade makes the argument that the vigilante lifestyle will very likely kill her, just like it did her half-brothers, without proper guidance.
Dick begrudgingly acquiesces to Slade’s logic and finds himself plus one sidekick with dubious moral standing for the duration of Devin Grayson and Phil Hester’s “Secrets & Lies” arc of “Nightwing” in 2005. Rose’s training would grow to become something she recalls with pride and Slade recalls with relative disdain during Christopher Priest’s run on "Deathstroke."
12 COLLEGE BOY
In 1969, the "Batman" titles were undergoing some dramatic changes. The pop culture phenomena of “Batman ‘66” had rocked the comic book industry, and title was still feeling the aftershocks. The status quo needed some serious updating.
Therefore, in “Batman” #217, Frank Robbins and Dick Giordano took the first step in shaking things up by officially "allowing" (forcing?) Dick to graduate from Gotham High School and leave the nest. It was, apparently, time for Robin to head to college. He was accepted into Hudson University -- the future educational and professional home of DC Universe scientists like Dr. Martin Stein (aka Firestorm) and Caitlin Snow (Killer Frost).
After a tearful goodbye, Dick departed from the manor, functionally creating a totally reader friendly, understandable exit for Robin from the “Batman” narrative for a bit while the editorial team, under the guidance of Denny O’Neil, shifted gears. Unfortunately for Dick Grayson super fans, his choice of a major was never stated.
11 SPY GAMES
Believe it or not, the boy most famously known as a person who lives and dies by the spotlight spent some time moonlighting as an international spy.
In Tom King, Tim Seeley, and Mikel Janin’s “Grayson,” Dick’s skills as a prodigy of The Bat were put to the ultimate test: going deep undercover to infiltrate an international organization called Spyral. And to make matters even worse? Joining up and gaining Spyral’s trust required him to fake his death, leaving no one but Bruce, and oddly enough, Lex Luthor, aware of the truth. Needless to say, the entire endeavour was not an easy task.
Dick’s tenure at Spyral pushed him to the limits of his moral and ethical comfort zone, but also provided the groundwork for some lasting new allies in the form of the New 52 incarnation of Helena Bertinelli, The Midnighter and a Spyral operative named Tiger, all of whom would continue on through “Rebirth: Nightwing” #1 as Dick’s (somewhat put-upon) friends and confidants.
10 A KRYPTONIAN LEGACY
Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty, and Scott McDaniel expanded upon Dick’s transition from Robin to Nightwing in 2005’s “Nightwing: Year One,” a story that retroactively explored his first outing in his new identity.
In it, a badly botched mission against Clayface prompts a fight between Dick and Bruce. Bruce, blaming the failure on Dick’s split attention between Gotham and his Teen Titans, “fires” Dick from his position as Robin. Heartbroken and furious, Dick sets out to figure out what that actually means for him and his future as a vigilante.
He does the only thing a person who is friends with Superman would ever logically do and goes to Clark for advice. By way of helping, Clark relates a legend -- the story of Nightwing, a Kryptonian hero who was cast out of his family and spent the rest of his life helping the weak -- as a parable for Dick's superheroic future. It works, and Dick decides to take up the name as his own and forge a new identity for himself.
9 ADOPTED IN ADULTHOOD
The official status of Dick and Bruce’s relationship has been through several iterations across multiple reboots of continuity since 1940. The first time any attention was paid to the dubious legality of Dick’s position as Bruce’s “ward” came about in 1943 in “Batman” #20 by Don Cameron and Jack Brunley. In the story, literally titled “Bruce Wayne Loses Guardianship Of Dick Grayson,” a pair of criminals masquerading as Dick’s long lost relatives challenged Bruce’s guardianship as a ploy to get at the Wayne fortune.
Needless to say, the conflict was resolved neatly by the end of the issue with typical Golden Age flair and Bruce and Dick’s arrangement was largely left unchallenged for the decades to follow. Eventually, the Crisis-level event “Zero Hour” off-handedly canonized that Dick had, at some point, been actually adopted as a Wayne, but the addition was never directly expounded upon.
The story of the official, legal adoption didn’t get told until the early 2000s in Devin Grayson and Roger Robinson’s “Gotham Knights” issues #20 and #21, where Dick and Bruce finally meet in court as adults to make Dick’s adoption as Bruce’s son 100% official.
8 HE REPLACED BATMAN TWICE
Though Dick’s made it known several times over that he’s not totally comfortable with the idea of “replacing” Batman, he has stepped into the role on two separate, longterm occasions. His first stint under the cowl came right after Azrael’s disastrous turn as the Bat post “Knightfall” in a cross-title event by Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant, and Doug Moench known as “Batman: Prodigal.” In it, Dick does his best to clean up the mess Azrael left in his wake alongside the current Robin, Tim Drake.
Eventually, Bruce was able to return and reclaim the mantle, allowing for Dick to return to being Nightwing for nearly a decade until “Final Crisis” left the world in need of a replacement Batman yet again. This time around, Dick had to fight against a gauntlet of pretenders to the throne in Tony S. Daniel’s “Battle for the Cowl” before he could reprise his role as the Dark Knight.
Dick would remain Batman, alongside Damian Wayne as Robin, even after Bruce returned, at which point Bruce became the acting Batman of teams like the Justice League while Dick remained the Batman of Gotham City. This arrangement lasted for several months until the events of “Flashpoint” reset the continuity of the DC Universe.
7 A FRIEND IN NEED
Roy Harper has been a close friend of Dick’s since the earliest days of the Teen Titans, long enough that Dick has helped see Roy through even his darkest hours. And there’s… kind of a lot of them. Seriously, Roy’s a bit of a habitual screw up.
One such not-so-great period of Roy’s life came about during Marv Wolfman and Chuck Patton’s “The Cheshire Contract” published in “Action Comics Weekly” #627 through #634. In the story, Roy enlists Dick’s help on a personal mission to track down his former girlfriend, the assassin Cheshire, in order to retrieve his infant daughter, Lian.
It, of course, ends up being a bit more complicated than just finding Cheshire and asking her to hand Lian over, and soon enough, Dick and Roy find themselves in a web of murder and assassination all across Europe before they manage to reunite father and daughter for the first time since her birth. Lian would eventually come to know Dick as “Uncle Nightwing.”
6 OFFICER GRAYSON
Never satisfied with waging a war on just one front, Dick decided his time as Bludhaven’s protector would be better spent making the city a better place 24 hours a day. Despite Bruce's objections (and, really, just about everyone else’s), Dick put himself up to the task of becoming an official member of the Bludhaven police department.
The process wasn’t easy, but not for the reason you might expect. Training to be a cop wasn’t the challenge, it was making sure to look just bad enough during the various boot camps so as to not pique suspicions. Dick had to look good enough to be accepted to the force, but not too good.
Then, once he was actually given his badge, there was the matter of the complicated ethical conundrum of being both an officer of the law and a vigilante who regularly acted above and beyond the law simultaneously. Still, despite the challenges, Dick enjoyed his time as a cop, even when it became an especially contentious hot button issue between Batman and himself.
5 HE INSISTED JASON TODD REPLACE HIM AS ROBIN
While the post-”Crisis On Infinite Earths” landscape famously reworked Dick’s exit from the role of Robin as a pretty traumatic event for all parties involved, it was originally a happy affair.Believe it or not, in Gerry Conway, Don Newton, and Alfredo Alacala’s “Detective Comics” #526 featured Dick not only meeting young pre-Crisis Jason Todd for the first time, but directly encouraging Bruce to adopt and train him. In fact, Dick says that if Bruce can’t adopt the recently orphaned Jason, Dick would try to do it himself. Just imagine how awkward that could have been.
Every interaction between Dick and Jason for the next five or so years leading up to “Crisis on Infinite Earths” would be largely positive. Dick would go on to provide Jason with his original costume, act as a mentor and guide, and generally be the big brother Jason never had -- all of which would prove to be a dramatic departure from their first post-Crisis meeting in “Batman” #416, where Dick wasn’t even aware he’d been replaced.
4 A CITY ALL HIS OWN
Dick’s relocation to Bludhaven was never intended to be a longterm situation. In fact, the whole point of his move was actually just to help Bruce out on one specific case: a string of bodies that had washed up in Gotham’s bay. Bruce surmised that their only logical point of origin was Bludhaven, but with Gotham needing his full attention, he sent Dick to investigate in his stead.
However, the more Dick worked to uncover the murderer, the deeper he fell down Bludhaven’s rabbit hole. It didn’t take too long for Dick to realize that solving one case wasn’t actually going to do much good in the long term; Bludhaven needed a much more intensive bout of rehab and now that he was in, he had to commit.
Dick ended up staying full-time in Bludhaven for a full 10 years, before the city was destroyed by Chemo in the events leading up to “Infinite Crisis.”
3 GOING RENEGADE
In early 2005, things were not going so well for Dick. Starting in Devin Grayson and Phil Hester’s “Nightwing” #107 and continuing on through to issue #116, he seemed pretty intent on hitting rock bottom. After a string of astronomically dark times and bad luck, Dick underwent a crisis of conscious. Seeking to find a new way to carry out his vigilante business (and, admittedly, looking to martyr himself just a little bit), he withdrew from the rest of the Bat-family and buried himself deep undercover as a mob enforcer nicknamed “Crutches.” It proved to be almost too deep, however, and eventually Dick began to believe that the mafia life was really all he was good for.
Embittered and isolated, he threw away his Nightwing identity and began to call his superhero persona “Renegade.” He even made himself an edgy, dark red version of his costume to commemorate the occasion. Luckily, the events of “Infinite Crisis” proved to be catastrophic enough to knock things back into perspective for him, and he was roughly back to his old self circa 2006.
2 MAKING RENT
Another surprising line in Dick’s increasingly eclectic resume of day jobs includes “apartment manager.” Immediately after his move to Bludhaven, Dick found himself struggling to hide the equipment and costumes in his new apartment from his new neighbors. Life without a Batcave or a Titans Tower was, apparently, more of a challenge than he had originally anticipated.
Luckily, Dick’s a pretty inventive guy and produced a work-around for himself: he bought the building under an assumed name and constructed a secret “second apartment” for himself to function as his own version of a cave. Once he was sure his own vigilante needs were met, Dick set about populating the rest of the building with anyone he thought might be down on their luck, from struggling families to rehabilitated supervillains like Amygdala. He kept his ownership of the building a secret to the rest of the tenants, even to the woman he paid to act as his landlady, Bridget Clancy.
1 ANNUAL BROMANCE VACATIONS
Once upon a time (in Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn’s “Flash & Nightwing” one shot), Dick and his best friend Wally West had a standing arrangement: once a year, they find time in their busy schedules to take a vacation together. They pack up their bags, pile into a car, and go on a good old-fashioned, no-heroics-allowed road trip.
In 1997, Dick made the decision that their trip should take them to New Orleans, or, more specifically, to a supposedly haunted bed and breakfast in New Orleans. Apparently, the “no heroics” rule doesn’t apply to mysteries the prodigy of the World’s Greatest Detective wants to sniff out.
It goes about as well as you might imagine, with the boys eventually being forced to suit up, team up and stop a trans-dimensional monster from ripping a hole in space-time. You know, all the essential components of a relaxing getaway with your closest pal.
What little known facts about Nightwing did we miss? Let us know in the comments!