Created by writer Bob Kane and artist Bill Finger in 1940 and introduced in Detective Comics #38, Dick Grayson began his career as Robin the Boy Wonder as the quintessential sidekick to The Batman. Eventually, Grayson aged, as young boys do. Grayson has left the Robin mantle to others and struck out on his own as Nightwing.
Grayson has also grown in popularity, landing near the top of several “best character” lists. Thanks to artists like Nicola Scott, his physique has drawn a great deal of praise from certain readers. However, DC Comics hasn’t always been kind to Mr. Grayson. Abuse, horrible outfits and attempts to kill him off have dotted the history of this exceptional character. Here are the 10 worst things DC has done to Dick Grayson.
10 Traumatized Circus Boy
It’s unclear why most heroes' lives have to start in tragedy. The youngest member of The Flying Graysons, Dick Grayson saw his parents killed when their trapeze snapped and they fell to the sawdust floor below. Dick had previously heard gangsters threaten the Haley Circus’ owner for extortion money. Batman warned Dick that alerting the police could lead to his death and offered Grayson another option to bring the gangsters to justice.
After extensive training and swearing an oath by candlelight, the new ward of Bruce Wayne would don a colorful costume based on his mother’s favorite bird and inspired by the legendary hero Robin Hood. Dick Grayson would call himself Robin and flip around distracting the bad guys while the Bat pummels them.
9 Fired By the Bat
Grayson was “fired” by Batman twice. These were retroactive stories to explain why Robin’s involvement in the Batman comics changed so dramatically. The first came when Two-Face killed the new DA and captured Batman. Robin tried to rescue them but Two-Face beat Robin mercilessly while Batman could only watch. The beating and his inability to save the DA traumatized Robin and Batman sidelined him temporarily. This story happened just before Raven brought the New Teen Titans together.
The second time, DC wanted Batman to have a full-time Robin again but Grayson was too popular with the Titans. Robin was absent too many times to be there with Batman in the field, this time against Clayface. Wayne angrily tells Grayson that the mission is too important for a part-time soldier. They fight and the last thing Wayne says is “Leave the costume.”
8 That High Collar Outfit
After briefly considering quitting the superhero life, Grayson contacts the other hero he respects most in the world: Superman. Superman relayed a story from Krypton’s past about a hero that was cast out by his family named Nightwing. Grayson took that story to heart and created his first Nightwing costume.
Referred to by some fans as the “Disco” costume, the first Nightwing outfit may have leaned a little more toward its Kryptonian origin and the “wing” part. Its high collar, plunging neckline, bright yellow feathers, and baby blue and navy color scheme split the difference between the dark palate of the Batman and the gaudy colors of Robin.
7 The Ridiculous Ponytail
The Disco costume wasn’t Nightwing only fashion mistake. Starfire had cut Grayson’s hair into a mullet in the pages of the Teen Titans because “Hey, it’s the 1990’s!”
Grayson would pull it back into an ever longer ponytail that eventually reached his waist. It was finally cut off by a member of Black Mask’s False Face Society and we thank that nameless henchman for it. Add to that a costume with a double line of bright yellow wings that start at the center of the chest, go over the shoulders in a tunic fashion and connect to the blue and yellow accented belt on both sides.
6 Raped by the Tarantula
Shockingly, Nightwing was raped and even the writer admits that it was a mistake. It happened in Nightwing #93. His long-time foe Blockbuster was enraged by Nightwing thwarting his plans. He learned Nightwing’s identity and threatened to kill everyone Grayson knew. Exhausted and injured from a previous battle, Nightwing didn’t stop his young protegee, the Tarantula, when she arrived and shoots Blockbuster to death.
Nightwing ran to an adjoining roof, collapsed from a panic attack and began weeping. Tarantula straddles the distraught hero who is traumatized and unable to move. Grayson is begging not to be touched as she raped him in the rain.
5 He Was Supposed to Die in Infinite Crisis
During the Battle for Metropolis, Nightwing and Connor Kent located and attacked Alexander Luthor’s Tower but are attacked by Superboy-Prime. Prime nearly kills Nightwing but Conner sacrificed himself to destroy the tower and save his friend.
DC Co-Publisher Dan Didio wanted Nightwing dead. But writer Geoff Johns and artist Phil Jimenez felt that he wasn’t the right one to die. Jimenez believed “Even more than Superman and Batman, Nightwing is the soul, the linchpin of the DCU…His loss would devastate everyone and create ripples throughout the DCU.” Superboy was John's favorite Titan but he knew that DC especially had a bad reputation about killing female characters so Superboy had to die.
4 His League Deserved Better
Grayson as Batman leads a Justice League that was sandwiched between two vilified storylines: Justice League: Cry for Justice and The New 52. The remnants of the regular and the Cry for Justice teams came together with new recruits. Within two issues, everyone except Batman, Donna Troy, Starman, and Congorilla were gone.
Jade, Supergirl and Jesse Quick joined the team but it felt like the comic spent most of its time cleaning up the past storylines. The final issue portrayed a year in this League that had stories more interesting than the ones we were given. We saw the team break apart with the question “Do you think they will remember us?”
3 Outed by the Crime Syndicate
In the New 52 reality, The Earth -3’s Crime Syndicate invaded Earth-Prime and captured the Justice League within The Firestorm Matrix. Nightwing was captured as well, horrifically beaten by Ultraman and his identity was revealed on live television. Ultraman hooked Grayson to a device called the Murder Machine, which monitored its victim’s heart rate and was reputedly inescapable.
Uncharacteristically, Lex Luthor agreed to help Batman rescue Grayson. Luthor stopped Grayson’s heart to fool the machine so he could disarm it. Thinking Luthor had killed Grayson, Batman attacked him but Luthor plunged adrenaline into Grayson’s heart, reviving him. The trio, along with Catwoman and Cyborg, freed the League and defeated the Syndicate.
2 Dick is Ric?
Bane was determined to systematically break the Batman down. He planned to leave Wayne with no allies and no ground to run to. So Bane hired the Russian mercenary the KGBeast. The Beast shot Nightwing in the head with a sniper rifle. Grayson survived his injuries but he lost part of his brain and skull and it changed him.
Grayson has no recollection of his time as Robin or Nightwing. He started drinking, gambling and driving a taxi in Bludhaven to support himself. However, he still moves like Nightwing and stopped every crime he encountered. Several policemen also have taken up the costumes of Nightwing to keep the city safe.
1 The New Talon?
Ric Grayson is making his own way in Bludhaven. Unfortunately, a part of Dick Grayson’s past has resurfaced. William Cobb is Dick Grayson’s great grandfather and a Talon of the Court of Owls. The Court is a shadowy organization that has worked behind the scenes in Gotham. Cobb is immortal and has an advanced healing factor. Cobb wanted to recruit Grayson into the Talons or he would kill him. Nightwing defeated Talon and put him back into cryogenic hibernation.
But Ric remembers none of this and William Cobb has resurfaced to fulfill the prophecy of the “Gray Son of Gotham." Worse still, the recently evolved Luthor comes to Cobb informing him that Luthor has all the information he needs to convince Ric to join him.