By Peter James Duffy
The Comic-Gods giveth, and the Comic-Gods taketh away. Just as they reveal the date for Grant Morrisons The Multiversity, they also reveal the new series, Grayson.
Dick Grayson is an icon.
He was the original Robin the Boy Wonder, a character integral to Batman lore, older than The Joker, and more recognisable than most of the Justice League. He’s featured in comics since 1940, he’s been in three major movies, more than half a dozen TV series, two radio serials and at least nine video games. So, he’s made a bit of an impact.
So what does the future hold for that laughing, fighting young daredevil who scoffs at danger? DC have announced that he will be staring in this new, title which will be replacing Nightwing after issue 30. Written by Tim Seeley and Tom King, Dick will become an agent of the spy organisation Spyral. This follows on from Dick having his identity revealed in Geoff Johns Forever Evil. The, now presumed dead, hero joins the incredibly sketchy spy agency created during Grant Morrison’s Batman run.
This makes very little sense. Dick Grayson, as Bruce Wayne’s ward would be a very famous face, especially after he was revealed as a superhero, so I struggle to see him moving around the world unnoticed. He may be presumed dead, but one doesn’t instantly forget a famous face upon their death. In fact, few things create more publicity, especially if it occurs as a focal point of a huge cataclysmic invasion by supervillains. I doubt Richard has ever been as famous as he will be after Forever Evil, which isn’t ideal when taking up a career in espionage. The image of Grayson we have been supplied with shows Dick pointing a gun at us, a gun. I struggle to comprehend how someone raised as by Batman would ever take up fire-arms, even when he was on the police force he refused to use his standard issue. Will he be killing people? When you consider the nature of his new line of work, it seems highly likely that he will be required to assassinate targets on a regular basis. The concept of this comic is not only imbecilic, it is also offensive. When you consider the career of Dick Grayson, from Robin to Nightwing to Batman, he’s lead The Teen Titans, The Outsiders and the Justice League. It is clear to see that Dick Grayson is a superhero, and to make him anything less is simply an insult to the character.
So why is DC taking Dick down such an unusual road? Clearly a change like this to such a recognisable and popular character would have been carefully planned out in advance. So what is the intent behind this move? It is no secret that Co-Publisher Dan Didio tried to kill off Richard in the past and that he believes Robin being all grown up, and having adventures of his own, ages Batman too much. However, Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer at DC, is credited as one of those responsible for stopping Didio. Not to mention he’s the creative powerhouse behind many of DC’s best selling series. Could it be that in “Grayson” they have found a compromise? Perhaps they will allow Dick to survive, but only if he is pushed as far away from Batman as possible. No one but Bruce will know Dick is still alive. He will be unable to contact any of his former friends or family, not even Alfred, the man who raised him as much as Bruce did. Apparently the faithful retainer, who has always kept Batman’s greatest secrets, just can’t be trusted. So Richard will never be able to play a role in any major events or crossovers, which certainly fits an ongoing trend of moving Batman’s older sidekicks outside of Gotham. Nightwing moved to Chicago, Jason Todd went off around the world in Red Hood and the Outlaws, and Tim Drake features mainly in Teen Titains. If you include Stephanie Brown being airbrushed out of ever being a Robin, and now Dick becoming a spy who has to pretend to be dead, one can see a certain pattern. DC is hoping that “out of sight, out of mind” will allow them to keep Bruce Wayne looking young while not having to get rid of popular characters.
DC are in this position as a result of the New 52‘s soft reboot of Batman, squeezing decades of history and four different Robins into their compressed timeline was always going to be a stretch. The sensible thing to do would have been to set things back to the original Dynamic Duo. Robin will always be defined by Dick Grayson, he set the mould and eventually he’ll always have to come back to the role. I would have had more respect for DC if they’d been courageous enough to recast him as Robin when they rebooted the rest of their line. Of course this would undoubtedly been an unpopular move. Not only would it mean doing away Tim Drake, Damian Wayne and Jason Todd, (characters who have all established a significant fan-base) but it would also mean erasing Dick’s history as Nightwing.
Nightwing has been a consistently popular character. A lot of fans like seeing Richard out having his own adventures. They like his story, they enjoyed seeing him grow up in comics and, for many of them, Nightwing has been around longer than they have. However, this kind of change was forced on dozens of other heroes; just look at Wally West, he’d been Kid Flash since 1959, and then was the Flash from 1987 to Flashpoint, when he simply ceased to have existed. Characters like Superman and Wonder Woman lost almost all of their entire history, Superman lost interest in the woman he’s pined after since Action Comics #1, Wonder Woman was no longer fashioned from clay, but a daughter of Zeus. If there was ever a time to reboot Robin, it would have been here, but instead DC are trying to be all things to all people and the result is Grayson.
DC should have rebooted Batman the same way they rebooted the rest of their universe. It would have upset many and it would have cost them short term, by disrupting such a popular stable set of characters. Failing to do so has led to them taking him in a terrible new direction, in order to cover up the problems they could have addressed in said reboot. These kinds of moves make a mockery of DC’s claims of long term planning. They don’t know what’s coming next and they’re panicking. I think we can expect more haphazard changes by DC, as they try to keep the New 52 looking like its fresh and exciting. This means beloved characters are going to be swept up in the wake and suffer consequences worse than death.
Dick Grayson deserves better.