Punishing Dick Grayson, and Why It Could Be a Good Thing

Dick Grayson can’t seem to catch a break. And I don’t just mean the murder of his parents when he was still a boy. I mean Dick Grayson as a comic book superhero can’t seem to catch a break in DC Comics’ New 52 universe. In less than two years, Dick found out that his childhood home, Haley’s Circus, was actually a front for the villainous Court of Owls secret society, and that Dick himself was in line to become one of their undead assassins (until the whole Batman and Robin thing happened instead). Then he found out his childhood sweetheart was a psychopath who betrayed him and tried to kill him, only for her to then be murdered by the Joker as a means of punishing Dick.

Then when he inherited Haley’s Circus and sunk all of his life savings into fixing it up, that too was destroyed by the Joker. Then Dick found out that Batman was keeping secrets from him, leading to an angry split between the two heroes. Then he found out the man who murdered his parents was still alive and hiding in Chicago!

And now Nightwing has been chosen as the sacrificial lamb for the new Forever Evil event.

So that’s why they put him in red

Don’t worry, he’s not dead…at least not yet.

But something almost as huge happened to Nightwing in this week’s Forever Evil #1. As a big Robin and Nightwing fan, I’m worried about any major change to one of my favorite characters. But I’m here to tell you that this change might not be all that bad. In fact, this could work out very well in Nightwing’s favor.

As long as DC manages to use it to tell some good stories. That part is questionable.

But this isn’t the end of the world. Join me after the jump for full SPOILERS and why I think this could be good for the character.

Let’s get the spoilers out of the way first.

In Forever Evil #1, the Crime Syndicate of America kidnaps Nightwing and reveal his secret identity to the world:

Now you see why Dick Grayson can’t catch a break.

First of all, I know what you’re thinking: won’t this blow back on Batman? If they all know that Robin was Dick Grayson, doesn’t this mean the world will find out that Batman is Bruce Wayne? Not really, if you understand Batman’s current continuity.

A few years ago, writer Grant Morrison introduced Batman Incorporated, which was about Batman traveling around the world to unite like-minded vigilantes under his banner, and provide them with tools and equipment. He is very rich, after all. In the same story, Morrison had Bruce Wayne publicly announce that he had partnered with Batman to fund Batman Incorporated, and revealed that Bruce had been supplying Batman with funds and equipment for years. Bruce Wayne started protecting his secret identity by hiding himself in plain sight.  Now anybody who might uncover some link between Bruce Wayne and Batman would just think it tied into Wayne publicly funding Batman, simple as that.

And that’s how DC can explain why Bruce Wayne’s adopted son and ward was working for Batman. It may not be kosher that Bruce let his son join up as a costumed vigilante (or maybe they’ll say that Bruce didn’t even know about it), but the facts are the facts. Bruce Wayne’s identity is protected.

He’s going to be fine

So why is this unmasking a good thing for Dick Grayson? Because the stories could be good. Think of the drama that comes from unmasking a superhero. How does it effect his personal life? How does it effect his superhero life? How does it effect him on a personal level? Just look at what Brian Michael Bendis managed to do with his story unmasking Daredevil a few years ago. So many fun and fascinating things came out of that story, and the reverberations are still felt to this day, long after Bendis stopped writing Daredevil.

And look what happened when Marvel unmasked Peter Parker during Civil War. Spider-Man’s life was a roller coaster after that moment, and things were pretty darn fascinating – up until Marvel put the genie back into the bottle with their One More Day bull poopy. DC says they won’t pull such a stunt with Nightwing. They said this change is permanent.

And I say, again, maybe it will lead to some good stories. Kyle Higgins has been writing Nightwing since the start of the New 52, and I’ve generally liked everything he’s done so far. I trust him to find something fun and interesting to do with Nightwing’s unmasking. The potential is there for some great drama.

But here’s the thing: I don’t trust DC Comics, not anymore. I don’t trust anything to do with the New 52. I think this unmasking is a desperate ploy for attention, something that probably came up spontaneously in some staff meeting. DC and Geoff Johns probably wanted something damaging to happen to a major character in Forever Evil, so they picked Nightwing, because, as I said above, they love picking on him. I might praise Higgins, but he has absolutely no control over Nightwing. Higgins tried to set up a status quo where Dick tried to rebuild Haley’s Circus, and that got sacrificed for Scott Snyder’s Joker story. Then Higgins tried to set up a new status quo of Dick in Chicago, but that’s clearly being sacrificed for this unmasking storyline in Forever Evil.

So much for thinking he can try new things

On top of that, Dick Grayson doesn’t really have any sort of supporting cast for this unmasking to effect. Peter Parker’s unmasking was a big deal because he had Aunt May, Mary Jane, J. Jonah Jameson and a host of other important, long term supporting character who could actually react to finding out that Peter Parker was secretly Spider-Man.

Dick Grayson has no one. The only people in his life are fellow superheroes, and they already know. Dick has had the rug yanked out from under him so many times that he no longer has a status quo. He has no civilian friends or family who might react. So where is the drama going to come from?

I don’t know. But DC really seems to hate Dick Grayson, don’t they?

About Sean Ian Mills

Hello, this is Sean, the Henchman-4-Hire! By day I am a mild-mannered newspaper reporter in Central New York, and by the rest of the day I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to video games, comic books, movies, cartoons and more.

Posted on September 6, 2013, in Batman, Comics, DC, Robin and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I don’t know. It is this kind of craziness that makes me think the plan is to just reboot every ten years. They load up continuity with all sorts of craziness, hate what they made, then just shake the Etch-A-Sketch. Think of this like a line graph of hero unmasking. On one end of the sptrum you have Daredevil, a successful unmasking. On the other end is Spider-Man, a failed unmasking (in that they retconned it so poorly). You think this works because you believe that Dick Grayson is closer to the Daredevil end than Spider-Man. And I may agree with you. Dick Grayson is a bit of a second-stringer in DC nowadays. But I think the graph has to be adjusted for the awesomeness of Marvel. They can pull off a Daredevil unmasking because it wasn’t a big deal for the company as a whole. But Nightwing got unmasked front and center of the Big Event comic. That’s a more Spider-Man thing to do.

    If the unmasking was a quiet thing tucked away in Nightwing comics, then I’d give it a chance. But it is too visible. It screws with too much. And the editors will get cold feet. They can’t marry anybody but they can unmask them? Not a chance.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if DC is preparing for another reboot in 10 or so years. I’ve been trying to make it an ongoing theme of my blog whenever I criticize DC that I don’t think anybody is planning long term. They keep coming up with quick, ugly, immediate events and moments in order to boost sales, but all that’s doing is cluttering everything up with new continuity.

      It happened to the Ultimate Universe, it’s going to happen to the New 52 Universe.

      But with this Dick Grayson thing, I’m trying to stay positive. Mostly I’m opposed to it, but bitching isn’t going to get me anywhere, so I’m trying to see some kind of silver lining. But yeah, I definitely think this was some kind of spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment idea with no long term thought. I definitely think it’s like Peter Parker’s unmasking. I just hope they handle it like Daredevil’s unmasking…but I doubt they will.

  2. I really hate what DC did to D.Grayson. he has been my favorite comics character since I can remember. I’m in my late 30’s now. I just hope they don’t kill him off. Thank you for keeping his situation optimistic for me.

    • Glad to help. I’m a huge fan of Dick Grayson myself, so I’m following this closely. I have faith that he’s not in any real trouble. He’s starring in his own solo series, after all.

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