Tuesday, September 18, 2007

FBW to DC: Allow Nightwing To Fly

Among the news to come out of Baltimore Comic-Con earlier this month was the announcement by DC Comics Peter Tomasi—recently an Editor at DC—as the new writer of Nightwing.

Tomasi replaces Nightwing co-creator and most recent scribe Marv Wolfman. Tomasi’s run will begin with Nightwing #140 in January. Even better news is the book’s new art team of Rags Morales and Michael Bair—formerly of JSA and Hawkman. Top shelf indeed.

We are excited about this news as we see this as an opportunity for the former Robin the Boy Wonder to finally achieve his full potential as a character. However, we are also wary as in the past DC has squandered many other “potential” opportunities.

In an interview with Newsarama.com, Tomasi provided his vision of Nightwing. You can read the full interview http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=128643 here.

“Nightwing is a great character and I hope I can do him justice for however long my own run lasts. And as been stated before, he's truly the lynchpin of the DCU. He's respected and trusted by everyone. He's got roots that move through all the teams, and also through almost every hero,” Tomasi told Newsarama. “In my eyes, Nightwing is at the top of his game. He's a millimeter off from being as good as Bruce/Batman in every single way, from detective skills to tactician skills, to fighting and weapons, and of course there's no question his interpersonal skills are a bit better.”

Well Tomasi is saying all of the right things but talk is cheap and we’ve heard it before.

Of all of the heroes in the DC pantheon, Nightwing has always had a special place in our heart.

Even before he became Nightwing, as a wee young FanBoyWonder we had a special fondness for Dick Grayson as Robin in the pages of Wolfman and Perez’s New Teen Titans. Of course we knew who Robin was before NTT, but when we read him in Titans, we identified with Dick Grayson like never before.

Unlike in the Batman comics, Wolfman and Perez’s Robin was a leader and the guy everyone looked to, not as the boy hostage. Dick Grayson was chafing in his role as the Dark Knight’s sidekick—the Boy Wonder was growing up and he wanted to step outside of his “father’s” long shadow.

It’s a notion that most adolescent boys could identify with. FanBoyWonder was 13-years-old at the time and we remember quite well when picked up New Teen Titans #39 in November 1983.

We purchased that particular issue at the drug store in our grandfather’s hometown coming back from his wake. We’ll never forget sitting in our grandfather’s chair as we read the fairly earth-shattering events unfolding in the issue as Kid Flash retired and quit the team while Robin turned in his colors.

Five issues (and a name change) later in Tales of the Teen Titans #44, Dick Grayson would settle on his post-Robin identity and code name—Nightwing—and the sidekick became a hero in his own right.

For those of you too young to remember Dick as Robin, we can’t emphasize enough just how big a deal it was—just what a bold move DC had made when they finally permitted Dick to grow up and for a new Robin to take his place. We have a hard time believing that DC would be so bold today.

We should take a moment to salute Marv Wolfman, who ends his run with issue 137 next month. In what was supposed to be a four-issue fill-in run following the well deserved firing of Bruce Jones, DC extended stay on Nightwing for another year.

Marv brought some badly needed competence and stability to Nightwing following a long string of creative incompetence. That said, Marv never got past “solid” during his storytelling run.

One of Marv’s best strengths is his gift for dialogue and character building. Yet unfortunately that was offset by weak plotting and his often fatal flaw of prolonging a good story idea until it becomes stale—a four-issue story arc where only two issues was warranted.

Helping not at all was “new” Nightwing artist Jamal Igle, who put in a couple quite good but non-consecutive issues before moving on.

What encourages us most about Tomasi’s upcoming run is that Nightwing will be forward-looking.

“I think the days of Richard Grayson trying to prove something to Bruce is over. It's done. Finito. And I also will be trying to steer clear of centering stories on street level crimes,” Tomasi again tells Newsarama. “Richard will definitely be helping the people of his newly adopted city, but I wanna try and broaden the scope some more, go for some high concepts while still centering all the stories as to how they affect Richard's life.”

Like we said…music to our ears but we’ll believe it when we see it.

We are rooting for new scribe Tomasi to take Nightwing to the next level but in all honesty, it’s not entirely up to him. DC management needs to get behind this and allow Nightwing to reach his potential.

DC made a bold move all of those years ago when Robin became Nightwing but given DC management’s professed love for the Silver Age and a back to the future mentality where everything old/past is new again—return of Hal Jordan, Green Arrow/Black Canary, JLA/Hall of Justice and Luthor’s “Legion of Doom,” the multiverse…etc—one gets the sense that if they could (without serious fan pushback) Dick Grayson would forever more remain in the yellow cape and pixie boots.

Yet having made the bold move—more than 20 years ago—to (finally) allow the boy wonder to grow into a man, DC seems to be afraid to permit Nightwing to advance to the character’s logical evolution—to stand as an equal to his mentor/teacher/surrogate father The Batman.

As a result, readers have been treated to a tremendously inconstant portrayal of Dick Grayson over the years—not unlike his last days as Robin. He’s cool and confident or he’s whiny and angst ridden—the latter occurs usually when the Dark Knight is involved.

We have an inherent sense that the powers that DC Management believes that elevating Nightwing would somehow diminish Batman and it just doesn’t have to be that way.

Dick Grayson is in a stuck in a rut—not unlike the slump that Hal Jordan experienced in the years between Hard Traveling Heroes and Emerald Twilight. However, thanks to Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns, Hal’s character has been rehabilitated from peace-time screw-up/wartime hero to flyboy maverick.

Taking him at his word, Tomasi seems poised to give Dick Grayson that desperately needed extreme-character makeover but Tomasi needs to have DC behind him or nothing he does will take.

FBW's Nightwing Fixes

Nobody asked us but here’s our fantasy wish-list of remedies for fixing Nightwing:

--Accentuate his uniqueness—Nightwing isn’t and shouldn’t be Batman Jr. Yes, he has a similar skill set by virtue of who trained and raised him but among other things; Nightwing is talked up as the DCU’s premier acrobat-hero. Let’s see him in situations where he’s called upon to use it.

--Fight AND Win—Marv Wolfman is especially guilty of this but Nightwing needs to stop getting his ass kicked by every D-list villain and street tough. Nobody this side of Deathstroke or Doomsday should be able to lay a hand on him in a fight.

-- Defeat a Major Bat-Villain—Nothing garners respect more than definitely taking out a bad guy that makes the Dark Knight sweat. Our pick would be Bane. They had a tantalizingly brief exchange during a Batman & Robin movie inspired Bane special 10 years ago—but of course the writer stacked the deck against Dick.

Better yet, by defeating Bane in an undisputed fair fight, it would skirt the need for a Batman vs. Nightwing match as Bane’s defeat would serve an implicit, even unspoken understanding that if they HAD to have at it, the one-time student is a CAPABLE of prevailing against the master.

--The LeaderDick is a natural-born leader who inspires trust while Bruce is often in charge by default because he’s the smartest guy in the room (and does nothing to hide that fact). Even Tomasi concedes that Nightwing has superior “people skills.” We would love to see a scene where Batman and Nightwing are recruiting teams and everyone but Wonder Woman and Superman ask to be on Nightwing’s team.

--A real secret identity—Dick Grayson needs to be a real alter ego to Nightwing. We actually liked it during Chuck Dixon’s run that Dick was a Bludhaven cop. Dick Grayson should be as much of a real person as his costumed persona.

While we’re at it, there are some team-ups with Nightwing that we’d like to see:

--Wildcat/Ted Grant—Both because we don’t’ think it’s ever happened and because we’d like to see Dick interact with someone who even Bruce looks up to.

--The Justice Society of America—Specifically, we’d like to see Geoff Johns take on Nightwing plus the whole Dick Grayson meets the JSA again for the first time thing intrigue us.

--Green Lantern Guy Gardner and the Green Lantern Corps—This team up should take place off Earth and the whole fish out of water thing or acrobat in space would be amusing to see. Since Tomasi is also taking over writing GLC, it’s more than possible he could hook it up.

--Nightwing and Bruce Wayne (not Batman)—We’d like to see a circumstance where Bruce goes out to fight crime with Nightwing but in a ski mask or something other than the cape and cowl—just to mix things up and watch Bruce try to work without the spooky bat-mojo for a change.

There you go Mr. Tomasi. We’ve drawn you a road map. Have at it. Please don’t f**k it up.


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