02 March 2014

Kyle Higgins’s Last Words on Dick Grayson?

DC Comics is touting an upcoming issue of Secret Origins as writer Kyle Higgins’s last word on Dick Grayson, whom he’s been writing in Nightwing for the past two and half years.

Higgins sounded a bit bemused when he told Kiel Phegley at Comic Book Resources about that story:
The Secret Origins one-shot is a little weird. It’s something they asked me to do while I was wrapping my run on Nightwing, and in some ways, I did a lot on Dick’s early days in our issue #0. So this was about trying to find a different point of view on a lot of the ideas we’d already introduced. . . . Honestly, my final issue of Nightwing kind of says everything I have to say about the character, so it’s a little weird to be doing this origin story too, but it’s fun.
I should note that Higgins’s last issue of Nightwing will be followed by a final issue written by a different team, which completes a story being told in a miniseries titled Forever Evil. That magazine has already shown Dick Grayson being unmasked, which would certainly force major changes in his career as a mysterious vigilante. DC is of course trying to play up fears that that storyline will end with Dick dying.

But back to Higgins and “Dick’s early days”:
The one story point that I really wanted to explore was the Robin name. It’s something I hadn’t done in issue #0, and it was something that I’d had an idea for for a while. We had kind of touched on the bracelet [with a robin motif] that Dick gave his mother in issue #0 as the origin of why he ultimately took the Robin name, but there’s a little bit more to it than that. What a Robin actually means to Dick Grayson hasn’t been defined, and that’s something I wanted to bring into his origin. Originally, the Robin identity came out of Errol Flynn and the Robin Hood movie, but that’s not exactly the direction DC wanted to go with the New 52 version, so this was all about finding a new spin on the Robin moniker. We’ll show where it comes from and what it means to Dick in this Secret Origins story in a pretty cool way.
Actually, Jerry Robinson’s inspiration for Robin came from his memory of N. C. Wyeth paintings of Robin Hood, not the 1938 Errol Flynn movie (though its popularity couldn’t have hurt). Narrative captions in the first comics that featured Robin made that link to British mythology explicit. But it wasn’t till later retellings of Robin’s origin that DC’s writers showed Dick identifying himself as a Robin Hood fan. Subsequently a Robin Hood painting became a staple of his bedroom in Wayne Manor.

And there’s a curious story from Detective Comics, #226, in 1955 called “When Batman Was Robin,” which showed young Bruce Wayne dressing in the oh-so-inconspicuous Robin costume to get tutoring from the famous detective Harvey Harris. Seeing the kid in the red jerkin, Harris says he looks “as brilliant as a robin redbreast” and dubs him Robin.

That story by Edmond Hamilton undercuts the Dynamic Duo mythos in a couple of ways. Since it was set before Bruce’s parents were killed, it meant their murder wasn’t actually what set him to dressing up in a cape and mask and fighting crime. And it meant Bruce gave Dick the name Robin and the same type of costume he’d worn as a teenager without ever explaining their history.

But to get back to Higgins once more, is this really his farewell to Dick Grayson, or just to DC’s main, official, present-day version of that character? In January Higgins told Vaneta Rogers at Newsarama, “I’ve got some huge Dick Grayson/Nightwing stuff coming up in Batman Beyond 2.0…which I can’t urge you enough to pick up. . . . It’s the best stuff I’ve done at DC.” That digital-first magazine is set in one possible future for the DC heroes, spun off the animated cartoons rather than the main comic books, so it’s not quite so official.

In addition, Higgins has an upcoming series from Image called C.O.W.L., set in an original superhero universe. Higgins started to build that world with his student film The League, which featured an equivalent of Dick Grayson named the Sparrow or, later, the Wraith. Interviews don’t indicate if that character shows up in The C.O.W.L., but a version of his mentor does, so there’s a strong possibility.

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