20 July 2014

A Touch of Blue

When DC launched its “New 52” continuity, it redesigned almost all its heroes’ costumes. Nightwing’s new outfit replaced the light blue stripe across the chest and upper back with a bright red stripe and, though it didn’t seem possible, made the tight black body suit even more shiny.

But the biggest change, so far as fans were concerned, was the removal of the light blue stripes down the costume’s arms all the way out the two middle fingers. Nightwing’s new gloves—excuse me, gauntlets—had fins to match his mentors’, and I guess keeping the “fingerstripes” as well would have seemed too frilly.

As new artists arrived on the Nightwing magazine, however, red stripes edged down his sleeves again until they reached the fingers. The process was gradual, as if the editorial office didn’t want the bosses or the fans to notice that they’d realized they’d left behind something good.

And then Dick Grayson gave up the Nightwing costume, at least for a while, for work as a secret agent. A very handsome, acrobatic secret agent. This panel from Grayson, #1, shows some touches designed to please the character’s old fans.

I’m not just talking about Mikel Janin’s multiple images of Dick flipping, which were common in Nightwing both before and after the “New 52” break. I’m talking about those dark gray gloves Dick is wearing, with sky blue bands across each palm.

That detail can only be a nod back to Nightwing’s blue fingerstripes. Sure, the stripe runs along an orthogonal axis, but why else color them that shade of blue? It’s like Dick’s designation as Agent 37 (#37 being the last issue of Detective Comics before Dick Grayson became a sensation of 1940) and the clasp on his shoulder belt (looking like a G, more or less where his R symbol used to be). It’s a sign of “continuity fans” creating this book and struggling to backfill meaning into a universe where most of the past has been erased.

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