To say Devin Grayson is
excited about being the regular writer on DC Comics'
"Nightwing" is something of an understatement. There probably
aren't enough synonyms for that word in Mr. Roget's fine
thesaurus to fully describe her current state of creative
|Pages from "Nightwing #71." Art by Rick Leonardi
and Jesse Delperdang. Story by Devin Grayson. Click to
"It just feels really, really right," Grayson says of her
newest assignment. "I'm relaxed, I'm happy, and I'm very in
love with the work I get to do."
For "Nightwing" fans, the Devin Grayson era officially
begins in July with issue #71 - but the 31-year-old
Californian is no stranger to Dick Grayson's costumed
adventures. Her first published comic-book story - 1997's
"Like Riding a Bike," in "The Batman Chronicles" #7 - starred
her namesake, as did her "Nightwing/Huntress" mini-series in
1998. The acrobatic hero was a key player in Grayson's
20-issue run on "The Titans," too, and he also was a frequent
guest star in "Batman: Gotham Knights," the masterful monthly
psychological profile of the Dark Knight Detective that she
co-created and helmed until this summer.
There's a good reason Grayson keeps coming back to the
black-and-blue-clad hero: She really digs him. Grayson
considers Nightwing one of DC's more complex characters, which
makes him interesting to read about - and a heck of a lot of
fun to write about.
"I think Dick Grayson has struggled with problems that are
resonant to a lot of people: loss, grief, difficult and
unyielding parent figures, the need to carve out an individual
place for one's self in the world," Grayson explains. "I could
gone on for hours - about Dick's complexities and the
contradictions in his nature that make him so completely
believable; about his amazing physical prowess and natural
athleticism and how much he loves movement and fluidity and
physical contact; about his intelligence and his compassion
and his fierce romantic streak; about his fascinating
vocational and ethnic background, and how different those
things were from what he eventually grew up with in Wayne
Manor; about his energy and resourcefulness and ability to be
totally, stunningly present in any given moment.
"The character beat I find most interesting with Nightwing
is how deeply he experiences frustration and pain, and then
how totally done with that he is by the time he's making an
actual decision or evaluation," the writer adds. "He's not in
denial about the darkness in his life the way Batman sometimes
is, and in fact he's remarkably self-aware and conscientious,
but he acts from a place of loyalty and gratitude and even
Grayson replaces veteran comics scribe Chuck
Dixon on "Nightwing." Dixon - who left the series to join the
CrossGen Comics team - was the title's writer since its
inception in 1996. Following Dixon is a bit intimidating for
Grayson, especially given the book's popularity through the
"Ideally, when you take over a book, you want it to be
failing miserably so that you can take a crack at 'saving' it
- you never, ever, want to walk on to a series that has
momentum and a stellar reputation and a devoted fan base,"
Grayson says. "This book does not need an overhaul. It's
always been a fantastic book. What makes it do-able for me is
how accessible and helpful Chuck Dixon has always been. From
my very first year in the industry to this day, he has been
willing to answer questions and give out writing tips. He's
just incredibly generous with his time and advice, and he's
the consummate professional - his work ethic is really
stunning, especially in this industry. I've really learned a
lot from him. He's made it clear that I can contact him any
time to ask questions about Blüdhaven or where he saw
something going in the series, and I've made it clear that I
have a tremendous amount of respect for his work and what he's
created here, and I consider my job a matter of keeping that
party going to the best of my abilities."
Grayson's got some big plans for Nightwing and the various
citizens - good and not so good - of Blüdhaven. Regular
"Nightwing" readers will recognize many of the faces in
Grayson's early issues, including Barbara Gordon - a.k.a.
Oracle - the villain Blockbuster and Dick's partner on the
police force, Sgt. Amy Rohrbach. Members of the Titans might
pop in for a visit, as could Tim "Robin" Drake and Yoska
Graesinka, the gypsy who befriended Dick in a recent "Batman:
Gotham Knights" arc. Several characters will be fresh,
however, including a new assistant district attorney, new
police officers and an all-new adversary named Tarantula.
The first story arc is a four-parter that focuses on the
deeply corrupt Blüdhaven Police Department.
"My first story arc is about Nightwing discovering,
tracking down, and eventually obtaining a piece of evidence
that can work to indict most of the department," Grayson says.
"It's a little bit of a James Bond adventure, taking Nightwing
first to Italy and then to France and finally London as he
tries to get his hands on this piece of evidence while keeping
the woman who's had it all this time safe from Blockbuster's
goon squad, who want her and the evidence eliminated. The
woman in question happens to be BPD police chief Francis
Alexander Redhorn's wife, so Dick finds himself protecting one
of his enemy's allies."
Grayson's second arc also will focus on Dick's daytime job
as a police officer - but she's not revealing much about the
plot right now.
"All I can say now is that Dick's successful enough in the
first arc that those around him - like Bruce and Babs - start
questioning whether he needs to continue working as a police
officer in addition to his Nightwing work," Grayson hints. "It
seems like a natural time for him to quit the force, and he
tells them he will. But he doesn't. And more time goes by and
he still doesn't. I want to look at an increasing addiction,
on his part, to 24/7 heroing, and the effect that begins to
have on his relationships, his psyche and even his judgment."
Grayson's artistic partner on "Nightwing" is Rick
Leonardi, who as the penciler of "Birds of Prey" is no
stranger to the supporting characters in the Bat-universe.
Grayson is ecstatic about Leonardi's vision for the series.
"I've seen three of his issues now, and Rick's stuff is
amazing," she says. "He absolutely captures the kinetic energy
you need for 'Nightwing,' and his storytelling is just really
incomparable. Rick's got a terrific eye, too, and a very
cinematic quality to his layouts and staging - he really knows
how to make a fight scene move and how to get the emotional
resonance out of a quieter moment."
Grayson's love for Nightwing actually goes back to the
hero's days as Batman's adolescent sidekick, the first Robin.
As aficionados of Grayson's work should already know, the
writer was drawn to comics by the relationship between the
moody Batman and his cheery young ward. She helped cement that
bond last year by having Bruce Wayne formally adopt Dick in
"Gotham Knights" #17.
"The dynamic that most interested me about Batman from day
one was that he was, in his own weird way, a parent - and that
relationship is just as fascinating when you flip it to look
at it from Dick's point of view," Grayson says. "As Robin,
Dick lived out one of the most enduring human fantasies: the
chance to be respected by and useful to a hero figure who
fills your life with adventure. The price paid for that,
though, is having Batman as a parent - Batman who is able to
do the incredible things he does in part because he has
sacrificed other developmental aspects of himself, such as the
ability to be intimate or supportive. And in the face of all
of this, Dick has had some resentment and some anger and, I
think, a lot of pain, but he has also never for one moment of
his life shied away from it, or away from Bruce. He embraces
his life and his vocation and his sometimes-difficult mentor
with absolute commitment and gratitude. Nothing is wasted on
Nightwing - he makes use of every single gift bestowed upon
Most fans of Grayson's writing would agree that her best
work has been in the pages of "Gotham Knights." Although the
series has had its share of supernatural villains and
knock-down, drag-out fight sequences, "Gotham Knights" has
been much more cerebral than physical. Coming to the much more
action-packed "Nightwing" is a dramatic creative switch for
Grayson, but one she's confident she's ready to tackle.
Although she still plans to show readers what makes Nightwing
tick, she doesn't plan to change the book's pace at all.
"'Gotham Knights' is a book about psyche and relationships,
whereas 'Nightwing' is an action comic about, well, kicking
ass and taking names," Grayson says. "The book moves much
faster than 'Gotham Knights,' which dealt with content
happening mostly behind the scenes and in-between the big
fights. But we definitely want to see the fights in Nightwing
- they're not only fun, they're actually very central to the
character and his way of moving through the world. It'd be
dumb to slow Nightwing down - it would be a disservice to the
series, to the readers, and, most importantly, to the
"But one thing 'Nightwing' has that 'Batman: Gotham
Knights' didn't is a first person narrator," Grayson
continues. "Dick's chatty - he talks to us and to himself all
through his adventures. So I think it's possible to get into
his head without ever really setting stories up around that
desire. We're just naturally going to be finding things out
about him as we move around with him. That's such an inherent
element in my writing, too, that I think I can pretty much
forget about it and it will still leak into what I do. My hope
is that our readers feel connected to Nightwing and included
in his emotional range and thought processes without really
noticing that it's happening."