Welcome to the 2021 A to Z Challenge! My theme this year is DC Comics. And that’s mostly because of my undying affection for the comic book characters and stories that I grew up reading in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. So stay tuned all month to (maybe) learn a little something about 26 corners of the DC Multiverse.
Nightwing is a character who has been around since 1940. But he’s only gone by the name Nightwing since 1984.
Most people are probably aware that Dick Grayson began his costumed career as Robin, Batman’s brightly colored sidekick. As a kid, Grayson was a highly skilled acrobat who was a member of Haley Circus’ Flying Graysons. Tragically, his parents were killed in what was supposed to look like a trapeze accident when a mobster was trying to send a message to the circus owner, who had refused to pay “protection” money. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s how it usually goes down in Dick’s origin story.
Bruce Wayne took on Dick Grayson as his ward, though I’m not 100% what that means. I’ve always chalked it up to his being like a foster parent to the young acrobat. Eventually, he trains him to join the fight against Gotham City’s criminal element. Always seems strange that Batman wears all black and prowls around in the night while his 10-year-old sidekick wears red and yellow, causing him to stick out like a sore thumb. “Hey, bad guys! Here’s a brightly colored target for you to shoot at while I stealthily sneak around!” Batman’s a real hero.
After running around in the Robin costume for more than 40 years, Dick finally decided he had outgrown his role as the Boy Wonder. So during his time as a key member of the Teen Titans, Dick reintroduced himself to the world as Nightwing.
The new name was actually inspired by a Kryptonian hero that Batman and Robin had met (in pre-Crisis continuity) when they visited the bottled city of Kandor. I’m pretty sure that, in post-Crisis continuity, Superman told Robin stories of Nightwing, Krypton’s legendary hero of old. Whatever the continuity, Dick liked the name and adopted it as his own.
This means that, by the time I was old enough to start getting into comic books, Dick Grayson had already been Nightwing for a long time. This was confusing for me as a kid… because at that point, my only reference to Dick Grayson was as Robin on the old 1960s Batman series. When I started reading comics and saw that some kid named Tim was Robin, I just wondered what happened to Dick Grayson.
Dick was still around and, for some reason, still allowed people to call him Dick. I’m pretty sure his base of operations remained Gotham City for a long time. Finally, at some point in the 90s, he was ready to leave the shadow of the bat and moved to nearby Blüdhaven where he continued his vigilante ways.
Unlike his mentor, Nightwing does not wear a cape and has no need for a utility belt. He is typically seen fighting with a pair of Eskrima sticks and runs around in a simple mask, rather than a full cowl.
Nightwing has also been romantically linked to a number of different ladies over the years. The two most prominent of his significant others have been Starfire (of Teen Titans fame) and Barbara Gordon (AKA Batgirl, AKA Oracle). Depending on the continuity one is following, he has had potential future marriages with both of these characters. In the landmark Kingdom Come mini-series, Nightwing and Starfire even had a daughter who became the hero Nightstar.
While a certain DC Comics publisher was in charge, it always seemed like Dick’s life was in danger during any given major event. He was very close to being killed off during Infinite Crisis, then again during the New 52 continuity’s Forever Evil event. I think, most recently, the shake up has been that Nightwing took a bullet to the head and forgot who he was for a while. Pretty sure things are back to status quo now, though.
So that’s the story of Batman’s first sidekick, the former Robin who now calls himself Nightwing. Did you know that Dick Grayson made that transformation in the early 80s? Did I leave out anything important? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments!