Grayson #1 comes out this week and I have every intention of either praising it to the heavens or ripping it to shreds in the DC Wrap Up on Saturday, but I’ve decided that this week is going to be about celebrating and exploring my relationship with my favorite character in comics, as the world gets ready to meet his new incarnation. And also, it will be all praise or derision for Grayson. There’s no grey area for me here. No, “Well, I liked it, but…” I will love or hate this book. This is partly my own fault for building it up in my head. Like many people, my introduction to Dick Grayson came on Batman, the TV show, which I watched with religious fervor as a child. Burt Ward’s incredulous Boy Wonder didn’t quite have to impact on me that other elements of that show did. (Julie Newmar’s Catwoman and Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl left a much bigger imprint.) But it did link the two in my head forever. Batman just wasn’t Batman without Robin, and Robin was Dick Grayson.
Then come Batman: The Animated Series. Like most people my age, this is the Batman that changed everything. We were too young to understand the real impact of Batman the 1989 movie, but BTAS, that was always there. If I devoured Batman (66), it was nothing to my memories of BTAS. I didn’t actually remember the show much, but I remember thrown fits when not being allowed to watch it. Getting up early to watch it on Saturday mornings. And of course, the original Bat-binge that was one of the catalysts for this blog had BTAS at it’s center and my adoration for Grayson really began. But we’re not quite there yet.
First, I want to talk about Chris O’Donnell. I don’t make a secret of the fact that before Batman Begins came out, Batman Forever was my favorite Batman movie. This is mostly due to my affection for Jim Carrey’s Riddler, Tommy Lee Jones’s existance as an actor and that weird mid-90’s, pre-pubescent, pre 9/11 nostalgia that obsesses a lot of people in their mid twenties and early thirties. But I can’t rule out Chris O’Donnell’s Dick Grayson as a reason. Sure, he was a little old for the part, and yeah, his, snarky, steal the Batmobile and go for a joy ride hijinks scream Jason, not Dick, but still, it’s a memorable performance in a halfway decent movie that I have a good deal of affection for. Then there’s The Movie That Shall Not Be Named. Whenever I think about Batman & Robin, I get really sad for Chris O’Donnell. I mean, before taking a role in a franchise that was supposed to take him to the next level, this kid was going places. He was in fancy thoughtful movies with people like Al Pacino. He was in one of the best movies of the 90’s, The Three Musketeers, he was young and handsome and decently talented and well on his way. Then, well, the incident happened and he disappeared for a while, only to come back as the Guy Who Was Obviously Going To Get Dumped on Grey’s Anatomy. O’Donnell has gone on record saying that Batman & Robin was the worst experience of his career, and that he felt like he was in a toy commercial. But there’s still a moment that I love in that movie and it comes when returning to the Batcave after being sidelined in a fight, Dick gripes to Bruce that, “you don’t understand what family is. In the circus we trusted each other, that’s why it worked.”
Say what you want about the rest of that movie, that is a classic Dick Grayson moment, smushed inside of a mess.
Even before I was overly familiar of the mechanics of the change I was fascinated by the idea of Nightwing and Robins that “graduated.” So two years ago when I dove into Batman Fandom with fury, and last year when I started reading comics, I quickly came to a realization that I loved this guy. Nightwing and more specifically Dick Grayson as Batman gave me everything I loved about Batman, without the self serious angst that after The Dark Knight Trilogy, I was, frankly, kind of sick of. And so he was declared my favorite.
Young Justice did a world or work to cement this, because everything about Young Justice is just the best. I mean, seriously, the best. I spend an inordinate amount of time wishing for some kind of continuation for it. But Dick’s arc, from young kid and good soldier to thoughtful young man and skillful leader is one of the most rewarding on a show full of rewarding arcs. But when it comes to comics, I can’t even begin to explain how much I love Battle For The Cowl and it’s aftermath, which saw Dick as Batman. Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn and Batman: The Darkest Mirror, are insanely, insanely good.
As is Dick’s return to being Nightwing in The New 52. His role in The Night Of The Owls is probably only matched on an emotional level by Bruce’s own, and his role in Pearl and Death of The Family, and his reactions to Damian’s death are some of the best stuff that I’ve read in the past year. I’m really excited to see the next chapter in his story and deeply hope that it doesn’t suck. Like, deeply, deeply. But we’ll see.