Batman fans could have been forgiven for recently breathing a long and well deserved sigh of relief.
Firstly, it was announced that after talk of deteriorating negotiations between director Matt Reeves and Warner Brothers executives that Reeves would indeed be taking to the director’s chair for The Batman.
Secondly (and far more surprisingly) it was announced that The Dark Knight’s former protege Dick Grayson would be getting his very own Nightwing movie with The Lego Batman Movie‘s Chris McKay in talks to direct.
We at Nerdifi have been banging the drum for a live action Nightwing for a while, and the announcement of a Nightwing film is cause for celebration for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it reassures fans that there is indeed a Dick Grayson residing in the DCEU. I guess now that we can safely assume that the Robin suit hanging in the batcave in BvS in fact belongs to Jason Todd. Not only is Dick Grayson is a time-honoured and compelling character but the implications of his presence in the DCEU represent some exciting opportunities that are just waiting to be explored in film.
While those unfamiliar with the on-page DC universe may not know the name Nightwing, there must be few who’ve never heard of Dick Grayson.
Richard John Grayson was a prodigious child acrobat whose childhood was cut short when his trapeze-artist parents were killed in a tragic ‘accident’ under the big top. Orphaned and without extended family, the young Grayson was fostered by Bruce Wayne (who happened to be in the audience).
Upon learning that Bruce and The Batman were one and the same the plucky young ward assumed the role of Robin and fought crime at the Caped Crusader’s side for years.
The story of Robin has been explored pretty well in Batman Forever (1995) and in the superlative animated two-parter “Robin’s Reckoning”, but his transition from kid sidekick to wise-cracking crime fighter has been less extensively chronicled outside of comics (although another animated episode “old wounds does a damned fine job with it).
Now that we’re all up to speed on who and what Nightwing is, let’s explore 5 reasons he could be the best thing that ever happened to the DCEU…
- He’s DC’s Spider-Man
Much like Marvel’s flagship webslinger, Nightwing’s past is defined by tragedy. However, unlike tortured anti-heroes like Batman or The Punisher he chooses not to let that darkness define him. He’s also a more relatable character to young people than a middle aged billionaire, a Greek Goddess or a flying alien with real life financial and interpersonal problems.
Those hoping for a greater sense of fun and levity from the DCEU without compromising the integrity of story and character will be relieved to know that Nightwing brings a great deal of that with him.
I’m sure some fans will resent the slide towards the ‘Marvel Method’ that Nightwing’s character implies but for me he represents the exact middle ground between darkness and light to win over fans from both camps.
2. Batfleck cameos are inevitable!
As encouraging a coup as it is to have Matt reeves signed on to direct The Batman I think that those already discussing a trilogy of Batfleck solo films may be a little premature. Let’s not forget that Ben is one of the busiest film makers in Hollywood and he’s proven time and again that he wants to continue to hone his craft and push himself creatively.
Quite frankly, I can’t see Warner Bros. tying him down to the character to the extent that we, the fans would like.
That said, with the recent announcement of Suicide Squad 2 and Gotham City Sirens alongside Nightwing it’s clear that the studio are developing the universe around Batman and Gotham City to support a few well positioned Batman cameos.
To say that it’s impossible to tell a good Nightwing story without Batman would be a bit of a stretch but one could argue that a Nightwing film (especially the first Nightwing film) should at least feature a cameo by Affleck’s Dark Knight.
Plus, with Gotham’s cinematic infrastructure already in place it doesn’t take much of a leap to imagine Nightwing sharing a screen with Jeremy irons’ Alfred and J K Simmons’ Commissioner Gordon.
3. One of his most famous enemies has already been cast.
I’m sure you all remember this…
While many could be forgiven (especially in light of their tussle in the Arkham Origins game) for thinking of Deathstroke as a Batman villain, but Slade Wilson has form with the one-time Boy Wonder as well.
The lauded 1984 Teen Titans arc “The Judas Contract” by Marv Wolfman and George Peerez roughly coincided with Dick Grayson abandoning the mantle of Robin and striking out on his own as a solo crime fighter.
The story features an epic battle between the two in which Grayson and Deathstroke “The Terminator” trade wits and blows in a display of intelligence and dexterity that Grayson barely escapes with his life. Read those panels and you’ll see potential for a brutally stylish Bourne style fight scene.
What better way to establish young Dick as one of the heavy-hitters of the DCEU and a worthy successor to Affleck’s Batman?
There’s ample evidence to suggest that Joe Manganiello would be up for it too, especially since the story of The Judas Contract cemented Wilson’s reputation as one of the DC Universe’s most stone cold anti-heroes.
Recently the actor said to The RI Magazine:
This is my character, an exciting one, and has the capacity I think, to be a great villain. And what all the great ones can do is polarize an audience. When I was a kid I always rooted for the villain. As a kid I think I would have rooted for him and I think fans will.
“The Judas Contract” does a great job of showcasing Slade Wilson’s cool factor as well as the more deplorable lengths he’ll go to to get the job done, so a match up with Nightwing would no doubt be a great contribution to the screen persona Manganiello wants for the character.
4. He got his name from Superman.
If Batman is Grayson’s adoptive father then Superman is his cool uncle. In the comics, there have been many times when the young hero has sought counsel from the world’s first superhero.
There are few characters in the DC Universe who know and understand Batman, faults and all. better than Superman and this knowledge combined with his altogether sunnier disposition make him a character that Dick often consults for perspective on his mentor.
Since this version of Superman has seen Batman at his darkest, up-close and personal, yet still put his faith in him; I can see Henry Cavill’s Superman having some frank and meaningful conversations about the dubious merits of Bruce Wayne’s friendship.
In “The Judas Contract” and Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon’s “Nightwing Year One” Dick explicitly states that Superman has been as much of an influence on him as Batman and that he has cherry picked the best elements of both icons to form his crime-fighting persona. In the latter, Superman tells the former Robin of a young Kryptonian folk-hero named Nightwing (loosely translated) and the name stuck.
As this version of Superman’s links with his Kryptonian heritage have been all-but shattered I don’t expect him to pull the name Nightwing from Kryptonian mythology but it would be very cool to see him advise the fledgling young crime-fighter as he embarks on his journey of self-discovery beyond the shadow of the bat.
5. We could finally see Batman & Robin done right on film.
While I actually quite like Chris O’Donnell’s performance as Dick Grayson / Robin in Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997) the character deserves a much more nuanced portrayal than he’s yet been afforded on screen.
By necessity, the story of Nightwing must begin with a fracture in the relationship between Batman and Robin but that doesn’t mean we can’t flash back to the glory days. By casting an actor in their early to mid twenties who could still pass for 16 or 17 there’s so much scope to retrospectively tell compelling Batman and Robin stories (even if it’s not necessarily Ben Affleck under the cowl).
We could (dare I say should?) even see the fateful night that saw the Dynamic Duo forever separated.
I’m reminded of Judd Winnick’s “Under the Hood” in which Batman and Nightwing team up to track down a shipment of weapons designed to be sold to dastardly sorts like The Penguin and Mr Freeze. The duo take apart a team of heavily armed thugs, Nightwing quipping away as he does so. It causes Bruce to reminisce about a simpler time when both men were younger and he admits to the reader that for that reason it’s hard to be around him.
Juxtapose a brutal ‘BvS’ style fight with flashbacks of a more graceful ‘golden age’ style fight and that makes for a pretty compelling scene in visual and character terms.
There are so many possibilities!
We’ve not even begun to discuss Dick’s relationships with the other Robin’s who’ve come since such as Jason Todd, Tim Drake and *sigh* Damien Wayne.
What do YOU want to see from a Nightwing movie?
Don’t be afraid to sound off below!