On the verge of quitting crime-fighting forever, Dick
must look back at his past to re-evaluate just why he ever
did it. Naturally, though, since Robin is a different
book, the key event has to be his becoming Nightwing, not
the sensational new character find of 1940.
The only problem with doing a "Nightwing: Year One" is
that not only did we experience it as it happened in New
Teen Titans, but this also now marks the third time
the transition has been told. Not to worry - thanks to the
vagaries of retroactive continuity, it has also happened
three different ways. Only twice has it involved Batman
firing Dick. If only Stephanie Brown had known this history,
she might be alive today.
Originally, Dick became Nightwing for a simple reason:
Batman had too many Robins. Already grown up, out of college
and leading the hardly Teen Titans, Dick Grayson had returned
to Gotham City to help Batman break up one of Killer Croc's
criminal enterprises. For some reason, this involved going
undercover at a circus, where Dick felt right at home. He
even befriended a family of acrobats similar to his own
lost parents - the Todds.
Those intrepid trapeze artists ran afoul of Croc and were
brutally murdered, leaving their son Jason an orphan. Seeing
history repeat itself, Dick felt a responsibility toward
Jason and planned to make him his ward, but Bruce stepped
in and initiated Jason to the mysteries of the Batcave himself.
For a few months, both Robins co-existed peacefully in
different books. Then, perhaps tired of Cyborg consistently
calling him shortpants, greenboots and/or "the sissiest
looking hero in all of Christendom," Dick ripped up his
Robin costume and became Catwoman. No, actually, he donned
a light and dark blue suit similar to the Nightwing costume
we know today.
The identity of Nightwing, by the way, was chosen as a
tribute to the two men he considered the greatest influences
in his life: Batman and Superman. Remember that this was
pre-Crisis, and there was nothing grudging or prickly about
the friendship between the two men that make the World's
Finest. Dick Grayson knew Superman then as almost a beloved
uncle figure. And Nightwing had also been the name of a
Kandorian superhero during the Silver Age. Writer Marv Wolfman
perfectly summed up Dick Grayson's heritage just in time
to completely tear it apart with Crisis on Infinite Earths.
That event actually happened in 1985, and nobody really
noticed anything different in the Bat-books until 1987.
By that time, mystery writer Max Allan Collins (he of Road
To Perdition and some Dick Tracy fame) had taken over
Batman. Subtitled "The New Adventures" so as to help
readers not wanting to read the old adventures, evidently,
Batman #408 opened with the question "Did Robin Die
Tonight?" as The Joker dangled Robin over a building during
a heavy rainstorm.
With no warning, after years of Jason Todd, we were actually
reading a story of Dick Grayson as Robin. More importantly,
it was the story of how Batman decided to forbid his ward
from fighting crime. Wha huh?
the Joker almost killed Dick and as a result both his arm
and his pride had been shot through. Bruce Wayne realized
it was madness to put a child (though 16 years old at the
time) into harm's way, and both men went about the business
of forcing Dick Grayson to be just Dick Grayson. Until the
Titans came a-callin', I guess, and then this street urchin
tried to boost the Batmobile's hubcaps. That kid, in the
same issue, turned out to be Jason Todd, the character everybody
came to know, loathe and eventually kill by phone-in vote.
But that's another story...