Nightwing no more! At least, that’s been the case ever since Dick Grayson’s identity was exposed, leading him to accept a top secret assignment by Bruce Wayne to infiltrate the covert (and very shady) espionage organization known as SPYRAL. Written by Tom King and Tim Seeley and drawn by the amazing Mikel Janín, Grayson mixes spy-driven suspense, character drama and supernatural intrigue into something fresh and cutting edge that catapults the now 75-year-old Dick Grayson into an exciting new era. With the series’ return next week in GRAYSON #9, we thought it was the perfect time to sit Grayson’s three creators down for an interrogation—er, friendly little interview.
So, Tim and Tom, what sets Grayson apart from any of the previous titles you have written?
Tim Seeley: Well, genre-wise, it's obviously pretty far from the horror/crime/dark stuff I've typically done. This is high action, over-the-top fun espionage/super hero comics! But I think it shares that dedication to characterization and heart that I've maintained across my books, and it's even better because I'm teamed with Tom King, Rebecca Taylor, Mikel Janín and Jeromy Cox.
Tom King: Really it’s the joy at the center of the book, at the center of the main character. Both in my comics and novels I tend toward heavy themes and twists on tragedy. But that tone and approach doesn’t work with Dick Grayson. Dick Grayson is the hero that goes through the worst comics has to offer and comes out smiling, ready for the next fight, ready to do good. His story can’t be bogged down in misery and suffering; it’s just not true to who he is. Instead, the books need to be built on the fun he has being a hero, the fun he has saving the day. The reader needs to be on the trapeze with him, feel the rush as his stomach drops, and feel the smile spreading on his face as he leaps across the gap.
What’s it been like reinventing a character like Dick Grayson—someone who has such a loyal and dedicated fan base in the world of comics?
Tim: It was definitely stressful at first. A lot of people instantly wrote us off, even before they'd read a single word. We got some pretty hateful tweets! But, once they actually read the book, I think most of our detractors came around. And, with DC being awesome about supporting the book, it's actually been one of the most exciting and pleasurable experiences I've had in comics.
Tom: Intimidating. Frightening. Insanely, magnificently rewarding. Then frightening again. Dick Grayson has been my favorite character in comics for twenty years. My first novel was about a Dick Grayson archetype. To get the chance to write this character, to put my own take on someone of this caliber has been nothing but an honor.
But I should say that in no way did I ever think we were reinventing this character. Dick Grayson didn’t need to be reinvented. He wasn’t broken; we didn’t have to fix him. The goal of the book was instead to put Nightwing in a place, on a mission where the things that make him awesome could come to the forefront.
Now of course, because comic readers are smart and rightly cynical, some large portion of our audience saw the placement of Grayson in this new status quo as a cheap trick, something based on marketing data and media potential rather than character development. But, because comic readers are smart and eternally cool and optimistic, they still read Grayson and saw that Tim and I are fans too, that we respect the 75-year history of this character, and that that history is essential to our story. Basically, they gave us a chance despite it all, and we are eternally grateful.
Mikel Janín: It's first an honor and a big responsibility. Dick is one of these characters that makes you proud of being in this business. The opportunity of having in your hands a character that has been around for so long, loved by fans since the days when my grandparents were kids, to my children nowadays, is really exciting.
Tom, how has your history within the CIA informed Dick Grayson’s relationship and experience with SPYRAL?
Tom: Obviously, I can’t write about what I did in the CIA. People depend on me to keep those secrets. That said, the emotional content of what I went through: living with a secret identity, lying to friends and family, struggling to figure out how to use lies without drowning under them: all of that goes straight into Grayson.
This is a series of huge, crazy, fun moments, but if those moments aren’t grounded in some sort of truth, no one will believe in them: they won’t be cool; they’ll just be silly and easily forgotten. Having gone though some of what Grayson’s gone through, my goal is to put that experience to use, to connect Grayson with reality enough that the audience buys into the busy, wonderful adventure of it all.
Mikel, what historical and cultural events or individuals have inspired the artistic look and feel you’ve brought to the series?
Mikel: I think I'm inspired by the main artists that have worked with Dick (at least, from those that I know), from Jerry Robinson to George Pérez, Scott McDaniel and, more recently, Eddy Barrows, to get Dick his appearance and charm. I also bring some elements from manga, like the use of motion lines and the sense of dynamism for action scenes, and a good amount of European comics style, which I grew with, such as Hugo Pratt's Corto Maltese. Of course, there’s also a touch of Grant Morrison's Batman, Inc.
Which super-spy from the big screen is Grayson most similar to and why?
Tim: He has bits of a few of them in his makeup…the charm of James Bond, the fighting abilities of Bourne…but this is all Dick Grayson, and he predates any of those guys as a character.
Tom: I say he’s a cross between Connery’s James Bond and Cruise’s Ethan Hunt from the first Mission Impossible. He has Bond’s swagger and confidence, a way of rising above the game. But he also has Hunt’s twinkle, that sense that the game can be and should be fun, that the impossible is just another chance to laugh at the absurd.
Mikel: I'd say he is mostly Ethan Hunt. Actually, Ethan Hunt seems inspired by Grayson, right?
Spies may have to keep their secrets, but Tom, Tim and Mikel don’t. In fact, they’ll be taking over the DC Comics Twitter tomorrow, June 19, at 1 p.m. PST to answer all of your questions about Grayson. Tweet your questions using the hashtag #GraysonChat.
GRAYSON #9 by Tom King, Tim Seeley and Mikel Janín will be available in print and as a digital download next Wednesday. Also, don’t miss the debut issue of Tom King’s other DC series, THE OMEGA MEN #1, which is now available in stores.