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Titans: Dick Grayson's Identity Crisis

Titans: Dick Grayson's Identity Crisis

By Ashley V. Robinson Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

Welcome to the Couch Club, our weekly column devoted to all things #DCTV! This week, Ashley V. Robinson examines the turning point Dick Grayson finds himself at in Titans, and how it played out in previous comics and TV shows.

“F**k Batman.”

That statement made quite a splash coming out of the mouth of Dick Grayson’s Robin in the Titans pilot. Even for a character as steeped in the Gotham underworld and crime scene as Dick, it’s taking a pretty hard line against one of the most beloved superheroes of all time. It also caught the attention of viewers who might not be as familiar with Dick Grayson’s graduation from the role of sidekick Robin into the Kryptonian-named identity of standalone vigilante Nightwing.

…it’s even happened on television before!

The New Batman Adventures era of Batman: The Animated Series gave us a tremendously awesome episode called “Old Wounds” that deals directly with the split between Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson that ultimately drove Dick out of the shadow of the Bat and all the way to Blüdhaven to establish his own identity. He explains to Tim Drake (the new Robin and my personal favorite superhero of all time), that Batman kept too many secrets from him, including Batgirl’s civilian identity of Dick’s then-girlfriend Barbara Gordon, and it became impossible for Dick to trust Batman or Bruce Wayne anymore.

Batman: The Animated Series was hardly the origin of this rift between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne. That goes all the way back to the Marv Wolfman and George Perez run on NEW TEEN TITANS in the 1980s. In fact, it was in 1984’s TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS #44, that Dick Grayson was reintroduced as Nightwing. You’ve probably seen this comic (and the panel where Dick unveils his new identity) featured prominently in many comic book shops and websites over the years…and there’s a reason for that. It’s a great issue that you should definitely check out.

In the beginning, the genesis of the conflict and split was a desire on behalf of Dick Grayson to have a more grown-up identity. Some might make the joke that he finally wanted to armor his legs.

The truth is that Batman had actually been encouraging Dick to quit the Titans, and maybe even crimefighting altogether. Robin had recently been shot by the Joker and Bruce Wayne was struck by a bad case of conscience over endangering a young boy on his quest for justice. Ultimately, Dick did take a break from the Teen Titans to reevaluate his identity and decide just how fully he wanted to blaze his own trail. Don’t worry, Grayson fans, he was absent for a mere five issues before reemerging with that totally awesome “Discowing” costume!

I mentioned earlier that “Nightwing” is a Kryptonian name. In SUPERMAN #158, Clark Kent himself adopted the name when he was trapped in the bottle city of Kandor. His sidekick was none of than Jimmy Olsen who fought crime under the moniker “Flamebird.” Something that I think gets lost in the Dick Grayson mythos is just how much he idolizes Superman. The Man of Steel is arguably the most positive male role model in Dick’s life—even if you consider Bruce Wayne to be his father—and I’ve always found it fascinating that as he is transitioning out of being Batman’s sidekick and working in the shadows of Gotham, he picks up a name that allies him more with Superman, who is powered by the sun.

It’s a move that’s kind of the opposite of the “You can’t tell me what to do—you’re not my real dad!” attitude that Dick Grayson was probably throwing Bruce Wayne’s way during this period in their shared comic book history.

Many have contended that it is the sustaining friendship between Dick Grayson and Clark Kent, and the working relationship between Nightwing and Superman, that facilitated Dick’s maturation into a well-rounded, functioning human being with dynamic, healthy relationships, and the ability to hold down meaningful employment—all points on which his father figure, Bruce Wayne, has repeatedly failed.

However it may play out on Titans, the graduation from Robin to Nightwing has always made for fertile storytelling ground. Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty’s NIGHTWING: YEAR ONE and the NIGHTWING standalone series that ran the entire 1990s tread this ground over and over and over again. The creators of Titans must have been spoiled for inspirational material.

…to say nothing of Jason Todd’s upcoming appearance! Who is excited about that? I am! Let’s jump down to the comments section and chat about it.

So, why did Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne have a falling out that led to the (re)birth of Nightwing? Well, as I’ve tried to make clear, it was a bunch of things…and, just like real life, it was complicated.
 

Catch new episodes of Titans every Friday exclusively on DC Universe. Click here to subscribe now. For more on when Robin might become Nightwing, be sure to read our recent interview with TItans Executive Producer Geoff Johns.

Ashley V. Robinson writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column. You can find her on Twitter at @AshleyVRobinson and on the Jawiin YouTube channel. 

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