Iz Explains Stuff So You Don’t Have to: The Nightwing Debacle.
Hey guys! As promised, here’s a write up of what’s currently making waves in the DC/comic fandom today. Given that this subject somewhat related to the Hydra-cap nonsense, I thought it should be something I cover as well, just to sorta give non-comics fans/DC comics readers who might see this and want some context.
1. Who is Nightwing?
You guys know Robin, Batman’s sidekick who they almost always leave out of movies? This is the first (yes there’s more than one, but that’s a topic for another day) and possibly most iconic one to pop-culture. Named Richard “Dick” Grayson, Dick is the son of the flying Grayson’s , two circus acrobats who died due to mob interference during a show (he also has Romani heritage (which the comics often ignore) This will be important later). Bruce took Dick in and the rest is well history.
Dick probably has the most screen time over any Robin in film/tv adaptations, including Teen Titans, Young Justice, The Lego Batman movie, the original Adam West series, and Batman Forever. He’s arguably the best known Robin to non-comic’s readers.
Because time does pass in comics occasionally, Dick grew up and after a series of events that have been retconned so many times it’s not worth getting into, ditched the Robin mantle. He would later take up the title of Nightwing.
2. Why the name Nightwing?
Dick is a HUGE fan of Superman (no really, Superman is pretty much his uncle) and after he ditched the Robin title, Superman and him had a talk where Superman told him of two legendary kryptonian heroes Nightwing and Flamebird. Inspired by the story, Dick would take on the name of the former (the latter name has a much more varied history).
3. Okay, so what’s the big deal besides the Robin thing?
To compress a lot of history into a paragraph, Nightwing is the one DC hero that like almost every other DC hero trusts and likes. Most of the Justice League has known Dick since he was a little kid and trust him implicitly for both his general good nature and reputation of being like, a really fucking good guy. Like a really good guy. A good enough guy that when Batman was told to let his own world die to let a better more “ideal” world survive, he asked if Richard Grayson was in it to make his choice on if it actually was a better world. (Dick was not in this world, which made Batman hard pass on that shit. Really. This is a thing that happened.)
Dick has also led multiple successful superhero teams, worked on the league himself, and donned the Batman title for awhile.
4. Okay, got it. So what’s going on?
Today DC announced a new six issue limited series in an elseworld (which is a world that takes place outside of canon. Think an AU.) This is the summary:
NIGHTWING: THE NEW ORDER is the story of a future world without “weapons”—where superpowers have been eliminated and outlawed. The man responsible? None other than Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Nightwing, now leader of a government task force called the Crusaders who are charged with hunting the remaining Supers. But when events transpire which turn the Crusaders’ aim toward Grayson’s own family, the former Boy Wonder must turn against the very system he helped create, with help from the very people he’s been hunting for years—the last metahumans of the DC Universe.
5. OH NO IS THIS HYDRA CAP ALL OVER AGAIN?
Yes and no. So far, it’s safe to say that this series does echo Hydra Cap in a paragon for good and justice becoming the figurehead of a fascist regime. However, everything else is kind of more murky.
For one, this series is an elseworld, which means unlike Hydra Cap, it doesn’t take place in the regular DC universe. This is not the fate of the Dick Grayson we know and love, nor is it him; it’s a version of him in a different universe. It’s also a limited run, so we got an enddate on this sucker off the bat.
Second, this is more general fascism instead of nazi brand fascism. The first cover echoes other fascist/oppressive regimes but it applies to multiple besides the Nazi party. In the DC universe, metahumans aren’t coded as a minority group (though smaller subsets are, like the Superfamily being coded Jewish), so it’s more sci-fi than an allegory for real life oppression (though if depending on the details of this event, that remains to be seen. The writer took to Twitter to state there is absolutely no genocide here in this book but the first few pages imply otherwise and long story short, I’m not convinced). The group Dick works with is also entirely new and unlike Hydra has no link in history to the Nazi party, making the claim that they’re a general “evil fascist villain” hold water.
Third, unlike Hydra Cap, this book is branded as Dick learning the error of his choices rather than a long saga to try to convince us he has a point. I doubt we’ll see the same extent of “we should feel bad for Dick oppressing all these people” that we see in Hydra cap. However, this also remains to be seen. Long story short, it’s never gonna try to get us to root for the bad guy.
6. So it’s fine?
Now I wouldn’t say that. Making an iconic character a fascist is still something to side eye, and a lot of my above caveats can change if the story itself decides to make those connections (i.e if there are prison camps for example). It’s also important to note, that making a Romani character a fascist, and one under the label of “crusader” is in terrible taste, considering the Romani people’s history with both.
The writer is also someone I don’t have a ton of faith in when it comes to nuance. (though to his credit, he is assuring and validating concerns on twitter rather than laughing us all off as SJWs).
What I’m saying is that it’s gonna be hard to figure out exactly this is going to play out until I see the first issue. I think the storyline and the advertising is something we should be critical of, but a lot still depends on how the book approaches it. This isn’t to say you should “give it a chance” only that we might want to hold off from saying DC is promoting fascism until we see if they’re gonna take this from a “feel bad for Dick angle, not all fascists are bad” or a “Dick fucked up hard” angle. We can just say this storyline is at the very least insensitive given current events and Dick’s ethnic roots.
Plus, Dick turning on Superman is just weird, and the preview pages are not helping my concerns.
So be critical of the concept but be careful not to declare what the narrative is trying to say until we know what the narrative is.
7. And if it does come out to be “feel bad for Dick, not all fascists, narrative supports the fascist regime for just wanting the best for us” angle?
Then go crazy guys. Though even if it does go that way, it still won’t be as Hydra cap. Because at least it’s still only a elseworld. Which is like the worst consolation prize ever.