We spoke with Percy about his plans for Nightwing and more.
Robin. Nightwing. Agent 37. Batman. Whatever the codename, Dick Grayson has been a fan favorite character for decades. The latest writer to tackle the character, Benjamin Percy, began his stint on Nightwing this month with the latest volume’s issue #44. Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with Percy about his views on the character, plans for the series, and more.
AiPT!: What drew you to Nightwing as a character? Are there any past versions of him that particularly influenced your vision for the character?
Benjamin Percy: It’s always been my dream to be part of the Bat Group, so this is a pretty exciting moment for me, as corny as that may sound. I made my comics debut with a two-shot Batman story in Detective Comics in 2014. And I’ve been writing Damian Wayne on Teen Titans since Rebirth. It feels right to be working with Grayson now, who is the optimistic center of this cynical Bat sandwich. While the Waynes don’t smile, Grayson is defined by his stupid Tom Cruise grin. While the Waynes don’t have fun, Grayson is a performative hero who enjoys kicking ass. While the Waynes are inflexible and single-minded and have to be in charge, Grayson is versatile and adaptable and can follow as well as he can lead. While the Waynes use intimidation and fear as weapons, even among their allies, Grayson is one of the most diplomatic characters in the DCU. Dick is not only a great hero–he would make a great president.
If I had to single out a few favorite iterations of Grayson, I’d list the Wolfman-Perez era of Teen Titans and the Snyder-Jock-Francavilla run on Detective Comics.
AiPT!: What has your collaboration process been like with the rest of the series’ creative team (artist Chris Mooneyham, colorist Nick Filardi, and letterer Carlos M. Mangual)?
Percy: I’m very, very lucky to be working with this team. From the very beginning, we discussed the aesthetic as somewhere between a seventies cop movie and Blade Runner. Mooneyham’s art has a Janson/Miller/Mazzuchelli vibe. He has a tight line, classic staging, an incredibly intricate attention to detail, and he renders everything with beautiful grit and a neo-noir sense of light and shadow. Filardi’s colors bring it all to haunting life and Carlos is such a smart, naturalistic letterer. It all comes together beautifully.
AiPT!: What is it about Nightwing that you think makes him a good lead character for a story, such as “The Bleeding Edge”, that is heavily focused on technology? How do you view Dick’s relationship to technology?
Percy: Above, I listed off some of the ways that Grayson is different than the rest of the Bat family. Here’s another. Batman, Robin, and Batgirl all rely heavily on technology. Sometimes their use of it feels like a bit too much. Even a storytelling cheat. Grayson is not a luddite. Not at all. But he doesn’t even wear a utility belt. There’s something pure about his heroics. He has his batons and his acrobatic martial arts and his intelligence as a detective. It’s interesting to pit him against an enemy he can’t punch. Especially for a physical character like him, but even more generally, since punching is the default in so many comics. There are other ways to fight, and this opens up opportunities for fresh storytelling and character growth.
Also consider how Grayson is very much at the center of a web of heroes. He’s led, he’s followed. On the Teen Titans, the Titans, the Justice League. As Robin, as Batman, as Agent 37, as Nightwing. He knows everyone. And everyone trusts him. Which makes him not only the perfect soldier to take on this threat…but also the perfect target. There is no weapon greater than information these days, and Grayson is the Fort Knox of vulnerable data.
AiPT!: You’ve also been writing the Rebirth-era Teen Titans and Green Arrow titles. Is there any chance we’ll see characters from those series crossover into Nightwing?
Percy: Of course Damian will show up. I can’t give too much away about the future, but here’s a tease. I’m really proud of a Green Arrow storyline I wrote called “The Return of Roy Harper,” and Arsenal (along with the Titans) will play a central role in an upcoming arc.
AiPT!: Your debut issue on Nightwing features Barbara Gordon and Detective Svoboda, plus it mentions Batman. How integral will Dick’s supporting cast be during your time on the title?
Percy: Batgirl is incredibly important to what we have planned. I don’t see her as a supporting role. I’m approaching her the same way I approached Green Arrow and Black Canary. Dick and Babs are partners. They need each other.
AiPT!: In Nightwing #44 we see that Dick is continuing to work as a personal trainer. Will we see much of Dick’s civilian life during your run?
Percy: It’s important to normalize heroes, make them grounded and relatable. That’s what his phone call with Babs is doing in issue 44. Or his time at the junkyard doing crossfit as a personal trainer. Humanizing. But the trouble he’s encountering — the threat of the Dark Web — is so big and so expansive that the personal trainer thing will fall by the wayside in the near future. I mean, we can’t worry too much about tight abs and power shakes when a major new terror organization is rearing its head…
AiPT!: Do you have any other current or upcoming projects that you would like to promote?
Percy: Well, I’m here to talk about Nightwing Nightwing Nightwing…but I hope people will also tune in to my audio drama/podcast Wolverine: The Long Night. It’s a ten-episode series put out by Marvel and Stitcher. It’s a murder mystery — starring Richard Armitage as Logan — that has so many twists it might snap your neck.
AiPT!: Where can fans follow you online? Will you be attending any cons this year?
Percy: You can find me on FB, Twitter and Instagram. Just search my name and my ugly mug will pop up. I try to post pictures of my dog and crack stupid jokes and make film and book and comic recommendations and not just be unrelentingly self-promotional. So I hope to see you there.
As for cons….maybe NYCC? Haven’t made up my mind yet, but it’s always a fun time.