“Fuck Batman”: The 7 Most Likely Characters To Call Bruce Wayne Out On His Bullshit

There was a lot of debate upon the release of the first Titans trailer about whether or not Dick Grayson would ever say “fuck Batman”. That debate lessened upon the release of the first episode, where it became clear that it sounded way better in context. But there was still a lot of people that evidently think it was out of character, judging from how many comments I saw saying that’s more something Jason would say. Personally, I think that’s nonsense and Dick would absolutely say that. When it comes to calling out Bruce and doing the opposite of what he says, Dick is the original. But he’s far from the only one.

7. Stephanie Brown
Stephanie Slaps Bruce.pngWhat an icon.

So the context of this panel is that Steph just found out that Bruce is, in fact, not dead. Naturally, she was mad, and demanded to know if all she’d just gone through was some kind of trick or game. Bruce, being Bruce (which is to say, kind of a dumbass, sometimes), told her it was a test. Stephanie…did not take that very well.

Steph and Bruce have often not gotten along, what with him frequently telling her not to do stuff, dismissing her abilities, and used her to make Tim jealous so he’d come back. So this slap was kind of a long time coming. After this, she was all, oh God, did I really just slap Batman? Bruce was more, what just happened? Then she told him she was glad he wasn’t dead, then ran off. Go, Stephanie. This was beautiful.

My point by all that rambling: Stephanie’s middle name might as well be “Fuck Batman”.

6. Jason Todd

Okay, this one’s a no-brainer. As much as I disagree with the claims that Titans Dick is more like Jason than Dick, it’s true that Jason has spent years being in a state of fuck Batman. Unlike Dick, though – and most others on this list – Jason’s fuck Batman is mainly in words, not spirit.

Jason spent a huge amount of time post revival complaining about how the Joker was still alive, how Bruce would have killed him for Dick, and a lot of other similar things. He claims he doesn’t care what Bruce thinks about what he does, but he very clearly does – he does a string of irrational nonsense for the sake of getting Bruce’s attention. He could have gone anywhere after his resurrection, but he went back to Gotham. Because unlike Dick, who felt smothered and wanted space/for everyone to see him as him and not an extension of Bruce, Jason acted out so people would look at him.

5. Commissioner Gordon

Oh, look, the guy that’s just trying to get through the day when Batman shows up and vanishes on him when he’s talking. And probably introducing quite a few problems and villains even as he deals with others. The Commissioner Gordon brand of “fuck Batman”: “Fuck Batman, here I am, doing my job and this guy insists upon being obnoxious when interrupting me”.

4. Oswald Cobblepot

Oooh, look, the one villain on this list!

If there’s a single villain that’s gonna say “Fuck Batman”, it’s got to be Penguin, just for the sake of Love Bird. It all amounted to a very sweet story where Batman spoke on his behalf and explained everything to his girlfriend, but still! Penguin was trying to go straight with an umbrella factory and help out ex-cons who couldn’t get jobs elsewhere, Bruce saw felons entering the building and burst in to investigate, and Penguin got sent back to jail for violating his parole by consorting with known felons. Come on, Bruce!

3. Barbara Gordon

Barbara Gordon, the first Batgirl, Oracle, one of the coolest heroes in all of Gotham. Also: viewed by practically everyone as a lesser version of Bruce.

As Oracle, she’s not second to anyone. She’s a member of the Batfamily, yes. She’ll work with all of them with relatively few issues. But Bruce Wayne being the control freak that he still tries to push her around, even though she’s not his sidekick, she’s his equal. So perhaps not fuck Batman…but definitely shut the fuck up, Batman.

2. Clark Kent

When it’s not Bruce’s relatives, it’s Clark that has to deal with Bruce. And as much as I love their friendship, Bruce is not an easy person to be friends with. The man keeps a chunk of kryptonite in the Batcave. The sole purpose of said substance is incapacitating Kryptonians! Clark may have nigh-incomprehensible amounts of patience, but Bruce has got to be trying even him.

1. Dick Grayson

Of course.

Dick has to get the number one slot in this list, just by seniority. Yes, technically Gordon predates him. But Dick has spent more time actually putting up with Bruce’s nonsense. Think of all the gripes he must have by now:

  • Firing him
    • Granted, this one depends on which version of continuity we’re going with, but Post-Crisis, Bruce fired Dick as Robin. Dude! Not cool.
  • Making Jason Robin without giving him so much as a heads up text
    • Sure, Dick had grown out of being Bruce’s sidekick. And I’m pretty sure Dick approved of letting Jason have the mantle pretty quickly in all versions of the story. But that was still his name! It wasn’t Bruce’s to give.
  • Constantly criticizing his decisions
  • Only singing his praises to everyone when he’s not there
    • I mean, yes. Bruce is probably less stingy with the praise to Dick than to any of
    • Only Thing Bruce Ever Did Rightthe other Batkids. But the stuff he says to other people about him is so much
      nicer, and if Dick finds out about it at all, it’s through someone else. Come on, Bruce! Rude.

And that’s not even half of it. They have a long history! So I don’t care what anyone says when they’re whining about Titans Dick being more like Jason or Damian. He’s got “fuck Batman” seniority.

‘Titans’: Reservations Withdrawn, I’m All In

Okay, so the Netflix trailer for Titans came out a few days ago, and it’s been a really  packed week for me, so I’m finally getting around to talking about it now: it was  awesome.

I’ve gone back and forth a lot on how I feel about Titans. When it was first announced, I was both excited and apprehensive. When the initial story details came out, I was like, what? When more characters were revealed, I was all ahhhh! At the leaked set pictures, I was chanting at myself to refrain from judgement until we got something official. And when the first trailer came out, I just blinked in confusion.

My reservations were not at all about things being “grimdark” because, frankly, that’s a nonsense claim that doesn’t mean anything. They were more me being unsure of how it looked or what direction they were planning on going in with it because of how it seemed like a strange cross between the comics and the cartoon. Now that we’ve seen more – the promos, the second trailer, posters – I have more of a concrete idea of what this show is going to be like, and I can actually be excited for it.

As Batman v Superman taught me, I should never listen to reviewers, because they don’t know jack. The fact that most of them seem to have enjoyed what they saw of Titans  doesn’t actually say anything – though the fact that Collider called it “joyless” and said it was awful might actually indicate that it’s awesome. Those guys never know what they’re talking about. But the trailer, with all its indications of a found family that chooses to fight together and take care of each other? That makes me think that this is the one thing about which the critics might actually be right. Some good action sequences, compelling character interactions, and – my absolute favourite thing of all – focus on the relationship between Bruce and Dick? It looks incredible.

If there’s any problem I still have, I think it’s that as of now, I don’t really care about the characters that aren’t named Dick Grayson. Maybe that’ll change once I actually see them, but from the trailers, the parts involving Dick were the most interesting to me. At first, I figured that was just my love for Dick biasing me in his favour, until I remembered that that’s crazy – after all, how many posts did I make that were basically me blathering on for a few hundred words about how important he is and how I’m terrified Titans will screw him up? I don’t know, but it was a lot. Strange, right? I started off so wary about this show and how it was going to treat him, more concerned about him than any of the other characters, because those other characters really don’t mean much to me. I like them just fine, but they’re not Dick. And now, I’m more looking forward to seeing him than I am any other character, somehow much less wary than I was when this started out. Even if the rest of the show doesn’t do it for me, I think Dick alone will be enough to make it worth it. So I’m totally done being nervous. Now I just can’t wait.

I’m subscribed to DC Universe. I’m bouncing up and down waiting for Friday. I’m already planning on making nachos to eat while I watch. Anyone want to message me after the release so we can geek out together?

My Utterly Unsolicited Opinion On Dick Grayson as the Robin in ‘Batman v Superman’

Zack Snyder commented on a Vero post today. This is nothing unusual. He spends a lot of time on Vero, and he comments on a lot of posts. But this time, he was saying that the dead Robin in Batman v Superman – the one pretty much everyone assumed was Jason, even though I do remember some debate based on that one picture of a gravestone labelled Richard Grayson – was in fact Dick, not Jason. This prompted Twitter freaking out. I…think that’s an overreaction.

As I’ve pointed out countless times, I adore Dick Grayson. He’s my favourite comic book character of all time, and the very first comic I read was his miniseries from 1995. I love him as Robin, I love him as Nightwing, and I love him as Batman. So believe me when I say…what I’m going to say has absolutely nothing to do with me being a “Snyder fanboy”. I adore Zack Snyder. I think he’s an awesome storyteller. But my love for Dick Grayson goes back a long way. I’ve loved his character since the same year 300 came out. Like all my posts about him illustrate, I’m very protective of how he’s interpreted. So my defending Snyder’s creative choices – even ones that I’m unsure about – has nothing to do with being a blind follower and everything to do with how Snyder has given me reasons to trust him.

I saw several Tweets along the lines of “having Dick be the dead Robin would have been a terrible idea”. To those, I just have to laugh, because you know something? Snyder has demonstrated that he knows how to make something incredible out of “terrible ideas”.

I do not like Frank Miller. I think The Dark Knight Returns is a bad comic that really doesn’t have many redeeming qualities in it. My instinct would have been to say that adapting it would have been a terrible idea. But that’s what Snyder did when he made Batman v Superman, and that was awesome. I love that movie with all my heart. There is no comic book movie on that level of incredible. And that’s because Snyder thinks things through. He creates nuanced takes. He found the good in The Dark Knight Returns and turned it from something I consider kind of terrible to something beautiful. That he could do that is huge. As it is, it doesn’t really matter to whom the Robin suit in Batman v Superman belonged, just that a loss had a major impact on Bruce. But I absolutely believe Snyder could have made something unique and compelling out of making it explicitly Dick rather than Jason.

Another comment I saw – that a lot of people were upset about – was about how it makes so much sense that it was Dick and not Jason that made Bruce so reclusive and angry in Batman v Superman. People often take comments about Bruce’s love for Dick being special as attacks on the other members of the Batfamily, but that’s not it. Of course Bruce has the capacity to love multiple people. He has room in his heart for all of his children and all of Gotham. That doesn’t mean that he and Dick don’t have a unique and beautiful relationship. Dick is his first son. His first partner. Dick saved Bruce from a dark path. Bruce once kept a whole universe from getting destroyed because Dick was in it. Dick has been there through everything. As a character, he predates Alfred, Barbara, Jason, Selina. He’s Bruce’s most valued partner and the one thing he did right. He’s utterly crucial.

One of the reasons Jason was so upset that Bruce didn’t kill the Joker was because he thought he would have done it had it been Dick who died. And there is some basis for that – Bruce completely flipped out and tried to strangle Lex during Forever Evil when he thought Lex had killed Dick. In Infinite Crisis, he grabbed a gun and threatened to shoot alternate universe Lex because of the same reason. The only reason he didn’t in both those cases was because Dick wasn’t actually dead. It’s a pattern of behaviour in the comics, carried through different writers, that Bruce probably would kill someone for Dick. So canonically, there could be that basis for why Snyder wanted it to be Dick and not Jason. But I don’t think that’s the real point. It’s not about what Dick’s place in the birth order means for his relationship with Bruce, but about what it means for the entire concept of the Batfamily.

Without Dick, there wouldn’t have been any other Robins. Tim could come after Jason because Dick already set the precedent for a success, for illustrating why Batman needs a Robin. But there’s no way in hell that Jason would have come along after Dick if Dick died instead. And without Jason – without the rest of the Batfamily – there would be no one to hold Bruce back and keep him from a dark path. So of course Bruce would be alone ten years after losing his partner. Of course he would be hugely more cynical and unwilling to work with other people. Of course feeling threatened by Superman could tip him into being ready to kill. That’s why Robin matters.

As someone that loves Dick, loves how he’s the gold standard that all his successors feel like they need to live up to, loves that he’s the member of the Batfamily most naturally suited to the job they all chose, and loves that Bruce considers him his greatest success, it upsets me to think that in the movies, that’s not the case and that he’s the Robin Bruce failed to save instead. But it also makes a huge amount of sense in this universe, even down to the simple matter of explaining where all the other members of the family were during the movie.

Is Jason best known for being killed by the Joker? Yeah. But we’re talking about superhero comics and their adaptations. Characters die and come back all the time. Killing a different Robin isn’t the same as taking something that’s fundamentally part of Jason’s story and not anyone else’s. And beyond that, movies are an adaptation. Changes are inevitable. It’s more important to me that they remain true to the spirit of the material than any particular storyline. And Zack Snyder has demonstrated that he has a lot of respect for the comics.

I wouldn’t want Dick to be the dead Robin, even though it does make a lot of sense and I know Snyder could make something awesome out of it that would, in all likelihood, respect Dick as a character, just because I love the Batfamily, I love Dick’s relationships with all kinds of different heroes, and I love how he’s the heart of the DCU. If he made a movie further exploring this, I’d go see it, and I’d be excited because it would be him making it, but I wouldn’t feel the same level of excitement as I do about other superhero movies, just because I get most excited about the other members of the Batfamily when they’re interacting with each other, especially with Dick. I wouldn’t be nearly excited to see any of them without that dynamic and a lot of emphasis on the importance of the Robin legacy and Bruce and Dick’s relationship. I really don’t care about Carrie Kelley, who Snyder said it a later comment, he’d have brought in (He said that Dick would have stayed dead until Carrie. I didn’t quite know what that meant – was that just referring to there being no Robin until Carrie, or was he saying that Dick himself would have come back to life after Carrie was introduced?).

And honestly, none of this really matters. It was left open ended at the time, presumably for the director of the Batsolo to decide how they want to handle it. For all we know, Matt Reeves won’t handle it at all. But I think it’s crazy to have such rigid opinions on how a movie that we probably won’t see would have been based on a one word comment. There are a million ways that story could go. I’m not saying I’d be thrilled about this deviation from the comics, and it might not have been what I wanted, but Zack Snyder has demonstrated that he makes purposeful changes. He doesn’t just change what’s in the source material for no reason. He cares about these characters. I trust that he’d give us an interesting story.

The Impact of Adaptations on Perception of Characters

Adaptations are a funny thing. When it comes to superhero movies or TV shows, it’s almost inevitable that someone out there will absolutely hate it.

It’s easy to mock the “not muh Superman!” people that complain about a different interpretation of the character that holds true to the source material. But some of the time, I do understand where they’re coming from. Sure, with a lot of characters, one bad adaptation isn’t the end of the world, but adaptations have a major role on how people perceive comics and comic book characters. Especially live-action adaptations and first adaptations. Especially when the adaptation is of a character non-comics fans don’t know much about.

One of the reasons I’m so anxious about Titans is because as much as I adore Dick Grayson, as much as I know he’s popular among comic fans, I also am painfully aware of the fact that despite his longevity as a character, he’s simply not taken very seriously by the general audience. He’s not Batman, Superman, Spider-Man. All of those characters have gotten multiple adaptations within my lifespan, but Dick? While we’re supposedly getting a Nightwing movie, that’s like the Flash, Cyborg, and Batman ones – stuck in development hell to the point where I doubt it’s ever coming. If he doesn’t stand out as awesome in Titans, he’s not gonna get another chance to do so for a long time.

It’s a similar issue to bad interpretations in a long running series or a shared universe that includes a lot of characters and movies, rather than just a standalone solo movie, or even a trilogy. I mean, consider Harry Potter. In the movies, Hermione took on basically all Ron’s skills and personality. Despite the massive popularity of the series, I highly doubt there’ll be a reboot any time soon, so the only visual adaptation we’re going to have for a long time will be one that stripped one of the most important characters in the series of what made him interesting and managed to make a lot of people – an astounding number, really, considering that Harry Potter was the series that got pretty much the entire world to line up at midnight for a book release and learn about the book version of the characters’ real traits – forget just how important and skilled Ron was.

Take the X-Men movies. Those did a similar thing. Yes, they’ve had both highs and lows that I’ve commented on repeatedly. But what’s more important than deciding how good they are is they’ve had a huge impact on perception of the X-Men. The X-Men were introduced in 1963. The first movie came out in 2000. That means this interpretation of the characters has been around for more than 30% of the characters’ entire lifespan – at least. The characters introduced in 1963 were the original X-Men, from the days before Claremont, the days before characters like Storm, Wolverine, Shadowcat, Emma Frost. Saying that the X-Men movies ruined a character, while still dramatic, is much more understandable than saying the same of a character like Superman or Batman. I have to suppress a laugh at people saying Zack Snyder ruined Superman because that just sounds ridiculous, but complaining about the movie interpretation of the X-Men? That I completely get.

Superman and Batman have had multiple different interpretations in my lifespan, in the forms of both TV series and movies, both live action and animated. The X-Men? Not really. When it comes to live-action, it’s just been the one set of related movies where no one that wasn’t Wolverine, Xavier, Magneto, or Mystique got any real attention and we had to sit through Xavier giving Magneto the same “there’s still good in you” speech like six times. And since there’s never been a real reboot, none of the characters got to be rewritten in a more interesting or more comics accurate way. I try not to say things like X movie ruined Y character, because oftentimes, that’s not fair. There are a lot of unseen people that work hard in the industry on every movie and we should at least try to find something to appreciate before we start complaining about what we didn’t like. But that doesn’t mean I don’t understand bitterness towards the X-Men movies for how they treated most of the characters. Scott Summers is my favourite Marvel character, and I had to watch first the original trilogy strip away his background, personality, leadership skills, tactical instincts, and fighting ability, then the alternate timeline make him a totally different person. Believe me. I get it.

Adaptations have a huge impact on perception of characters and stories. Whether it’s how the Richard Donner Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve were so influential that people start talking about that as the source material rather than the comics, or how a first adaptation of a character can make or break their possibilities for a future adaptation, adaptations of superhero comics are arguably even more important than the comics themselves when it comes to keeping those characters alive in public memory. It’s disappointing. Comics are a wonderful medium with amazing stories and brilliant characters that should be acknowledged as such. And superheroes are a major part of cultural knowledge. But when it comes to the general audience, most of that knowledge comes from adaptations, or in a diluted fashion through cultural osmosis.

It’s neither good nor bad that the general audience doesn’t read comics and gets their knowledge of the characters from adaptations. Disappointing, sure, but not intrinsically bad. What is disappointing though is the lack of respect for comics in the writers and directors of a lot of these adaptations. I want the characters I love to get the best possible chance at making it into the public consciousness in an accurate sense. That won’t happen unless adaptations respect them and give nuanced takes. We’ll all still have different perspectives on whether or not those takes are good ones…but we’ll have to respect that there was thought and care put into them. In the long run, that’s what’s good for characters.

The ‘Titans’ Trailer and My Complicated Feelings About This Show

As I say a lot, Dick Grayson is my favourite comics character. Ever. So my initial reaction to the announcement of Titans was much the same as my reaction to the announcement of his solo movie – a healthy mixture of excitement and apprehension. And time – along with information – has only increased that feeling for me.

I want to go into this open minded. By that logic, I shouldn’t say anything – if I have a negative opinion going in, a confirmation bias might prevent me from enjoying something great, and it’s not like we’ve seen much yet. But that’s difficult when this is the first real adaptation of my favourite character, where he’s going to be taken totally seriously. I have a lot of opinions.

I saw a Tweet that was something alone the lines of, “people that don’t like this portrayal of Dick are usually not familiar with the post-Crisis version of the character” and that just set me off. I myself am guilty of doing the same sometimes – I occasionally pull out the comics when I’m making a point. I shouldn’t, usually, but it’s become a habit. And it is true that people are trying to use the Teen Titans cartoon as “evidence”  that Titans  doesn’t respect the source material, which is utter nonsense. But – ready for a controversial opinion? Here goes. Nobody “knows the comics”. I’m a comics fan. I have a decent amount of knowledge of a lot of characters. But superhero comics have existed for decades, it’s not possible to read them all, and what one writer says will be blatantly contradicted by another. There are different, equally valid interpretations. That’s not to say there aren’t common traits that should be kept consistent. But it is to say that it’s condescending and stupid to suggest that the reason people don’t like a portrayal is that they don’t know the comics. Maybe for some. But certainly not all.

For me, part of the reason I’m not sold on this is a simple matter of the fact they aged up Dick. Brenton Thwaites is twenty eight. And yet the Dick Grayson he’s playing is still Robin, not Nightwing. And that casts a whole different light on his, for lack of a better term, rebel period. I talked a little bit here about what I find off about the portrayal of Bruce and Dick’s falling out, and all that is still true, but now that the trailer has been released, I see a different issue – behaviour that would be believable if this Dick were, as is traditionally the case, a teenager comes across as just childish and immature.

At first viewing, I thought the “fuck Batman” line was pretty silly. But I didn’t know why. I figured it was just stilted delivery. Then I watched it again. I didn’t change my mind about the delivery – though it may sound better in the actual episode – but I came to realize that I’m just not a fan of the line. We’re talking about a grown man that’s been away from Bruce for years talking about him like a petulant child. Context suggests that there will eventually be a reconciliation between the two. After all, Jason is supposed to appear – in an important enough role that he has an episode named after him – which indicates Dick will move on to become Nightwing and presumably get past his issues with Bruce. That, coupled with the fact people will be furious if they completely set fire to Bruce and Dick’s relationship, makes it seem like Dick has spent a decade pouting because he wants to be his own person and was chafing under Bruce’s need to control him. I understand their relationship being strained. I understand Dick being mad at him from time to time. But this feels over the top and ridiculous.

On the other side of the issue, I vehemently disagree with those that are calling this show “too dark and gritty” or suggesting that Dick is acting more like Jason, whether because Dick is fighting brutally or because he said “fuck Batman”. Dick Grayson is the original rebellious Robin. Jason did not invent the concept. Dick was disobeying Batman and having screaming disagreements with him long before Jason ever existed. And as for the fighting aspects of it…Dick became Robin as a child. He has no powers and frequently fights villains that do. Even when his opponents are regular humans, when he first started fighting crime, he was much smaller than them.  It absolutely makes sense that his fighting style will be violent. Dick is an excellent character and a very good person, but he’s not just there to be the fun, light, non-action guy to Bruce’s muscle.

It seems to me that both people that like the trailer and people that don’t are flattening Dick’s character to justify their position. But the way I see it, both perspectives are true. That’s what makes him such a good character. Canonically, yes! Dick has a bit of a temper. He lashes out at and pushes away the people he cares about. He was trained by Batman, so, yeah, there’s going to be some amount of “do whatever keeps them down” in his fighting style. But he’s also a fundamentally positive character that’s admired and respected by heroes all throughout the DCU. He’s charming and likeable and good hearted. He’s been an older brother and a mentor figure to both Tim and Damian. He keeps Bruce from descending into the dark. He’s suffered and lost people, but he’s still found happiness and a family and loves the life he’s had. As he once put it, “I wouldn’t trade this for the world”. It’s one of the many reasons I love Young Justice. It managed to balance the different aspects of Dick’s character better than just about anything else.

Dick's Letter To Bruce

At first I thought Dick had crushed that one guy’s neck, which I wasn’t a fan of, because that doesn’t ring true to me – while one of his flaws is his anger and while angry, he does things he’ll regret, it takes a lot to get him there. He stopped himself from killing the man that murdered his parents. Even the Joker – Dick only beat him to death with his bare hands when he thought he’d killed Tim. So that made me worried. But then I looked closer and saw that he broke the guy’s jaw instead, which is a whole different matter. So that much I’m okay with.

On the whole, I fully support new takes on characters, but this doesn’t feel genuine. It feels contrived. The only way I can see it working is if Dick starts understanding Bruce better through his relationship with Raven. It would be similar to the way comics Dick learned to control his anger when Bruce was presumed dead and he’d been left in charge of Damian – a great dynamic and source of character development for both of them.

Moving on from Dick, not much is catching my attention about this. I’m liking the looks of the flashbacks to the Flying Graysons – maybe we’ll also get some more to Bruce and Dick in happier times? The burgeoning Dick Raven dynamic is interesting, and I’m curious as to what Dick and Kory’s relationship will be like. Aesthetically, though, it’s not doing much for me. Beast Boy and Raven’s looks aren’t appealing to me very much yet. Starfire is a little better – ironic, considering the backlash to her wig and dress a while back – but I don’t love it. So far, the heavy colour splashes feel a bit Suicide Squad-esque, and while I do think that was an entertaining enough popcorn movie, I wasn’t big on its visuals.

It’s impossible to tell what the show is going to be like from a few posters, a less than two minutes long trailer, and a single article of story details. But I didn’t love the trailer, and it hasn’t sold me on the show. Sure, it’s possible – even probable – context will make it more palatable to me. But as of right now, my expectations aren’t high.

‘Titans’ and the Idea of Deconstructing Robin

I love deconstructions. I love Dick Grayson. And I’m definitely going to be giving Titans a chance. At the same time, I’ve been deeply conflicted about it since it was first announced, with every additional detail making me more and more torn. This article about the story details? Well, call me crazy, but it hasn’t exactly filled me with hope and optimism about the show.

Let me preface this by saying, this is absolutely not me rejecting something for being “dark” or “gritty”. Of course not. If you think it is, then hi! You must be new. I’m Keya. Deconstructions give me life and I own an I ❤ Zack Snyder T-shirt. I love dark takes that are, to an extent, grounded in reality. But this is part of the previously linked article, and the immediate, visceral reaction I had upon reading it is no:

Titans Story Details Robin.PNG

Unlike the writer of this post, I think the Robin suit makes sense – after all, the name wasn’t given to him by Bruce, it was his mother’s nickname for him. It’s logical that if he was leaving Bruce to work alone because of hating Bruce, he’d stick with an identity that he associated with his parents rather than forge a new one. But even though that makes sense to me, all these details feel wrong. It could work, of course it could. I can’t be sure until I see it. But I feel like this, thematically, kind of betrays one of the central themes of the Batman Robin partnership. And that’s that they impact each other.

It’s not a one sided relationship. It’s not “what Batman did to him”. In the comics, Dick brought light and colour to the manor. He brought hope to Bruce and prevented Batman from descending into the dark. Bruce helped channel Dick’s anger into something productive. He helped him do what he would have done anyway, but made sure he’d stay alive while doing it. In doing that, he helped shape Dick into being someone that could move on, could get past his anger, could be a better man and crime fighter than Bruce himself. As Bruce told him:

I didn’t save you from some dark fate, those years ago. You saved me from one. And you still are saving me, every day.

Dick isn’t the happy go lucky, light and joy and embodiment of fun that some people consider him, that much is true. I talked about that in this post. It’s long been a part of his character that he’s afraid of becoming like Bruce. And he has canonically shut himself off from people that care about him. But he is a fundamentally more optimistic character than Bruce is, one with a lot of charm and leadership ability that is great at making friends and forming lasting relationships and that actually has a capacity to move on.

Is the generally accepted story for why Dick eventually set out on his own as Nightwing that he and Bruce had a falling out? Yes. But that’s not the same as Dick “growing to hate him”. The way I’ve always perceived it is that Dick and Bruce both have very strong personalities, Dick isn’t built to follow, and Bruce is a control freak that struggles with not being able to control what he does. As Bruce himself put it, Dick was born to be in the centre ring. He was always going to set off on his own. Yes, being raised by Bruce will impact him and in ways that aren’t always positive, like through instilling a sense of paranoia in him that can impact his relationships. Yes, his long partnership with Bruce will almost inevitably result in a bit of a learning curve when he has to instead work with new people whom he doesn’t know so well. But it’s insulting to Dick and his agency, his long history as a character, as well as his relationship with Bruce – one of the most important in all of DC – to suggest that Bruce screwed his head up to the point where even after years away, he’s still a mess incapable of forming healthy relationships.

Bruce in the comics has displayed a huge amount of parental favouritism towards Dick. He’s his oldest child, and it was because of him that the rest came along. To a certain extent, he was trying to fill the void. He was trying to replace a son. They spend a lot of time disagreeing and fighting, but that doesn’t change the fact that they care deeply about each other. Hell, I seem to remember an issue once where, when Dick had just moved out of the manor to go to college, Bruce responded by sitting in his room, nostalgic over a pair of shoes, before telling Alfred to pack up the Batcave because they had to move. Yes, that was an extreme example. But it’s just one of countless examples of how important Bruce’s first son is to him, and an example of why trying to get the audience to take Robin seriously through tarnishing his relationship with his father figure doesn’t sit well with me.

Deconstructing Robin would feel much less wrong to me if the deconstruction wasn’t through Bruce. By that I mean, I’d be much less wary to see the idea of Robin being deconstructed through examination of what being a child soldier would do to a person, even a fundamentally positive one, and how that would impact said person’s relationships with people they care about rather than turning Dick into a darker character by some “Bruce Wayne is a bad dad” thing. That just feels lazy. Not like an honest study of why Robin matters and should be taken seriously as his own character, rather than just as Batman’s sidekick.

In general, there has to be a construction before there can be a deconstruction. Man of Steel and Batman v Superman worked, because while they were deconstructing – then reconstructing – superheroes, they were iconic superheroes. Batman has had a whole trilogy in recent memory. Everyone knows Superman’s origin story and what the character is like when played straight. But while Robin is a cultural icon, the same can’t really be said for Dick Grayson. He’s remembered as a concept more so than a character. I think deconstructing him would have worked a whole hell of a lot better had he gotten a take where he was played perfectly straight first.

From this, the thing feels more like an All Star Batman and Robin style “deconstruction” (shallow grittiness for the sake of ~maturity and ~darkness rather than actually meaningful) than anything actually good. I hope that’s not the case. I’m hoping Titans  proves me wrong. My initial reaction to the announcement was a healthy mix of anticipation and apprehension. The fact that Jason will be making an appearance suggests that there will be a reconciliation between Bruce and Dick and that Dick will take on the Nightwing mantle, which would go a long way towards easing the feelings of no, bad, stop that the linked article gave me. I’m excited to see Starfire, Beast Boy, Solstice. The fact that the legal red tape with Donna seems to have finally cleared enough for us to see her adapted makes me super happy. The aspect of the show that’s been making me nervous since it was first announced was how it would treat Dick. That’s still the case. But a lot sounds good about Titans, so I’m on board with it and its take until they give me a reason not to be. With any luck, it’ll be handled well and turn out fantastic. And anyway – that Nightwing movie is still in the works and Chris McKay seems to get the importance of the Dick Bruce relationship. Worst case scenario, I just have to wait a little while longer to see him done justice.

Comparing Comics Dick Grayson to the ‘Young Justice’ and Fan Interpretations

In an ill conceived attempt at distracting myself from my mourning at the air date for season three of Young Justice being pushed back to 2019 – seriously, haven’t we waited long enough? – I started rewatching some of my favourite episodes. In doing so, I started thinking about the show’s interpretation of Nightwing and how that compares to the comics version of the character as well as the fan interpretations.

Dick Grayson is my absolute favourite comics character ever. He’s absolutely essential to comics, to Batman. There would be no Robin without him. By extension, there would be no Batfamily. And, like a friend and I once concluded, without the Batfamily, Bruce would be like the guy from the Dark Knight trilogy. And no one likes that guy!

I saw a Tweet a while back from someone justifying the need for a Cyborg movie, and one of his points was something along the lines of “Nightwing is getting one, and more of the general audience  knows who Cyborg is than Nightwing”. That statement could well be true. And I fully support Cyborg getting a movie. But I think it’s also an oversimplification, because while Cyborg may be better known than Nightwing, I’d be willing to bet Robin is better known than Cyborg. Dick Grayson is better known  than Victor Stone. Dick is very important and very well known. But precisely who he is and what he stands for varies dramatically depending on who you ask.

The fan interpretation frustrates me a bit because of how much it flattens the character. I mean, the same can kind of be said about all fan interpretations, especially the recursive ones, where that fan interpretation starts to bleed back into comics and movies and cartoons. Fan interpretations will nearly always flatten a character, with the rare exception of characters like Jason Todd, whose fan interpretation is probably more developed than he is canonically. But Dick being misinterpreted bothers me more than the misinterpretation of most other characters. It’s for a lot of reasons – one of which, of course, being that he’s my favourite comics character – but I think primarily, it’s because he’s flattened in order to make him look better next to the other members of his family,  usually Bruce. This post summarizes it all quite well: it’s a combination of a feedback loop, a cultural idea of Robin (more attached to him than any of the others), and it being easy to perceive him differently based on out of context traits.

Dick is one of the codifiers for the Sidekick Graduations Stick trope, and that’s true in that he’s never returned to Robin, but a lot of writers are wary of actually making that the case. Dick is better at what he does than Bruce. It’s a combination of who he has and the fact that Bruce raised him. Bruce himself has called Dick a better man than he is and acknowledged that Dick has far surpassed him in a lot of areas. But most writers are afraid of leaning into that because Bruce is just so iconic. So they make him less competent in order to make different members of the Batfamily look better, flatten his character to make his relationships with his family more saccharine, and regress him for the sake of keeping him Bruce’s sidekick rather than a full partner. It’s quite similar to how Barbara was reverted to being Batgirl – Oracle is an equal, with her own skillset, that mentors others. Batgirl, not so much.

It’s not at all that I think there’s only one way to write Dick. But I do believe that there are certain aspects of his character that should be constant if the circumstances of his life haven’t changed. Consistency may be all but impossible with comics, due to all the different writers with different interpretations, but the core of the character should remain the same.

Dick Grayson is absolutely a good person. Hell, he’s a Multiverse constant – he’s a force for good, so much so that Golden Age Superman had to acknowledge that he’s still a good man in a world filled with morally bankrupt heroes. But he’s also much more complex than the cool, encouraging, happy-go-lucky child of a big brother that loves to hug his siblings and crack puns. Sure, there are elements of that in him. He is an older brother that cares about his family, but he doesn’t always get along with them. He does encourage his siblings, but he had to learn that, and each of his siblings required something different from him. Damian in particular needed him to be able to control the temper that he does have. He has a sense of showmanship – he was a circus acrobat that was born to be in the centre ring. He’s naturally a better athlete than Bruce, to the point where canonically, he and Cass are the only ones that can beat Bruce in a fair fight. Dick has a temper that he learned to control. He’s driven and obsessive, even if he’s much more capable of moving on than Bruce is. He cares about the people around him and they care about him, too, even if he struggles to actually let them help him when he needs it. And I think that’s why I adore the Young Justice interpretation of the character so much.

I was having a discussion with someone a while ago, and they said they thought that that incarnation was too Superman-esque and not Batman enough, and while I respect their opinion, I disagree. Dick’s strength is that he balances optimism and a desire to see the best in people with paranoia and an urge to check people’s stories rather than believing them blindly. As such, I think the first two seasons of YJ did an amazing job with him.

He’s quick and witty and charming, he makes jokes and has lots of friends, he loves Bruce but doesn’t want to become him. He’s just as prepared and paranoid. He’s fully capable of running unstable and risky gambits that could get people killed. He’s absolutely dedicated to fighting crime…but he’s afraid of losing himself, of becoming a person that will manipulate and pull strings and do anything to achieve his goals. The show managed to convey both how this is someone that was raised by Batman and that he influenced Bruce himself through depicting him as a good leader that makes tough decisions – often better ones than Bruce himself – and whose team trusts him enough to forgive him, even when they’re mad at him for making those decisions. For me, that captures the essence of who Dick is as a character.

Bruce had a very minor role in the show, but it was enough to demonstrate how his and Dick’s dynamic works. They’re a team and family both. When Dick is jealous of Kaldur, Bruce responds by inviting him to play basketball as a way of assuring him that he’s irreplaceable. When Wonder Woman criticizes how he introduced a nine year old Dick to crime fighting, Bruce said that he did it so Dick wouldn’t turn out like him. The show did shift a bit from the usually accepted canon in regards to Dick transitioning from Robin to Nightwing in that it was an amicable decision where Bruce and Dick both agreed he’d grown up and needed to do his own thing, rather than a result of a major falling out. That does change the context of the Batfamily, but in a way that I like.

I’m wary about Titans. The pictures we’ve seen and information we’ve gotten has made me go back and forth over whether or not I’m excited for months now. I’m going to watch it, of course, because Dick has always been my favourite and I’ve been looking forward to seeing a good depiction of him in live action for years – fingers crossed that this one will be good – and I’m delighted that we’re going to get other awesome  characters, some of whom have never gotten an adaptation before, like Donna and Kiran. I’m nervous about how Dick will be treated…but if I want him to be catapulted into the cultural conscience as himself, more than just “Robin is Batman’s partner and adds colour and joy to Gotham” (which I will always acknowledge is important), I’m going to have to be ready for adaptations and interpretations that I won’t always agree with. That’s the case in animation – I’m talking about you, Son of Batman – as well as comics themselves – Grayson – and will be the case in live action. So I’m cautiously optimistic. Here’s to hoping that pays off!

The Need For Nightwing

The theme of parents and their children is the lifeblood of the DC Extended Universe. It’s not only present in every movie, it’s the beating heart of the franchise. I talked about the importance of the mothers in this post, but it extends beyond that. From Jor El and Lara sending Kal away so he could be safe, to Jonathan and Martha adopting and raising Clark, to Bruce’s love and memory of his parents and his grief for Jason. Hippolyta and Diana. Floyd and Zoe Lawton. Lex’s troubled relationship with his father. Even the human trafficker in Batman v Superman that was killed in prison had a baby and was called a good father. If, going forward, the relationship between Batman and Nightwing gets no focus, it would feel like an enormous departure from that.

Nightwing_is_ready

I thought the Dark Knight trilogy was a well made set of movies, but I didn’t care for its interpretation of Bruce. For me, he always came across as an idea of what Bruce would be without the Robins, and as such, a demonstration of why the Batfamily matters. Dick Grayson is crucial to the Batman mythos. All the members of the Batfamily are, to a certain extent, but none more than Dick. He’s Bruce’s eldest son. He was his first partner and most trusted ally. The fact that he wasn’t considered important enough to include despite the fact he’s existed as a character for longer than Alfred and nearly as long as Bruce himself is why, as well made as the trilogy was, I don’t consider them good Batman movies. I’ll probably always be at least a little bitter at how they pushed the modern idea of Batman as an angsty loner.

Rachel Dawes may have been created for the movie, but she was closer to actually filling the role of Robin than John Blake, the loose approximation that appeared in the final movie, was – she was essentially the movie version of Jason Todd. She may have been a love interest instead of a partner and son, but she was still a confidante whose death Bruce considered his greatest failure and after which he withdrew from the world.  The fact that in Batman v Superman, we saw the vandalized Robin suit, indicating that it was a son and not a girlfriend Bruce was still mourning, only serves to highlight how much more important the familial themes are in this universe.

In his own way, Batman is as much a symbol of hope as Superman is. He’s a lightning rod for the evil in his city. He dedicates his life so that Gothamites can live in a better world. It may not be the inspiration people in Metropolis need, but it is what the citizens of Gotham do. We saw it in BvS, with the woman saying that even though he might have gotten more violent, the only people scared of him are the people that have reason to be. Batman v Superman took the character into a darker place than most incarnations of the character, but it felt earned, because at least part of that stemmed from him having both had and lost his second son.

Nightwing makes him better. As Robin, he was the light to Batman’s dark. He humanized Bruce. There is a reason he’s the obvious choice to take up the cowl when Bruce can’t, and that’s that there is no one in the world Bruce Wayne trusts more than Dick Grayson. While Batman symbolizes hope for Gotham, Dick symbolizes hope for Bruce.

Only Thing Bruce Ever Did Right

Dick Saves Bruce Every Day

My ideal scenario for the Batman solo is a mass Arkham breakout, followed by Bruce and Dick reconciling as they work together to recapture the escapees and a lot of reminiscing, and ending with meeting Tim Drake. Not only would that involve a story that largely centres around one of my favourite relationships in comics, I think it would be an excellent narrative choice:

  1. It would be a good way to introduce a lot of villains.
  2. It could lead to a lot of really cool fight scenes.
  3. Holy character exploration, Batman!
  4. Reuniting and expanding the Batfamily!

The same thing could work for a Nightwing movie. But I don’t so much care what the plot is, so much as whether the films to the characters the appropriate justice, and for me, the absolute best way to develop both Bruce and Dick as characters is to do it together. It’s almost impossible to overstate how important Dick is to Batman, both as a character and as a franchise. When the news broke over a year ago now, I started off both excited and scared about Nightwing getting a movie because he’s my favourite superhero and him getting a live action film is long overdue. But him having a role in the DCEU is about more than just him. It’s about continuing the themes of family and the realistic optimism and hope for a better tomorrow that are the driving force of the universe.

Like how Clark lost Jor El, Lara, and Jonathan, but still has Martha, Bruce may have lost Thomas, Martha, and Jason, but he still has Dick. That matters. And it’d be a damn shame if it wasn’t explored.

Deathstroke as a Nightwing Villain

Arrow is often ridiculed – and rightly so – for trying to co-opt the Batman mythos and trying to make it fit with Green Arrow. This includes using characters and concepts primarily associated with Batman, like Helena Bertinelli and the al Ghuls; giving the lead character Bruce’s dark, brooding, obsessive personality that lightens up around his family; and so on.

It doesn’t work. That’s because every comics fan knows that these concepts are tied to Batman and that the show twisted Green Arrow’s characterization beyond recognition because they weren’t actually interested in making a Green Arrow show. But what happens when a villain that debuts as one for the marginally less well known heroes becomes hugely popular?

Deathstroke started off as a Teen Titans villain. More specifically, there was a period of time when he was regarded as the first Robin’s nemesis. I find this fascinating, because of just how great a character he is. Usually, the characters known for being sidekicks don’t get the best villains. They basically get a subset of their mentor’s or, when they eventually strike out on their own, less iconic ones. Dick Grayson is an exception to that.

Dick was the first sidekick, and a trailblazer in terms of the sidekicks getting to graduate and move on to being their own characters. He’s just as central a character to the Batman mythos as Batman himself. He’s led the Justice League. He’s been Batman. He has his own city that he protects. He has his own Rogues Gallery. Despite all of that, though, he’s still perceived as a Batman sidekick, rather than his own character.

Despite the fact that he hasn’t been Robin in the comics since the 80s, both the Teen Titans and Young Justice cartoons depicted him as such, even if season two of Young Justice had him as Nightwing. The upcoming Titans live-action TV show is going to do that as well. He hasn’t been a sidekick in decades to comics fans, but as popular as he is as Nightwing, as much as he can be considered one of the A-List, adaptations keep reverting him to his younger self, the hero primarily known as Batman’s sidekick.

The DC Extended Universe is going to be making a Nightwing movie, which is huge. This is a movie that’s been anticipated by an enormous number of people for years. But it does raise the question of how Deathstroke – a character that’s already been cast and already appeared – will be used.

We don’t know much about the future interpretation of Slade Wilson yet. What we do know is that he’s in contact with Lex Luthor and has been invited to join the Injustice League; he was cast for the Batman solo, a movie for which we know nothing about, back when Ben Affleck was still signed onto directing it and before the Nightwing movie was announced; and he’s played by Joe Manganiello.

All of it suggests to me that the plans are to adapt Deathstroke as a Batman villain, probably without Nightwing costarring, even if he does appear. To an extent, I understand why: Batman has been adapted a lot. He and Superman have had the most adaptations of any comic book characters, and just about all of his best villains have been seen already. Deathstroke hasn’t been. It would be a fresh change. But Arrow used Batman villains because they couldn’t be bothered to put in the effort to building up the Green Arrow mythos and making villains iconic that creators have already done for Batman. They wanted to skip to the end. There’s no need to do that with Batman, because his villains are already iconic. A fresh take on one that’s already been used would be better than taking the lazy route and using someone else’s.

While I certainly think that using Deathstroke could be done well, I’ll be very much disappointed if it occurs without Nightwing. If Slade is the primary villain of the Batsolo, it’ll be insulting to the character’s long history for Nightwing to not be included. For all that Dick is a hugely popular character, he’s not a Batman level cultural icon. Robin is, but not Dick himself. Not to the general public. The DCEU could put him on that level, but that won’t happen unless he actually gets to face off against great villains. A good writer can certainly make a villain like Blockbuster or Tarantula memorable and awesome. But taking Slade off the table for the Nightwing movie while using him for a different movie will be tying one hand behind the writer’s back and making it clear that they’re not the priority – that Batman media will always take precedence over Nightwing, even if it means co-opting his best villains.  If that happens, the people behind the DC movies will be saying clearly that to them, Nightwing is just a second stringer and always will be, and to me, the message behind that will be that they don’t actually care about developing new and interesting films. They’ll be content to make and remake the same Batman stories for an eternity.

Let The Love Triangle Be Resolved Through Friendship

I don’t like love triangles, but if one exists, friendship will always be my favourite way of resolving it.

It happens frequently in comics/related media with my favourite hero: Nightwing, AKA Dick Grayson. He joked in the tie in comics for the Young Justice cartoon that his superpower is remaining friends with all his exes, and that’s something that has been consistently true throughout DC. He  remained friends with both Starfire and Batgirl after their relationships ended.

What’s unique about comics is that it is very rare for any character to only exist for one purpose. Comics are written by multiple people, so while there might be some characters that only appear in passing in one title, almost inevitably, they’ll be elaborated on by a different writer. There are very few characters without at least someone that likes them getting a chance to write something they’re in. That’s great for readers, because it means that even if a character is poorly written and has their entire personality/story arc revolving around a love interest 99 percent of the time, the remaining 1 percent of the time, they won’t be. That’s very much the case for Kory and Babs.

Koriand’r and Barbara have been Dick’s primary love interests for decades, but they don’t compete with each other for his affection. They’re fully fleshed out characters outside of their relationships with him. They’ve both had their own titles, however shortlived. They’ve had their own stories. I don’t know if they themselves are friends – I don’t think I’ve read anything featuring the both of them together – but they certainly aren’t rivals.

That Young Justice tie in comic I mentioned, Rocket and Zatanna were both interested in him, but they were absolutely friends with no jealousy over him. In the Doctor Who reboot, we had Rose and Martha both in love with the Doctor. When they met, though, after a slightly shaky start, they were friendly and complimentary to each other. This is a startlingly rare occurence. Oftentimes what happens is the odd one out gets a  different love interest, and the friendship occurs after. In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Annabeth and Rachel didn’t become friends – or even friendly – until Rachel agreed to become the Oracle, thus elimating the possibility of her dating anyone. In Scrubs, while the rivalry was mostly played for laughs, J.D. and Sean, as well as Elliot and Kim, didn’t become friends until Sean and Kim started dating in a classic case of Pair the Spares. The two competitors becoming friends before one or both of them is removed from the competition? Much rarer.

When it comes down to it, I don’t like love triangles, so my favourite method of resolution is bound to be the one where said triangle is unobtrusive, where it can be mistaken for consecutive rather than concurrent love interests, where you can argue that it’s not even a triangle so much as just a character having multiple love interests or multiple characters being interested in the same one.

Part One
Part Two