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Marv Wolfman on Nightwing

Marv Wolfman on Nightwing
By Matt Brady – 11-20-2006 – courtesy of

We first brought you word of Marv Wolfman returning to Nightwing as the writer of the character’s ongoing series last summer when DC Executive Editor Dan Didio made the announcement at Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC.

Fans took the news…well to put it mildly. Very well.

Now, two issues into his run, Wolfman is able to speak a little more freely about his views on the character, what he came on to do, and what he plans to do, given that his initial four-issue arc has been extended to a run of indefinite length.

We caught up with the writer to talk about ‘Wing, his life and his times.

Newsarama: The last time we spoke about Nightwing, you’d just gotten the job, so we didn’t go into too many specifics. Now, with two issues out, and a handful more in planning, plotted, and written stages, let’s dig into it a little. First – was there any difficultly in finding Nightwing’s voice again after a few years of not writing him?

Marv Wolfman: There honestly wasn’t a problem finding his voice, but there was in finding mine. I was asked by Dan Didio and Peter Tomasi to work with them to help get Nightwing back on track so I put together a story that would highlight some aspect of his character each issue. By the fourth issue, the character would essentially be back-to-basics for whoever was going to take over after my story was done. That meant his character would be redefined and his purpose and position in the DCU made clear, etc. In short, we wanted the readers to know who Dick Grayson was again and why so many people like him so much.

Issue one brought Dick back to earth and began with his asking the question, now that I’ve grown up, what now? Issue two reminds people of several things: 1: He was an acrobat in the circus. 2: He is a detective. 3: That there is still a strong connection between him and Batman. Issue 3 deals with Dick facing death and demonstrates his will as Dick Grayson and not just as Nightwing. To me they are one and the same. We see what he’s like under extreme pressure plus we play up even more of his skills in analyzing situations under the worst circumstances possible. And finally issue 4 puts all the aspects together plus we his compassion for the innocent. Because I tend to add lots of foreshadowing future stories, I did that here, too, but I didn’t think I’d be the one to pick up on them.

Anyway, because my first story was essentially a fill-in, my changes were directed to Dick’s personality and abilities, and I didn’t try to make a major change in the book’s style as I have with some other material I’ve written that hasn’t yet come out. With #129, my first new story since I was given the book, there is a very definite, if not subtle, change in how I approach writing the book. I’m definitely finding my way on this.

But to answer your question, it wasn’t hard for me to find his voice as I had given lots of thought to who the character was when George and I ‘aged’ Dick in New Teen Titans and then later on introduced Nightwing into the book. I felt I knew the character well, and the only question now was, what were the differences between him at age 18-20 when I last wrote him and his approximate age 25 now? His basic personality is the same although his needs and life dictate different desires today.

NRAMA: That said, obviously, there’s a large amount of non-changing elements in a shared universe populated by characters that DC hopes will be as viable in 20 years as they are today, so how has Nightwing changed?

MW: As I say, his personality isn’t much different, as least as far as I see him. Dick is a self-starter. He is propelled by a sense of justice and morality, not by a need for revenge. He is fair-minded. Where he’s different is the difference between anyone when they are 18 to when they are 25 or 30 or 50 or whatever. Our view of life changes with time and it should for a fictional character, too. Otherwise they don’t become real. Friends you had at 18 may not be friends later on. Sometimes they come back, other times they don’t. Your needs change as well. Dick has money, but he still needs to feel needed, not as Nightwing but as Dick Grayson. So he has been looking for a job. He finally gets it in #129.

Dick also understands that unlike Batman he needs to be with other people, so he’s going to start getting friends who have no relationship to his costumed self. He’s been in costume fighting crime since he was nine, and now he realizes he needs more than that. He’s now trying to have a life outside of being a hero 24/7. When I was younger I devoted most of my thought to my work and maybe a little less to my personal life. Later I realized that needed to be reversed. As someone said, none of us goes to the grave saying they wished they spent more time at the office. So Dick, who is smarter than me, is realizing earlier that he needs that other part of his life to be enriched more. That won’t alter the hero aspects of the story, but will color them differently.

NRAMA: Well let’s get into him a little more – for you – at his core – what’s Dick Grayson/Nightwing about?

MW: Well, I know that many of the writers love the character, but I’m not sure why. Since I pretty much ‘created’ his current persona in the Titans and wrote him exclusively for 16 years, I have a different view than many of the others. To me, Dick is the one hero who simply decided being a fighter for justice was the right thing to do. The murder of Dick’s parents was solved almost immediately so there was never a feeling he needed revenge. Even back when he was created he was someone who made bad jokes and seemed to have fun doing what he did. He wasn’t the sole survivor of a doomed planet. He didn’t feel responsible for the death of his parents. He wasn’t appointed an intergalactic cop. When Batman put his parent’s killers behind bars he saw that stopping crime was something worth believing in. Dick is the only one I know who is like that. And he does it without having been given any special powers. To me Dick is the best kind of character there can be; he’s dedicated to his cause for all the right reasons. Plus he’s human, so Dick has to work hard to be good. Unlike Superman he has no natural powers. Shoot him and he will be hurt. That makes his stories more interesting.

NRAMA: In your view, how’s he seen by other characters in the DCU?

MW: I’d assume they’d see him as a straight-forward person who is trying to do the right thing even when he lets his temper or his stubbornness misdirect him at times.

NRAMA: You touched upon this a little – while his relationship to the “trinity” of the top echelon heroes is a given, Nightwing seems to be much more of a “working class” hero, that is, putting on the costume is almost more like a job for him than another identity or a “mission.” Is that an accurate way of looking at his relationship to being a hero, compared to say, Batman for whom fighting crime is more of a mission, a calling or something that fate had a hand in?

MW: I don’t think being Nightwing is a “job” for him. He sees his Nightwing life as something that needs to be done. As I said, I think seeing Batman dealing his parents killers opened up his world. He could have become a cop but, in comics at least, the rules would have prevented him from doing what has to be done. Also, cops don’t deal with super-villain metas or costumed nut-cases, but super-heroes can.

NRAMA: Speaking of what super-heroes do deal with, what kind of story does Nightwing work best in?

MW: I love to play around and not be tied down, so I would tend to say he can go from straight out detective stories to some pretty big super-hero action stuff. On his own I wouldn’t send him to other planets, but he could fight some pretty big villains as well as take on some very small, personal stories. He’s not limited to one kind of story only, but I wouldn’t have him try to take on Trigon by himself either. It doesn’t use him to his best.

NRAMA: Back to the more immediate elements of the series, when you first got the book and were doing an initial assessment, was there anything that you felt it needed – things to tweak and fix early on, for example adding supporting cast? Stabilizing his life as Dick Grayson?

MW: Actually, I was brought on specifically to do that, so it was my mandate, not my own assessment. I think Dan Didio was surprised when he saw how rabid the Nightwing fans were when there was some news he might die in Crisis. His view was, well, if the character is that good, prove it to me. That’s what my mandate is. I hadn’t read the Nightwing book for reasons I’ve stated a thousand times before; I don’t read characters I created after I leave the project. I’d glance through my copies to see if he was still alive, but didn’t bother reading them. I’m starting to go over the collected editions now. So yes, Peter and Dan wanted Dick’s life stabilized, his attitude sharpened and the character brought back to what had made him popular in the first place. Hopefully I can do that.

NRAMA: Okay – you set yourself up for this one by the introduction of not one, but two new female supporting cast members – you created him as Nightwing, and probably know him as well or better than anyone. Why is Nightwing so popular with women – both in the comics themselves, and with his readers?

MW: Well, the two girls I introduced, Ryan and Zen, are not full time supporting cast members although they will appear in more stories. #127 should clarify where they stand. They were never intended to be girlfriend characters, at least not immediately if ever. Ultimately, they will become part of Dick’s extended friendships. Someone like him should have friends.

As for why girls like him, both characters in the stories and in real life, well, in the books he is good looking, athletic, smart and can be funny. He also exudes a basic honesty. In real life, I think the fact that he likes girls and deals with them honestly, makes him different than many other male characters. There is also a bit of the little boy inside the man that comes through, too. He’s got his act together, but not too together. There’re some other more subtle reasons, too, perhaps, but you should ask women about that. Speaking of friends, I definitely want to enrich his private life. He’s going to have lots of “real world” friends, not just super ones. A new character who I hope will work out to be a friend will also be introduced in #129. We’ll see how their byplay works and go from there.

NRAMA: Over to the mystery of your first storyline – someone is killing former LexCorp Weapons researchers? And now Nightwing has a price on his head…are there any clue s as to who’s behind this?

MW: As for the price on his head, I have to be real honest here, I was trying not to have to deal with too much of the previous storyline. I wanted to get past that fast. But I will have to write some passing line that ends all that Jason Todd stuff. About my first storyline will be explained in #128. You will know exactly who is behind the Raptor story. My goal with the stories is that Dick’s life is continuous, so characters he meets in the Raptor story will continue on for awhile, or go away depending on how he would deal with them in real life. So the young boy Phillip, Raptor’s middle kid, is essential to the second story even though it has nothing to do with Raptor at all. Dick will get involved with people’s lives and will continue to even after the case is over.

NRAMA: And for you, as Dan has said, Nightwing is an ongoing concern for you, correct? You’re on the title for the foreseeable future? How did you learn about that?

MW: It’s funny because Peter called me after I was alerted by a friend to an article here on Newsarama about that. Peter was waiting for Monday to call me about it when Dan announced it at a con over the weekend. So I learned about it here. Good website. Good website.

NRAMA: And Jamal is joining up – does the change in artists affect how you write at all?

MW: Absolutely. I’ve been in touch with Jamal and we seem to have many similar views on the character. He made a suggestion on my idea for the new villains for his first arc which I really liked and incorporated. I’ve seen his layouts for the first issue and they are wonderful, so I’m delighted. Jamal has said Nightwing is his favorite character so I’m hoping we will work closer with each issue. Right now we’re just starting the relationship but everything we’ve said to each other seems right on target for this.

NRAMA: And just to send us off – any teases about things you want to play with in the series now that you’ve got an open field in front of you?

MW: Our first arc, beginning with #129 features two new villains, Bride and Groom. They are metas, but their powers are not large ones. The story is a little creepy and more mysterious than the first arc which was fairly straight super-hero/super-villain. Bride and Groom have known each other for a long, long time and they’ve kept up a competition for all that time that, should Groom win, will end with them getting married. I won’t say too much else about them except that Bride is actually a real historical person and that her story is well known, although her participation in it is not. Historically, her first name is Violet, but that’s all I’ll say. We’ll see if anyone can figure it out from that. Also, it will explain a real historical event in slightly different terms than we’re used to seeing them in.

Beyond Bride and Groom the unnamed and unseen assassin from my first arc will be back. He went off on another assignment thinking he had killed Nightwing and has discovered Wing is still alive…did I give away the ending of #127? Oops. He has to finish the job. We’ll also learn more about him and his Chauffeur Mr. Anthony.

Also, as mentioned, Dick finally does get his job in #129. I will be introducing new characters. And I’ll also be talking to Gail Simone the writer of Birds of Prey about his relationship with Barbara Gordon. Right now all I want to do is clearly redefine the character and continue to develop a unique style for me to tell his stories for as long as I’m on the title. Hopefully people will like what we’re doing and give the book some buzz.


End of transmission. About this author:  Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author