Therapy with Batman & Nightwing

Another Nightwing post!  I promise the last one of the week (I can’t promise that).

Sorry in advance for the huge chunk of back story.  Y’see, back in the early 1980s, Dick Grayson grew tired of being Robin, now 17 years-old and no longer a little hatchling.  He announced his situation to Batman, who responded with his same emotional vacancy that he normally does, prompting Grayson to quit and don the Nightwing costume.  Bruce Wayne and Grayson eventually grew close again, but only after Nightwing firmly established himself as a successful solo superhero.

Unfortunately in 1993, Bane broke Batman’s back and forced the Dark Knight into retirement.  Azrael, the insane psychopathic religious zealot, was chosen by Wayne to be his successor.  Terrible idea. Azrael (real name Jean Paul Valley) created a mecha-Batman suit, abused Robin, and killed bad guys.  Wayne, feeling better after a magical chiropractor, fought Azrael for supremacy and gained back his Batcave and title.

Unfortunately again, Batman’s still feeling a bit woozy from all that former paralysis and needs to take some more time off, allowing Grayson to assume the role for a short while.  When Wayne returns and demands his costume back, Grayson’s emotional geyser erupts in anger and frustration.  Our story picks up with the final issue of the Prodigal arc in Robin #13, written by the genius Chuck Dixon and drawn by John Cleary and Phil Jimenez.

Oh, the green text boxes are Robin stuff I’ve cut out.  He’s busy fighting supervillains.

To be fair to Wayne, he is legitimately stunted emotionally as trauma leftover from the death of his parents.  While the Grayson family’s deaths are no less tragic, he’s not consumed in a permanent cloud of guilt and vengeance like his mentor.  Plus, it’s been a decade of comics with really zero closure on the ending of their Batman-Robin partnership.

For being the world’s greatest detective, Batman certainly has a hard time detecting hurt feelings. Though despite Nightwing’s verbal sucker punch, Batman’s explanation stands true to his character.

Batman needs therapy.  Badly.  Instead, he takes out his problems by putting his fist through the faces of bad guys.  See it through Batman’s eyes.  Every minute Wayne sits on a couch rattling on to a scribbling doctor, another illegal gun is being sold, another helpless man is being beaten, and another supervillain is planning to torch the city.  Also, do you know how long it takes to zip-line to Gotham?

C’mon, Batman.  Tell Nightwing your true feelings.  What does he really mean to you?

And there you go.  Grayson, after a decade of feeling neglected, pushed away, and rejected by Wayne, finally hears exactly where he belongs in Batman’s life.  Closure granted.  Broken heart healed.

And Robin?  While the two have their bonding moment, surely he’s not in terrible peril and desperately needs their help, right?

On a final note, you may know that Darkseid killed Batman a few years ago.  Well, more like shot Batman’s soul into the depths of space and time, but close enough.  Grayson took over the Batman role for real, now completely deserving as the only true successor.  And fans loved it.  His few years as the Dark Knight alongside Batman’s son Damien as Robin were critically loved and applauded. Plus, he brought a kind of energy to the character that hasn’t been seen since, well, ever.

You see that?  A happy Batman.

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5 Comments on “Therapy with Batman & Nightwing”

  1. wwayne says:

    I didn’t think that the awkward choice of Azrael as the new Batman could be the main reason why Dick seems to have so much grudge against Bruce. Anyway, I still think that his (and Jason’s) resentment is exaggerated.
    Azrael’s regular series was written by another genius, Dennis O’Neil. There’s a stand-alone Daredevil story (issue # 220) which I love so much that I read it at least once a year: it is written by him and drawn by Mazzucchelli.
    Daredevil + O’Neil + Mazzucchelli: I can’t think about nothing better in comics, apart from Daredevil + Miller + Mazzucchelli.

    • Jason Levine says:

      You’re right, Azrael is obviously not the main reason for resentment. But like in a bad marriage, eventually the wife screams and throws things because the dishes weren’t washed one night. It’s not her being irrational, it’s the culmination of annoyances and anger finally tipping over and snapping. Also, when Batman says he doesn’t ever reward himself and damns himself for his mistakes, he applies the same principles to his sidekicks, and unfortunately, Grayson doesn’t have that mentality. Constant berating and zero compliments wears everyone down eventually. Except Bruce, I guess.

      Oh, and I agree with you about Dick’s and especially Jason’s resentment being a tad overblown. But who doesn’t love a good angry sidekick?

      • wwayne says:

        “He applies the same principles to his sidekicks, and unfortunately, Grayson doesn’t have that mentality”: Even in real life, this is a mistake a lot of people make.
        People tend to think that their loved ones share their same mentality, thoughts, reactions and values: that’s why they are so surprised, and they feel so disappointed and betrayed, when they find out that things don’t work like that.
        For example, people tend to think: “He’s a friend of mine, so, if I tell him something in confidence, he will keep his mouth shut.” That’s what YOU would do in his shoes, but he is not you.
        I agree that a rebel sidekick offers more starting points than a submissive one, so probably Dick and Jason will never solve their conflicts with Batman.
        Another thing Dick and Jason have in common is their relationship with Starfire. When I knew that she and Jason were becoming “close friends”, I thought that this would have led to a love triangle with Dick. At present my prediction is yet to realize, so I’m starting to think I was wrong.

  2. David says:

    Hey Jason!

    Discovered your blog earlier this year and have been hooked – thanks so much! You teased a panel from Dick Grayson’s stint as Batman in this article – could we maybe get a few posts on that when you’re done with the current Knightfall one? As you said it’s one of the more interesting things to happen in comics in recent years.

    I’m in a part of the world where it’s not that easy to get back issues of comics so appreciate you giving us a great repository!

    David

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