Exclusive Interview: Kyle Higgins on Batman Beyond & Leaving Nightwing Behind
Dick Grayson has entered a very different time in his life. After the events of Forever Evil left him officially dead, the original Robin was free to pursue another line of work. Now he’s a spy. Shedding the Nightwing suit, and his involvement with the Bat Family, Dick Grayson is now below the radar, mixing it up with a whole new element.
This brings us to Kyle Higgins, DC comics writer and the man behind the most recent run of Nightwing. Higgins brought a certain freshness to Dick Grayson, and expanded who the character was both as Nightwing and behind the mask. Higgins also scripted Batman Beyond, another bold series that took what we knew and turned it on its ear. Most recently Higgins was involved in the never ending beat that is Batman Eternal.
I spoke to Higgins at last year’s NYCC, and wanted to follow up with what his plans were now that Dick Grayson is elsewhere. Sadly, with the DC chaperones standing over us I couldn’t ask about Higgins’ creator owned property C.O.W.L., but I did ask him about everything else.
CraveOnline: Where do you fit in with Batman Eternal?
Kyle Higgins: Actually in a weird way I was involved from the very beginning. When James (Tynion) and Scott (Snyder) were initially thinking about it I was supposed to be in on the ground floor, so I knew about a lot of the stuff going on with it. I talked to them about different story ideas. Things just didn’t work out where I was able to be there from the start, so when one of the writers had to step away, they reached back out to me. My relationship with Scott and James and the people in the Bat-Office was what made them feel comfortable about bringing me in during the 11th hour.
Was it hard to get back into the swing of the story?
It was interesting to see how it had changed from the day one stuff, and how it had evolved. I’ve come in for the second act. We all got together in a room and wrote that a few months ago. It’s been a fun experience.
Any trepidation about heading back into the Eternal trenches?
There was trepidation for that reason, and from a creative standpoint because it’s theirs now, it’s fully formed. I didn’t know if I wanted to get on that train for no other reason than I don’t want to step on toes, and wanting room to contribute as opposed to just typing what they tell me to type. If that had been the case that’s just not exciting to me. Ultimately the positives would outweigh the negatives.
Last year we talked about the start of Batman Beyond. A year later what has been the most exciting thing about the experience?
Honestly the most exciting aspect was being able to do what I wanted to do. When you and I talked about it last year at NYCC, I knew that I wanted to do the Phantasm arc, and Vigilante and Jack Chill, and all the Dick and Barbara flashback stuff. Those were the first ideas I pitched to DC and a year later we’ve done it. It came out and it is exactly what I intended it to be. I’m really happy with the finished product.
What did you learn, if anything?
I learned to trust my gut. Sometimes you write stuff, and it’s not going to be for everyone. If you’re not careful you can find yourself in a pattern of writing to avoid criticism, and there’s nothing more vanilla than that. Batman Beyond came at a great creative point in my life and, in a lot of ways, was a godsend. I really pushed myself and told a story that I wanted to tell, and people dig it. It’s funny because I don’t really care what people think about it, I’m excited about it and I think if I’m happy with it….well, I’ll say this, every time I have liked what I wrote, other people have liked it as well.
Reading both Nightwing and Batman Beyond, there is a lot of the Kyle Higgins’ voice in those books.
You say that about my voice, and I’ve heard that from others on Nightwing and C.O.W.L., and I don’t really know what my voice is. I have no self-awareness in that regard. I just write the way I write.
How much does the history of the characters tie into what you write for them?
I think there is an aspect of needing to stay respectful of what came before, but I don’t think you need to be a slave to that stuff either. Especially with Batman Beyond, which is the most continuity heavy referencing I’ve done on any of my DC stuff. I’ve tried not to bog it down with what came before. I think as long as your story has a connection and a central relationship, and an emotional arc, then it’s going to be fulfilling. That way you can use the old material without being a prisoner to it.
Was it hard to step away from Dick Grayson?
Higgins: It was very hard. He is my favorite character. The good news is he’s in good hands with Tim [Seeley] and Tom [King] on Grayson. It’s cool, this is a very specific era for Dick Grayson that people are going to remember. I’m proud of the stuff I did and he’ll always be my favorite character.
Do you think you’ll ever write for Dick Grayson again?
It’s a small world and I’m sure he and I will cross paths again.
Your work on Nightwing really expanded the character. Was everything in place from day one, or did it come as you wrote the story?
I had an idea from the start, but I learned so much along the way. I remember having a conversation with one of my best friends, who is an incredibly talented writer who works in TV and did some Gates Of Gotham with me. We said, when you boil Dick Grayson down, how do you describe him in a few sentences. What is his core? We did it as an exercise with Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, and boiled all them down to their central drive. With Dick Grayson I couldn’t do it, I had a really hard time with it. I realized that was a problem. I know who the character is, but I can’t fully articulate why I love the character. It wasn’t until I settled on this idea that he grew up in a circus, so he’s all about catching people when they fall. That’s actually the final line of my final issue. I sat on that for over a year.
Dick seems more involved with the people he’s helping.
It’s about the empathy for who he saves. Every superhero, in one way or another, does it for the good of so-and-so, and they want to help people, but Dick Grayson more than all is about the people. He’ll save you from a mugger, tie your shoe and buy you a beer.
Dick and Bruce are very similar, but very different. Why?
Well, in a weird way one is more focused on his parent’s deaths, and the other is more focused on his parent’s lives. To me Dick and his Nightwing persona is more about spectacle than Batman. He’s sailing between buildings, it’s a performance and people can see him. He’ll operate in the daylight. It’s much more about the circus life and how he was brought up and the show. Nobody wants a brooding mopey Dick Grayson.