SDCC Interview: Kyle Higgins talks “Nightwing: The New Order”

Kyle Higgins has had a pretty good couple of years.  After some stellar runs on the New-52’s Nightwing and Deathstroke, along with work on the digital-first Batman Beyond that was none-too-shabby either, he’s had great success over at Boom! Studios with their Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers titles.  Now Higgins has the chance to return to Nightwing with the upcoming miniseries Nightwing: The New Order.  I spoke with Kyle at San Diego Comic-Con this past week where he talked about the series, where exactly it fits in continuity, and how great it is to have those finger-stripes back.

Jay Yaws: Talking about Nightwing: The New Order, what was the genesis, the thought process you went through when coming up with this story?

Kyle Higgins: Well, I love Elseworlds, I love alternate futures, I love alternate worlds, I love alternate interpretations of characters.  So first and foremost, I wanted to explore a possible alternate future version of Dick Grayson, Nightwing in a kind of Dark Knight Returns-type vein, but for Nightwing.  But I also wanted to explore a world that had some very complicated issues in it that mirror issues going on in our current world, right?  And so as people are going to see as the book starts coming out, the issue of superpowers in the future becomes something rather untenable.  They’re passed around pretty freely, it’s easy to get them.  You go to a bodega and pick up telekinesis, right?  So the proliferation and spread of superpowers became something that, in a lot of ways, is an allegory for guns in our country now.  So easy to use, and more and more incidents happening, not just hero versus villain fights and collateral damage from that, right?  But people who are afraid of their neighbor’s– you know– son who can fly.  People driving on the freeway with road rage, they want to protect themselves, basically protect themselves from anything they’re afraid of.

JY: Right, right.

KH: And more and more incidents happened and things became so untenable that ultimately, something needed to change.  It all boiled over in Metropolis during this big Armageddon battle that went for like four days, and at a certain point, Dick Grayson made a decision to detonate a device that would neutralize about ninety percent of the world’s super-powers.  And then how the world reacts from that is really the core of the story.  And, from an emotional standpoint, the book is really a father son story between Dick and his twelve-year-old son, Jake, who’s narrating things, looking back, asking the questions that we as an audience are asking, which is “how does someone like my dad, who was the heart and soul of the superhero community, how does he come to believe in something like this?  What happened to bring him to that point?”  And, so, sorry that’s a long-winded answer of what the story’s really about.

JY: That’s alright.  Can you tell us who his mother is?

KH: Can’t.

JY: Can not.

KH: [laughing] It’s in… I mean, you’ll find out when you read the book…

JY: [laughs] I figured as much.

KH: Yeah, yeah.

JY: But, real question: if it’s a good comparison, it sounds kind of like in The Incredibles, the movie, where they wanted to create new superpowers for everybody…

KH: It is.

JY: And once everybody becomes super, nobody’s super anymore.

KH: Yeah, exactly.  And you know, it’s the old adage that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun?  If you were to listen to the NRA?

JY: Right.

KH: Right?  And in some ways, that is kind of the thinking that got us into the situation in this story that we find ourselves in.  And, at the same time, extremes don’t work.  Extremes in either direction are not a solution.

JY: It’s not black and white, it’s shades of gray.

KH: Exactly.  In this story, we explore one such extreme, and the fallout as the result of it.

JY: So you were saying it’s Elseworlds, so obviously it’s out of continuity.

KH: Right.

JY: But then you’ve got Dick with the classic pre-Flashpoint costume with the “finger-stripes.”  Is it Elseworlds for that history?

KH: It’s Elseworlds, but I kind of base it on kind of Nineties DC characters, continuity, that sort of thing.  With some more modern additions.  There are a few characters that pop up that are very… from the current era of… not the era right now of DC, but but within the last ten years…

JY: Ten years or so?

KH: But that’s just my interpretations and my favorite versions of the characters, so I needed a starting point, a reference point to start these characters in my take on Dick Grayson to age him up twenty years and kind of project from that.

JY: Not gonna lie, it’s mine too, so I like seeing some of that come back.

KH: Me too.  And I wrote Nightwing for three years and never got to write him in the blue and black suit.

JY: So now you do. [laughs]

KH: Yeah.  I mean, that was my… I fought for that costume for three years and never got it, so, this is my way of finally getting to tell a classic Nightwing–

JY: And what’s it like?  I mean, you’ve already written Nightwing, had a great run there, but…

KH: Thanks.

JY: Now this Nightwing in the costume you wanted.

KH: It’s awesome from that standpoint.  It’s challenging and… a little scary, to take a character as beloved as Nightwing and tell a story that he doesn’t… he may not be in the right from the get-go.  You know?

JY: Right.

KH: In a lot of ways he’s not in the right from the get-go.

JY: Which is weird for Dick.

KH: It’s weird for Dick.

JY: Because everyone likes him.

KH: And that was what interested me.  In a lot of ways, what I describe the book to be about plot-wise feels very much like a Batman story.

JY: Right.

KH: And I didn’t want to tell that, because we’ve seen that before.

JY: Exactly.  And even with Superman.

KH: Yes.  But we’ve never seen it from Dick Grayson.  And so I’m really fascinated by the way that people come to believe in what they believe.  Good and bad.

JY: Would it be too far out of the way to say that Dick is the villain of this story?  Or is it more of a morally gray area?

KH: It’s morally gray.  No, he’s not.  It’s not that cut and dry, which is what attracted me to the concept in the first place.  It was something… it’s a challenging topic with some challenging questions and there’s no clear right or wrong answer.  And those are the types of stories that really interest me.  They’re hard to write, you know, to both explore an issue respectfully from both sides, but also be respectful of a character, but if you pull it off they’re the most rewarding.

JY: Is there anything from your run in Nightwing before that maybe you couldn’t get to when they started going down the route for Grayson after Forever Evil that you maybe wanted to do that you reconfigured and put into this story?

KH: No, I mean, there’s a lot of stuff that I did have plans for that unfortunately I wasn’t able to do because of the route they took with Forever Evil, and then subsequently Grayson, but I think Tom… I haven’t read the book, Tim’s run.  I just haven’t had the chance to.

JY: It’s great, for what it’s worth.

KH: Good, good.  But I have heard he did some stuff with the Talons and I had planned… I had worked in a few bits in my final issue of Nightwing that were like flash-forward projections.  It was like Dick dressed as a Talon, Nightwing-Talon.

JY: Right.

KH: That was a big story I wanted to get to.  But it’s cool to hear that Tim was able to pick up some of those threads.  But as far as in The New Order, no.  Nothing from my former love… former run has really been repurposed.  Oh, oh!  But there are some Easter eggs from Gates of Gotham.

JY: Oh, ok, very cool.

KH: Which is the book Trevor [McCarthy] and I did.  It was really one of our first… it was our second project at DC we ever did together, after we co-created the Nightrunner character together.

JY: And, you know, doing that with Scott Snyder, I’m sure that was pretty… pretty big.  He was starting to get ramped up in his career.

KH: It was cool.  I feel incredibly fortunate to have had that opportunity.  Like it was designed as really kind of a launching book for me, both internally at DC and with fans.  So Scott was a fantastic safety net for me as I… you know, he was there when I needed him to be there if I needed to talk story over, but beyond that he just let me write the book.  And I’m really proud of that one.

JY: Speaking of Gates of Gotham, obviously that was Dick as Batman.

KH: Yeah.

JY: Is it different writing Dick as Batman than it is writing Dick as Nightwing?

KH: Only that, I think a lot of times Dick as Batman… Dick struggles more being Batman than he does being Nightwing.

JY: Because he’s his own man as Nightwing as opposed to living up to Bruce.

KH: Yeah, it’s not even so much the living up to the embodiment aspect…

JY: Of the symbol?

KH: Well, and just the way you carry yourself as Batman.  I mean, like, his time as Batman, we saw him kind of span the gamut… like I remember in Prodigal in the Nineties when he filled in as Batman after Knightfall and Jean-Paul Valley.  He had trouble, like, being gruff, you know?

JY: Right, I think Gordon mentions that at one point.  “You’re not him, but you’re not the other one either.  So I don’t know who you are.”

KH: Yeah.  Exactly.  So, that stuff I think is… I think he got better at it through Morrison’s run.  And then Snyder’s Detective run.  But you still see… even when we did Gates, he’s still Dick.  It’s still his voice, it’s just coming out of Batman, which is kind of weird to see sometimes.

JY: Some of it I think was having Damian as the Robin to bounce off of.

KH: Oh yeah, absolutely.

JY: Who was his own Robin, as opposed to Tim… I love Tim, but he was Bruce’s Robin.

KH: Yeah.

JY: Last question here.  Do you have any other projects with DC you want to do, or possibly have lined up in the future?  I know you did a lot of great stuff with the Batman Beyond Universe and everything, that digital-first stuff.

KH: Yeah, yeah.

JY: Anything kind of… left-field projects you have planned?  Even if you can’t tell us…

KH: I don’t have anything specific planned or in the works with them right now.  I’ve talked to them about a few things.  It’s a matter of scheduling and interest have to come into alignment.  So there’s nothing just yet, but I can’t imagine I’ll be gone…

JY: It’s an open door?

KH: It’s an open door, there’s just nothing planned right now.

JY: Alright, well, thanks very much for talking to us, Kyle.  Congratulations on the success of Power Rangers.

KH: Oh, thanks man.  Thank you.

It wasn’t on the recording, but Kyle also stressed that Dick does not actually kill anybody in this story.  He does something that may not be morally upstanding, but nobody died because of his actions.  So those preview images that were released when the series was first announced, with Superman lying amidst a bunch of rubble?  Nobody’s dead there.

He also clarified the Elseworlds comments: DC isn’t bringing back the imprint, the comparison just makes the series easier to explain.  Sad.

Nightwing: The New Order #1 comes to comic shops August 23.