This week sees the release of Nightwing #47, a pivotal issue which wraps up the current storyline while setting many things in place for the future of both Nightwing and his city of Bludhaven. Ben Percy, the writer who has been putting Dick Grayson through all these motions, was awesome enough to take a moment with us at Monkeys Fighting Robots and talk all things Nightwing!
Ben first of all thanks for taking the time to talk to us here at Monkeys Fighting Robots.
Ben Percy: Thanks for helping make some noise about Nightwing.
Ben, this issue sees the ending of a pretty important arc to the title with. Without spoiling too much, how is the city of Bludhaven at the end of ‘The Bleeding Edge’ compared to the beginning?
BP: Bludhaven has gone from an impoverished, crime-riddled community with no real economic potential beyond its casinos…to a smart city. But a Faustian bargain comes with the tech investment. This company—Mirage—might be installing a hyperloop and installing 3D-printed buildings and delivering to every doorstop smart devices that are like VR-enhanced versions of Alexa…but this comes with a price. The price of surveillance. There are those involved with the development who have good intentions, but there are also those who wish to steal vulnerable data and use it to their advantage. The ending also teases that there is much more to come for both Bludhaven and Gotham. What can we expect to happen to two of the DCU’s most dangerous cities? Think of this as a prelude to a much larger story. Bludhaven is a beta experiment, one part of a much larger and more sophisticated plan involving the Dark Web.
Why did you choose to humanize Cloke by revealing such a tragic event for his ‘origin’?
BP: Over the past few issues I intentionally made people believe that Cloke was the bad guy. But he’s not. That was a fake out. He’s a tool of Wyrm—and thus a victim. He’s done terrible things, but we can empathize with his want for revenge. He gives you a taste of what’s to come. Wyrm knew Willem’s history—and was able to use that history to manipulate him. Advertisers do this every day as a result of your browsing habits. Blackmailers do this every day when they hack into photo stashes and hard drives. Who in the political, military, corporate or superhero world could be similarly compromised?
What about Dick Grayson/Nightwing. How have these events affected him and his relationship with his city?
BP: At the beginning of the arc, Grayson was exhausted by technology—the constant flash and buzz of social media and email and smartphone alerts—and so, of course, I hurled him into the center of a massive tech threat. He has teamed up with Batgirl—whose skill set is uniquely suited for this storyline—and has recognized that he must embrace and weaponize technology if he’s going to bring down these Dark Web architects.
And what set’s Dick/Nightwing apart from Bruce/Batman for you?
They’re both wounded men, but they’ve responded to their trauma differently. Dick’s defining feature is his optimism. Kicking ass is fun. Being a hero is a performance, an act of joy. You see his fist and then you see his smile behind it.
Have you always wanted to write Nightwing/Dick Grayson?
BP: Yes, but more generally, I’ve always wanted to be part of the Bat family. It’s where my dark sensibility belongs. I feel especially lucky to be working with such a great team. Carlos Mangual on letters, Nick Filardi on colors, the legendary Klaus Janson on inks. But I want to give a special shout-out to Chris Mooneyham. When I got the job, we talked about Batman: Year One and Daredevil: Born again as our ideal aesthetic for the series and he captures that perfectly. When I think about the Bat-books, I see grit and I see steam and I see broken glass and shadow-soaked alleys.
Barbara/Batgirl was a big part of this arc, especially this finale issue. What makes her such an important ally to Nightwing?
BP: I mentioned her skillset already—but beyond that, she and Dick make such a good pairing. I love the way they fit together emotionally, and I love the way they look together visually. Babs is going to be an essential part of my run on Nightwing.
Can you tease us as to who or what to expect next in Nightwing?
BP: It’s not that the Dark Web is going anywhere—that’s the central through-line of my run—but I think it’s important to give readers vacations. Constantly make things feel fresh. So the next two issues are an insane visual spectacle—about the greatest motorcycle race in the cosmos. This is very much a tribute to Grant Morrison, and you’ll see characters like Professor Pyg and Flamingo pop up. It’s…bananas. A fun- and adrenaline-fueled romp. After that, things are going to get scary. It will be October after all. I’m known for my horror novels. And we’re launching a Scarecrow storyline that will do a deep dive into fear and identity. And though I can’t say what exactly is going to happen to Nightwing…let’s just say issue 50 is going to be monumentally intense. It’s an anniversary issue, and we’re taking full advantage of it. Something big is coming. Something that is going to unsettle people greatly. Which is what a good horror story should do. After that journey, we’ll return to the central Dark Web story. Thanks to everyone for reading—I appreciate being trusted with the series and I promise to bring the epic.