The Bruce Wayne/Dick Grayson Relationship post-Crisis
by Tracy Mallon
with art by Marla F. Fair
In The Beginning:
They were the Dynamic Duo, Gotham's Guardians, Batman and Robin. As a child, Dick Grayson has watched as his circus-acrobat parents fell to their deaths when the trapezee they were performing on was tampered on the orders of a Gotham mob boss. Bruce Wayne, who had been in the audience that night, saw a reflection of his own personal tragedy in the incident and took the orphan into his home and life, sharing with him the secret of his afterhours life as the Batman. For several years, the pair protected Gotham City from the likes of Joker, Two-Face, and the Riddler and even helped protect the country and world as members of the Justice League and Teen Titans, respectively. Eventually, Dick Grayson grew up, went off to college, became full-time leader of the Titans, and developed his own adult superhero identity as Nightwing while maintaining a pretty warm relationship with his mentor/surrogate father.
Wait a minute! You say you don't remember it happening quite that way. Well, if you started reading comics within the last eleven years, it didn't happen that way. In 1985-1986, DC published a maxi-series called "Crisis on Infinite Earths" which was supposed to streamline DC continuity, get rid of all the multiple Earths that inhabited the DC Universe, and get rid of a lot of the multiple versions of many DC characters.
After Crisis, many of the writers and editors thought that the time was right to revamp the origins of many of their characters: Superman was now put in his rocketship before he was even born and was actually born after he landed on Earth, Wonder Woman was formed from clay and came to Man's World later than she had originally, Black Canary was now a founding member of the Justice League (instead of Wonder Woman, who had not made her first appearance yet), Catwoman was now an ex-hooker (which has since been rewritten), and Jason Todd was a kid from the streets whose father worked for Two-Face.
Just hold another minute! Jason Todd is a street kid?! You thought he was another circus acrobat with an origin almost identical to that of Dick Grayson?! Right pre-Crisis. After Crisis, Batman writer Max Allan Collins went to his editor, Denny O'Neil (who related the story in his introduction to the trade paperback "A Lonely Place Of Dying", 1990), about a story idea he had for rewriting Jason's origin that would greatly deviate from Dick's and would be more dramatic with lots of story potential.
That story appeared in Batman #408-409. However, it probably shocked a lot of fans to open Batman #408 and read the story's title on the splash page, "Did Robin Die Tonight?" The first seven pages of Jason Todd's new origin were given over to rewriting the breakup of the original Batman and Robin team
Batman #408 started off with a relatively routine battle with the Joker, who had just stolen a diamond necklace nicknamed "The Smile of Death". As Robin climbed onto the roof, Joker turned around suddenly and shot him in the right shoulder. Robin fell off the roof, getting tangled up in his rope. Batman took down the Joker and looked over the edge of the roof to discover that Robin had lost his grip on the rope and fallen to a ledge. A watching news crew runs a story on the 11 o'clock news titled "Did Robin Die Tonight?" (so much for Batman being an urban myth).
Later (apparently that same night as Bruce is shown turning off that news report), after Alfred has bandaged Dick's shoulder, Bruce drops a bombshell. He refuses to take responsibility for a "child" (although Dick is 19, according to Batman #416) fighting crime and insists that Robin stay dead, although in the next breath, Bruce calls Dick "man enough to accept my decision." Dick does hint that Bruce trained him to be a hero and a hero he will remain.
On the surface, Bruce's reaction to Dick's shooting is a knee-jerk one and it did make a certain amount of sense at the time (at least until you read the rest of this issue and the following one). Bruce had raised and loved Dick like a son and his initial instinct to protect Dick from the life Bruce leads makes sense in that context. Unfortunately, by the end of the next issue, one has to wonder what the hell a man who refused to take responsibility for a 19-year-old (in the United States and much of the world, legally an adult) fighting crime is thinking taking on a 12-year-old partner who had nowhere near the exhastive training the Dick had undergone. It would prove to be a recipe for disaster
The First Meeting:
Apparently, the first meeting of Batman and Robin after their breakup occured in a crossover story that appeared in The New Teen Titans #37 and Batman And The Outsiders #5 (this is according to Batman #416). This story came out in 1983, shortly before Dick Grayson gave up the Robin personna for Nightwing. Since it was written pre-Crisis, it does not reflect the troubles between Bruce and Dick that developed out of their breakup. There is tension however between our heroes over their differing methods of leading a team and responding to a situation. At the time the story was written, this was meant to show how Dick was growing into a man and moving away from the life he had led with Bruce. The story ends with Batman acknowledging that Robin is the better team leader between the two and Robin acknowledging that he is who he is because he had a great teacher
CONTINUITY ALERT: **As will be seen in subsequent stories, leaving this story in continuity intact caused problems in that it ends with Bruce and Dick reconciled with each other, which is contradicted by future stories (as is noted later, this has happened more than once).
Another problem, not directly with this story, but with Dick's role in the Titans, is that Dick openly operated in the Titans as Robin for a period of time (probably no more than a few months) after his split with Bruce. However, Batman was vilified in the press and even asked by Commissioner Gordon "Is Robin Dead?" in Batman #408. It should have been obvious to Joe Q. Public that Robin was alive and well (even if they did not know whether or not it was the same person behind the mask--a topic for perhaps another article) since he operated openly with the Titans and was unquestionably their team leader.**
It is hard to pinpoint when the next three meetings occured and in which order. Batman and Nightwing (the first time these two appear together) were at Tara Markov's funeral in Tales Of The Teen Titans Annual #3. If anything occured between them, it was behind the scenes. Batman was at the funeral as a memeber of the Outsiders, which counted among its members Tara's brother Geo-Force.
In their civilian identites, the two were at Donna Troy's wedding in Tales Of The Teen Titans #50 and had a quiet conversation about why Bruce adopted Jason and didn't adopt Dick. This meeting is mentioned in New Titans #55, in their first meeting after Jason's death, but it has recently been written into the comics that Dick was adopted by Bruce, so the scene as originally written is probably not in continuity any more (as are large parts of that story due to Wonder Woman's revamps).
Next, Nightwing comes by the cave for a visit after meeting up with Batman after he meets Jason Todd in Batman #416. According to Bruce, it has been 18 months since they have last talked. Here is where our continuity problems begin.
CONTINUITY ALERT: **Batman #416 (February 1988) is written as the first meeting between Nightwing and the new Robin (replacing the story originally told in Batman #368) and Dick has apparently operated as Nightwing for some time. For simplicity's sake, let's say that after the breakup, Dick operated for about 5 months on his own as Robin (taking into account that Dick took time to attend college for a semester [although this is contradicted by Secret Origins #13, which indicates Dick went to college before the breakup and that Bruce was not happy with his decision to leave] while apparently working with the Titans simultaneously). This would also assume that Dick had already been working with the current team of Titans before his breakup with Bruce. Let's also assume Dick spent about a month as a civilian before taking on the identity of Nightwing.
Let's assume for a minute that it has been 18 months since Bruce and Dick last spoke and that last conversation is the one from Tales Of The Teen Titans #50 (although substantially rewritten from what originally appeared). Tara's funeral obviously took place before that. Jason Todd made an appearance at Tara's funeral and is the focus of the conversation in ToTT #50. Are you trying to tell me that Jason Todd operated as Robin for a year and a half before Dick took the time to meet him and find out why Bruce took him on after "firing" Dick???? I DON'T THINK SO! The only way this works is if 1) the appearance at Tara's funeral is no longer in continuity as written (either Batman was by himself or was not even there--Has Batman's time with the Outsiders been written out of continuity?) and the conversation at Donna's wedding is not about Jason, or 2) it has not really been 18 months since Bruce and Dick have spoken, or 3) the wedding conversation takes place after the flashback story of Batman #416 (although the wedding took place not long after Dick became Nightwing) and the last meeting 18 months earlier was the Titans/Outsiders teamup or Tara's funeral.**
Confrontation Over A New Robin:
Apparently 18 months after he last spoke with Bruce, Nightwing shows up at a bust Robin is trying to make and sends Robin home with the message that Dick will come by the cave tomorrow. The next morning, Dick shows up and relates to Bruce the story of his life since he left Wayne Manor and demands to know why Batman took on a new sidekick. Things get heated, Dick keeps pushing, and Bruce ends up smashing a display case before he admits that he took on a new Robin because he missed Dick. At the end of the story, it is hinted that Bruce is proud of the life Dick has made for himself and that he hoped Dick would be a positive influence on Jason.
CONTINUITY ALERT: **This story would be better is it weren't for the continuity problems present. I have already discussed the 18-month timeline problem and their last meeting. In Batman #416, Dick says he went to college only after being kicked out of Bruce's life. This is problematic for two reasons. First, Dick was 19 when he left Wayne Manor. Assuming he graduated high school at 18 like most people, why would he wait a year to go to college? Bruce doesn't seem like the type who would let Dick slide on an important matter like education. Second, in Secret Origins #13, which came out 10 months before Batman #416, Dick implies that he went off to college while he and Bruce were still partners and hints that Bruce was very unhappy with his decision to leave (implying that it may have played a part in their split).
Next, Dick indicates in Batman #416 he became involved with the Titans only after leaving college, which flies in the face of established Titans continuity. Nightwing was leader of the third incarnation of the Titans and one of the reasons behind the breakup of the second Titans team was that many of the members moved on to college (Dick alludes to this in Secret Origins #13). I don't think they went through three Titans teams in just a few months' time. Also in Batman #416, Dick hints that joining the Titans was to fill a void in his life left by the split. The Titans had already been a team long before that (and Dick appears to have joined the current incarnation before his and Bruce's split) and even operated with Justice League sanction during their early incarnations. It doesn't make sense for Dick to use Batman and Robin's breakup as an excuse for his membership in the Titans.**
They had another meeting in Teen Titans Spotlight #14, where it is up to Dick to rescue Batman, who has been captured by drug lords and is going to be auctioned off. After the rescue, they have a rooftop conversation where Dick says that he realizes that Bruce played a large part in molding him into the man he is today and that he is proud to have been Robin.
CONTINUITY ALERT: **Sounds like Dick has come to terms with Bruce, doesn't it. Again, it doesn't last very long.**
Death Of A Robin:
Dick gets a brief mention in the famous "Death In The Family" story that ran through Batman #426-429 (December 1988-January 1989). At Jason's funeral, Alfred asks if he should contact Dick (presumably to offer support and help with some cases). Bruce responds "No, Alfred. I'll handle this by myself. No help from now on that's the way I want it." (Batman #428, page 16). Dick (who was off-planet when Jason died) made an appearance at the cave in the pages of The New Titans #55 (June 1989) and the meeting did not go well
One of the first things out of Bruce's mouth is that Dick was not at the funeral and people asked about him (Who? Jim and Barbara Gordon? They were the only people besides Bruce, Alfred and the preacher shown at the funeral). Bruce seems to have forgotten that he told Alfred not to contact Dick, although this can be excused on account of Bruce's extreme grief over Jason's death. Dick also says that Bruce is blaming him for Jason's death because Dick left. Dick is forgetting here that he didn't leave; Bruce kicked him out (or if you want to get technical, Marv Wolfman is forgetting). Bruce basically kicks Dick out again, telling him to leave his key with Alfred on his way out and vowing never to have another partner (that didn't last long).
CONTINUITY ALERT: **One interesting point to come out of this conversation is that it is implicitely stated that the conversation in Tales Of The Teen Titans #50 is in continuity, as Bruce accuses Dick of resenting him for adopting Jason and not him (although, as stated earlier, the adoption issue is apparently a moot point now). This only further confuses the timeline problems I mentioned earlier.**
It would not be a stretch to say that this was probably the lowest point of Bruce and Dick's relationship, although things would soon begin to look up (for a while, anyway).
Beginning in Batman #436 (1989, there's no month given either on the cover or on the copyright page), Dick returns home for a visit at Alfred's request (although I'm curious as to why Alfred wrote Dick--see page 20--rather than phoned him or went to visit him) and gets involved in an investigation concerning Tony Zucco, who is about to be paroled after serving 11 years for the murder of Dick's parents. Over the next few months, Dick would spend more time with Batman (and the new Robin) than with the Titans, from whom he had distanced himself in the wake of Jason's death. By the end, although they had not really discussed the situation, Bruce and Dick appear to have made peace between them, although later stories would show that peace to be an uneasy one.
Although Dick is in Gotham for the "Year Three" storyline, he and Batman spend much of the story following separate roads in the same investigation. They only appear together three times--when Nightwing pulls Batman from a collapsed building at the beginning of #437, at Zucco's release from prison and subsequent murder at the end of #438/beginning of #439, and at the orphanage at the end of #439 (although much of that last meeting is implied rather than shown in the story).
The separation shown in the story, and the fact that it was at Alfred's request that Dick came to Gotham, is very much a reflection of the state of their relationship at that time and is also a sharp contrast to the relationship between the two shown in the flashbacks to Dick's origin. Their first meeting consists of Batman insisting that he doesn't need Dick's help and Dick's following him back to Wayne Manor, trying to talk to Bruce, although he probably wanted to talk more about Bruce's new-found brutality than about their relationship.
Meeting number two starts off well enough. Nightwing shows up at the prison just before Tony Zucco is to be released to find Batman already there. They discuss, quite calmly, the discovery that Zucco is behind a series of mob killings that the two have been investigating and how they came about that info. Things quickly deteriorate after Zucco is gunned down, when Dick accuses Bruce of knowing what was going to happen and doing nothing to stop it. Dick is quite hard on Bruce, but Bruce remains relatively calm throughout the exchange. He insists that he had no idea what was going to happen (I thought Batman was supposed to be this brilliant detective? A blind man could have seen that the mob was not going to take Zucco's release lying down). Dick calms down himself and asks--in probably one of the most powerful exchanges between the two--why Batman hesitated when Zucco was being released. Bruce replied "I watched him and I was shaking. I was afraid I'd strangle him for " (Batman #439, page 2). His abrupt shutdown and departure left Dick frustrated that Bruce wouldn't open up with him, but made very clear to the readers just how much Bruce still cared for his "son".
The third meeting leaves a lot to the imagination. Batman shows up at the orphanage where both Zucco and Dick had spent time to find Dick on the roof being beaten by a parole board member who had been blackmailed by Zucco into voting for his early release. For Batman, the incident is eerily similar to Jason's recent death and apparently served as a catharsis for the grieving Batman (for a short while, anyway). Batman arrives on the roof and his shouted warning allows Dick to move out of the way of the advancing Taft, who then falls off the roof to his death (Batman is obviously not thinking very clearly. Even as distressed as he is, it is not like him to call Nightwing Dick in front of a criminal.). Later, Bruce is relating the tale to Alfred back at Wayne Manor (without Dick, who has gone to visit his parents' graves) and tells Alfred about his pride in Dick. Since nothing else is shown of the third meeting, one can assume it was pretty amicable (after all, if they had been fighting, Marv Wolfman probably would have written it into the story).
One of the things that the end of this story illustrates is the one thing that has remained pretty consistent throughout Bruce and Dick's relationship since the split. Bruce and Dick both have a hard time opening up about their feelings (especially to each other). Often, Alfred (or sometimes Tim) is used as a sounding board rather than the two men talking to each other.
Enter A New Robin:
Right on the heals of "Year Three", Dick appeared again in Gotham in "A Lonely Place Of Dying" which ran through Batman #440-442 and The New Titans #60-61. This time, Dick returns at the request of Tim Drake, a 13-year-old who was at the circus the night the Graysons died and figured out the identities of Batman and Robin. Tim has seen how brutal Batman has become since Jason died and thinks Dick as Robin is just the thing needed to help Batman deal with his grief.
CONTINUITY ALERT: **At the end of "Year Three", Bruce appears to have gotten a handle on his grief. Now, at the beginning of of LPoD, Batman seems to have gone backwards (and we can't blame different writers not communicating; Marv Wolfman wrote both stories) and later he blames his grief for his not realizing that Two-Face was back. Also, if Bruce was still having problems, why did Dick leave Gotham at all, since helping Bruce deal with his grief was why Alfred called Dick to Gotham in the first place (and we know Dick did go back to New York before heading to the circus because Tim finds the newspaper article about Haly's closing in Dick's apartment)?**
As far as advancing (or regressing) Bruce and Dick's relationship, LPoD doesn't do much either way. Bruce does reach out and indirectly asks for Dick's help and Dick responds that he is there anytime (a fact Bruce seems to forget in later stories). Most of the story is spent trying to stop Two-Face and with Dick's trying to convince Bruce to take on a new Robin. They do get into a brief arguement over differing methods when they first meet up, but it has more to do with Batman expecting Nightwing to follow his orders (as when he was Robin) than any lingering animosity between the two. It was also partly Dick's endorsement of Tim that convinces Bruce to take on Tim as a partner, which--although not implicitly stated--does speak volumes on how Bruce values Dick's opinion.
A story a few months later shows how Bruce respects Dick's skills also. In The New Titans #65, Bruce sends Tim to Dick in New York so Dick can show Tim how to be an effective partner for Batman. Over the next few years, Dick returns to the Titans and is largely unseen in the Bat titles (in fact, the only ones I can think of is when he appeared at Tim's mother's funeral and his appearance in the first four issues of Shadow Of The Bat, neither of which had any focus on the Bruce/Dick relationship). He eventually returns to the fold in a big way however
Fall And Rise Of The Bat:
Dick gets a brief mention during the "Knightfall" storyline (Batman #498, 1993) when Tim asks if he should go to Nightwing as a replacement for Batman while Bruce is laid up with his broken back. Bruce responds no, saying that Dick has his own responsibilities now (and Dick was having problems of his own in the pages of The New Titans, a fact Bruce mentions later during "Prodigal"). Dick makes an appearance in Batman #500, discussing with Tim his feelings on not finding out from Bruce what was going on and about Jean Paul Valley being asked to fill in. Dick says he would have been there if Bruce asked, although he would not really have wanted to be Batman. Dick is upset that he was kept in the dark, but seems resigned to Jean Paul Valley being Batman, although all is not as it appears
CONTINUITY ALERT: **Dick states in Batman #500 that he found out from Oracle about Bruce's injuries. However, Dick calls Alfred to invite him and Bruce to his wedding and is told Bruce has been injured, although it is not clear that Dick is told how severe it is (I don't have the comic in front of me, but I think this was in the early pages of The New Titans #100). If Dick is told by Alfred that Bruce is injured enough that he can't attend the wedding, then why does Dick have to find out from Oracle how severe Bruce's injuries are? The Dick we all know and love would show a little more concern for his "father" and would have made a point of finding out what Bruce's condition was and probably would have showed up in Gotham a lot soon if only to reassure himself about Bruce's condition. I also can't believe that Alfred would not have been upfront with Dick during the phone call (some might argue that Alfred wanted to spare Dick at what was supposed to be the happiest time of his life, but this doesn't fly Alfred has a lot more respect for Dick than that and should have known that Dick would want to know Bruce's condition, regardless).**
Dick is asked by Bruce to return to help take Gotham back from an out-of-control Jean Paul Valley. The fact that Bruce chose Jean Paul over Dick as Batman is mentioned several times. The first time, Dick only says that he was hurt by the slight, but Dick is unwavering in his support for Bruce now. Later, when Nightwing and Robin break into the cave, Dick mentions Jean Paul's instability and how he was overlooked. Robin repeats Bruce's assertion that Bruce thought he had moved on and didn't think Dick would want to come back. Dick is upset that Bruce doesn't realize that Dick would do anything for Bruce (something Bruce has forgotten since "A Lonely Place Of Dying").
CONTINUITY ALERT: **On page 12 of Detective Comics #676, Dick states that all the changes (and he implies recent changes) cause the cave not to feel like home anymore. He has apparently forgotten that the place has not seemed like home for a long time, given his feeling of "jamais vu"--that he's never been there before--in Batman #416.**
In Robin #8, Bruce and Dick have their biggest confrontation of the series (although it is pretty much one-sided since Dick hardly lets Bruce get a word in) after it appears that Bruce has killed one of the ningas that Shiva had sent after him. It is obvious that the source of this confrontation (in which he has his harshest words up to that point about leaving Gotham in the care of Jean Paul) is Dick's apparently shattered faith in Bruce and everything Bruce taught him. Of course, as is usually with these two, no apology is tendered or expected.
Detective Comics #677 gives us perhaps the strongest case of just how strongly Dick feels for Bruce. It appears that Jean Paul has killed Bruce in a booby-trapped Batmobile and Dick goes after Jean Paul with everything in him. Nightwing, despite his grief (which probably worked for and against him in the fight), holds his own against AzBats until his concern for a civilian allows AzBats to get in a sucker punch. Also shown in this issue was the respect Bruce has for Dick's skills when he tells Robin "Nightwing can hold his own" when Robin is concerned about the fight.
Unfortunately, one thing we don't get to see (this issue was Dick's last in the "KnightsEnd" story) is Dick finding out that Bruce is alive after all. The issue is dropped completely
The "Prodigal" Son:
CONTINUITY ALERT: **After the DC Universe goes through this thing called "Zero Hour", Dick's history is rewritten slightly; now it is stated that Dick was adopted by Bruce. This probably was done mainly to emphasize the father/son bond that the two are supposed to share. There was also an early incident with Two-Face which resulted in a man getting killed and a severe beating which Batman witnessed. What!? If Dick suffered this severe beating so early in his career (he says it was his first meeting with Two-Face), why did Batman let him hang around long enough to evetually get fired after being shot by the Joker at the age of 19???**
After regaining Gotham from Jean Paul, Batman is not sure that he is quite ready to become Gotham's full-time protector again and takes off for parts unknown, leaving the mantle of the Bat in the hands of Dick. Much of the angst Dick suffers during the story relates to Dick's not feeling he is competent enough to be Batman (he had been having a time of it recently with the Titans) and having to face Two-Face again.
CONTINUITY ALERT: **This is NOT the first time Dick has met Two-Face since his early "beating". The Dynamic Duo met Two-Face many times and Two-Face was the villian in "A Lonely Place Of Dying". However, given that Two-Face has come up against and been beaten by all THREE Robins, it does make a certain amount of sense that he would grow to hate Robin, perhaps even more than he does Batman, who he, in a wierd sort of way, still has a tremendous respect for as Batman used to be a friend.**
Bruce and Dick's relationship finally comes to a head in the conclusion to "Prodigal" in Robin #13. This was billed as the issue "THE ISSUE EVERY TRUE BAT-FAN HAS BEEN WAITING FIVE YEARS FOR!" and "major catharsis" in the next-issue blurb in Robin #12 (as is shown later, this catharsis must not have been that major, since problems between Bruce and Dick keep popping up). It was supposed to be THE reconciliation between Bruce and Dick.
As a reconciliation, the story works well. Dick confronted Bruce about several things that had been bothering him: their breakup (although Dick's view of it is a lot rosier than what actually happened), his perception that Bruce can't doubt himself without falling apart, the choice of Jean Paul over Dick as Batman, what Dick sees as Bruce's lack of faith in him, and the fact that Bruce doesn't seem to recognize that Dick would do anything for him. Finally, instead of walking away (although he tries to initially), Bruce finally has it out with Dick, answering Dick's accusations in a calm and rational manner and finally admitting things that he hasn't before or since. Bruce admits that he does not know how to talk to Dick (he is definitely not a man who knows how to deal with his emotions), that he was wrong, and that he thinks of Dick as a son.
The story would have worked even better if the Bat-writers had managed to move on
Reconciliation Revisited (Again And Again):
The writers couldn't seem to leave well enough alone. Dick and Bruce had reconciled; now it was time to move on, right? WRONG!
At the beginning of the Nightwing miniseries (September-December 1995), Dick requests Batman's presence at a bust he is making (although he makes the request through Alfred). Afterwards, Dick and Bruce talk. Dick says that he feels he's never been good enough (or as good as Bruce) and is going to resign from the superhero business.
CONTINUITY ALERT (There's been a lot of these, haven't there?): **Dick is fired by Batman after being shot by the Joker and dives head-first back into the superhero business first as Robin, then as Nightwing. Now Dick has served (in Batman's eyes) quite well as Batman, but Dick doesn't think so. He is tired of not measuring up to Bruce and has decided to quit. He took on the Nightwing identity as a tribute to Batman (even if the exact reasoning has been written out of continuity), but now he feels that he is just a "bargain basement" version of Batman??? He also is espousing that rosier view of his split from Bruce, indicating he was the one that left. And this isn't a case of a writer ignoring what has been written by others. The writer of the Nightwing miniseries was none other than Denny O'Neil, the same editor who gave the green light to the "Dick shot by the Joker and fired by Batman" story. I have seen nothing to suggest that Batman #408 has been retconned.**
Later, when Dick decides to go to Kravia based on some new information that may have a bearing on his parents' murders, Alfred suggests asking Batman for help. Dick refuses, arguing that "he probably wouldn't be interested." Alfred is right; it is not fair for Dick to knock Bruce like that. Dick's response of "Don't remind me" when Alfred points out that Bruce was his mentor is unnecessarily harsh as was his later assertion that he has "cut the cord" with Bruce and is going to let it stay cut. Bruce has done nothing this time to deserve that treatment.
CONTINUITY ALERT (Although this has nothing to do the depiction of Bruce and Dick's relationship): **When Alfred visits Dick at his apartment, he expresses his pleasure that Dick seems to have chosen a path that differs from Bruce's and doesn't involve superheros. Then, when Dick is in the cave planning for his trip to Kravia, Alfred makes a nostalgic comment about it being like old times, planning adventures in the cave. Hardly sounds like a man who earlier was happy Dick was out of the hero business.**
Later, after the case has been solved and Batman shows up, he asks Dick if he'd like to talk. This time, it is Dick's turn to tell Bruce how he thinks of Bruce as a father and that he realizes that Bruce loves him too (although it is called the "L-word"). Sure, to some degree, the shoe is on the other foot as it is Dick's time for confession rather than Bruce's, but nothing is covered here that wasn't covered better in Robin #13. The only purpose of the miniseries seems to be 1) to give Nightwing a new costume and 2) to regress Bruce and Dick's relationship.
After this, Bruce and Dick work quite well together on several occassions (the Lock-Up storyline in Detective Comics #697-699, "Contagion" and "Legacy") with no hint of any lingering bad feelings between the two. Then comes the Nightwing regular series
It starts off with Batman asking Nightwing to look into some dead bodies that have made their way up the river from the nearby city of Blüdhaven. Nice sign of respect and confidence in Dick's abilities, but Dick apparently didn't see it that way. He seemed to go back to the feeling of being a bargain basement version of Batman and feels that Batman was going to show up anytime to take over the investigation, feeling Dick couldn't cut it (we're bordering on paranoid here). In Nightwing #6, he even accuses Tim of being sent by Bruce to spy on him. Then Batman shows up in Nightwing #13 and Dick thinks his fears are justified, that Batman doesn't trust him to handle the situation, even accusing Bruce of that at the beginning of Nightwing #14. Dick really hurts Bruce, who heads back to Gotham. Dick later calls Alfred and admits that he handled Bruce wrong (there's the idea of using Alfred as a buffer between them again). Later, Bruce shows up again in Blüdhaven, although in disguise as "Matches" Malone and says to Dick's boss (a conversation Dick "conveniently" overhears) that he's in town to help a buddy who doesn't really need his help but whom he likes to look out for. Again, we have regressed to a point where Bruce and Dick can't talk to each other, although they have apparently reconciled again at the end of Nightwing #15.
CONTINUITY ALERT: **The Nightwing series is written by Chuck Dixon, the same writer who wrote the big reconciliation in Robin #13.**
Where do Bruce and Dick go from here? They were together again in the recent "Cataclysm" story line, where Dick rushed to Gotham upon hearing the news of the Earthquake and stuck around for a while to help in the cleanup. They do seem to be more at ease talking to each other; Dick even tells Bruce that he is thinking of becoming a cop in Detective Comics #725. One can hope that the Bat-writers move forward in the future with Bruce and Dick's relationship, rather than rehashing the same old ground again and again
All characters are DC Comics
This column is © 1999 by Tracy Mallon.
All artwork is © 1999 by Marla F. Fair.