In 2019, DC comics killed one of Batman’s most beloved characters, Richard Grayson — perhaps better known as the first Robin or, later, the superhero Nightwing. Though Nightwing did survive, he is no longer the Dick Grayson fans know and love. Or at least, we are led to believe so. Many fans are hoping that the storyline involving his new identity, “Ric” Grayson, will end. But what happened to Dick Grayson, and what makes his character so popular?
Richard Grayson has been a character in DC’s “Batman” since 1940. This beloved character is everyone’s first Robin and frequently the most well-known. Because of this, other DC fans and I sighed from relief when Dick Grayson awoke in the hospital after being shot in the head, injured but undeniably alive. Which is not something you can say about every Robin, or even most of them.
Jason Todd was beaten to death until his resurrection returned him to Gotham, first as an antagonist, and later as an anti-hero. Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne’s biological son and the youngest Robin, was raised by assassins and eventually killed by the Heretic. Or what about Barbara Gordon who was shot by the Joker? Needless to say, the Bat family has been through a lot.
While Dick Grayson also lost his parents at a young age, he was a happy kid and well-adjusted to a life of crime fighting. Dick Grayson is often referred to as “the light to Batman’s dark.” His endearingly bad jokes, quick wit and sweet smile have always kept him close to fans’ hearts. “Ric” Grayson is everything Dick Grayson is not. Who would want that?
KGBeast (or simply The Beast) is a Russian supervillain, an enemy of Batman and a master assassin. Simple bad guy, simple motives, right? Blame him for Ric Grayson. The Beast also focuses on killing senators, sniping from roof tops, attacking the Soviets and other typical villain stuff. So, readers went in knowing that The Beast involved high-stake consequences. He worked in the background, quietly buying a plane ticket and calmly purchasing a gun — seemingly harmless activities that seemingly no one noticed.
The Beast was sent on a perilous mission to literally break Batman, as the man hiring him desired. No, not in the Batman-over-Bane’s-knee kind of break (too soon?), but emotionally breaking him. The man hiring him was none other than Thomas Wayne. Also known as Bruce Wayne’s dead father. What sounds like a nice reunion was a blood bath. Thomas Wayne was from another reality where he became Batman and both his son and wife died. After finding Bruce, Thomas insists he hang up his cape and live a peaceful life.
When Bruce refuses, Thomas holds a gun to his head and demands he retire only to be knocked out by Selina Kyle from behind. When he later breaks out of an asylum, Thomas begins a horrible plot to bring his son down. He decides to emotionally cripple Bruce Wayne, forcing him to give up his life of fighting crime. Fortunately, Bruce “I eat angst for breakfast” is not easily moved. Unless you know his trigger points. This is where Dick Grayson comes in, or rather, where he leaves.
Thomas Wayne hires The Beast to shoot Dick Grayson in front of an agonized Batman, who screams and runs to his side. Jim Gordon calls for backup and the city is overrun with chaos as they fight against time to save Nightwing. Their efforts pay off and, somehow, he survives. But when Dick Grayson awakes in the hospital, he has no memory of his life as a masked vigilante. He then angrily tells the group that his name is Ric and drives off. To be fair, he had just learned he was a crime fighting vigilante in New Jersey. Though this isn’t the first time Ric gets angry, it isn’t even the worst. Here are five reasons why fans dislike Ric Grayson.
1. His character has little substance and lots of anger
Ric Grayson is angry — for seemingly no reason, but he is. As Infinity Inc. Comics says, “Every over the top bad guy trope is present in this story.” From angsty speeches to breaking into people’s houses to having an unlimited tab open at the bar, Ric does it all. Except, you know, remember his life as Dick Grayson. He even burns down one of his secret lairs containing all of his masks and capes. As seemingly edgy as it is, burning down his hideaway accomplishes the same thing Ric Grayson does in general — nothing.
2. His storylines are underdeveloped or poorly-written
Later, a police officer finds all of Nightwing’s costumes and shares them with his friends. But instead of trying on the skintight suits for fun, they show real dedication to fighting crime and decide to assemble a team of Nigthwings. What could have been an interesting exploration of the people of Bludhaven, teeters off into a seemingly interesting, but overall underwhelming comic. These characters remain unexplored, and they are not pushing any boundaries. They do not even push Ric’s boundaries — who accepts and joins the team. But Ric does not actively work beside them so much as he is just … there.
3. His character design and personality is markedly different
Ric stays true to our first impression of him. Somehow Ric develops chest hair that he either shaved every day prior to his injury or he developed it from pure edginess. One of the first drawings of Ric shows him wearing an unzipped jacket, displaying his hardened muscles with chest hair. Not to mention his black hair had to be shaved to save his life.
Like Tim Drake, another beautiful Bat child who was stripped from readers’ grasps. Seriously, what is it with these writers and shaving every male character? We get it, there’s skin under there. Ric also holds a pool cue while he stares at the reader and says, “It’s my life.” You know, like the angry guy in a wife beater whose life fell apart in a PSA. Ric looks rough, but to make up for it he also adds nothing to the story.
4. He has no direction
Not only is Ric Grayson’s personality annoying and alarming, but it serves no purpose. This arc has lasted over six months and has no end in sight. Though fans miss Dick Grayson, apparently this “let’s write a bad story to inspire nostalgia” has not been as popular as imagined. Ric Grayson is a chad; he’s the gym rat who eats protein for every meal, but also somehow drinks enough for the entire Bat family, and yes, I mean the entire Bat family.
The biggest issue fans have with the Ric Grayson route is that Ric Grayson has little to no personality. He stops crime, but he does not seem to care about helping people. Changing “Rick” Grayson to “Ric” does not change the absurdity of DC’s writing. Fans may never know the story originally proposed for Nightwing post-brain injury as writer Benjamin Percy’s run was cut short. While the will he-won’t he of Nightwing #65 was intriguing, it was hard to appreciate the situation with Ric Grayson’s character writing.
Without his memories, Ric Grayson knows nothing of his family’s history as The Court of Owls — a law breaking, murderous group Dick Grayson refused to join. But what will Ric Grayson decide? This is the only situation where he is vital to the story. If the writers could handle their need to show Ric as a closed off, brooding bad boy™ the comic would have been more enjoyable. Other than Nightwing #65, Ric Grayson has little to no character depth or interesting plot lines.
5. The Bat Family needs Dick Grayson, not Ric
Other than a single comic issue, everything Ric Grayson does could be done by Dick Grayson. The only difference is Ric feels the need to add in edgy one liners and shut the Bat family out, whereas Dick would make quips and let his family in. When the family’s beloved Alfred Pennyworth was murdered, Dick was nowhere to be found. Though Ric did attend, he seemed uncertain, and as a reader it felt wrong to watch a mourning family where Dick Grayson was so clearly needed.
Dick Grayson is the big brother, the oldest Robin and he is also the glue that holds the family together. While his absence does point out other issues within the family, they are problems readers already knew. Bruce Wayne has a difficult time letting people in, and this gets in the way of his parenting abilities. I did appreciate Barbara Gordon and Jason Todd confronting Bruce and telling him how much he needs to be there for his family. I couldn’t help but wish that Dick Grayson was there. After all, without Dick Grayson and Alfred, can the Bat family really be a family?