The character of Richard John “Dick” Grayson will turn 80 years old next year. Between Brenton Thwaites’ portrayal on Titans, and his introduction in the DC cinematic universe proper in director Matt Reeve’s highly anticipated The Batman, he’s making a splash in pop culture in a big way—some might say—a Big Dick Grayson Energy kind of way.
Photo: Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites) battles Deathstroke using Nightwing’s signature weapon—Escrima Sticks. foreshadowing him adopting his new identity as Nightwing in the latest episode of DCU’s Titans.
DC has scrapped a stand alone Nightwing movie at the behest of The Batman director Matt Reeves.
According to Forbes “The Nightwing movie has been shelved as Reeves wants to use Dick Grayson in ‘one of ‘ his movies. Yes, that implies that Reeves plans to direct numerous Batman films. Of course, the studio will probably wait and see how well the first does before making any firm plans for the future. (After all, WB has made some… missteps with its DC movies.)”
The report states that Reeves will most likely tell Dick Grayson’s origin, showing him adopting the identity of Robin. There are rumors that Dick could show up as early as The Batman, but even so, it would be YEARS before the character was ready to graduate from that identity to become Nightwing. By that point, it’s doubtful that whatever McKay had planned would still be valid. It’s also doubtful that McKay would still be interested, but you never know. He is a big fan of the character, after all.
Above: Dick Grayson/Young Justice
With two serious and authentic iterations airing simultaneously on DC Universe’s Titans and Young Justice, at 80 years-old the character is more popular than ever.
THE GOLDEN AGE DEBUT OF ROBIN
Above: the cover to Detective Comics #38, April 1940.
Grayson has always been a beloved (and sometimes contentious character) since he debuted in the in the spring of 1940 in Detective Comics #38. Batman was already a blockbuster, rivaling sales with powerhouse Superman, but sidekicks were all the rage and gave an easy entree to the Batman mythos for younger readers.
“Like Batman, the character has origins rooted in tragedy: The boy’s parents, circus acrobats, died tragically when a protection racket sabotaged their trapeze,” wrote the New York Times. “Dick found justice thanks to Batman and became his partner, with notable distinctions. Robin’s red, yellow and green outfit stood in sharp contrast to the Dark Knight’s black, blue and gray.”
But the character’s creators — Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson — had something specific in mind when they introduced him in 1940. “Robin was established to give children, who were perceived as the main audience for comics back then, an identification figure,” said Mr. Sanderson, the historian. His “brighter, lighter personality,” he added, made for a nice contrast with his brooding mentor.
THE 1960s AND THE FIRST TEEN TITANS
In The Brave and the Bold #54, published June 30, 1964, Grayson teamed up with fellow Justice League sidekicks Kid Flash and Aqualad to save a town from the malevolent Mister Twister. The issue was a hit and the next time the trio appeared in The Brave and the Bold #60, they were joined by Green Arrow’s sidekick Roy Harper aka Speedy, and Wonder Woman’s younger sister Donna Troy aka Wonder Girl and called themselves the Teen Titans.
The early 60’s emergence and explosion of Marvel Comics’ popularity—with its slew of young, authentic characters–I’m looking at you Peter Parker—quickly made the Titans irrelevant to readers. The team was in and out of print through the late 70s, when the DC Implosion happened. The Implosion, according to Comics’ Alliance, happened in “the mid-70s [when] , DC Comics radically changed the face of its publishing line by launching fifty-seven new titles while increasing the page count from seventeen to twenty-five. Spearheaded by editor Jenette Kahn, this was referred to as the DC Explosion and introduced the world to classic DC characters like Firestorm, Black Lightning and Shade, The Changing Man.”
However, an unlucky string of events in the winter of 1977/78 led to the cancellation of a vast swathe of the Explosion books, with some of them never even making it to print. DC’s line shrunk drastically as comics were axed in one fell swoop, in what came to be known as the DC Implosion.
THE 1980S AND THE NEW TEEN TITANS
In 1980, DC executives let writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Pérez take a shot at the team. The two men would radically reconceived the team, adding new characters Raven, Starfire, Changeling (aka Beast Boy), and Cyborg. It was a remarkably similar move to Len Wein’s reinvention of the Uncanny X-Men a few years earlier that added characters Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Thunderbird, and Wolverine.
Above: The New Teen Titans illustrated by George Pérez. (from L-R: Raven, Terra, Cyborg, Robin, Starfire, Wonder Girl, Changeling, and Kid-Flash.)
The following month, The New Teen Titans number one debuted. After a rocky initial few months, the team would become DC’s best selling title for nearly the next quarter century.
And Dick Grayson would become a heartthrob.
Above: female guests at Donna Troy’s (Wonder Girl) wedding try to get a glance at Grayson in Tales of the Teen Titans #50, February 1985.
While the team book was an ensemble and all of the characters had incredible, and critically acclaimed story arcs, Grayson was the heart and soul of the team and would allow the character to emerge from Batman’s shadow, particularly through his evolution into his own hero: Nightwing.
In 1984, the writer Marv Wolfman and the artist George Pérez nurtured Dick to maturity. The character shed the identity of Robin to become the more independent Nightwing in Tales of the Teen Titans #44 (above).
AGENT 37 AND SPYRAL
Since then Grayson has had four different Nightwing series, and a fresh departure in Grayson, a masterfully crafted series where he played a super-spy. After the events of the Forever Evil storyline, Dick was presumed dead and when he returned in a new series a few moths later called Grayson he was Agent 37 for Spyral one of the world’s most dangerous espionage organizations.
Spyral, an organization created by writer Grant Morrison for his Batman, Incorporated series. King sees it as representative of today’s intelligence community: They’re the people who stop bad guys from doing bad things, yet to do that, they employ questionable tactics such as mind erosion.
Grayson was a high-octane, highly acclaimed super-spy thriller. “Unmasked, targeted and presumed dead, Dick Grayson’s world has been turned upside down. No longer Nightwing, former Boy Wonder, he’s now a man who doesn’t exist . . . which makes him the perfect double agent.”
USA Today said: “After a career of being overshadowed by his cape-and-cowled father figure, this is a chance for Grayson “to take off the mask and step out on his own in a world where he’s not simply being another hero like the hero he grew up with,” King says. A character who first appeared in 1940, Grayson was the original Robin to Bruce Wayne’s Dark Knight. He went solo as Nightwing in the 1980s and also served as Batman for a time, when Wayne was thought dead. The current Nightwing series ends with Issue 30, due May 28. In the current Forever Evil event series, Dick Grayson has been outed in a villain-infested landscape as Nightwing and captured by the Crime Syndicate of Earth 3. (He’s also seemingly murdered, but it doesn’t take.)”
Grayson the series would exploit the characters’ sex appeal, something that had become part of the character’s DNA under Wolfman and Pérez . Pérez’ Grayson wasn’t a skinny teenager, but a perfectly strewn Olympic level athlete with amazing legs and the shortest short shorts of any other character short of Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner’s “banana thong.”
The only other artist as synonymous with the character as Pérez, is artist Phil Jimenez, who wrote and illustrated a number of Titan story arcs over the years. “Imagine Batman’s physical skills, analytic mind and weapons, mixed with Superman’s goodness and hope, and you get Dick Grayson. He’s the best of both those characters rolled into one sexy package,” Jimenez told the New York Times in 2015.
The character was especially popular among gay men drawn initially to the homoerotic undertones of his dynamic with Bruce Wayne, and now as a sexy adult. And his popularity continued to soar. In May 2011, IGN ranked Dick Grayson #11 on their list of the “Top 100 Super Heroes of All Time.” In 2013, ComicsAlliance ranked Grayson as Nightwing as #1 on their list of the “50 Sexiest Male Characters in Comics.”
Instinct magazine recently asked, “Is Nightwing the Sexiest Superhero?” and pointed to DC artist Nicola Scott, who had just tweeted artwork of the hero at upcoming conventions. Instinct said, “Ever since he dropped the persona of Robin, Batman’s first adoptive son Dick Grayson has been turned into a sex symbol. In fact, DC comics themselves are amazed that Nightwing has become the sex symbol that he is today. In almost every comic that he appears, Nightwing is seen in some body-twisting pose with his muscular torso exposed and his butt popped out. At this point, that’s become a part of his persona.”
I’ve got a butt load of conventions over the next six weeks so here’s my new load-of-butt con print!
— ⚡️Nicola Scott⚡️ (@NicolaScottArt) September 18, 2019
Grayson’s sex appeal was widely discussed online, as the topic has picked up online once again thanks to a tweet by comic artist Nicola Scott. According to Instinct, “In preparation for the landmark Detective Comics #1000 and Action Comics #1000 issues, images of famous DC superheroes are releasing. These photos show the heroes in a series of their most iconic costumes throughout the decades. But while most of the other superheroes have been facing forward in their images, Nightwing is showing his iconic backside.”
Polygon followed with its own insight in a story about the explosion in interest in the charactersaying, “A lot of non-comics reading folks discovered that Dick Grayson, Nightwing, formerly Robin, has a lot of there in his derriére. A bit of a boost in his behind. A healthy chonk in his badonkadonk.”
BRENTON THWAITES AND TITANS
Above: Detroit Police detective Richard Grayson (actor Brenton Thwaites) in season 1 of Titans.
In Titans, Thwaites’ Grayson is tortured by the responsibility he feels for the death of his best friend, Garth aka Aqualad, who was assassinated by the killer-for-hire, Deathstroke the Terminator.
The trauma of the loss leads to Dick and his original teammates: Wonder Girl, and Hawk & Dove, to break up.
Years later, Grayson, now a detective in Detroit (a nod to his Blüdhaven days) encounters the half-demon teen Rachel Roth aka Raven, leading him on a journey to establishing a new team ofTitans, including his successor to the mantle of Robin, Jason Todd.
Above: Actor Curran Walters aka Jason Todd, the second Robin.
As much as we all may like Teen Titans’ goofy, hyper-competent Robin, it’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to spend time with the Dick Grayson who’s well on his way to stepping out of Batman’s shadow in order to become his own man.
Dick’s Not-Quite-Nightwing period is one of the most interesting points of the character’s life, largely because of the way that he really begins to come to grips with the years of trauma and strife he endured under Batman’s tutelage. Bruce has his reasons, of course, but there’s a point in every young person’s life when they come to see their parents as flawed people who sometimes don’t, or can’t, act in their child’s best interests.
BIG DICK GRAYSON ENERGY
Thwaites’ Robin, in the pilot of Titans, is referred to as Batman’s sidekick by a thug he’s fighting, leading him to respond, “Fuck, Batman.” The scene led to articles like Inverse’s review:”Titans Is So Good We’ll All Be Saying “Fuck Batman” Before Long. 2018 is the year Batman became uncool.”
BDGE was of course a play on the phrase Big Dick Energy (BDE) that had become popular in 2018 in a tweet eulogizing the death by suicide of superstar celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.
we’re talking about how anthony bourdain had big dick energy which is what he would have wanted
— vampire workday (@imbobswaget) June 9, 2018
Vox said about BDE: “What we’re talking about is really more of an aura, a vibe,” Allison P. David wrote for The Cut. “There are men with Big Dicks, but who do not ooze BDE. There are men with average to little ones who can have so much BDE you’re surprised to find that their wang does not touch their knee.”
BDE is not about brandishing large, flapping genitalia when someone insults you, or constantly proving to people that you possess a BD. BDE is the complete opposite. It’s the self-confidence to know that a colossal endowment isn’t a measurement of one’s value. BDE might stem from having a literal BD, but it’s not dependent upon any sort of genitalia. And in fact, perhaps the epitome of BDE is the complete security of not needing other people’s benchmarks — wealth, intelligence, beauty, or a BD — to know one’s own worth.
The first time I saw it associated with Grayson was on Tumblr.
Then in May, the DC podcast Supersons had a whole episode about it. Listen to it on Luminary here.
This weekend would be the perfect time to listen to our Nightwing episode before Wednesday when our @HackinTimSeeley interview drops. That’s right we asked Tim the hard hitting questions like real journalists. Like what’s his fav sandwich!
— Supersons (@DCSuperSons) May 24, 2019
DC’s correction of Dick Grayson’s very conspicuous absence in their TV and comics bodes well. Superman is the second most trusted person in the DCU, Nightwing is the first.
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#BigDickGraysonEnergy has inspired a hilarious conversation on social media.
stripper booty and a rack like wow pic.twitter.com/UakTiYh0CC
— Bram Stoker's Jared Pechacek (@vandroidhelsing) October 3, 2017
— Kori 👻 (@kori_andr) June 28, 2018
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Alfred’s like “what” bc he obviously has the biggest dick energy in the DC Universe Credit: seriouslyfuckbatman on Tumblr • • • • • #batfam #batfamily #batman #brucewayne #redhood #jasontodd #nightwing #dickgrayson #robin #damianwayne #redrobin #timdrake #spoiler #stephaniebrown #orphan #cassandracain #batgirl #barbaragordon #batwoman #katekane #signal #dukethomas #batwing #lukefox #bluebird #harperrow #catwoman #selinakyle #DC #comics
Apparently, you can experience Big Dick (Grayson) Energy for a fee. An escort using the handle Big Dick (Grayson) Energy (@PentagonSnack), BDGE says he is a nerd, pervy, and “As noted, big dick. if you don’t believe me, just ask.”
New episodes of Titans stream Fridays on DC Universe.
Parting Shot: One last #BDGE #selfie by artist Phil Jimenez.
— Phil Jimenez (@Philjimeneznyc) May 27, 2014