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The Nightwing that almost was - inside the 2014 proposal by James Tynion IV and Mikel Janín

(Image credit: Mikel Janín)

In 2014, the DC hero Nightwing almost died. What happened next was a massive revamp with the hero becoming a James Bond-esque superspy in the 'DC You' series Grayson (opens in new tab). But as Newsarama has recently learned, it almost happened very, very differently.

In the DC comics event Forever Evil (opens in new tab), Nightwing was captured by the alt-reality Batman known as Owlman. Captured, chained, and tortured, Dick Grayson was teased to die in the series - even by then-DC co-publisher Dan DiDio. In reality, he was unmasked to the world with his secret identity no longer secret, then publicly killed - only to have secretly survived.

DC fans know this would set up Nightwing's spy turn as Grayson, but originally it was to be the stage for a new Nightwing series by writer James Tynion IV and Mikel Janín, years before they individually became best known with runs on the flagship Batman title.

"Hah, basic pitch was (and this is me remembering it very loosely)... Owlman is free in the DCU post Forever Evil. Batman sees an opportunity in the fact that Dick Grayson is believed dead by the world," Tynion tells Newsarama's Chris Arrant on Twitter

(Image credit: Mikel Janín)
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"He can't let Owlman know he's getting close. Dick Grayson creates a new identity for himself, Police Officer John Blake, and goes undercover to get close to where Bruce thinks Owlman is hiding. The biggest rule is that Dick cannot tip his hand at all, he cannot act as a vigilante."

If "Police Officer John Blake" sounds familiar to you, it should: it's the name of Joseph Gordon Levitt's character in 2012's The Dark Knight Rises, two years before this possible inclusion in DC comics as a cover identity for Nightwing. In the final moments of that film, John Blake was led to the Batcave but never quite became a superhero.

But in Tynion and Janin's Nightwing pitch, this John Blake did - with a mask and all, different from what Nightwing wore in the past. But the mask wasn't just for the public, but also for readers. According to Tynion, DC planned to keep Nightwing's survival from his Forever Evil death a secret - only revealing it until after 'John Blake' and this new Nightwing series was to debut.

Tynion planned a unique wrinkle to that, as in the first arc of his planned Nightwing run, another Nightwing appears - much to the surprise of Grayson/Blake.

"Nightwing MUST stay dead.... But then while he's undercover, someone else who clearly knows he's alive starts putting on the Nightwing costume, and Dick needs to figure out who before his cover is blown," Tynion continues.

(Image credit: Mikel Janín)
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Tynion, who was then co-writing the weekly Batman Eternal (opens in new tab) series, said this proposed Nightwing series was going along well, with Mikel Janín even drawing concept art and a cover to the first issue, until some larger plans at DC began chipping away at what he could do in the planned Nightwing book.

"The first leg that got pulled from the stool was that we couldn't use Owlman," Tynion reveals. "The second was that they kept rejecting the answers to who the mystery Nightwing was. The third was the rejection of a return to a blue Nightwing. And the final was the idea from the bosses of a new super spy direction, and I decided to quit and just focus on Batman Eternal."

That editorial-mandated 'new super spy direction' ended up with DC recruiting then-untested writer Tom King and veteran artist/writer Tim Seeley taking over the reins of this series, resulting in the critically successful series Grayson. Although Tynion quit the project, Mikel Janín remained on, and drew a majority of Grayson's issues from 2014 to 2016 before following King to relaunch Batman for 'Rebirth.'

It seemed to work out for everyone, as Tynion ended up writing Detective Comics (opens in new tab) from 2016 to 2020, then landing in his current spot as writer of the flagship Batman (opens in new tab)title.

Of course Dick Grayson is one of the best Robins ever - but where does he rank on our list of best Robins?

Chris Arrant
Chris Arrant

Chris Arrant covered comic book news for Newsarama from 2003 to 2022 (and as editor/senior editor from 2015 to 2022) and has also written for USA Today, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher's Weekly, Marvel Entertainment, TOKYOPOP, AdHouse Books, Cartoon Brew, Bleeding Cool, Comic Shop News, and CBR. He is the author of the book Modern: Masters Cliff Chiang, co-authored Art of Spider-Man Classic, and contributed to Dark Horse/Bedside Press' anthology Pros and (Comic) Cons. He has acted as a judge for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Harvey Awards, and the Stan Lee Awards. Chris is a member of the American Library Association's Graphic Novel & Comics Round Table. (He/him)