Dick Grayson is no stranger to the pitch black antics of The Joker. He's had first-hand encounters with the Clown Prince of Crime as Bruce Wayne's trusty ward, Robin as well as plenty of run-ins since assuming the role of Nightwing. In "Nightwing" #15, some of that experience might pay off when Grayson finds himself in the midst of The Joker's brutal war on the Bat-family as DC's "Death of the Family" crossover comes to Haly's Circus and, according to DC, "can’t stop a devastating murder."
I spoke with "Nightwing" writer Kyle Higgins about Grayson's role in "Death of the Family," how his past with The Joker will inform this story and what he looks to for inspiration when writing the sinister funny man.
MTV Geek:What can you tell us about how Nightwing plays into the "Death of the Family" story line?
Kyle Higgins: Well, he plays in in a really big way, and not just part of "Death of the Family," in terms of his involvement with Batman. The Joker plays in, in a big way in Nightwing’s arc, so everything that I’ve been building since, well you could say issue 1, but really issue 10, with the beginnings of Amusement Mile and trying to renovate it and create a hopeful place in Gotham and laying roots in the city. That is culminating with The Joker, it’s culminating with Issue 16, and when you see what The Joker puts Nightwing through, I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people. It really sets the book in a new direction going forward.
Geek: We obviously can’t give too much away since 15 isn’t out yet, based on the description on the DC site and some of the information that people do have, as with everything else in "Death of the Family" this has been tying to peoples' pasts and past crimes that The Joker has committed. Can you tell us what we might be seeing?
KH: The Joker has a very specific opinion of Nightwing. He has a specific point of view of all the allies of Batman, but Nightwing in particular having been the first, is someone who The Joker is intimately aware of. The Joker has seen Nightwing as Robin, he’s seen him grow up, and like he’s watched all the characters over the last year, he’s watched what Nightwing’s been going through. It’s tough without giving anything away. He’s definitely going for the jugular. There’s not one specific past event that The Joker is reframing, its more the fact that over the past year Nightwing has traveled from town to town and has showed up in every city the circus has traveled to. What The Joker doesn’t understand is why Nightwing is settling down in Gotham now. Why, if he’s the bird that wants to fly free, why is he building a nest? That’s kind of the thesis statement if you will, that The Joker is framing everything around. That’s the starting point in issue 15 and it really plays out in a big way in issue 16.
Geek: Who is The Joker, as you’re writing him?
KH: He’s kind of a cross between; I think he’s mostly Mark Hamill. The Joker to me will forever be the voice I hear from the animated series. I know that’s a very literal answer to your question but it’s The Joker specifically from the "Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker," the animated film. There’s a sequence in there when I saw it, ten years ago or whenever that was, it had such a big impact on me as well as my view of The Joker. It’s the flashback sequence where you see what happens to the Bat-family. But he’s definitely someone who, I guess a looser answer to that question would be that, he’s someone who gets a perverse pleasure out of the things that he does. One of my favorite Joker moments -- I have two -- two of my favorite joker moments ever are a good example of that. The first being in "The Dark Knight," in the film, when you’re with the cops around the middle of the movie and they’re transferring Harvey Dent to prison, driving down the street and there’s a fire truck and it’s on fire. I can just picture The Joker setting the thing on fire and just giggling to himself, "oh the irony of it." It’s chaos through irony in that way. The second moment is in Gotham Central where The Joker busts out of, he’s in prison and he gets loose and he walks into the gallery in the police prescient and says “quick somebody call the cops”, it’s whimsical but deadly.
Geek: You said that you’ve been building towards this on your whole run, what kind of planning has gone into this event? Have you worked with Scott [Snyder] and some of the other Bat-family writers?
KH: You know I kind of have a passing knowledge of what was going to happen, or what was coming up, a while ago, just based on my relationship with Scott. Then as we got closer to planning the event, there was a meeting in New York and I flew myself out to go to that and to sit around and plan more specifically. It was me and Scott and James [Tynion IV] and Gail [Simone] was over phone, and we really kind of talked through each book and each character and played around with a lot different ideas of what The Joker would be targeting specifically so we really started to kind of formulate a specific gameplan there. Then we all went away and went to our separate corners of the U.S. and started working more in isolation, so I’m really excited about each that has come out of the different tie-ins, because I don’t know from the initial meeting and conversation to what the final product is, it’s really exciting for me.
Geek: Can you tell us about working with Eddy Barrows on this, specifically what he’s bringing to The Joker? It’s such an exciting character to write and to draw.
KH: Well, I told Eddy that we were going to be doing Joker issues however many months ago and he was quite excited. The Joker is one of his favorite characters and it really shows, even this version where The Joker is wearing his own face really lends itself to Eddy’s style and his aesthetic so well. It’s very, very dark. It’s creepy, and its definitely Eddy’s best. Issue 16 is Eddy and Eber [Ferreria] and Rod [Reis], and it’s definitely their best issue of the book and what a way to go out, it’s pretty fantastic.
Geek: Will Nightwing continue to tie into the story line, without giving too much away?
KH: After issue 16? There will be a lot of fallout taking place and that Nightwing will be going through in subsequent issues. Issue 16 really is the turning point. It’s a big issue that sets the stage for the next year of the book.
Geek: Thanks, Kyle!
"Nightwing" #15 is on shelves on December 19, 2012.