Nightwing has gained a lot in the past year. He’s inherited billions of dollars, adopted a dog and discovered he has a long-lost sister. He’s also earned the ire of Blockbuster, and as if that wasn’t enough trouble, a mysterious serial killer known as Heartless has set his sights on Blüdhaven’s famous blue-and-black vigilante. Can’t a guy catch a break? With Tom Taylor writing and Bruno Redondo drawing Dick Grayson’s signature series, the answer is…not any time soon! We recently had a chance to chat with the creative duo about the former Boy Wonder’s future, and they had plenty to offer about what lies ahead.
Let’s start by talking about Melinda Zucco. What inspired you to give Dick a half-sister?
Tom Taylor: I think we thought it would just be really interesting to have someone on the inside of the criminal empire that is Blüdhaven who was closely linked to Dick Grayson. As we were coming up with it, we thought, if we go back in time a bit, we can show this incredible link so you think she's the daughter of Tony Zucco, the man who murdered his parents, but no. John Grayson is actually her father. I thought it was just really a unique opportunity to give him an ally in Blüdhaven on the inside. And obviously, we're finally seeing the bad side of that. If you've read the latest storyline, you’ve seen Melinda taken. But there's going to be a lot more of her moving forward.
Bruno Redondo: I love that she doesn't come from an infidelity or something that could ruin the good legacy of Dick Grayson's parents. It's important to keep it clean, to remember them as something good, as a good influence.
TT: That was actually really important to us. It seemed tricky at first to find a way, but then it was just like, no, John and Melinda’s mother—that was before Dick's parents.
With family being such an important thing to Dick, when should we expect his sister to meet his brothers?
TT: There is going to be a Melinda-specific issue in the not-too-distant future, where we're going to see a lot more of her, obviously. This is going to be post-Battle of Blüdhaven and another really fun single-issue thing. We'll see how much we push that, but we also haven't explored her relationship with Audre, who is kind of her bodyguard-slash-someone-else. She's sort of off to the side and nobody's questioned that, which is really funny. Like, she knows Nightwing’s identity. What is this? Nobody's even mentioned it!
I love the shirts the characters wear. We had Barbara wearing a shirt with Batman slapping Robin, and we had a Teen Titans Go! shirt. How do you guys come up with these?
TT: That’s all Bruno!
BR: I find it funny to play with these kinds of things. I had a plan when we were doing Injustice, with Detective Chimp, I wanted to play with the shirts on him. I had some ideas on designs, but I had not much time with the character, so I had to put that aside. But my point is that the kind of relation between Barbara and Dick is funny. The way they talk, they poke each other, they play, they embarrass a little and mostly I find it funny. Barbara is playing with him with that shirt where he's being slapped. I feel that the world behind the story and the characters feels more rich if you recognize these kinds of things, this kind of merchandising, this kind of self-reference to their own jokes or the Black Canary tour. It tells you that he has friends in the superhero community and he enjoys the music that she does. It helps enrich—to give a little more deepness to the world.
It's great because it makes it feel like a more authentic and lived in world. I said to my friends on social media that Barbara’s wearing a shirt of her boyfriend getting hit by his adoptive father.
BR: (Laughs) Yeah, some people felt that it was inappropriate. But most of the people found it funny.
I think that Barbara can get away with it. Speaking of which, let’s talk about Dick and Babs. They broke up in 2004, and briefly got engaged in 2006. Since then, we’ve spent the past sixteen years doing the “will they or won’t they” dance. What made you finally decide to pull the trigger?
TT: I think this book is a really wholesome book. We live in this age where shows like Ted Lasso have asked, “Why don't we tell good stories about nice people doing good things, who zig when you expect them to zag, who don't do the cliched soap opera, who ride things out together?” Babs and Dick, they're so close, and they've known each other for so long. To build on all of that and just have them happy together and a support for each other—it was really important for our book. Bruno and I are both in really long-term relationships, as well.
BR: The bad relationships and the love triangles are overdone. Not everybody feels identified with that way. There are many people who just feel it's comfortable to read a portrait of characters who love each other and take care of each other. The troubles are a part of the story, but they don't necessarily come from inside. They can be a safe place for each other, and it’s them against the world. I find it's harder to write these kinds of stories than the other kinds of stories where there are fake conflicts all the time just to make it interesting.
TT: It’s what I enjoy writing. I like writing nice things and I like writing supportive relationships. My wife and I have been together since I was eighteen. We've been together for twenty-five years and we get along like a house on fire to this day. We do give each other a hard time. We do have jokes with each other, but we are incredibly supportive of each other's careers and paths, and we'd do anything for each other. I want to see that from my superheroes. And just like Bruno, I hate love triangles. I've always hated that as a trope. I'm not a fan at all. So, being able to tell this really pure story of Dick and Babs together, and having Bruno on the exact same page, is really good.
And of course, there's the other really important woman in Dick’s life—Aunt Harriet. Are we going to see Dick’s other surviving relative at any point?
TT: I thought the other important woman in his life was Haley, AKA Bitewing. I thought you were leading up to that.
I zigged when you thought I was going to zag. But let’s talk about the loveable Haley!
BR: Haley helps build a family and a home.
TT: She just sort of completes Dick and Babs as a trio. She's someone for Dick to constantly care for, but also is an unconditional support for him. He's got some unconditional love in his life. The scenes Bruno has drawn of the two of them, like she's lying on him, or Dick stands up and just pats her on the head. It just makes you love both of them together even more, and it makes you love Dick.
BR: There was a line in issue #87 when Barbara says, “They took our dog.” Which means a lot. Because it's OUR dog.
I've noticed that Barbara always says, “our dog.” It's their dog together.
TT: It does make them a family, but it's a modern family.
Do you have any references that you use when you draw Haley?
BR: It's hard. I have a dog, but it's a big dog, so it's not that good reference for Haley. I'm always looking for pictures. I think that she's a mix between several breeds. She's not exactly a pitbull—she’s a mix from a few breeds of dogs. The kind of dogs that you find in the street.
TT: I have a dog who is half Staffordshire and half Yorkshire Terrier, which doesn't really happen. She looked more like Dogshot. We give Deadshot a dog in Suicide Squad and that dog looks a lot like both Bruno's dog and my dog.
We just need to give all the DC heroes a dog.
TT: We'll just expand the Super-Pets right?
From the dog to the dog sitters, here’s something I've been wondering—who are those kids with Clancy? Is she a mother now?
TT: Those are Clancy's kids. Clancy is now a doctor. She is Dr. Clancy. There was talk about going to medical school during the Chuck Dixon run and I wanted to complete that story. We wanted to say she's moved on—she has a career, she has kids. It was great to be able to complete that as such a fan of that era of Nightwing. To bring back Clancy was great. And to bring back the apartment. Bruno fully mapped out the entire apartment, and then I blew it up in a fill-in issue. In an issue that he wasn't even drawing. He put so much work into this apartment, and I'm so sorry, man.
BR: I'm obsessed about the places that the characters have, because I feel a character’s house also talks about him. And that's why when we started with the apartment, it was under construction. It was being rebuilt, because it was a metaphor of what we were doing with Nightwing. To go back home, but rebuild it and to make it its own place, and I was loving that place. Now it's no more. (laughs)
What can you tell me about Heartless? He’s so creepy. What was it like designing him?
BR: It was a nightmare because I wasn't really sure what he was about at first, so I sent a lot of different designs. We have a big villain gallery, just with those designs, because we were deciding on the role. We were looking for something special that wasn't already in the villains gallery of Batman.
TT: Once we worked out that he was more of a serial killer, something clicked for Bruno where he just went, “Ah, he's got to look intimidating and scary, like there’s something off-putting about him.” And so, he put him in that mask that sort of dehumanized him.
BR: If you see the eyes, it tells you a lot. Having no eyes and that blank expression makes him scary.
Will we be seeing more of Starfire in the title? I love the appearances she’s had so far, and I would like to see her relationship with Barbara expanded on.
TT: You will see more interactions with them going forward. We want to show a healthy relationship, something that isn't bickering or fighting over a man or something ridiculous and old-school like that. They're just two women who are damn good at what they do and know each other and respect each other. We will see more of that. And they haven't, historically, had many interactions. Or so I’ve been told.
With the recent passing of George Pérez, do you have any reflections on his legacy and what it means to the two of you and to the title?
TT: I think knowing how important Nightwing was to George, and how important he is to Marv, it's an extra layer of us knowing we've got to treat the character right. We've got to look after their boy. And it was actually Bruno's idea to put them in the book.
BR: They were an important part of my learning in comics. Their Titans, Crisis and everything they did mattered to me and made me who I am. So, working with Nightwing was a privilege because I know him from my first days reading comics. And I feel that to recognize their existence, their presence, it's something that I love doing to thank them for their creations. They are around. They're active, good and positive citizens of Blüdhaven now.
TT: And I love that we have Haven, which Nightwing has built to be this supportive place for anyone in this city, and they're part of that. I think that's really positive.
Nightwing #95 by Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo, Caio Filipe and Adriano Lucas is available today in print and as a digital comic book.