Apologies if this thread has been done before, but it boggles my mind that Dick Grayson hasn't reached greater heights as a marketable entity within the DC Universe. I'm not going to dwell on past accomplishments or the treatment of his character. I think most of us are familiar with that. The boy is legit. So what is it going to take to get him to "heavy-hitter" status? His book is already a top-50 seller. Can he get any higher? I think the answer is yes. And this is how you do it, DC...
1. Put some all-star talent on the Nightwing book
Nothing against the current creatives on the series right now, but if you want to generate some serious buzz you need to draw a big name. DC has this awful habit of making its B-list books a proving ground for aspiring creatives. If any success happens, DC will frequently snatch the creative team up and put them on a Batman or Superman book. It has been following this formula for years, and it's one of the reasons in my mind why DC really only has 4 heavy-hitter characters (Batman, Supes, Green Lantern, and Flash - I don't count WW 'cause her book was never doing that well until the 52).
The ideal writer for Nightwing is Geoff Johns. As disrespectful as Johns has been towards Bruce in his writing, I think the man understands Dick and how he operates. Johns loves this character and was vehemently opposed to killing him off in Infinite Crisis. While Johns has his hands full with Justice League and the upcoming Trinity War story, he's got to finish sometime. And this will probably happen in another year. He's done a good job revitalizing Aquaman and Green Lantern. Give him the reigns to Dick and let him run with it.
DC has several great artists on the payroll right now - and they've all been on Batman-Superman books: Jim Lee (Batman, Superman, Man of Steel), Tony Daniel (Detective Comics, Action Comics), Kenneth Rocafort (Superman), David Finch (Batman: The Dark Knight), and Jason Fabok (Detective Comics). Truthfully, my ideal artist isn't even one of these guys. But I mention them just to point out how two characters have had an absolute monopoly on the artistic talent lately. In my dream world, I think the perfect artist would be Francis Manapul (Flash). Johns and Manapul have worked with each other before. I think another collaboration would be perfect for Nightwing.
2. Make Nightwing Batman's equal (for real)
A lot of lip service has been given to this idea in the past, but the truth of the matter is to really do this effectively will take a massive amount of balls. And as a fan of Bruce Wayne, I know just how outrageous this would be to some people. Here's what you have to remember though: making Nightwing stronger doesn't necessarily diminish Batman. In fact, it enhances Bruce. Anyway you slice it, Dick is a product of Bruce. The greater Dick becomes, the more effective Bruce is as a mentor and teacher. Dick will never be the world's greatest detective, but he's already the world's greatest acrobat. It's time to make him the world's most dangerous combatant. He's got the speed and grace to absolutely destroy people.
Here's three ways in my mind you make Dick Batman's equal...
A) Give him A-list villains to fight for a couple years - You're not going to build credibility by just creating someone new for Nightwing. We need to see how Nightwing handles Luthor, Bane, Brainiac, Deathstroke, etc. He needs at least 24 issues straight of doing nothing but handling the biggest badasses that the DC Universe has to offer. What is most important here is making these matchups feel authentic. And that's why it's so critical that an all-star talent does the handling.
B) Make him a regular on the Justice League - Batman has four books of his own already. Let him focus on Gotham and allow Dick to take over the Justice League. This has already been done to a certain extent, but it needs to be done again for a longer period. While he's on the book, Nightwing needs to feel like Bat-God 2.0 from the Morrison era. Ok, maybe that's pushing it, but you get the idea.
C) Dick needs to flat-out beat Batman - Many fan boys will never be able to accept this, but it needs to happen. Make this another bat family event. The culmination of the story should feature a hand-to-hand fight between Bruce and Dick. Master versus mentor type of thing. I don't write the stories, but it needs to be demonstrated that Dick has graduated to the big leagues. I love Bruce Wayne, but we all know that he can be a self-centered bastard sometimes. Allow Dick to beat him senseless. After that, he needs to distance himself from the Batman books and truly become his own hero.
3. Nightwing: The Movie / Nightwing: The Animated Series
We know the Batman movie reboot is coming. DC needs to inform WB that Robin should be an integral component to this. At this point in time, I would argue that Dick Grayson is even more recognizable to the general public than a Flash or Green Lantern. The worth of his intellectual property is among the highest in the DC Universe. Carefully build his character and set him free when the time is right.
In the short term, why not give him an animated series? People would watch it. People would love it. If Young Justice can succeed, there is no reason a Nightwing animated series can't do the same. Batman: TAS probably has more to do with the explosion of Batman's popularity than anything else. Viewers of that show are now paying to see his movies and read his comic books. Give Nightwing a similar chance to shine.
Dick Grayson will never surpass Batman as a character. We know this. Even though he's also an orphan and has many interesting elements to his character, Dick simply isn't Bruce. That being said, I think there's a lot of untapped potential here that DC has yet to take advantage of.
You'll notice that I haven't really commented on whether or not Dick should be distanced from the Batman mythology. In all honesty, I'm not really sure. I think much of what makes Dick interesting is attributed to the lore he comes from. At the same time, I can't help but feel his multiple appearances in Batman stories further contributes to the idea that he's still playing second fiddle. In any case, I think these three things would really catapult Dick to tier one status.
As of right now, the Marvel Universe has a ton of what could be considered tier one heroes. Most of them have their own books and they're mainly spread across three teams (Avengers, FF, X-Men). DC really only has a handful and they pretty much make up the JLA's Big 7. Do what I suggested to Dick and you have your Big 8.
Edit: What is tier 1?
I recognize what's considered "tier 1" is somewhat subjective. For some, "tier 1" is a broader category than to others. Using sports as an analogy, some people think they're in the top tier if they somehow manage to limp into the playoffs. I don't think like that. You're either a top-seeded team/character or you're not.
Let's do a quick character comparison. The gap between a Green Lantern and Nightwing right now is pretty large. How so? Well, GL has almost no limits as to what can be done with him creatively. Nightwing on the other hand has a very specific ceiling. He can be written awesome, but he's not allowed to approach Batman's level of awesome. That's what keeps him out of tier one for me.
Wally West and Kyle Rayner have both been at Nightwing's level before. But Rayner became a full-time member of arguably the most powerful JLA team ever assembled (during Morrison's run). Kyle is also regarded as the most creative Green Lantern out there.
Wally on the other hand surpassed his predecessor in almost every way, shape, and form. Wally's situation is even more analogous to Nightwing in that he was someone we were able to see grow and develop throughout the years. But whereas Wally was allowed to reach for the stars, Nightwing has been given a ceiling as to what he can achieve.
Let me ask you something: has the emergence of Wally and Kyle diminished what Hal and Barry accomplished? Perhaps. Perhaps not. It's difficult to say. But I would argue that the DC Universe has been richer because of their involvement.
Now is the time to take the creative training wheels off of Nightwing. It's time to give this character the attention and care that it deserves. If DC were to do that, they would have a new pillar to milk for money. As of right now, whether you like it or not - Nightwing is part of Batman's pillar. Tony Stark (Marvel reference) has his own pillar. Hal Jordan has his own pillar. Dick Grayson deserves his own pillar. But he doesn't have one. And that's why he isn't tier 1.