OK, here it is: What if Dick Grayson dies, traveled throughout the various realms in the DC Universe, and then returned to save the day? The idea came to me after reading what various writers and fans thought of the character, the most recurring notion being that no loss would impact the superhero community quite like the death of Dick Grayson. So, while lazing on the couch watching Supernatural, my brain conjured up a thin veil of a plot:
Dick Grayson, still in his Bat-garb eight years after events of Batman and Robin #1, endures a series of trials and bouts arranged by mysterious group. The group, led by a shrouded, mysterious figure, have no stated aims beyond their focus on Grayson. Their attacks are close in succession, three weeks to a month apart, causing the Man Wonder to trangress beyond his limits and emerge victorious, even at his lowest ebb. Eventually, all members of the immediate Bat-Family are caught in a war with this mysterious group, a war that ends with a battle to the death between Dick and the Joker. The joke, however, is that both characters die, sending Dick to various planes of existence, including the Dreaming, only to return in order to aid his peers in defeating an ultimate evil.
And that's it. Basic? Yes, it may be... no, it is. But here's why I think it will work:
Event series like Green Lantern: Rebirth, Flash: Rebirth, and the entire Batman/Final Crisis saga serve to remind cynical fanboys why their favorite superheroes are important in the first place. Hal, Barry, and Bruce, representing defiance, morality, and willpower respectively, are integral components of their community. Dick, on the other hand, is a more subtle contributor. He
- created the mantle of Robin, the first sidekick. This is may seem like a matter of great chance and little effort, but consider the effects of the Boy Wonder in the DC Universe. According to tradition, Robin fights side by side with Batman while keeping his dark side in check. Jason Todd was deemed a failure by some because he was the anti-Dick Grayson, whereas Tim Drake desperately trained in order to live up to the prestige of the uniform. Aside from its impact on the Bat-Family, the entire sidekick community, regardless of brand or logo, owe its existence to Robin. Appropriately, he also
- co-founded the Teen Titans. Not only did this move cement Robin as the group's quintessential leader, but also led to an institution through which various modern heroes have learned their craft. This list includes: Donna Troy, Roy Harper, Wally West, Jessie Quick, Kyle Rayner, Damage, Hawk and Dove, Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, Ravager, Atom (eh...), Garth, Superboy, Red Robin, Cassie Sandsmark, Beast Boy, etc. All Titans look up to Dick as their leader, while he in return comes to their aid when needed (see Geoff Johns' Teen Titans).
- He was the first superhero to mature beyond the role of sidekick. Chuck Dixon may have devalued his ascent to Nightwing, but Dick was the first superheroic second fiddle to successfully embark on his own career. His best friend, Wally, was compelled to the take on the role of Flash after his mentor's death, whereas Dick took initiative and created a new identity to fight crime. That's commendable.
- Again, Grayson has ties to nearly every heroic team in the DC Universe. Whether it be helping create the Teen Titans, the 2003-era Outsiders, or leading the modern incarnation of the Justice League, or simply keeping in touch with the other active groups (Justice Society, Doom Patrol, League of Bat-Men, etc.), Dick is a well-connected fellow seemingly loved by everyone. Not many heroes can say their home was furnished by the Justice Society.
- Finally, going back to the first point, Dick Grayson created the mantle of Robin. In the world of Batman, no component, aside from Alfred, possesses a more crucial role than Robin. In simpler terms, their relationships work like this: Alfred caters to his needs and when the time comes comforts him while Robin keeps Batman from drowning in his sorrows and turning into a murderer. Which is good, especially when Batman has a mortal enemy in the form of the sinister, if cheerful Joker. I've written posts analyzing the roles of Robin and Joker in the past, judging them to be constructs of Batman, or at least his "happy side" (see bottom of the page). The close presence of each prevents Batman from relaxing on either side of morality: Dick, especially in his days in the famous green leotard as Robin, negated the darker overtones emanated from the Joker. One could argue that Joker really began testing Batman after Dick became Nightwing. His most famous successors have honored his legacy to vacillating degrees of success: Jason, while a competent crimefighter, was too boisterous and failed to "back" Batman. Tim, while arguably more accomplished than his hero and mentor, is more Bruce-like in his methods and personality; it is Tim who often looks to Dick for hope and support, rather than the other way around. And THAT is what Dick Grayson represents in the DC Universe: hope and support. Those traits, the qualities that allow him to find a friend in anyone and rally others into battle, are what make him, as Geoff Johns puts it, "the natural leader of the DCU". I'll say it once more: if Bruce is the New God of Willpower, Dick is the New God of Hope and Confidence.
- He both rehabilitated Ravager and drove a wedge between her and her father Deathstroke, arguably Grayson's mortal enemy.
- Through diligent mentoring, Dick convinced his "brother" Damian, a trained assassin, to take on a path more heroic than his cruel background.
- He successfully assumed the mantle of the Bat after his mentor's disappearance. Was he as good as the original? That, again, is arguable. But that wasn't the point of his "Bat-Dick" phase. The question rooted in the Batman/Dr. Hurt saga - besides the obvious "What makes Batman special?" - is "How do Batman's associates honor his legacy?" Dick taking up the role of Batman in order to maintain order in Gotham honored Bruce the way Joker did when he murdered members of El Penitente's cartel, the way Tim did when he obsessively searched for clues proving that Bruce was alive. This last point illustrates the difference between Dick and Tim. Dick, by assuming control of the Bat-Family, soldiered on while Tim NEEDED to prove that Bruce was alive for his own sake.
The first act of the story ends with the mutual deaths of Dick and Joker after a suspenseful battle. Why? Again, both characters are shiny, happy opposing forces in Batman's life. Their deaths would put Batman in an interesting place: on one hand, his greatest enemy would never be uselessly apprehended and freed again. On the other hand, his greatest ally, the one who kept his organization together, would be deceased. Bruce is famous for not reacting to loss well, so it will be interesting to explore his demeanor after the death of his mortal enemy and closest ally. Just as well, readers would find Tim in a unique place as well. For Tim, Dick is THE model for success; for all his intellect, Tim could never match the style and grace of his predecessor. But beyond that Dick is Tim's hero. It was Dick who vouched for Tim, who tutored him on crimefighting, who doted on him when Batman failed to show his emotions, who unintentionally led him to proving that Bruce was alive simply by releasing him from the role of Robin. In all likelihood, though, the one most affected by the loss will be Damian, for who would put up with him now?
As for his cross-dimensional trip, which should take two or three years in real time, I'm thinking of something along the lines of Barry Allen's journey back to New Earth in DC Universe #0, but protracted and more in-depth. I would love for him to meet the Endless, especially Dream (Daniel Hall) and Despair.
As for his return.... I'll keep that to myself for now.