Nightwing may have learned the crimefighting ropes from Batman, but a major difference between him and the Dark Knight was just made apparent.
Warning! Spoilers for Nightwing #79
Despite being the first Boy Wonder, Nightwing has come a long way from being the Dark Knight’s sidekick. Dick Grayson has continued to grow and mature under his own mantle, and the most recent issue of his solo series, Barbara Gordon points out one of the key differences between Dick and his former mentor, Batman.
Weirdly enough, Superman gave Nightwing the idea for his name, but besides that initial bit of inspiration, Dick has strived to do things entirely his own way since leaving Batman’s side. However, in Nightwing #79, the former Robin is suffering from self-doubt. He finds himself questioning the efficacy of his vigilante crusade, asking Barbara, “What’s so heroic about punching bad guys and then waiting to punch more?” In a way, by doubting his own methods, Dick also extends that skepticism towards the man who taught him. DC has explored the futility of Batman’s fight against injustice before, so it makes sense that Nightwing would have similar concerns, but Barbara knows how to put him at ease.
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As Dick struggles to figure out how to do more, Barbara reassures him by saying, “Well, you’re one of the world’s greatest problem solvers, so I’m sure you’ll work it out.” Aside from providing moral support, this line actually provides a subtle but important difference between Dick and Bruce. Batman is often called the world’s greatest detective, and while “problem solver” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as nicely, it proves that Dick took away the best parts of Batman’s training. Bruce is a good detective because he can examine a case from all angles, but often overcompensates in wanting to leave no stone unturned. Nightwing, on the other hand, determines the best way to solve a problem and handles it.
In a way, the distinction between Batman as a detective and Nightwing as a problem-solver speaks to a deeper difference in their characters. Batman feels the need to have a contingency plan for every possible scenario, but his insane level of preparation occasionally backfires, like when his plans to beat the Justice League were stolen in Mark Waid’s JLA: Tower of Babel. Bruce’s cold, calculative approach can make him seem inhumane, whereas Dick always keeps his focus on helping people. Case in point, he uses his newfound wealth in issue #79 to buy food and shelter for Bludhaven’s homeless, aiding people in a way besides beating local criminals to a pulp.
Batman’s over-preparedness is a symptom of his general mistrust of everyone; by solving problems before they actually occur, he believes he can never be caught off-guard. While Nightwing inherited Bruce’s cunning and problem-solving skills, he doesn’t use them in the same way because he still looks for the best in people, and that arguably makes him more heroic.
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