Welcome to Part 2 of “Dick Grayson as Batman: A Retrospective”—a detailed look at Dick Grayson’s time spent wearing the cape and cowl of the Batman. In Part 1 we looked at mid-1990s arc “Prodigal” (by Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant, Doug Moench, Bret Blevins, MD Bright, Phil Jimenez, et al), which was basically a test run for Dick’s official move to take-up the Bat-mantle. Following Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis, Bruce Wayne was lost in time and presumed dead (sent there by Darkseid, who left behind a corpse of a clone to fool everyone else). Thus, Dick became the official Batman, taking Bruce’s son Damian as his Robin. Initially fleshed-out primarily by Morrison, Judd Winick, Tony Daniel, and James Robinson, the new Dynamic Duo was unlike any other before it, a true push towards rewarding legacy characters and pushing them to the forefront of the overarching Bat-narrative. For over two years’ worth of publications, Dick was Batman (sharing the end of that period with a returning Bruce)—a truly exciting time for the Modern Age and a fitting end for the era. Let’s pick up where we left off, with the new Batman and Robin trying to awkwardly adjust to their new roles. Morrison and Robinson will be the chief architects here, with a side-order of Paul Cornell and Scott Snyder.
One of the best things about Dick as Batman is getting to see him mesh with young Damian. They are a great pairing, one of the finest in comics history. Morrison continues fleshing-out this team with Batman & Robin #4-6 (“REVENGE OF THE RED HOOD”) (art by Philip Tan, November 2009-January 2010). Jason Todd (Red Hood) has returned with new sidekick Scarlet (Dollotron Sasha). Together, they form the “Dynamic Duo for the 2010s,” Tweeting catchphrases, taking selfies, leaving literal calling cards, scheduling press releases, and uploading iPhone-recorded viral videos, all while violently killing criminals. Damian is introduced to the public as Bruce’s blood-son while Dick meets fiction writer, Oberon Sexton—actually the Joker in disguise. Red Hood and Scarlet are able to capture Batman and Robin, stripping them naked, tying them up, and propping them in front of a webcam. A commercial hits the airwaves explaining that the cam will activate if an attached phone system receives one million calls. Who wants to see the Dynamic Duo naked? Call in! This is a cheeky nod to the DC call-in number that caused Jason’s death (by fan vote) in the 1980s. While Dick and Damian escape, the Prince-inspired assassin Eduardo Flamingo (sent by “El Penitente” aka Simon Hurt aka Bruce’s crazed immortal uncle Thomas Wayne) arrives and beats the holy hell out of Jason and Sasha. Dick and Damian team-up with their evil counterparts to defeat Flamingo, but not before Damian is shot and paralyzed. A League of Assassins medical team shows up and takes Damian away to heal him. As cops drag Jason away, he asks Dick why he never put Batman’s corpse into a Lazarus Pit. Back at Wayne Tower, Dick opens a secret vault in the Bunker revealing Bruce’s remains. (Of course, unknown to Dick, these remains are actually a clone of Bruce.) Dick stares at the body and contemplates what Jason has said.
Morrison’s grand arc continues with Batman & Robin #7-9 (“BLACKEST KNIGHT”) (art by Cameron Stewart, March-April 2010), in which Dick teams-up with Knight and Squire versus Old King Coal. At Basement 101 (England’s equivalent to Arkham Asylum), Batman learns there is a self-replenishing Lazarus Pit in a nearby London mine. Batman ships cloned-Bruce’s corpse to Knight, who drags it down to the Lazarus Pit. “Bruce” is dunked and revived! Dick, Knight, Squire, and Batwoman are attacked by the crazy Clone-Batman, who battles his way out of the cavern. When Old King Coal collapses the mineshaft, Batwoman is crushed and killed, but Dick then resurrects her in the Pit! Meanwhile, instinctively, Clone-Batman flies to Gotham and terrorizes Alfred and Damian. Batman and Batwoman use a suborbital rocket to get to the States just in time to defeat Clone-Batman. Dick delivers Clone-Batman’s corpse and the news about Bruce to the JLA.
Things ramp-up wildly in Morrison’s Batman & Robin #10-12 (“BATMAN VS. ROBIN”) (art by Andy Clarke, May-August 2010) as Hurt unleashes his assassins known as The 99 Fiends upon Gotham. Batman and Robin meet at Wayne Manor where Alfred has had a breakthrough in the investigation into the whereabouts of Bruce. They realize Bruce is sending them clues from the past. Dick and Damian soon find secret passages inside Wayne Manor, including Hurt’s catacomb devoted to the worship of the bat demon Barbatos. Alfred informs Dick that Thomas Wayne was the black sheep of the Wayne family, who was ostracized for Satan worship in 1765. Deeper underground, Dick finds a statue of Barbatos and a tiny casket with a Bat-symbol on it. Upon retrieving the casket, Dick is mauled by a giant bat—the Hyper-Adapter in bat form retreating backward through time after its defeat at the end of Morrison’s The Return of Bruce Wayne. Above ground, Robin and Joker fight-off the 99 Fiends. A rocket ride later, Batman and Robin confront Talia al Ghul, who reveals the existence of a cloned month-old Damian fetus that will come to be known as The Heretic.
Morrison’s über story continues with “BATMAN AND ROBIN MUST DIE!” (Batman & Robin #13-16) (art by Frazer Irving, Stewart, and Chris Burnham, August 2010-January 2011). Hurt finally makes his public debut, posing as Thomas Wayne (Bruce’s father), claiming that he never died all those decades ago. He captures Dick and Damian, shooting a .32 caliber pellet in the back of Dick’s skull designed to cause permanent neurological damage if not quickly treated. Hurt demands Damian pledge allegiance to him. Dick whistles a secret Miagani tune, causing the tiny Bat-casket—Bruce’s trick from the past—to spring open. Bruce invented the casket as a red herring for Hurt to painstakingly chase for centuries. What’s inside? A note that reads “Gotcha!” Batman and Robin punch Hurt to the ground, who looks up only to view another Batman standing over him: Bruce Wayne! Bruce has literally just arrived from the final page of Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne! Batman, Batman, and Robin kick ass. Bruce chases Hurt out of the Batcave. As Hurt emerges, Joker is eagerly awaiting with his own trick. Hurt slips on a banana peel and breaks his neck. Laughing, Joker buries the immortal Hurt alive! In the Batcave, Bruce and Alfred reunite. Within hours, Dick makes a speedy recovery following a round of emergency surgery from Dr. Pennyworth. Damian worries about what will happen to Batman and Robin now that his father is back. Not to worry, kid. Bruce has a plan—and it involves Dick continuing on as Batman. (Both Bruce and Dick will act as dual Batmen.) Later, with Dick, Tim, Damian, and Alfred at his side, the REAL Bruce Wayne makes his public re-debut. Bruce drops one of the biggest bombshells in the history of Batman. As multiple Batsignals light up the Gotham skyline, Bruce goes full-on “Tony Stark,” announcing that he has personally-financed Batman’s war on crime from the beginning and that, from this moment forward, Wayne Enterprises will publicly fund a global anti-crime network known as “Batman Incorporated.” A new era of TWO BATMEN is upon us!
Now that Bruce is back, Dick has some extra time to focus on his JLA duties, which means we return to Robinson’s sculpting of his character. In “REIGN OF DOOMSDAY Part 1” (Justice League of America Vol. 2 #55 and Superman/Batman Annual #5) by Robinson, Brett Booth, and Miguel Sepulveda (May-June 2011). Eclipso and a possessed team of shadow-powered international metahumans (and one Cthulhu god) attack Donna Troy, Jesse Quick, and Jade, taking over Alan Scott’s lunar Emerald City. Meanwhile, Dick (in a Bat-ship and spacesuit), Supergirl, and Alpha Green Lantern Boodikka examine all the asteroid remains of a recently destroyed New Krypton. However, their examination is interrupted by Doomsday! Starman and Blue Lantern Saint Walker quickly join the heroes against Doomsday, but he chases them to the Watchtower where Cyborg Superman makes his return as well. While Dick battles dozens of hard-light villains in The Arena (which has previously been referred to as “The Kitchen”), Doomsday assimilates some of Cyborg Superman’s nanotech to become Cyborg Doomsday! Cyborg Doomsday defeats both Supergirl and Cyborg Superman.
This leads directly into Justice League of America Vol. 2 #56-59 (“RISE OF ECLIPSO”) by Robinson, Booth, and Daniel Sampere (June-September 2011), in which we really get to see Dick take on a strong leadership role on the JLA! At the lunar Emerald City, the JLA gets possessed by Eclipso, who unbelievably is able to murder the Spectre, steal his powers, and split the moon in half. Of course, the fissured Moon throws Earth into a cataclysmic state. Meteor showers, tsunamis, and destruction rain across the planet almost immediately. On the lunar battlefield, Dick leads the remaining heroes and hatches a plan involving the Atom and Starman. They shrink down, enter the Shade’s brain, and shut down Eclipso’s control over everyone in his shadow army. As per Dick’s plan, Saint Walker uses his Blue Lantern powers to make Eclipso think that he’s already won the battle. The heroes easily defeat a detached Eclipso. Alan Scott, Jade, Saint Walker, and Supergirl combine their powers and fix the Moon.
“REIGN OF DOOMSDAY” concludes in Action Comics #903-904—the final Modern Age issues of Action Comics Vol. 1 (!)—by Cornell, Azel Giménez, and Ronan Cliquet (September-October 2011). As an army of Cyborg Doomsdays (heavy emphasis on multiple Doomsdays here) rages violently, The Doomslayer (an ultimate version of Doomsday) arrives to destroy them all. Sounds good, right? It would be if the Doomslayer didn’t plan on destroying the entire planet in order to do so. Both Batmen (Bruce and Dick) join a gaggle of heroes to deal with the situation. Superman defeats the Doomslayer with help from Eradicator while Batman, Batman, and the rest of Earth’s superheroes defeat multiple Cyborg Doomsdays all across the planet.
If you didn’t know, Scott Snyder cuts his teeth at DC Comics by writing Dick Grayson as Batman. It’s a strong start that undoubtedly led to him eventually becoming the primary writer of the Bat-line, a role he held for over seven years before switching to Justice League in 2018. In Detective Comics #871-874 (“THE BLACK MIRROR” / “SKELETON CASES”) by Snyder, Jock, and Francesco Francavilla (January-April 2011), Dick learns that a ton of old Bat-rogue paraphernalia has disappeared from the police evidence room. After several murders are committed with the stolen stuff, Dick learns that someone called The Dealer has been auctioning off the goods. After meeting with Babs, Harvey Bullock, and Tim, an undercover Dick (using new Lucius Fox-developed Human Target-esque mask-making technology) attends the auction but is immediately outed as Batman. Dick later dons one of the Iron Man Bat-suits (from Morrison’s Batman: The Return #1) and chases the Dealer, who injects himself with Venom and Man-Bat Serum, transforming himself into a giant musclebound bat monster. Not long after, Commissioner Gordon meets with his long lost son James Gordon Jr.—a psychopath who began a string of murders at a very young age, was institutionalized, and then became a drifter as an adult, committing even more murders. (We haven’t seen James Jr. since he was a baby in Frank Miller’s Batman Year One!) James Jr has now finally returned to Gotham, claiming that his wicked ways are behind him. Of course, they aren’t.
Join us for Part Three of “Dick Grayson as Batman: A Retrospective” as the Modern Age ends, ending Dick’s run as Batman too. We’ll also look at some New 52, Rebirth Era, and non-canon Dick-as-Batman material. Until next time!