Writer Benjamin Percy’s run on Green Arrow was one of the major highlights of DC’s recent Rebirth initiative. Over the course of 38 issues with artists Otto Schmidt and Juan Ferreyra, Percy took the Emerald Archer to hell and back, exploring Oliver Queen’s roots as a “social justice warrior” and redefining his relationship to 21st-century Seattle.
Now Percy is gearing up for something slightly different. For his next act at DC, Percy is taking over writing duties on Nightwing for a story pitting one of the cheeriest superheroes around against some seriously dark subject matter, drawn out of Percy’s 2017 novel The Dark Net. Christopher Mooneyham will be the artist alongside Percy; check out his sketches and designs for the story below.
“Back in August, [DC co-publisher] Dan DiDio gave me a call. He had heard of my novel The Dark Net, and he was interested in me taking the research I had done and amplifying it to make it a significant event in, and threat to, the DC Universe,” Percy tells EW. “The dark web, for those who aren’t familiar, is a place for file-sharing, weapons trafficking, human smuggling, terrorist communications, anything nasty or forbidden that people don’t want other people knowing about. There’s no greater weapon right now than information and vulnerable data. We all know about identity theft, this is secret identity theft. The dark web is coming to the DCU. It is at first going to affect Dick Grayson, and then it is going to affect the entire DCU. This is something that will be relatable to our audience, because of all the things to fear right now, cybercrime is chief among them. It already makes our readers anxious.”
At first glance, Nightwing doesn’t seem well-equipped to go up against cybercriminals. Dick Grayson was first introduced as Robin the Boy Wonder in 1940, and even in the intervening years hasn’t gone for the same type of Bat-Computer tech wizardry as his mentor. Born in the circus, Grayson prefers to use his well-known acrobatics and hand-to-hand fighting skills to solve problems…which makes him a uniquely fascinating person to face down this cryptic threat.
After all, what Grayson lacks in tech know-how, he more than makes up for with his central importance to the DC Universe at large. As the first Robin, he was originally created to give DC’s young readership a more relatable character to focus on as they read Batman’s adventures. In the decades since, Grayson has grown up alongside both the DC Universe and generations of readers. He is more connected than any other character to the manifold heroes of DC, and still provides a strong tether for fans to hold on to.
“He’s a point-of-view character who the audience can saddle up next to and feel a kinship to, especially compared to some of the more iconic characters,” Percy says. “We followed Grayson as a rookie into this larger world and have come to understand it through his eyes. He is very much the center of the superhero web, which makes him the ideal person to deal with the dark web, its villainous opposite. He has such adaptability. Not only has he overcome hardship and loss, but he’s also had all these different roles as a solo hero, team leader, spy, and a spandexed-crimefighter in Bludhaven. ”
Grayson has also become a beloved character for other reasons — namely, his shapely body. A recent Nightwing issue by Sam Humphries and Bernard Chang even went full-fan service in a segment where Grayson went undercover as a male stripper. Even as he takes on this challenge from the dark web, Percy promises that the trademark humor of Nightwing stories will remain intact.
“I’m trying to insert as best as I can a sense of humor to offset the tension,” Percy says. “You’ll see it from the very first issue. You’ll smile by page two, and you’ll be grinning by page six. There is romance alongside the adventure, and right on the first page, you’ll see graffiti ‘Butthaven’ scratched into the wall. There’s a hat-tip to one of Dick Grayson’s greatest ass-ets.”
Percy’s Nightwing run kicks off with issue #44 in May. Check out Declan Shalvey’s cover for that issue above.