Dick Grayson has been on a tremendous journey the past few years at DC Comics, and this May, Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly are taking control of Grayson for issues #18-20. We chatted with the writing team over the phone about their excitement for the opportunity and what's coming down the line for the character.
Comic Vine: How excited are you two to be working on Grayson?
Jackson Lanzing: Insanely excited. We are insanely, insanely excited. It is absolutely my favorite book at DC right now. It's a book I've been reading, as a fan, since issue one. It's a book that introduced me to how amazing Tom King is and helped cement my sizable respect for Tim Seeley. It's the book that introduced us to Mikel Janin, who is a real artist. It's a book that took Dick Grayson and put him in the center of his own world, not one defined by Batman or Gotham. We've been huge fans of the book and tried to hold ourselves and try to write stories and characters as well as the others managed to do. So getting the call to be like "do you guys want to come in and write a few issues of Grayson?" was equally exciting and incredibly daunting.
Collin Kelly: We came into DC with Batman & Robin Eternal and the amazing team there, which was stunning, but our issues really focussed in on Jason Todd and Tim Drake and we focussed a tiny bit on Dick Grayson, but not as much as we wanted. We love thew Bat-Family and the shadows that Bruce casts. The fact that we get to bring all that fun and energy of Dick Grayson to it, looking what he brings to the table, is just a dream. He's our favorite Robin, hands down. The fact that he's rising in importance in the DCU only makes us more excited to dive in.
Lanzing: For what it's worth, so I can get a little controversial, he's not my favorite Robin. I would like to go on record as being more of a fan of the outsidery Robins, but what's been really interesting about Grayson, the book, is that it turned him into my favorite character. It has nothing to do with him being Robin. It has to do with who this guy is because he's so many things. It's all on that first page, in Grayson. "I'm Grayson, Robin, Nightwing, fallen hero, and now a spy." Dick Grayson has a million facets and each of those facets really means something about him. I think that's what kind of lovely about Dick Grayson. When you look at a lot of other characters, they are defined by one or two intensely specific character traits, and with Dick Grayson, he has a full life. He's a character we've seen grow up and build a full identity. He's become a character we love, but I think what's amazing about him is that he's really transcended the Robin label in a way that none of the other Robins have.
Kelly: To give you a peek behind the curtain of our process, that's the first time we've ever fought or disagreed.
Dick has gone through some interesting changes from "dying" to working for Spyral to working against Spyral. Did you find working on this story to be a bit challenging considering this character's journey?
Kelly: Absolutely. That's an excellent point. The point of Grayson, as a book, has been discovering where he fits within the myriad of networks of spies and counter-spies and superheroes and super-villains. One of the most amazing things that Tom and Tim have been able to do is layer on all of these different levels lusciously. There's all this amazing depth in all these characters and lies within lies which we inherent, for better or for worse, so getting to come into this sandbox that's so filled with such excitement and espionage and mystery was daunting, but it also meant that we had the most potential to succeed because there's so much dangling and so many mysteries on the table. We got to come in and really find some very fascinating and very exciting answers that otherwise might have fallen into the shadows.
Lanzing: I think that last word answers that kind of headline. We are looking to bring some light into the dark shadows that have been surrounding Grayson up through our first issue, issue #18. He has discovered a lot of the truth behind the plan that was put into place. He created a really powerful relationship with Tiger. He's an outstanding partner and friend for him [Grayson]. He's now facing down, as of issue #16, an incredibly broad array of super-spies from around the DC Universe, who have their sites on Dick. To Tom and Tim's credit, they've been incredibly gracious and talked to us about it and helped us understand all the ins and outs, so we can really write it in a way that respects what they built but also they've been very willing to allow us to run on our own merit and DC has as well. We felt a lot a more comfortable coming onto this book because of our editor, Rebecca Taylor. She has an absolutely outstanding story mind and is one we've relied on, formally and informally, throughout our careers.
At the end of We Are Robin, Dick is working for the Parliment of Owls. Will you be covering this at all in your story?
Kelly: That's an excellent question, but we're going to have to leave it hanging. You'll have to read to find out.
Lanzing: We are looking to tackle all of the aspects of Dick Grayson, but at the same time, how much [do we] engage with Batman mythos? How much do we engage with Gotham? How much of our issues in this book are going to be really focussed on the world that's been established for Dick Grayson? We are airing much further towards the main book than towards the Gotham or Batman side of things. As much as we're interested in the Parliament of Owls, I loved Robin War and all of that, I don't want to make it sound like we're forefronting that during our run, but we're going to be playing with the toys that are already in the book.
Roge Antonio is doing the art. What does he bring to the book?
Lanzing: Roge is amazing. Roge is the first guy that we worked with at DC and has an amazing amount of action chops and character chops both of which I've been so pleased. He told the Red Robin, Tim Drake, Bane fight in Batman & Robin Eternal, which was our first issue at DC comics. He helped us feel comfortable when we weren't sure if our stuff was going to translate into superhero comics. So being able to bring him onto this was a big relief.
Kelly: He has a way of really being able to place small moments through character and physicality that not every artist can tackle. At the same time, he can make the most vicious fight scenes. In our issues, there's some very serious stuff. This isn't just some slap fights. This is, in a lot of cases, to the death. That means Dick is coming at you with his escrima sticks and it's going to hurt, which Roge absolutely brings the pain and at the same time is able to use the nuance to land those character feats and keep the book instilled with that fundamental energy and kineticism and a little bit of sexiness.
Thanks to Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly for chatting with us. Their issues of Grayson go on sale in May, starting on issue #18.