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Interviews

An interview with
Devin Grayson

Conducted by Randy "Moonstonelover" Burtis
August 9, 2004

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MSL: Are you still on Nightwing after issue 100?

DEVIN GRAYSON:Yes, but before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about 100 for sec. Issue 100 is double-sized and it wraps up what is essentially two years of story line, kicking off events that will be impacting the book for all of 2005. Don’t miss it!

MSL: Who, in your view, does Tarantula see herself as, in relation to Nightwing?

DEVIN GRAYSON:She has a crush on him and she loves the idea of being a partner or even sidekick to him. The problem is, she doesn’t know him well enough to realize how shell-shocked he is right now, and she’s sort of misinterpreting his current emotional haze for actual approval of and general compliance with her will.

She knows he’s still in love with Barbara and that he’s a bad bet for her romantically over the long haul, but she’s determined to keep him around as long as she can. And in that wish, at least, I think we can sympathize with her.

MSL: Issue 100, or there after,you have said someone is coming back into Dick's life, obviously you won't name them...but can you narrow the gender down, folks assume it will be female...can you comment?

DEVIN GRAYSON: Actually, it’s a he. And just remember when you see the solicitation for issue 101 that I told you you’d all be happy to see him again. ;-)

tarantula

MSL:You have stated you love writing the character Nightwing, but in the future what character would you love to write...for DC or for Marvel?

DEVIN GRAYSON:I didn’t read comics growing up and when I finally got into them, my initial interest was pretty focused on the Bat-group. Batman, Nightwing, Robin and the rest of the Gotham/Blüdhaven gang are pretty much the sole reason I came to comics, and I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to be immediately associated with my final goal.

On the other hand, it’s always a tremendous pleasure to learn about new characters and you almost can’t help falling in love with them once you get going – I really became nuts over Scott and Jean when I was writing X-Men: Evolution, for example, and would love to do more with them – and of course it’s also always exciting to invent and work with your own characters. So there’s lots more I’m excited about doing, but as far as characters go, my heart will always be in the Bat-office.

MSL:Batman 12 cent War Games is out...how was it decided to get you do write the opening chapter to War Games?

DEVIN GRAYSON:We got together for a Bat-summit as we normally do before embarking on a big stunt like this, and this time I was the veteran of the Bat-writers. I expressed interest in it at one point and had good notes on what had to be accomplished in it, and when Bob Schreck and the rest of the Bat-book editorial team were attaching writers to stunt-related issues, that’s where they put me.

MSL:In these big bat crossovers, whose voice carries more weight in determining what happenes and how it impacts a very closely knit group of characters that appear in a lot of different books?

DEVIN GRAYSON:That completely depends on the temperament of the editorial team and even, to some extent, on the personality of the writers involved. When you have someone like Greg Rucka in a summit meeting, for example – a natural leader who’s very passionate about the characters and very experienced with the trajectory of crime stories – you tend to end up with a creative point person.

On the other hand, when you have an editor who’s excited about an idea (or, for that matter, controlling and bad at delegation), then it tends to become very editorially driven. Obviously, DC’s publisher, Paul Levitz, has final say on the content of the stunt, with Dan Didio (or before Dan, Mike Carlin) setting down the law even before it gets up to Paul, and no matter what a writer wants to do, an editor can always over ride it, but usually there’s room for everyone’s ideas. This War Games cross over was the first time I’ve ever seen editorial have a basic outlined prepared before getting any input from the writers, but every event has a unique origin and a unique execution.

MSL:Male rape is a topic rarely touched on in comics. Why is it suited to bring it into Nightwing?

DEVIN GRAYSON:For the record, I’ve never used the word “rape,” I just said it was nonconsensual (I know, aren’t writers frustrating? *smiles*), but I think Nightwing is suited to cover any topic rooted in human behavior. The Batman characters are unique in that they’re not super powered – they’re extraordinary people who devote themselves to operating effectively in a very dangerous realm of human existence – crime and injustice and even, very often, mental illness. They are in constant physical danger, to the point that as readers we don’t even always respond to that anymore because we assume they’ll eventually be okay.

I think sometimes it’s more rewarding to put them in emotional or social peril of one kind or another, situations which challenge them as people as well as as superheroes.

MSL:(Question by dmb1991)Will we be getting a reaction to Dick's rape anytime soon? Ever since it occurred the audience hasn't been privy to NW's thoughts, and I was really hoping you could flesh out that event in Dick's life. and I'm really hopping there will be an educating story to follow.

DEVIN GRAYSON:That’s very perceptive of you to notice that we lost Dick’s narration! That was very intentional – he’s so broken down at this point that he’s gone quiet inside. I think if you read through issue 100, you’ll see some of the response you’ve been waiting for, but remember, too, that events in superhero comics are often as much allegorical as actual – that is, we’re not doing a public service announcement here, we’re telling an ongoing, multi-layered story about one individual finding himself at an emotional rock bottom he doesn’t know how to fight his way out of.

MSL:Will the ramifications of that carry over to other Bat books...or will it just stay in the confines of Nightwing the comic?

DEVIN GRAYSON:Blockbuster’s murder will certainly have ramifications throughout the Bat-universe. Dick and Catalina’s relationship stays mostly in Nightwing, but because of the upcoming crossover, you will seem both of them in some of the other books.

MSL:How closely tied is Nightwing to the other titles...it seems that Nightwing has become an island unto itself, despite the close ties... will this be changing in the future?

DEVIN GRAYSON: There are sort of two different questions here. One is about Nightwing the series and the other is about Nightwing the character. As a character, Nightwing will always remain closely tied to the other Bat-characters. As a series, the book is run fairly independently, as are most of the titles. Except for crossovers, when we work really hard to merge all the continuities into one seamless story, you have to understand that it’s impractical for editorial and the individual creators to coordinate with each other about every story line. I know it’s great and exciting when a whole bunch of stories converge, and DC as a whole will be moving towards a more unified universe in the very near future. But the reason we put out so many Bat-titles a month is so everyone can find something that interests them, a version of the mythology to which they can connect. If you tie everything together, you’re really kind of just getting one version of the mythos, and if you happen not to like the style or insights of the writer or editor in control of corralling everyone else, then you’re out of luck.

It’s also not good for writers, as creators, to be constantly told what their stories are going to be about. I think the cross over events are great times to experience the rush of interlocking continuity and cooperative creativity, but I also think you get better quality writing when you let writers do their own thing in their own books. That said, Gail and I were both up late last night online, so watch for upcoming plot coordination between Nightwing and BoP!

MSL:The internet, sadly, is full of folks talking with no facts to back them up or spreading rumors and lies. Are there some truths about yourself or your work you want to "set the record straight" on?

DEVIN GRAYSON:Fortunately, I don’t even know what the rumors are, and unfortunately, nothing I say or do will convince people who want to believe otherwise of anything. I think if you read the interviews on my website or, god forbid, read my actual work, you’ll get a pretty good idea of who I really am. I also recommend spending energy gossiping about family or real celebrities instead of comic writers. Writers are pretty boring; we spend most of our time in home offices frowning at computer monitors.

MSL:Out of the earlier bodies of work you have done, which is the one you are happiest with? Why?

DEVIN GRAYSON:Probably USER, just because the story is so personal to me (and the art, of course, is amazing). The thing that makes me happiest, though, is glancing at the entire collection. It feels good to know you have that many stories in you, even if they aren’t all great.

MSL:WORD ASSOCIATION-I will toss a word, reply with the first thing that comes to your mind, it can be anything from a one word reply to a full page reply.... Batman...

DEVIN GRAYSON:Urbanity co-opted. Shadow hero. Heroism can come from our darkest places as well as from our brightest. Self-mastery. Integrity. Dependability.

MSL:Oracle

DEVIN GRAYSON:Delphi. Data. Stunning, warm, whip-smart. Red hair lit by pale-green monitor glow. Safety.

MSL:Tarantula

DEVIN GRAYSON: Hairy. Greg Brady. Death Valley. Heebie-Jeebies.

MSL:Mike Lilly

DEVIN GRAYSON:Must. Finish. Script.

MSL:Pat Zircher

DEVIN GRAYSON: Must. Finish. Script.

MSL:State of comics today

DEVIN GRAYSON:Albuquerque?

MSL:Politics

DEVIN GRAYSON:VOTE.

MSL:Life

DEVIN GRAYSON: The first thing I always think when someone says “life” is “and bits of egg…” which is from an old Erasure song.

MSL:Love

DEVIN GRAYSON: Chemicals.

MSL:Death

DEVIN GRAYSON: …to tyrants!

MSL:A few Misc. questions now...Favortite color?

DEVIN GRAYSON: Green.

MSL:Favorite Tv Shows.

DEVIN GRAYSON: The Shield. The Wire. Third Watch. Six Feet Under. Queer Eye. The West Wing. The Surreal Life. M*A*S*H. Anything on Court TV.

MSL:Favorite CD/song.

DEVIN GRAYSON: Way too numerous to list. I have a 51 CD holder that I usually have set on “random.” Right now it’s filled with:

1) Incubus “A crow left of the murder” 2) David Bowie “Reality” 3) Coldplay “A Rush of Blood” 4) Elton John “Greatest Hits 1970-2002” 5) Wilco “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” 6) Radiohead “Hail to the Thief” 7) The Eels “Shootenanny!” 8) Annie Lennox “Bare” 9) The Clash “The Essential Clash” 10) Tori Amos “Scarlet’s Walk” 11) The Strokes “Is this it” 12) Biff Naked “I Bificus” 13) Evanescence “Fallen” 14) Creed “Weathered” 15) Beth Orton “Day Breaker” 16) Liz Phair “Exile in Guyville” 17) P.J. Harvey “Songs from the City” 18) Eminem “The Enimem Show” 19) Papa Roach “LoveHateTragedy” 20) The Crystal Method “Tweekend” 21) Linkin Park “Hybrid Theory” 22) Aimee Mann “Lost in Space” 23) Foo Fighters “One by One” 24) Skelter (demo) 25) Godsmack “Faceless” 26) Ben Folds “Rockin’ the Suburbs” 27) Gorillaz 28) David Sylvian “Secrets of the Beehive” 29) Travis “The Man Who” 30) Ocean Colour Scene “Moseley Shoals” 30) Peter Gabriel “Up” 31) Mary J. Blige “Share my world” 32) Peter Himmelman “Stage Diving” 33) The Color Black (demo) 34) Skunk Anansie “”Stoosh” 35) L7 “The Beauty Process” 36) Smallville “The Soundtrack” 37) Kate Bush “The Whole Story” 38) The White Stripes “White Blood Cells 39) Portishead “Dummy” 40) TLC “Fanmail” 41) Bowery Electric “Lushlife” 42) Everything But The Girl “Temperamental” 43) Sheryl Crow “The Globe Sessions” 44) Spoon “Kill the Moonlight” 45) Garbage “Beautifulgarbage” 46) Macy Gray “The Id” 47) Trapt 48) Sarah McLachlan “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy” 49) Cirrus “Counterfeit” 50) Audioslave 51) Nightwing “82–93” (Points of Authority – Linkin’ Park * Untouchable – Garbage * Soldier – Eminem * Freak Show – Ani DiFranco * Set the House Ablaze – The Jam * Lovehatetragedy – Papa Roach * Goin’ Down – Godsmack * Bad News – Aimee Mann * Fight Song – Marilyn Manson * Scum of the Earth – Rob Zombie * Aerosmith - Line Up * Falling to Pieces – Faith No More * Begging You – Stone Roses * Freedom Fighter – Creed * All My Life – Foo Fighters * A Rush of Blood to the Head – Coldplay * Over the Line – The Crystal Method * Maggie May – Suzanne Vega * The Warmth – Incubus* Dust – Elvis Costello * Karma Police – Radiohead)

MSL:Favorite Quote.

DEVIN GRAYSON: “Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

Also fond of “reality is not what it seems, nor is it otherwise.”

MSL:(Following questions from Irn12) With AIDS still a major issue in our world, wouldn't it be more responsible to write characters that promote abstinance, rather than sexual promiscuity?

DEVIN GRAYSON:Not from an artistic point of view. Though I’m dedicated to the goal of finding a cure for AIDS in our lifetime and spend quite a bit of time and money on several organizations that do everything from improve the quality of life for those living with HiV to funding research to find vaccines and cures, I don’t think superhero comic books are an appropriate medium for health education.

By your logic, wouldn’t it also be more responsible to write characters that avoid gunfire, eschew violence, and practice pacifism? That’s just not who these characters are. They’re intensely physical people who work through conflict with their bodies. The moral responsibility when writing is to tell the truth about human nature and the world it exists in, even in the most fantastical scenarios. Also, just to give you a quick glimpse into the absurdity that is contemporary comic publishing morality, we are not allowed to show condom packets in code books, even though we can pretty much show sex as long as it’s not graphic.

burn

MSL:Could you write Nightwing less Batmanish(dark,obsessive) and more Robinish(bright,balanced)? Why or why not? How do you see Nightwing written now(in relation to the above scale)?

DEVIN GRAYSON: I can write Nightwing any way my editor tells me to. Right now, we’re finishing up a very dark, heavy storyline, and clearly Dick’s responding with a lot of “Batmanish” moodiness. At his core, I think the character is more “Robinish,” and although it will take him a while to get there, I think it will be a very satisfying point in the story when Dick finally re-emerges as a brighter, happier, more balanced individual. The nature of stories is to set up and resolve conflict. We’re just not at the resolution stage with this story yet, and I apologize if it’s taking too long. That may have been a miscalculation on my part, I was really hungry for a long, explorative, character-intensive story line and may have over-estimated the average reader’s patience with drawn-out conflict.

MSL:(Following questions from Icon) You're instructed by DC Editorial to write the issue where Nightwing dies. How would you write it?

DEVIN GRAYSON: Sulkily. But I’d want his death to be heroic, and I’d want to spend a lot of time looking at how much impact he’s had on almost everyone in the DCU. It would actually be a good story if everyone thought he was dead, and you got to really see how every individual character responds to that. Dick’s relationships are usually intensely personal as well as professional, and he’s pretty much universally respected. Of course, we’d have to bring him back almost immediately, but comics, in case you haven’t noticed, are a pretty safe place to die. ;-)

MSL: Have you ever been stopped from using a guest star?

DEVIN GRAYSON:Oh, sure, many times. Hell, when I was on Titans I would sometimes be stopped form using central cast members! Usually it’s just because that character is temporarily tied up elsewhere, and if you’re patient, you can borrow them later.

MSL: Which issue would you completely rewrite given a chance?

DEVIN GRAYSON: Probably not so much any one individual issue as the pacing of longer arcs. Oh, wait, no there was a Batman Annual I did one year that never gelled for me. I’d love to tackle that one again.

MSL: What superpower would you want most?

DEVIN GRAYSON: Imitative morphing, like what Mystique does. I already do that in my head, so it’d be incredible to be able to do that bodily, too.

MSL: Where do you see yourself, professionally, in ten years time?

DEVIN GRAYSON: Working more on prose, probably. I really loved writing the Smallville novel, CITY, and my initial writing training was all in prose format story-telling, so I imagine doing more of that in the future, though not necessarily with a sci-fi bent. I’m also an avid role-play gamer, and seem to be picking up more and more work associated with that industry, which I enjoy.

MSL:(Following questions by dmb1991) Ms. Grayson, I believe you've said in past interviews that you get this kind of question a lot, but I'm really curious about how this story line will play out. I understand that the arch is not complete, and I have no trouble with an author putting fictional characters in traumatic experiences. However, I'm having some trouble assigning meaning to the current story. So far Dick has been dumped, had his childhood memories burned, suffered the destruction of his home, lost numerous friends, and eventually was raped after becoming an accomplice to murder.

You've said before that you're tearing him down to build him up again, but I think I've lost the moral or theme to this part of the story. What exactly is going through Dick's mind? Is this half just a tale about loss or is there something deeper that I'm missing?

DEVIN GRAYSON: I really wish we could have this discussion after issue 100, because then I could see if you felt that any of your questions were answered in the normal course of the story, which is of course always the goal. This is meant to be a story about heroism and identity – how do we respond heroically (if that’s our default or aspired-to setting) when we lose all indication of our heroic identity? How do people who are normally motivated by external actions motivate themselves internally when the external becomes damaged or unreliable? And most significantly, how do we get to the place where we could, and then come back from, committing an act that goes against the entire nature of our personal (and socially reinforced) code?

A lot of the terrible events Dick’s been through recently were in place partly to push him into a corner where he could, in the heat of the moment, make a moral miscalculation, a slip, that would end up threatening his entire sense of self. What happened with Catalina immediately following that was almost an allegorical physical possession – he’d already gone against the nature of his soul, and then his body is sort of used against his will. This interview seems to be focusing a lot on that moment, but the beat with Blockbuster is much more significant for Dick psychically, and that’s the event, in his mind, that was so unacceptable it shattered his own expectations for and about himself. Now he’s trying to figure out how to move backwards, which of course he can’t, and soon he’ll try to figure out how to move forward.

MSL:I find the character of Black Tarantula very intriguing. A seductress of sorts that's very good at manipulation. Her concept was a very important part to this saga and you planned her well. But, I'm also going to be a little critical here because I don't see her as an intelligent character, and my only explanation for her physical prowess is that she's a metahuman. Thus I have trouble accepting her as Dick's foil. This leads me to ask the bigger question: why does she tag around with NW in general? If the ultimate plan was to marry him so he couldn't testify against her, wouldn't that require the police to deduce Nightwing's identity?

DEVIN GRAYSON: I think the mystery of Tarantula’s seeming ability to best Nightwing is solved satisfyingly in issue 100. You’ll also see her working in a slightly different context during the crossover stunt. Remember that she was trained by Quantico and Blockbuster, as well. And I disagree with you about her intelligence. She isn’t wise and she isn’t terribly well educated but she’s sharp as a tack; street-smart, intuitive, and a fast learner.

As for why she tags around with Nightwing – she’s completely smitten with him, and with the life he leads. He is what she thinks she’s aspiring to become, a seasoned professional to her ambitious amateur. All though we all understand that she’ll never be that (she doesn’t have the patience or the morality), she doesn’t see the inherit conflict, and assumes that as long as she’s by his side, she’s well on her way. And in her experience so far, he’s always been there for her to bail her out, which is a great feeling. She can be reckless and get in over her head and know that he won’t let any real harm come to her – she mistakes his code (he wouldn’t let anyone come to harm if he can help it) for genuine affection.

Marrying him was not an “ultimate plan,” it was an impulse, as is almost everything she does – a rather desperate bid to keep him close. She knows he’s too moral to walk out on a wife without understanding that he’s too moral, ultimately, to be with someone like her. So it occurred to her that he was pretty depressed and pretty docile, and who knows? Maybe she could get him to tie the knot and then she could have him for a good, long time.

MSL:(Following questions by Ningen) Why is Tarantula suddenly so interested in Nightwing? Does she have a hidden agenda?

stop

DEVIN GRAYSON:I don’t think it’s sudden at all. She’s been overwhelmed with him since their first meeting (during which he was his usual intensely physical and stunningly charismatic self). After the initial awe of him began to wear off and she became more comfortable in his presence, she became almost immediately flirtatious. And if I have to explain to you why anyone would find Nightwing attractive and want to be with him, um, then I guess we’re doing something really wrong!

Catalina isn’t quite sneaky enough to have a hidden agenda – she just has a strong crush on him, and she finds that partnering up with him affords her a tremendous deal of safety and confidence she doesn’t experience without him. The more she gets to know him, the more she finds herself genuinely caring about him, which is not a sentiment she’s used to feeling, and so she’s responding a little bit like a kid – this is good, I want more. There’s no question that she’ll employ manipulation to keep him around as long as she can, and what’s important to hold about her is that she doesn’t experience this as being willfully evil – she has always had to fight for what she wanted, and she has pretty much always had to fight dirty.

MSL: Just what exactly is going on with Nightwing and Oracle? They've broken up, but is that the end of the relationship?

DEVIN GRAYSON:First of all, I think it’s good and realistic that you don’t quite know. Only in comics do people have absolute relationships where everyone knows exactly where they stand. Real relationships are way more complicated and ambiguous, and they grow, change, and develop over time. As for Dick and Babs specifically, read issue 100. Neither has forgotten the other.

MSL:(Following question by Spikeor) What is it like to be Dick’s brother ;)?

DEVIN GRAYSON: Ha! I’ve been accused of being many things, but never Dick’s brother. ::grins:: I’m actually female, so I can categorically deny that charge. ;-)

If you want to know what it’s like having Dick for a brother, though, you could ask Timmy, who I think would give him rave reviews. Dick is the ultimate big brother; kind, concerned, competent, funny, playful, energetic, compassionate, knowledgeable, protective, and wickedly loyal. Sounds like a good deal to me!

MSL:And my final question-I have heard as a rumor Devin Grayson is a pen name...are you able to confirm this?

DEVIN GRAYSON:More so than anyone else, except that it isn’t true. Devin Kalile Grayson is my real and legal name. It’s what’s on my driver’s license, passport, social security, etc. I’ve never written under a pseudonym. I was born with a different name, but had it legally changed in my early twenties – well before I was working in comics or even thinking about such – in response to sexual abuse issues in my childhood that made me feel like I needed to distance myself from my past a little bit psychologically. I told this to Wizard magazine when they interviewed me for the very first time something like seven years ago and said they could run that as part of the story as long as they were willing to include some phone numbers for national sexual abuse hotlines, but they didn’t want the piece to be a “downer.”

I guess someone got the rumor into circulation without the context, and that actually has been a little painful for me, just since the whole idea was to move on from that part of my life, and now I get constantly asked about it. Believe me, if I’d known I’d be writing Bat-books someday, I would have picked a different last name.

MSL:Thank you so much for taking the time to answer not only my questions, but questions from other posters. Can't wait for issue 100 and beyond!

Devin has also provided some contact information for those dealing with sexual assault,domestic violence, and youth counselling/support groups for those who may be faced with these situations, these may be of help.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network - National Sexual Assault Hotline

1-800-656-HOPE

R.A.I.N.N

National Child Abuse Hotline

To learn the reporting agency for your geographic area and situation.

1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)

Child Abuse Hotline site

National Runaway Switchboard

1-800-621-4000

Girls and Boys Town

A national hotline that girls and boys can call with any problem at any time

1-800-448-3000

Hearing Impaired: 1-800-448-1833

Girls and Boys Town

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD)

National Coalition Against Sexual Assault 717-728-9764

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