Saturday, December 17, 2011

You Still Don't Know Dick

ID: You’ve previously waxed poetic about Dick’s positive effect on your life. What’s the worst moment he helped pull you back from?

B: When the Joker murdered his replacement, things got pretty dark for me. I felt like I’d failed him, that if I’d only trained him better… I wanted to murder the Joker, and then quit.

And I might have done it. By then Dick was Nightwing, and we’d had a pretty big fight about his replacement; he wasn’t living in the Manor anymore, and I wasn’t going to find him to talk it over. But he found me. He tracked me down- despite the fact that I didn’t want to be found.

And he told me that we were all mortal. That he and I, we’d survived for two reasons: the first was that I’d put us through Hell, a training regimen that burnt the imperfections off of us. And the second was luck. Dumb, stupid, thoughtless luck. That we were alive only because chance hadn’t claimed us yet, because we were always only one lousy ricochet or one missed landing away from death.

And I’m not explaining it well. Let me see if I can remember the part that really got me. He said, “We’re in a war. We fight every day for a better world, one where children don’t lose their parents. And when we fail, we mourn our losses, and we fight the next day harder for them.”

He gives a hell of a speech. I was never good at those, not like he is; you have to love people to really reach them the way he does, in a way I’ve never been good at. I care but… love is a vulnerability I’ve rarely allowed myself. It’s one of the many reasons I tell people my son is a far better man than me. Because he isn’t scared to love people knowing what it could cost him. It makes him a better leader. And it also means that he feels his losses even deeper than I feel mine. And I knew if he could do it, if he could look past the reasons we’d been fighting, if he could look at the world with optimism for everything we’d seen, then I could keep going, too.

ID: Fighting the good fight?

B: And doing it the right way. Joker had to be brought to justice. Though I’ll admit, since then I hit him a hell of a lot more than I used to. Not that that’ll ever even things out. I could keep him tied to a chair in the Batcave, and beat him until my fists bled, every damn day, and even if he lived to a natural old age, he could never live through that long enough.

ID: Yeah. I wanted to know about what I think is probably the most controversial Dick-related decision in your life. This is actually the second time you’ve retired. Last time, you passed over Dick to take over for you, in favor of a sociopathic brainwashed zealot. Why?

B: Because Dick Grayson was Nightwing, who by simple right of having done the job longer than anybody else, should have been given the job- at least offered it. But Dick Grayson was also my son. And I was afraid of Bane. He destroyed me, almost completely. If it hadn’t been for Barbara, at least at first, and later the rest of my family and friends, he would have succeeded. And I couldn’t bear having that happen to Dick; I couldn’t stand the possibility.

My first successor- whose name isn’t among those leaked by Lex News, so I won’t be dropping it here- wasn’t Dick. I mean no disrespect, but he couldn’t be. Dick had been doing this his entire life, from a boy. My replacement… he was prepared to do it most of his life, but it was a different system. It wasn’t experience. It wasn’t living years of his life on the streets.

But there was a… ferocity in him. If, no, when, Bane was provoked by the appearance of a new Batman, I thought he stood a better chance of surviving the encounter. Or maybe I was scared of him, too, and I just hoped my two fears could cancel one another out.

ID: Like kill each other?

B: Nothing like that. If I’d really thought my replacement was still capable… he tried to reform. Looking back, I think he had a similar upbringing to Damian, and like my son, he tried to combat the horrors done to him in his childhood. But unlike Damian, he wasn’t quite so adept at conquering his demons. I don’t blame him. I think, on some level, I knew he wasn’t ready, wasn’t tested. I hoped he would gain what he needed on the job, but… the mistake is mine. The failure was mine.

ID: And the deaths that occurred on his watch?

B: Are regrettable. But, I weigh it against the lives that would have been lost if he hadn’t been in the cowl. And maybe… it’s actually the fulfillment of an old fear of mine; I always worried being close to people, loving them, would make me make poor decisions, and I think my fears drove me towards this one. But my replacement did take down Bane, at the height of his powers. And I don’t know if that’s something Dick could have done, then. Now, I have no doubt, but then? I’d still be loathe to push it.

ID: I fear we’re getting a little too dour for our own good. What was your funniest Dick in costume moment?

B: There have been a few. Probably the funniest stretch was when he was going through puberty. And like most teenagers, he was gawky, had acne, and his voice broke. And there are few things more comical than a bunch of hardened criminals running away in a panic from a small boy whose voice is cracking as he yells for them to stop.

But I think the funniest in costume moment, and he’s going to hate that I’m telling this story, but it was the first time he was dealing with Poison Ivy

ID: That’s plant-lady doctor, Pamela Isley.

B: But it was their first encounter after he became a man.

ID: Mazel tov.

B: Ivy doesn’t wear a lot of clothes, and she uses pheromones to manipulate men, um, sexually. Well, she had us caught, but she figured since we were who we were, it wouldn’t last for long, so she had this concentrated form of the pheromone that she’d made into a lipstick, that she said would turn us permanently into her slaves. She kissed Dick first. And I guess it must have required prolonged contact because it lasted a while, and after a moment he joined in, and being the overly enthusiastic boy that he was, there was way too much tongue. It was awkward, watching that.

And when she pulled away, he’s pitching a tent in his tights. She turned red; I didn’t know before that through the chlorophyll skin she still could, but she turned red, or maybe a darker shade of green with just a hint of crimson. She said, “Now I feel dirty about this. I think I have to go.” And she just left. I mean she had us dead to rights, held captive by her Venus mantraps, and in the middle of her crime, she just walks away, because being Mrs. Robinson creeped her out too much.

Dick was pretty embarrassed. So to try and relieve some of the tension, I asked if he thought we might be able to get the same reaction from the Joker. And he said, “Not worth it if I have to tongue kiss him.”

ID: I have, in my prurient personal moments, wondered about that. The women in your world seem to wear rather… tight clothes when they deign to wear anything at all. And be otherwise in the kind of physical condition Olympic swimmers and gymnasts are envious of. And your clothes don’t seem to leave any place for, uh, discretion.

B: It’s weird all of a sudden you being the discrete one.

ID: I get awkward around discussion of adolescent boners.

B: But remember the crotch padding I talked about in my costume? Excellent for keeping that kind of thing in check. It was because Robin was constantly growing that his suit on that particular night didn’t have the padding; in fact, I think he was wearing an older suit while Alfred let out his current one, so it was even a little extra tight.

And Ivy’s usually such a fan of growth.

ID: Thank you and good night.

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