Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Editorial # 5 - “Playing Catch-Up”

Maybe it's the nostalgia of youth; maybe my memory has been colored by listening to one too many comics podcasts or reading too many blogs. I remember the Justice Society and the greater world of Earth 2 as being a place where the heroes always won, even if victory came at a cost. It was a place of light with characters you could look up to. Even after the Crisis, when they had big parts of their histories rewritten, the JSA survived. In fact, they more than survived. They thrived.
Crisis on Infinite Earth really hit Earth 2 hard. For all the good that Marv Wolfman and George Pérez did for the DCU with Crisis, it still created more than its share of problems. The Golden Age Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman no longer existed. That alone would have a pretty big impact since the characters had already had so many adventures over the previous 50 years, but the influence those three had on other characters was huge and also had to be dealt with. Catwoman of Earth 2 didn't exist either, so she obviously couldn't marry the non-existent Batman and give birth to the Helena Wayne, therefore Huntress is gone (for a while anyway). Superman and Lois Lane weren't there to raise Power Girl who did still exist but now had no family or past and her origin was rewritten badly to say the least. Wonder Woman's daughter, Fury, no longer had a mother but Fury was still an active member of Infinity, Inc. and involved with Silver Scarab, the son of the Golden Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl. The entire series of Young All-Stars was basically created to patch some of the holes that Crisis left in DC continuity.
Oh yeah! How is all this relevant to TKF? No Golden Age Batman meant no Golden Age Robin either. Dick Grayson of Earth 1 still existed as Nightwing with his character history left mostly untouched, so 10 year-old me was pretty okay with things at the time. But good ideas are good ideas, so DC slowly brought back Earth 2 and its characters over time through a variety of events culminating in the New52 Earth-2 series. I reread the series as well as its follow-ups, Earth-2: World's End and Convergence this last week. I'm shocked by how much they could do well when they got so, so much of it wrong.
Earth-2 was still defined by being a world at war, but this time World War II had nothing to do with the story. Right out of the gate the reader gets introduced to new look versions of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman in a five year flashback to a war with the armies of Apokolips and they were dead by the end of the first issue. This time Helena Wayne was back, but she was her dad's Robin, again ending up as Huntress. Once again, Dick Grayson was nowhere to be seen. Dick never even showed up in Earth-2 until issue # 29 after first being introduced during Earth-2: World's End # 1. Where do we first see Dick? He's a reporter in a hospital room, standing next to his pregnant wife, Officer Barbara Gordon of the Chicago Police Dept.
Fast forward a few years in the comics, a couple of weeks in real time,and the happy couple is fighting for survival in the second great Apokolips war with their son, Johnny, in tow. Their story is one of several subplots followed through World's End and, just like most of the stories from that series and its parent series, the Graysons' story is one of tragedy.
However, the Grayson family tragedy is mostly one of poor writing and editorial decisions. Barbara protects her mostly helpless husband long enough to lose their son, find him again, then die trying to keep the two of them alive. Dick manages to lose track of the boy again and learns to fight from TedGrant, who had only been seen previously as a name on a marquee. Somehow, an afternoon with Ted turns Dick into a competent enough fighter to allow Dick to recover his son, Tommy. (That isn't my mistake. For some reason, the writing team couldn't be bothered to keep the boy's name straight from one issue to the next; they flip-flopped between Johnny and Tommy at least four times.) When he found himself unable to secure a place for the two of them on an escape vehicle, Dick ended up entrusting his son to a woman dressed in robes. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to Dick, the woman was Barda, the disgraced leader of Darkseid's Female Furies, with her traveling companion the Fury of War. Dick also went on to meet the second Batman of Earth-2, Thomas Wayne. Another series of events led to Dick learning of his alternate selves' connection to the legend of Batman. He adopted the symbol after Thomas' death. As of the current Earth-2:Society (E2S) series, he has fully adopted the mantle of Batman and is still looking for his son.
I have a lot of problems with the handling of the Earth-2 characters. Turning Terry Sloane from the original Mr. Terrific that inspired Michael Holt into a megalomaniacal super murderer is one of the problems. I have always been a fan of Mr. Miracle and Barda as a couple. That's out the window now as Barda is a total villain; not cool. I don't have any real attachment to Barbara Gordon, but her death was used as little more than a plot device. Neither Ted Grant nor Yolanda Montez gets to be Wildcat? Something is wrong there. Jay and Joan Garrick used to be the fun grandparents of the Flash family. Making them younger wasn't a big deal but having her coldly break up with him in their very first appearance was absolutely wrong. Connor Hawke's personality was written as pretty much the opposite of his previous incarnation. AlPratt and Alan Scott were jerks through most of the series. The majority of the whole cast were just meaner, and these were the heroes.
There are some bright spots. Except for the Atom, I really like most of the redesigned costumes. The artists have generally done a magnificent job illustrating the various books. Hawkgirl was and continues to be consistently awesome. Despite how badly his relationship was handled, Flash is generally still well-written as a hero. Huntress' solo mini-series was pretty good. Worlds' Finest wasn't bad with Huntress and Power Girl in the lead, although sales led DC to turn the series into another Batman and Superman showcase. However, the two ladies were heavily featured in World's End, Convergence, and currently in E2S, albeit in a somewhat diminished capacity. Dick Grayson is now the third Batman of Earth-2. I actually think he's suited for the role, but I hope some more of his training will be fleshed out as the series progresses because the guy I'm reading in E2S now is not the same one from a year ago.

Dan Abnett has recently taken over the writing chores on E2S. Much like his other project TitansHunt is doing for the classic Titans team, Abnett's E2S run has the enormous task of trying to fix the problems that his predecessors created. If he can inject some heart into the book, then a lot of the other problems might go away. The characters of Earth 2 were never meant to suffer the ringer that they have been put through since being introduced in the New52. Hopefully, we'll get an Earth-2: Rebirth once the current series ends. There is still a lot of potential and many new stories to be told with these characters that have endured for the last 70+ years.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Editorial # 4 - “Hunh...So That's What That Was About”

Sometimes you buy a comic and it just doesn't sit right with you. Maybe you finish reading it; maybe you just give up and toss it in a long box and don't think about it for a while. Apparently, I did something just like that back in 2000.
Batman: Fortunate Son has sat in one of my long boxes for so long that I actually forgot that I even owned it. I'm a little embarrassed to admit it now, but I don't think I really understood how good Gerard Jones' story was back then. I was already a 25-year-old father of two by the time, so saying the story was too mature for me to appreciate upon release is cause for some concern. (Don't worry, my kids came out of it just fine.) I've been on something of a trade paperback and graphic novel-buying kick recently. I rediscovered this gem in my collection by accident while trying to find a way to organize all the new purchases into my ever-shrinking available space.
I probably first bought Fortunate Son because of the art by Gene Ha. I had been of fan of the work he was doing on Top Ten with Alan Moore. (***Side note: I also found my copy of the super-awesome Top Ten: The Forty-Niners in the same box...SCORE!!!***) Now that I've reread Fortunate Son, I can confidently say that the art is indeed awesome. More importantly, I really enjoyed the story.
A rock-and-roll story featuring Batman and Robin is probably a hard sell for most people. Their trepidation is totally valid. I have to admit that I most likely did not give this book the chance it deserved. In fact, even today, I might have passed on picking it up if that was the description I was given about Fortunate Son. Luckily for me, seeing that old school DC bullet hit me right in the nostalgia sweet spot. Plus, the art drew my attention once again. I gave the book a second shot. Totally worth it!
The relevance of Fortunate Son to this blog is the fact that it tells a story set in the early days of Batman and Robin's pre-Flashpoint careers as heroes where Dick Grayson is Robin rocking the bare legs and pixie boots. Fortunate Son highlights the differences between the two protagonists, pitting them against each other in an ethical conflict over what to do about an increasingly unstable, violent rocker who believes he's lost touch with the pure soul of his music. Jones makes a point of playing up the rocker's growing insanity by having him fully accept that the ghost of Elvis Presley is leading him around on his mission. (Like I said, this book might be a bit of a hard sell.)
Just so there is no confusion, Batman: Fortunate Son is not a perfect piece of modern fiction. A couple of elements plant the book firmly in a particular window of time. For example, fans of the animated Teen Titans, Go! would be uncomfortable seeing Robin so dedicated to rock music and a rock star since he has shown a definite affinity for hip-hop on the show. Also, as Robin very accurately states, the few hours that Batman spends locked in a booth listening to multiple artists simultaneously while also reading God-only-knows how many articles about rock-and-roll, would not make him an expert on the music. I think it would just drive someone crazy, although having the articles in the art and seeing them become increasingly incoherent as he continued to read was a really nice touch. I also have one minor quibble with the art. The ears on Batman's cowl look tremendous; like they-should-be-throwing-off-his-balance tremendous.

I chose not to call this article a review because it falls outside the boundaries I set for myself when I started TKF. It's a “lost” story of Batman and Robin set before the New 52 came along. That said, it's also worth trying to find if you've never read it or giving it a second chance if you didn't dig it the first time. I'm glad that I did.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Review / Commentary # 7 - Nightwing # 7: “”Turning Points”

  • Writer: Kyle Higgins
  • Penciller: Eddy Barrows & Geraldo Borges
  • Inkers: Paulo Siqueira & Eber Ferriera
  • Colorist: Rod Reis
  • Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
  • Editor: Bobbie Chase
  • Assistant Editor: Katie Kubert

Detailed Impression:
The cover to Nightwing # 7 starts things off really well. In a scene that never actually appears inside the book, we see Nightwing in deep perspective. There's obvious strain in his face while he struggles against the ropes restraining his suspended body with Saiko holding the other end. The drawing is dynamic. The look on Nightwing's face goes a long way to sell the tension of the moment. I do have one question. How many leverage points are involved here? Saiko doesn't seem to be exercising any effort at all to hold him up.
Open up the book and Higgins immediately gives us a flashback to the moment the Flying Graysons' died falling from their sabotaged trapeze. Barrows emphasizes the damage to the trapeze rope in a multi-panel drawing. Barrows actually illustrates the whole scene beautifully in a manner similar to that used on the covers of issues # 2-6 with colors applied directly over the pencils. The technique is also utilized in another flashback. It works very nicely to soften the visuals, particularly on the page revealing Saiko's tragic origin. The look of these pages evokes a dreamy quality that works well for flashbacks.
Higgins finally gives up the answers to some of the questions raised through this first arc:
  1. What the big secret behind Haly's Circus?
  • The circus has always been a cover for a Court of Owls breeding ground for prospective Talons.
  1. What was the book and why was Dick's name in it?
  • A list of proposed Talons chosen once a decade to be handed over to the Court. Dick was meant to be the current Talon.
  1. Why was Saiko so bent on killing Dick Grayson of all people?
  • Raymond held Dick responsible for his torture at the hands of the Court. Dick evaded them when his parents died and Raymond was taken in his place but wasn't up to their standards. They left him to die birds pecked at his eyes.
There were two art teams employing three different art styles in the issue. Barrows' inkless pencils looked great in the flashbacks. Some of his inked work looked a little heavy-handed by contrast, but not bad at all. Geraldo Borges gets a second chance to work on the series. He wraps things up fairly well, but the character models look substantially different from Barrows' work. The net effect to the visual storytelling could have been extremely detrimental, but was rescued by the characters' clothing/costumes and the colors.
Borges did an especially good job drawing the epilogue sequence. His contribution may have felt more organic to the overall issue if this had been his only work in the book. Interestingly, this scene reflected and contained excerpts from the exact same conversation between Nightwing and Batman from Batman # 7. In his “Fatman on Batman” interview, Kyle Higgins gives some behind the scenes info about the epilogue. Scott Snyder's version of this conversation plays out over the course of eight pages. Higgins and company didn't have enough page space to accommodate a complete rehash of the Batman sequence. Higgins' clever solution was to just have Dick monologue internally that he tuned out most of what Bruce was saying. Another neat thing about these pages is that Borges draws the whole sequence from slightly different angles than Greg Capullo had done.
Higgins hints at another mystery and future storyline before closing out the issue. He ends his first arc with Nightwing riding off into the night questioning his world view much as his mentor often does. However, Higgins continues the characterization throughline he set up for Dick by having him come to an actual conclusion, thereby showing Dick as the more emotionally mature of the two characters.

Overall Impression:
Issue # 7 is a very good finale to a first issue that was excellent overall. The final battle between Nightwing and Saiko felt like there were real stakes involved. Sure, it's Nightwing's book so we know he'll win in the end. But the real and potential collateral damage was extensive, especially for the innocent circus-goers and members.
You sympathize with Dick's sense of betrayal by people he thought he knew throughout the issue. The lack of any true resolution as to Raya's motivation to want Dick dead is uncomfortable despite its realism. As we saw previously, there was some obvious manipulation by Raymond/Saiko. However, that alone didn't feel like enough to push her to such lengths. Unfortunately, sometimes you just don't get an answer to your questions. Sometimes there is no reason at all behind the things people do. I assume these types of situations would be even more frustrating to a trained detective like Nightwing than it is for a reader.
I dug the art. All the pages were good. Some were great. A few showed flashes of brilliance. I especially appreciated the dreamy look of the flashback pages.

Once again, this was an issue I enjoyed a lot. However, I do have a huge problem with one aspect of the issue and it has everything to do with the epilogue scene I so enjoyed. The unfortunate side effect of Scott Snyder's massively successful run as the writer on Batman is that DC editorial has essentially allowed him to ride roughshod over just about all the rest of the Bat line of books. It worked well enough with limited intrusion in this issue and the “Night of Owls” issues coming next. But his success led the editorial staff to allow him too much sway over the overall direction of the line causing other writers to have to delay or completely drop some of their own stories in other Bat books

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Editorial # 3 - "They Love the Dick..."

By no means would I ever consider myself what is referred to in the modern parlance of our times as "a shipper." However, in comic books as in life and all long form storytelling, issues of love and romantic entanglement do tend to pop up. Dick Grayson has existed as a character for over 75 years now. Suffice it to say that in that time, he's had more than a few ladies in his life.
I have never claimed to be a Dick Grayson expert. That's Tom Panarese, although I doubt he would ever try to make the claim himself. Like it says in the header for this blog, I am simply a fan; maybe a little more knowledgeable than most, but still just a layman. What I do have is roughly 35 years of fandom to pull from and, even just in that time, I know that if he were ever to give up the hero gig, Grayson could live quite comfortably off of his sexual conquests throughout the DCU. The full list of ladies he's been involved with is pretty extensive. I decided to discuss just a few of them in this article. I'll give my personal feelings on the whole deal at the end.
  • Bette Kane  - The controversy surrounding Batman and Robin's relationship resulting from Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent and the subsequent Congressional hearings caused DC Comics to create female love interests for both Batman and Robin. Kathy Kane was already the first Bat-Woman to Bruce Wayne's Batman and her niece Bette was introduced as the first Bat-Girl. Bette was a tennis champ with as unflattering a super hero costume as her aunt's, but didn't catch on the way her aunt's character did. Eventually, the Bette Kane character was abandoned to languish in limbo for years. She wouldn't be touched on again until the Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths annual of Secret Origins that updated the origin of the Teen Titans. This time around, Kathy Kane's Bat-Woman didn't exist so Bette was retconned to have been a fangirl with a Robin crush. She never became Bat-girl, instead taking the much cooler (in my opinion) and then unused hero name Flamebird adopting a costume in order to get his attention. The tactic failed. Robin rejected her. This time, when she went back to tennis, she continued to operate as a part-time hero in the on/off Titans West team. She continued to attempt to impress Nightwing with her prowess. The last time came when he blew up at her cruelly and unnecessarily, telling her that she was essentially a wannabe and was going to get herself killed. She instead got a new, much improved costume (which ironically had a similar design to Nightwing's own) and recommitted herself to being a better hero than ever, this time for herself. When the New 52 came around, Bette was de-aged and her superhero origin was mostly undefined although any tie between her and Nightwing seems to have been severed. She was now the cousin of current Batwoman Kate Kane, starting out as Flamebird before becoming her cousin's protégé temporarily called Plebe before adopting the slightly less terribly name Hawkfire. Interestingly, although the main DCU never made anything really happen between Dick and Bette, the two did have a one night stand in the Young Justice animated tie in book. The tryst was implied more than shown and apparently anonymous since she didn't realize that they'd gone to high school together until she noticed his Gotham Academy yearbook the next morning. She also realized that she was now, "the older woman. But not that much older, I promise."
  • Donna Troy The continuity-challenged Donna Troy, formerly known as Wonder Girl, Troia, and Darkstar, has an very long, intense history with Mr. Grayson from their time growing up together as members of the Teen Titans. Dick and Donna never had a romantic relationship, but legendary New Teen Titans writer Marv Wolfman has said several times that, when he started on the book, he planned to have the two of them get together. Apparently, the idea was rejected by DC editorial. Part of Wolfman and Pérez's impetus for creating Starfire at the New Teen Titans' inception was to replace Donna in the love story while still having a compelling, hot character as Dick's primary love interest. Donna instead married the creepily older-looking Terry Long with whom she would eventually have a son, becoming a successful photographer, and the closest thing in the world Dick has to a sister. Dick hand picked Donna as his successor to lead the Titans whenever he left. Her death at the hands of a malfunctioning Superman robot had a profoundly harmful effect on Dick which caused him to disband the then-current incarnation of the Titans and left him unwilling to connect on any emotional level with the members of his next team, the Outsiders. She eventually returned to life as a central character of the DCU. During her stint as Wonder Woman and Dick's concurrent time as Batman, she was instrumental in getting him to join her and several of their other former Titans teammates as members of the Justice League. Donna was a very late comer to the New 52 with a wildly different history than in the earlier continuity. Neither she nor Dick had any history with the Titans, teen or otherwise. DC's current maxi-series Titans Hunt by writer Andy Diggle has the all-important, incredibly challenging task of weaving the original Titans into the framework of present DC continuity.
  • Koriand'r Starfire first appeared in New Teen Titans # 1. This powerful, stunningly beautiful, exiled warrior princess from the planet Tamaran stole a young Dick Grayson's heart from the moment they met when she kissed him to learn the local language upon landing on Earth. The two of them were almost inseparable through hundreds of adventures all over the planet and to other worlds, galaxies, and dimensions. Even her marriage of state to a prince from the other side of Tamaran had little long term impact on their relationship. While defending Abigail Arcane's right to love Swamp Thing despite his being of another species, Batman refers to the relationship between Starfire and his former protégé indicating there is evidence of the orange-skinned Tamaraneans having descended from cats. Kori matured significantly over the course of her existence as a character although she never lost her sharp emotional edge or her fierce sexually independent nature. Kori and Dick's romance did eventually fail. During their time as members of the Outsiders, the two of them had a no-strings-attached sexual relationship which ended with her asking Dick if he really loved her any longer. He told her that he did and always would, but when she pressed for more clarification, he admitted that he wasn't actually in love with her anymore. There are a few scenes that indicate some New 52 romantic history between Kori and Dick prior to the first issue of Red Hood & the Outlaws. However, Kori's New 52 incarnation was initially depicted as, essentially, a shallow sex bot. She jumped from sleeping with Jason Todd to his best friend and partner Roy Harper in a move that seemed to have the same emotional impact as filling up the fuel tank in a car. The only time she appeared to be anything more than a sex object in the series was during the team's space adventure when she took command of her former squadron and captained her shipmates to victory. Interestingly, during DC's Convergence event, in Convergence: New Teen Titans, set at a point after Kori's marriage to Ryandr, Dick and Kori married during the year the Titans spent under Telos' dome. Starfire is currently starring in her own self-titled series highlighting her experiences in Key West, FL as a stranger on a strange world. I know that Starfire just ran into Dick in his current role as Agent 37 but I don't really know much about how that interaction turned out.
  • Bridget Clancy - Dick's early days as the protector of Blüdhaven were incrementally brightened by his initially blind flirtation with this Chinese-born, Irish-bred superintendent and landlady of his apartment building. The two dated briefly, while Dick was employed as a Blüdhaven police officer. They broke up amicably, preferring to remain friends. Clancy accepted a Wayne Foundation scholarship to a New York City medical school which had the unforeseen but fortunate side effect of saving her life when Roland Desmond had the apartment building burned to the ground. The fire killed all but two residents, one of whom was Dick Grayson. She has not appeared in the New 52.
  • Helena Wayne – Before the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, a middle aged Earth 2 Robin/Dick Grayson and this daughter of the Earth 2 Batman and Catwoman, who called herself the Huntress, were partners in both business and crime fighting. They also shared a mutual attraction that both felt uncomfortable about for different reasons. These versions of Huntress and Robin died together and had their existences wiped away by the Crisis like most of DC's characters who had modern analogues from or related to the Golden Age. They were reintroduced in 52. Flashpoint rewrote Helena Wayne's story again and she was given a her own pretty good mini-series before moving on to star with her long-time best friend Power Girl in Worlds' Finest with their adventures continuing through Earth-2, Earth-2: World's End, and Earth-2: Society. She no longer has any real connection to the current Earth-2 Dick Grayson, but Convergence: Detective Comics saw Helena Wayne convincing the adult Robin to assume the role of her deceased father as Batman.
  • Helena Bertinelli – The Huntress was too good an idea for DC to fully let go of after Crisis. However, it did remove her entire parentage and origin from DC history, so they had to come up with a new reason and way for her to be around. The character was re-imagined as the last surviving member of the Bertinelli crime family. Having escaped the family's assassination by a rival mob, she was sent to Sicily where she learned the skills she needed to begin her vengeance years later as the violent vigilante called the Huntress. Her extreme methods put her at odds with Batman and his associates early on, but she eventually earned their respect and trust. During her time as a Gotham high school teacher, she and Nightwing worked together on a case and had a brief affair. She spent a short period as a member of the Justice League before becoming a top agent of the Birds of Prey where she developed a sisterly bond with Black Canary (Dinah Lance) and Oracle (Barbara Gordon) despite some initial tension between herself and Barbara. She substituted for Arsenal with the Outsiders while he recovered from multiple gunshot wounds. During this time with the team, she also took advantage of the opportunity to tease Nightwing about still wanting her. She ended her time with the team by passionately kissing Arsenal. As she walked out Nightwing deduced that Arsenal and Huntress had slept together at some point. Huntress became good friends and partners with Renee Montoya in her guise as the second Question. Initially assumed to be deceased at the beginning of the New 52, the now bi-racial Helena Bertinelli had her identity stolen by the displaced Helena Wayne. When Dick Grayson could no longer operate as Nightwing after having his identity revealed and the world believing he was dead, Helena Bertinelli was shown as a high ranking member of Spyral, the same spy organization that Batman had asked Dick to infiltrate. Helena and Dick became partners at Spyral until she eventually took over as its chief. There has been some romantic tension implied between Dick and Helena but nothing has yet come of it. The two are shown to be in love during the possible future depicted in Grayson: Future's End.
  • Barbara Gordon – Debuting as Batgirl on the 1966 “Batman” television show, Barbara Gordon proved to be so popular that she was quickly brought into the comic books. Although some early flirtations were implied between Dick and Babs, she was much older than he in her original incarnation. In fact, he ended up serving as one of her aides during her time as a congresswoman. Many retcons later, Post-Crisis Dick and Babs were roughly the same age. She might have had a couple of years on him, but it was nothing that seemed too out of bounds. This time around, Babs was Dick's first big crush. Not much was done with the idea at the time because he was involved with Starfire all through the 80s and part of the 90s. In fact, it wasn't until after she was shot by Joker, effectively ending her superhero career, and had spent several years operating as Oracle, that Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon finally decided to pursue a romantic relationship. Barbara had been a competent superhero, but as Oracle she was a true powerhouse; the best hacker on the planet and chief information broker to Earth's superhero community. Her services were instrumental to the Justice League numerous times. She even took things a step further by enlisting several heroes to her side as the Birds of Prey. Her first attempt at running a hero as her agent resulted in a disastrous mission for Power Girl and the two were on very uneasy terms for a long time. She was far more successful with her second agent, Black Canary, recruiting Dinah at a very low point in her life both personally and professionally. The Birds of Prey was a two person show for a long time with Canary in the field and Oracle behind the scenes. Eventually, the two took on more operatives with Canary acting as the field leader and Oracle running the show. Dinah and Barbara's friendship is almost deeper than anything either of them has with any other person in their lives and has continued into current DC continuity. After getting together, Dick and Barbara spent several years as a couple. They had a really strong, though sometimes rocky, relationship that was often hampered by Dick tending to see her as the Batgirl she had been in what she thought he saw as her more exciting times. A particularly low point in their relationship culminated in his proposing marriage to her before going off to spend some time traveling with his adoptive father, Bruce Wayne, while Dick recovered from injuries he'd incurred during the events of Infinite Crisis. The proposal did not go his way. Although they would both pretty much always be each other's greatest loves, they could never really fully connect after she turned him down. I honestly don't recall him really falling for anyone else since the two of them broke things off. Post Flashpoint, Barbara is back in the cowl as Batgirl in a move that was both reductive to the character and to the diversity of the overall DC Universe. It has been shown several times that Dick and Barbara have a romantic history together that complicates things for both of them due mostly to very poor timing. He asked her to move to Chicago with him and she balked at the idea at first because her boyfriend at the time was in the hospital. When she changed her mind the next morning, it was already too late as Dick had left without her. After he resurfaced as a spy and Barbara got over her initial anger at not being privy to the secret that he was alive, he tried to move on her again causing some tension in her budding relationship with Luke Fox, aka. Batwing. As depicted in Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle, Dick and Babs got back together with him once again operating in the field and her acting as the brains of the operation. After overcoming a very violent version of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, the two of them finally tied the knot. Dick and Babs' romance has been a fact of both the DC Animated Universe and Young Justice. In the DCAU, Dick discovered Barbara's secret life as Batgirl and that Batman had been aware of her activities the entire time. Batman's reluctance to share the secret with his partner resulted in Robin punching Batman in the face, dissolving their partnership, breaking up with Barbara, and leaving for Gotham for a year to become Nightwing. A flashback scene from Batman Beyond hints that Bruce and Barbara had a fling at some point after the break up.
  • Sonia Branch – While their relationship never got very far, Dick's flirtation with Sonia Branch is indicative of his personality in the New 52. Dick's life is in constant forward motion. The evidence of that fact is that he started a business relationship with the daughter of the man who killed his parents. Born Sonia Zucco, daughter of Tony Zucco, Sonia entered Dick's life as president of the bank he approached to fund the renovation of Gotham's Amusement Mile fairgrounds as the new home of Haly's Circus. Sonia and Dick grew closer over time, becoming friends and almost something more. Her embarrassment over her father's actions caused her to hesitate in giving Dick the information that she had recently learned that Tony Zucco was still alive. Dick captured the murderer in a story arc that will be discussed later on this site. Sonia visited her father in prison, rebuffing him. She also briefly returned to Dick's life to apologize for what happened and failed to happen between them.
Like I said earlier, I am not a “shipper”. That said, I do have some ideas about Dick's personal life. Firstly, I am actually not a fan of either of the two big relationships in Dick Grayson's long history. Nothing against either Babs or Kori, I just don't find either relationship to be very healthy for him or compelling for me.
Barbara is a great character, but their fascination with each other seems more like a first crush that they never outgrew and should have. I like the fact that their New 52 timing sucks. It shows that they are not actually in the same place emotionally and that they probably never will be. In my opinion, this relationship works best as a “one that got away” story. They appear to have less in common as their individual characters evolve. Constantly trying to shoehorn them back together is actually contrary to their character development.
On the other hand, Kori and Dick's relationship has simply run its course. They were good for one another in their teens and early 20s, teaching each other what love really meant. But the fire is out now. They don't have to hate each other or anything. After his break up with Babs, Dick and Kori's friends-with-benefits relationship was fun for both of them, but I don't really see any growth potential for either one if they were to fully get back together.
So who would be a good fit for our Mr. Grayson? Honestly, I'm not sure. Of the characters I've mentioned here, I would be most interested to see what could happen with either Helena Wayne with Helena Bertinelli as a close second. Bette Kane is a not-uninteresting character in her own right, but a relationship with her Pre-Flashpoint incarnation might have felt like him taking advantage of her hero worship. The aborted romance with Sonia could have had some interesting developments, as could the stories with Donna and Clancy.
I would love to see something happen between Black Canary and Dick. She is my favorite female superhero, after all. The New 52 removed any connection between her and long-time love interest Green Arrow, but beyond her persistent comments to the Pre-Flashpoint Barbara on how sexy he is, I just don't believe there is any real potential there. Plus, it would really throw a monkey wrench into Barbara's relationships with both Dick and Dinah. 
To my mind, a more interesting pairing story-wise actually comes from the aforementioned Young Justice animated series, Zatanna. They shared an off-screen romance of unknown length between seasons 1 & 2 of the critically acclaimed series. She is slightly less high profile than Dinah, so a writer who wanted to use her in a Dick Grayson book would likely not have to compete with many others to tell different stories with the two of them. As I've said elsewhere, a pairing between the two could also open up pathways into some mystical stories for Grayson, a relatively unexplored region of the Bat-books since the end of the Batwoman series. Zatanna has also been without a solo book since the New 52. Hooking her and Dick up might also help raise her profile and generate some interest for a new solo title featuring the generally awesome, powerful, sexy sorceress in the fishnet stockings.
Considering how little I tend to care about imaginary relationships, I have droned on for almost seven pages now. I don't know if anyone will ever read this or if anyone that does will even care. However, if any of you reading this do have an opinion on young Mr. Grayson's love life, please take a moment and tell me who you think could be the one to make him meet his match.