We’re all very excited about the announcement that Nightwing will be given a solo movie coming from Lego Batman director Chris McKay. Hell, we’ve already started casting Dick Grayson in our heads, but one thing that superheroes movies require—other than a compelling titular character—is a great villain. (Unless, of course, you’re Marvel.) The great thing about Nightwing, though, is that you won’t have to settle for a lesser bad guy. When you’ve worked with every team in the DC Universe, and even operated as an undercover spy, traveling the known world and beyond, you end up a compelling, wisecracking hero with a villain base to match.
Nightwing’s bad guys are from all walks of villain-life. You’ll recognize some on this list; others, not so much. Some of these characters were even originally Batman villains, but they have a long enough history with Grayson (because he started his superhero career at such a young age) that they’d feel right at home in his solo movie. But wherever these villains come from, they all made the same mistake of crossing one of the greatest heroes DC Comics has ever known. They may know crime, but they don’t know Dick Grayson.
Here are 16 Villains We Want To See In The Nightwing Movie.
Dick Grayson was getting beaten with objects before it was cool. In one of his earliest missions as Robin, Two-Face captured the kid, and dubbed him the Boy Hostage. Oh, and then he beat the Boy Wonder brutally with a baseball bat until his bones shattered. Over the years, Harvey Dent would taunt Grayson with this, and though Dick would later take revenge on the villain, there was always that connection between the two. Robin had never gotten that close to death before (or, arguably, since).
Two-Face kept an eye on Grayson over the years. He knew Robin grew up to be Nightwing and then Batman. Dent always made use of their past to get a psychological advantage on the young hero. Never has that been more on display than Peter J. Tomasi’s Nightwing: The Great Leap that sees a complex game of mental chess being played between the two leading up to Grayson coming to accept his role as the next guardian of Gotham City. Even though Nightwing managed to outsmart and overpower the former District Attorney, Two-Face was still the only character to make Dick Grayson look before he leaped. Seeing the two of them against each other on the big screen would allow fans who aren’t familiar with this rivalry to see an entirely different Dent dealing with an entirely different hero.
Paragon is a recent villain, first seen in an arc of Kyle Higgins’ Nightwing run from 2011 (though DC has an unrelated character of the same name that was introduced back in 1984). He has a design that isn’t entirely film friendly, but a backstory well worth exploring. Sick of the way that vigilantes have overtaken law enforcement, and their battles getting more and more innocent people stuck in the middle, he develops a group called the Republic of Tomorrow to battle the flights and tights crew–specifically, Nightwing, whom the Republic frames for a double homicide and works to manipulate the police against him.
Paragon is important more as a vehicle to explore the effect of superheroes in the real world. Sure, this doesn’t lend itself to a lot of laughs, but there could be a balance between the fun and still have a meaningful theme going on. In killing John and Mary Grayson, Tony Zucco essentially created Nightwing. In accidentally causing a car accident, Nightwing essentially created Paragon. There’s a whole notion of endless cyclicality between vigilantes and the criminals they fight. One feeds the other, and it’d be great to see that explored on the big screen.
14. Talia al Ghul
Like Two-Face, Talia’s definitely more of a Batman villain, but she’s had problems with Nightwing before. He shut down her clone/slavery program in the Nightwing: Freefall story, which set back her plans for years (coming about again in Batman, Incorporated) but made her respect him. And that all came before Damian Wayne entered the picture.
Talia tolerated and even understood when Damian wanted to get to know his father, but then Bruce died for a while, and Grayson took over as Batman. Talia was galled that Dick made Damian his Robin, and infuriated when her son chose to stay with Dick—whom Talia often referred to as “circus orphan”—rather than come back home to her.
Considering that when Bruce rejected her, she started a world-spanning holy war, Talia took this news well. She hired Grayson’s most hated adversary, Deathstroke, to take control of Damian’s body and behead the would-be Dark Knight.
See? It’s a pretty measured response.
13. Tony Zucco
Tony Zucco is practically a guarantee to show up at least for a minute in the Nightwing movie. After all, he is the man who murdered the hero’s parents. But they might just want to keep Zucco around in the films for more than just a brief appearance.
If there was someone Nightwing might kill, it’s him. Dick Grayson has always been able to move on and keep an optimistic outlook. But Zucco represents the ultimate moral test. When confronted with the fact that Zucco had faked his death and was living the high life, Nightwing wanted revenge. When he learned that Tony had at least somewhat reformed and was trying to raise a family, teaching his boy how to lead a good life along the way, Grayson was surprised.
Further complicating matters is Sonia Branch, Zucco’s daughter, whom Grayson had a business relationship with, which, as per usual with Dick, is redolent with sexual tension. While not one of the best fighters or most colorful villains, the Zuccos represent a character-exposing story just waiting for the big screen.
Flash fact: in the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Robin’s Reckoning,” a pre-pubescent Dick Grayson befriends a prostitute, who helps him track down Zucco. It’s subtle enough so kids won’t realize it, but as an adult, it’s impossible to miss. The ladies always loved Dick.
12. Jason Todd
The best heroes and villains mirror each other in various ways. In that sense, Jason Todd was the seminal Dick Grayson villain. However, DC’s spastic decisions with Jason’s character made it difficult to really explore this outside a few issues of Nightwing and Batman & Robin; though, if we’re going to split hairs on how the character was treated, Jason was always worth more dead.
As the Red Hood, Jason dealt with crime on crime’s terms. He killed bad guys. Lots of them. He and Dick were essentially two brothers fighting their father’s war, separated as the good son and the bad one; the one that recovered from tragedy, and the one who was broken by it.
In their encounter in the pages of Batman & Robin, Red Hood raised the stakes by vying for the public’s trust, thematically raising questions about superheroes, vigilantism, and the use of technology in fighting crime. If DC editorial had kept developing Grayson and Todd in that way, their enmity could have been something that feels perpetually modern, and constantly personal. After all, no one knows how to hurt you like family.
While Jason Todd is established as dead in the DCEU, the modern adaptations have eschewed the Nolan realism and embraced the fantastical elements of the comics. He could easily come back to life. What’s a comic book story without a retcon?
11. Lady Shiva
Given that Lady Shiva has never been adapted outside of the comics, it would be exciting to see her make her debut in a Nightwing flick. This is especially true since she’s such a great villain with a particular fixation on Dick Grayson. In the New 52, Sandra Woosan was given the requisite de-aging and costume change, making her look like Shredder from Ninja Turtles. It was not a great look. Regardless, she kept her role as the DCU’s most dangerous assassin. She took a mission in Gotham and kicked the crap out of Batman.
A teenage Dick Grayson donned his Robin suit for the first time to go out and save him. He managed to save Bruce and impress Shiva, who offered to become his new mentor, an offer he of course declined. She has kept tabs on him over the years and has mentioned some sort of plan she has for him. Of course, this was still the New 52, so nothing came of this, but we can probably guess that when the world’s greatest assassin has plans for you, it’s probably not for frozen yogurt and Netflix.
Boone went to the School of Hard Knocks Vengeance Academy. Growing up, he was friends with Dick Grayson, but they went in diametric directions. Nightwing became a black-clad superhero sex symbol, and, well, Shrike looks like something you’d see tripping on Ayahuasca in the Tasmanian rainforest. But what Boone lacks in fashion sense, he makes up for in physical brutality and solid strategy. Trained by the League of Assassins, and having worked directly for the al Ghul family, Shrike is a dedicated mass murderer who is built to be the very antithesis of Nightwing.
While Strike may not be the most well-developed villain around, he has the ingredients of a classic one with staying power. There are very few bad guys out there that are able to outfight and outsmart Nightwing, let alone chain him up and torture him for days on end. In the end, Grayson needed Boone to be distracted by Black Canary and Oracle to gain the upper hand. Shrike may not be able to hold a movie as its singular villain, but he’d make a damn fine foot soldier.
Blockbuster is what happens when Rocky Dennis is raised as a Garbage Pail Kid and grows up wanting to be Wilson Fisk. If adapted, his look would have to be altered; Hector Hammond in the Green Lantern movie had a Blockbuster thing going on there, and god knows it’s something we’d all like to forget.
There’s just enough tragedy in Roland Desmond’s life to make him accessible to an audience. As the chief crime lord of Blüdhaven, the only city in the DCU worse than Gotham or Hub City, Blockbuster has been responsible for all kinds of horrific crimes; selling drugs to kids, bribing or killing the cops, murdering the families of rival criminals, reclining his seat on a plane, etc. It’d be great if someone shot him in the head…
The more Nightwing fought for Blüdhaven, the better it got, and the more desperate Blockbuster became. When Desmond found out who Nightwing was, he bombed the entire apartment complex and kidnapped the family of Grayson’s partner at the time (more on her in the next entry).
Catalina Flores was a budding superhero in Blüdhaven who Nightwing decided to train, believing he could help her the way Bruce helped him. Only, she eventually abandoned his teachings and shot Blockbuster in the head. Their relationship is a complex one because of her own dealings with crime and her feelings for Dick, mixed with Nightwing’s own feelings of failure in getting through to her. Plus, one extra uncomfortable incident.
Nightwing was in a near-catatonic state of shock after deciding not to save Blockbuster. Seeing an opportunity, Flores elected to take advantage of the former Boy Wonder. Yes, she raped Nightwing…and then tried to marry him. (There’s a debate as to whether or not the comic’s writer, Devin Grayson, intended to depict a rape scene, though his description of the encounter as being “non-consensual” seems pretty clear-cut.)
Even after all that, Nightwing tried to save Tarantula from a life of superheroing/supervillainy. In so many ways, Tarantula is a source of contradictory emotions that had incredible story potential that was cut off too soon in the comics. Whether or not audiences could stomach a storyline like this on the big screen, however, is another matter entirely.
7. Dudley Soames
If you look past his wandering Irish brogue and the fact that his head was eventually turned 180 degrees, Dudley Soames was a damn great villain, even being compared favorably to the Joker in regards to his complexity when he was first introduced by Chuck Dixon in the early Nightwing comics. A corrupt cop seemingly working for Blockbuster, Soames was constantly playing both sides against the middle. When Nightwing became involved, Soames also added manipulation, supervillains, and Inter-gang to the mix. Though his plans wouldn’t always quite pay off, he always walked away unscathed (aside from the whole neck breaking thing).
Initially, Dick believed he had found Blüdhaven’s answer to Jim Gordon, and in a way, he was right. Everything in Blüdhaven sucks, so their Jim Gordon did too. The story of Nightwing and Soames is the story of Dick Grayson realizing all the tricks he learned in Gotham didn’t apply in Blüdhaven. He was in the wild west now.
The most recently introduced name on this list is Raptor, whose debut arc only ended a few months ago. He’s another one of those hyper-personal villains, one that strikes at the core of the hero’s being. In this case, Raptor was close to Nightwing’s parents. He knew them in a way Grayson never got to. Coming to Dick as a mentor, Raptor showed Nightwing a new way of dealing with crime and even got to tell him about Grayson’s parents. When the other shoe dropped, and Raptor was revealed to be a maniacal killer, Nightwing had to fix the mistake he made in trusting Raptor.
Then Raptor outsmarted Bruce Wayne and forced him into surrendering himself. In an immense reversal, Nightwing had to go and save his original mentor, and defeat the man who claimed to be—and made a decent argument for being—better than Batman. Establishing these parameters in a movie can only increase the interest of non-fans and create new ones for Nightwing.
5. James Gordon, Jr.
It doesn’t get much more personal than this. Your ex-fiance’s brother is a card-carrying psychopath who started killing people as a child, dissects his former high school bullies, drugs his mother with Joker Venom, and doses babies with crazy-pills out of spite. James knows who everyone in the Bat Family really is, and has no intention of letting any of them live—including the ones that populate his own family tree. When Nightwing and Batgirl must fight him, there’s always a sense that they’re holding back. For Dick, hurting James would hurt the woman he loved; for Barbara, no matter what he’s done, she still can’t help but see him as her little brother. She wants to help save him.
James Gordon, Jr. doesn’t have the flare of most of the other villains on this list. He doesn’t wear a costume or leave gimmicky clues. He’s just a bad guy who looks and can pretend to act like everyone else. He is, therefore, the scariest person on this list. If you want to go back to the days of Nolan realism and apply it to Nightwing, this is the villain you’d want to adapt.
4. Spyral & Dr. Dedalus
Let’s cut the crap for a second. Dick Grayson’s killed people: The Joker, who was later revived; Blockbuster, which was technically second-degree manslaughter; and Dr. Dedalus, whose brain he erased. That last one is, strangely enough, the most direct of the three (and so far, the most final). The existential threat Dr. Dedalus and his spy organization represent is too great to be dealt with in half measures. Spyral had developed a database of every superhero identity on the planet that they were willing to sell, and later wanted to use their hypnos to take over the world.
Dr. Dedalus downloaded his consciousness into the Internet, and Grayson endeavors to save everyone by fighting him in the virtual world (no, this wasn’t written in the ’90s). It took Grayson creating different avatars of his many personality facets and identities over the years—from circus orphan to Robin to Nightwing to spy to Batman (surprisingly, the Chester Honeywell identity wasn’t used) to finally break down and essentially delete Dr. Dedalus from existence to save the world.
Dick had to forsake his beliefs and his training by killing a man in order to save the world. Grayson, who is as staunchly against vigilantes killing as Batman, had to take a life. And Batman’s reaction? He agreed. If there’s as big a threat as that out there, wouldn’t you want to see it in IMAX?
In an alternate reality, Thomas Wayne, Jr. became a supervillain called Owlman. He’s like a mirror universe character in Star Trek—it’s the exact same character you know, just opposite. Essentially, he’s evil Batman. He killed his parents for being an inconvenience, and he offed his brother Bruce for being a coward. He then murdered Dick Grayson’s parents because he saw a potential heir in the boy, and the pair ended up working together as Owlman and Talon for years. Thomas Wayne sincerely loved Grayson as a son, and decided to come forward and admit that he’d killed his protege’s parents. In a rage, Grayson went to kill the Joker (a good guy here) only to be killed himself, dismembered and left for Owlman to find.
When Owlman came to the regular DCU dimension, finding that “our” Dick Grayson was alive, the only thing he wanted to do was make this kid his surrogate son again. In a potential Nightwing movie, you could have this very personal and unique angle on a villain-hero relationship, and play up the father/son aspect of it. After all, at some point, the child overtakes the parent in ways both large and small. Here, it would be the ultimate coming of age story. To save his city, Dick Grayson must defeat his father; Nightwing needs to defeat Batman. How cool would that be to see?
2. The Court of Owls
There’s a rumor that had the New 52 not come along like the dark cloud of misery that it was, Scott Snyder’s next Detective Comics arc would have been “Court of Owls,” but starring Dick Grayson as Batman, not Bruce. If true, it would make sense, especially given how recent years have seen them shift into Nightwing stories rather than the Bat-books. Or maybe it was a sales boost thing. We’re just spit-balling here.
Grayson and his history are more affected by the Court. They used Haly’s Circus as a way of grooming young soldiers, and they even had a long-term plan of turning Dick into one of their Talons, just like they did to William Cobb, one of Nightwing’s ancestors.
Cobb was a young man ruined by Gotham City’s elite during the Industrial Revolution. The Owls gave him a means to revenge, making him into a near-immortal warrior. His feud with Nightwing highlights the damage that Gotham can inflict on a person; not only to Cobb, but to Grayson himself. Now, his entire lineage has been ruined by coming to this city. It’s been ruined by the Owls.
There simply couldn’t be anyone else in the top spot. While it may confuse fans of Arrow or Batman, Deathstroke started out as a Teen Titans enemy back in 1983’s seminal The Judas Contract story. Therein, Slade Wilson seduces the underage Titan member Terra and has her betray the team. The team is saved thanks to Nightwing’s leadership, but the events of this epic arc set up a mutual hatred that would last for decades. Grayson can never forgive Slade for what he did to Terra, and Slade blames Grayson for the death of his son, as well as the remainder of his family turning against him one by one.
Since Grayson knew he couldn’t beat Deathstroke in a fight (it once took the combined effort of Batman, Robin, and Nightwing to take the assassin down) so Nightwing always had to outsmart him, which, as a master tactician, burned Slade to no end.
Naturally, the only way to achieve proper revenge was for Deathstroke to drop a sentient nuclear bomb on Nightwing’s city, Blüdhaven. (Slade isn’t exactly known for his subtlety.) So, yeah, there’s really no way to become friends after that one.
There has rarely been a more personal rivalry in comics that has been so often overlooked by fans and editorial alike. Hopefully, the renewed focus on Dick Grayson will allow his profile to grow, as well as his enmity with Deathstroke highlighted.
Which villains do you want to see in the Nightwing movie? Who would you cast as Grayson and his villains? Let us know in the comments!
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