Bruce Wayne is the Swiss Army Knife of superheroes. As Batman—with his smarts, training, willpower and money—he can accomplish anything. Outside of comics, he’s considered to be an overpowered character, despite having no actual powers, which is a compliment of the highest order. But Bruce isn’t infallible or omniscient. He might not even be the best Batman.
Dick Grayson, the original Robin, former Batman, and current Nightwing, might be the only one person better than Batman because he learned everything from Bruce and has added that to the skills taught to him in the circus, where he was a world-class acrobat in his youth. Nightwing has succeeded in every situation thrust upon him, taking on each new role with equal amounts skepticism and heart. He’s a character who has taken down secret spy organizations armed with god-technology, he’s fought and outsmarted Deathstroke, he’s led every team he’s ever been a part of, and he’s a focal point in DC’s Multiverse.
Regardless of who’s better than whom, it’s a basic reality that there are some things that Nightwing can do that Batman can’t, either because of skill, situation, personality, or age. Here are 15 Things Nightwing Can Do That Batman Can’t.
15. The Quadruple Somersault
In real life, many talented acrobats broke their necks, and some died, attempting to complete a quadruple somersault. DC Comics decided to make Dick Grayson the only person in the world capable of the quadruple somersault, creating a clever piece of trivia and connecting comics to the real world.
Presently, only three people in the world have ever successfully completed the move, though in the DCU, Grayson remains the only person to do it. It’s so rare that Tim Drake realized Robin had become Nightwing after seeing them both pull off the outrageously difficult maneuver. As well-trained and surprisingly nimble as Bruce Wayne is for a man of his size and age, he’s never had the physical conditioning or athleticism to pull off something like a quadruple somersault.
In short, Nightwing is a flyer and Batman is a bruiser. The former Boy Wonder’s lissome frame and kinetic style make him harder to get a bead on when in a fight. He’s harder to hit and harder to shoot; always moving and often at random, Grayson’s speed is valuable in fights where he’s undersized or outmuscled.
Fighting Batman, while you’re picking up your teeth, you’ll wonder where that train that hit you came from. Fighting Nightwing, you’ll still lose your teeth, but there’s more showmanship — which is important in crimefighting, one would imagine.
14. Nightwing is a Sex Symbol
Nightwing’s easy-going personality and lithe figure make him popular to both sexes and stands as a rare crossover: a sex symbol in both the gay and straight communities. He won DC’s fan-poll for Most Eligible Bachelor by a landslide, and according to Midnighter, Grayson is one of the few superheroes that can be identified by his rear end. That’s high praise!
While artists almost always tended to depict Nightwing with a certain amount of pin-up allure, the Grayson series dialed the sex up to eleven, focusing on these physical and personality traits. In the world of a spy, seduction and looks mean a great deal. Often, Dick would be drawn into sexy poses to accentuate his butt or abs. These are often the same poses female superheroes are drawn into — (to much criticism — though no one complains when it’s him.
With Bruce, it’s different. The playboy aspects of his personality are mostly just a show. The brooding obsessive is the true Bruce Wayne. The airy charm and calm demeanor make Dick desirable, and the sexy poses feel more at home with an acrobatic superhero than Batman who is made to instill fear in everything with a pulse. In short, he’s the sex symbol that the Dark Knight can never be.
13. He Can Move On
There’s an old grandfather clock in Wayne Manor. If you set the time to 10:47 (the time at which Thomas and Martha Wayne were gunned down) the clock shunts aside, revealing the entrance to the Batcave. Every year on the date of their death, Batman places roses in crime alley where they died. Everything about him screams of rage and all things unresolved. It’s a compulsion — Bruce Wayne needs to be Batman.
As Nightwing, Dick is different. He celebrates the lives of his deceased parents rather than focusing on their deaths. His initial Nightwing uniform is a sort of homage to the Flying Graysons. He wants to be Nightwing because it’s the right thing to do. Grayson even accepted that his parents’ killer, Tony Zucco, had changed, and he later developed feelings for Zucco’s daughter (one of his many love interests, but more on that in a bit).
Most importantly, Nightwing was able to move on after Damian’s death. Bruce, instead, became desperate, suicidal, and obsessed with necromancy. It was a blind, illogical rage you can only feel for your natural offspring, one that mirrored his obsession with the death of his parents. Look how far he went after losing them. Imagine how far he’d have gone if he couldn’t get Damian back.
Bruce was able to resurrect his son, though it was more to do with a comic book McGuffin than any logical investigatory step, and he nearly gets his other partners and the Justice League killed in the process. Nightwing got mean, even comparably violent to Batman, but he was able to accept the loss after a while.
12. He’s Capable of Better Decision Making
As we mentioned in our last entry, Batman was unable to deal with his son’s death, and so he invaded Apokolips in a powersuit that was going to kill him on the off chance that it would bring Damian back to life. He endangered the lives of the Justice League, his partners, and the planet. Admittedly, it’s a truly human thing to do. Possibly even the right thing. But it was done in the wrong way.
Think of how Bruce underutilizes the League, how he got Jason killed, how he once hired Stephanie Brown in order to lure Tim Drake back to the Robin mantle, how he chose Jean Paul Valley to replace him because he mistook obsession for efficacy. Bruce’s certainty is backed up by his brilliant mind, but his failures are never small. By remaining insulated and less accepting of help from others, Batman’s vision is sometimes narrow, and it’s come back to bite him many times over.
11. He Broke Bane…kind of
The likelihood of a confrontation with Bane is on the horizon in Gotham Knights #34, and Nightwing wants to be ready in the way none of them were during the Knightfall arc (aka the time Bane snapped Batman’s spine over his knee). Dick has Oracle design a deadly simulation of a Bane attack, with a few extra flourishes like machine guns and flamethrowers. Tim Drake — having only been Robin for a few years (comic time) at this point — is overwhelmed by the hologram.
And then Nightwing steps in. Using Tim as a distraction, he sneaks behind the simulation Bane and breaks his back, mirroring the supervillain’s greatest accomplishment.
Years later, when Bruce was thought dead (for tax purposes, most likely), the real Bane attempts to protect Gotham City the way Batman would, but more murderously. He wants to do the job better than the Dark Knight. Nightwing confronts him, and Bane promptly backed down, realizing the city still has a protector, one that is more than willing to fight Bane tooth and nail to prove it.
10. Nightwing Is A Master Of Improvisation
Nightwing’s improvising has served him well, and he’s certainly better at it that Batman. The antihero Midnighter has a fight-computer in his brain that allows him to calculate and predict an opponent’s next move based on their fighting history. It’s made him one of the most dangerous men in the DCU, and quite possibly its best fighter next to Deathstroke. The fight-computer… shorted out during his battle with Grayson.
“You fight like Jazz,” Midnighter says. Dick managed to outclass one of the finest brawlers the DCU has ever seen thanks to his unpredictability.
That unpredictability allowed for him to undermine Spyral — a spy agency so secret that Amanda Waller didn’t even know it existed — from within. The former Boy Wonder was eventually able to destroy the organization completely, and severely disrupting the Parliament of Owls’ world-spanning operations. Most recently, he’s bested Raptor, the superior fighter, by improvising his way through the battle. In the process, he saved Bruce Wayne’s life.
This is not to say that improvising is a better strategy than planning. Bruce is certainly the better planner (perhaps the finest on the planet), but Nightwing has the upper hand when it comes to thinking on his feet.
9. He Can Have Normal Relationships
Dick Grayson lost his virginity to Starfire, a 6′ 4″ alien goddess. It’s tempting to just end this entry here, but we should probably continue. Over the years, he’s had numerous serious relationships, most notably the aforementioned alien goddess and Barbara Gordon. He was engaged to them both at different times, though neither pair ended up tying the knot. The minister was murdered at Dick and Starfire’s wedding, and Barbara called off the engagement because Grayson was at a low point and Babs assumed that’s the best time to do that sort of thing. (In various alternate universes, the two couples ended up getting hitched. There’s no such thing as a happy ending in main continuity, folks.)
Bruce can never really commit to someone in the same way. The mission always comes first. He’s tried on numerous occasions (with Selina Kyle and Silver St. Cloud, most notably) but they’d always be an afterthought to his assumed duties as the Dark Knight of Gotham. Batman’s even acknowledged this; he placed Dick with the Teen Titans because he wanted the boy to have (relatively) normal friends. Those friendships developed into a tightly knit family that even the New 52 couldn’t completely ruin forever. While the Dark Knight does have relatively close relationships with his Justice League teammates, he isn’t the open person Grayson is, as he keeps a certain distance from others. He’ll definitely never achieve the sort of intimacy (romantic or otherwise) that Nightwing can — he’s just not capable of it.
8. As A True Team Player, Nightwing Can Do More Good
Controversial opinion: Bruce doesn’t understand people and organic team dynamics as well as his protégé. Batman’s people skills are all about criminology. He’s probably aware of this, since he had Grayson join the Teen Titans to learn how to work in a team. Nightwing would eventually become the leader of the squad, taking dangerous opponents like Trigon and Deathstroke, before becoming the leader of the Outsiders (Batman’s private army).
Dick’s the only person that everyone in the superhero community trusts. Even seasoned veterans like Green Arrow, Deadman, and Hawkman followed his lead when they sought out to take down the evil dragon-priest, Anuttara. Nightwing once led Superman (!) and a ragtag team of metahumans when Metropolis was under attack. The fact that Nightwing was still able to lead them to victory despite Blue Jay’s dumb presence is a miracle in and of itself. Hell, he even got HIVE soldiers and villains to work with the Teen Titans once. And when push came to shove, when the Titans had to fight the brainwashed Justice League, the teenaged heroes came out on top.
In the end, this was all part of Bruce’s plan. Dick Grayson was to become the type of leader he isn’t: one that has everyone’s respect and trust…so that one day, Nightwing will be prepared to lead the Justice League.
7. As a Cop, Dick Grayson Can Arrest Criminals
Despite having something of a relationship with the GCPD, Batman isn’t exactly a deputized member of law enforcement. He could leave criminals on the steps of city hall, but since he would never come into court to testify, he also must produce evidence—evidence that can be reasonably obtained through legal measures or given to the police, who would be tasked with coming up with a reasonable excuse. A Batman: The Animated Series episode, “Trial,” deals with this, revealing that many criminals end up being released because actionable evidence is either thrown out or nonexistent. Batman is a vigilante in every sense of the word, and while he can get the baddies thrown in jail, his actions don’t always keep them there.
At one point, Dick decided to become a cop in Blüdhaven (Gotham’s armpit in the comics). There, he used the benefits of being both a vigilante and a member of law enforcement to ensure more convictions and disrupt police corruption from within. Granted, he slept about an hour a day and Deathstroke eventually dropped a nuke on the city out of spite, but, you know, things were going well up until then.
6. Nightwing is Accessible
Aside from the major downside of being certifiably insane, Bruce Wayne is everything you want to be. Successful, handsome, brilliant — all that jazz. But being nearly perfect doesn’t always paint him as an identifiable character. There aren’t many of us out there with a bat fetish and a few billion dollars to spare. There are a few, but not many.
Of course, Nightwing isn’t all that far removed from his mentor, but there are plenty of differences. Grayson’s one of the few characters to age in comics; that creates a throughline for readers, as many of us grew up alongside the Boy Wonder as he made transitions and lived through ups and downs just like the rest of us. The fact that he is less perfect than Bruce and capable of screw-ups makes him more relatable.
That Nightwing has a well-developed personal life and is currently in the twentysomething bracket allows for realistic human interaction. He makes mistakes, he’s trying to figure his life out, and most of the time, he’s making it all up as he goes along. Who hasn’t dealt with that?
5. He Can Inspire Others in a Positive Way
Admittedly, yes, Batman has done this too. He has helped citizens fight for their city, inspiring millions of Gothamites to stand up and fight for their city. He even tries to rehabilitate the criminals he catches, but let’s face it, those aren’t usually success stories. Catwoman always runs back and forth between good and bad, Talia murdered their son because she’s crazy, and Two-Face…is still Two-Face. Jason Todd was a neat experiment—try to prevent the creation of a criminal—but then Jason became crowbar bait, gave mass murder a try, and is now routinely stuck in titles written by Scott Lobdell. The Caped Crusader has had a rough go of it when it comes to reforming bad guys.
Nightwing, meanwhile, has had real success in his own rehabilitation attempts. He got Tarantula to give up the life, and turned Tiger, Helena Bertinelli, and several agents against Spyral, eventually bringing the corrupt organization down for good. Best of all, he turned Rose Wilson, the daughter of his archenemy Deathstroke, against her father. She left her father’s side and became a good guy (your mileage may vary). Under the guise of turning bad, Grayson showed Rose a different side of morality, and revealed how her own father was slowly killing her. Nobody can beat Slade in a fair fight, so Nightwing took a physical fight off the table. He hurt Deathstroke in a way no one ever could, and saved Rose Wilson’s life in the process.
4. Dick Grayson Can Move Around Freely
Being a billionaire playboy has made Bruce Wayne famous (we all have our crosses to bear). He can’t travel much, and even going undercover as Matches Malone isn’t usually done for more than a few nights. Dick Grayson, meanwhile, can move around more freely because he’s just a nobody slob like the rest of us. He can nomadically crisscross the country and the world on crazy spy adventures, set up shop in different cities, and operate freely with the police and community with total impunity. He’s an average citizen and can move around like one for an extended period; the best cover is not needing a cover.
Grayson did more good for Blüdhaven as a police officer than as Nightwing because he worked the system from within for a long time. He was able to disappear for over a year and take down the most secretive and dangerous spy organization in the world before they could leak the identities of all the active superheroes on Earth. In this case, being a nobody is much easier.
3. He’s less reliant on gadgets
Nightwing wears a capeless, skintight uniform that leaves little room for gadgets (or to the imagination) so he can have peak mobility while hopping across rooftops and punching faces. Or maybe he’s just a weirdo. When it comes to people who wear unitards and masks on a daily basis, those are really your only two options.
Regardless, Dick’s style boils down to improvised, world-class parkour mixed with the numerous martial arts Batman has taught him over the years. The few gadgets he has makes him more resilient and resourceful in the field out of necessity. He reads and uses his environment and keeps his enemies off balance by being unpredictable; they don’t know what he’s going to do next because he doesn’t either.
By sticking to a physical and adaptive method, Nightwing keeps his senses sharp and conditioning on point. Batman relies on his wide array of impressive gadgetry to make up for the speed he doesn’t have. He’s a larger framed and older than Grayson, so this one’s entirely excusable.
2. He can be the best of the Multiverse
During Infinite Crisis, an older Superman from a dimension that no longer exists teams up with other displaced refugees to restore their worlds at the expense of ours. Superman’s reasoning is simple: his universe was better. The heroes he knew were kinder, the world wasn’t so miserable, and things were on the up and up as a whole. He reaches out to the Batman of our dimension looking for an ally. If anyone knows how awful the world is it’s him.
Superman told Bruce that on his world, the Caped Crusader he knew wasn’t nearly this much of an asshole (great pitch so far, Clark), and that everyone on this current Earth is needlessly dark and morally bankrupt. Somehow, the Dark Knight takes offense to a stranger crapping all over his entire civilization and all his friends and pushes back. He then asks if this world’s Nightwing is worse than the one he knew.
Supes reveals that across the Multiverse, Dick Grayson is one of the few constant forces for good. The same optimistic kid that kept Bruce from being too dark is a beacon across universes. Batman refuses to betray his universe or Nightwing. Then Superman and Batman fight.
What did you think was going to happen?
1. Nightwing Has The Potential To Be A Better Hero
Bruce Wayne was trained as a teen by the top fighters, detectives, and scientists in the world. Eventually, he became the culmination of all of their skills and knowledge. Dick Grayson was trained by the best acrobats on the planet practically from birth. He began training with Bruce at a younger age than when Bruce started, and combined Batman’s teachings with his parents’ to create something altogether unique. As Robin, he learned under fire. He was brightly colored to gain the brunt of criminals’ attention during fights; he had to earn the darkness. Grayson was trained by the best to become the best (and eventually lead the best, as the Justice League’s leader).
Nightwing, like Batman, is the culmination of many teachers. Only Grayson’s teachers included the founding members of the Justice League, the Teen Titans, and the Dark Knight himself. Nightwing has more experience than the Caped Crusader did at the same age.
Bruce counts on Nightwing’s natural charisma and leadership skills to see him through. He’s beloved by every superhero in the League — seriously, everyone loves this guy — and can rally them in a way that Batman’s lone wolf style doesn’t allow him to. On the ground level, the Dark Knight’s own status as a myth allows him to be amorphous and eternal. Nightwing isn’t a myth. He’s public and accessible to the police and the people he saves. Bruce Wayne can create a legend, and Dick Grayson can build upon it.
In what other ways is Nightwing better than his mentor? How badly do you want to see him make his debut in the DCEU? Let us know in the comments.