Sunday, October 5, 2008

My Take on "The Graysons"

Earlier this week, The CW rocked the comics world with news of a pilot in development called "The Graysons," which would "follow the world of Dick "DJ" Grayson before he takes on the iconic Robin identity and aligns himself with Batman." It seems the CW is taking a page from the successful "Smallville" series, now in its 8th season. Heck, it even has the same producers. Comic fans have strong opinions on "Smallville"; I'm not much of a fan, although I've followed the series throughout its run. Whether you like it or not, you can't argue with the show's mainstream success and appeal.

Newsarama's blog asked me to weigh in on the series. UPDATE: Here's some other takes in addition to my own. Looks like I'm the most long-winded of the bunch. That's what happend when you get me started! Here's my thoughts on the news....

DJ or Not DJ

First, let me just mention that Nightwing is my all-time favorite character. He's got one of the most unique and rich histories of any comic character. And he's one of the few to actually grow up in front of our eyes. Heck, he's one of the reasons why I created

So, "The Graysons." What's a long-time wingnut to think?

A lot of die-hard fans have objected to the idea of calling Dick Grayson "DJ." I am not one of them. I think DC should have taken advantage of one of their continuity reboots ("Crisis on Infinite Earths," "Zero Hour" or "Infinite Crisis," take your pick) to alter Dick's genetalia-icious namesake. His full name is Richard Grayson, after all. Post-reboot, if could have been easily altered to Rick Grayson (Rick is still a derivation of Richard and also rhymnes with "Dick") Let's face it, no one under the age of fifty would choose to be called "Dick." So, whatever, call him DJ, it's all good. It's also the least of my concerns.

Meet "The Graysons"

I think the show will find some challenges in how to meld the history of Dick Grayson and the DC characters into "The Graysons." "Smallville" had the advantage of Superman's entire legacy of family, friends and foes. I'm not sure how successfully "The Graysons" could meld in the Batman mythos, since many of those characters are specific to their interactions with Batman. And, especially, if Batman has not yet debuted in Gotham. Who knows what the producers are planning? Much like "Smallville", I'd expect "The Graysons" to take some liberties with the DCU characters and their timelines.

So, what do I hope for as a Dick Grayson (or, "DJ" Grayson) fan? First and foremost, I think they need to nail down the character of DJ himself. He's honest, loyal, smart, close to his family, intensively protective and dangerously curious. I think it's also important to figure out ways to propel the stories. If it were up to me, I'd have the pilot episode take place days after the mysterious "Batman" sightings in Gotham City. Intrigued by this urban myth, fourteen year old DJ would intensely follow this larger-than-life hero's adventures through newspaper and media. Inspired by this bold new hero, DJ would seek out trouble as Haley's Traveling Circus rode from town to town, often embroiling himself in situations that would call upon his acrobatic abilities and burgeoning detective skills.

The show would track DJ's progress, as he learns to become a hero. Tweaking the Robin/Batman timeline, the death of DJ's parents would have to occur on the very last episode, where we would witness the origin of Robin. Whether this happens after 3, 5 or 7 years would depend on the popularity of "The Graysons."

Haley's Circus

The circus backdrop lends itself to a cast of colorful and interesting characters. It's also a natural way for the show to introduce a variety of characters with strange abilities. Here's some suggestions for the main cast (you might recognize some, comic fans!):

John and Mary Grayson: From a long line of circus folks, John and Mary uphold the proud family tradition and regard Haley Circus as their home and its residents as their family. The Graysons don't own Haley's circus, but they do run it. A blend of old fashioned showmanship and new era extravaganza, Haley's Circus also becomes a haven for outsiders and those cursed with strange powers.

Grant "The Amazing Ravager" Wilson: Fans will know he is the son of Deathstroke, destined to die tragically as the first Ravager. But in this series, Grant is a troubled and tough marksman and therefore, knife thrower, for Haleys. Grant ran away from his family a year ago. He's best friends with DJ Grayson, but in many ways, the boys are polar opposites. With his severe anger issues, Grant would be the series "bad boy." As the series progressed, we'd see rising tensions and encounters with his father, the world-famous secret assassin. The Grant/DJ friendship could give the show the same vibe as the ill-fated Lex/Clark friendship. Plus, the show gets a fantatsic recurring villain in Deatshtroke!

"The Great Zatara" and his daughter, Zatanna: In the comics, Zatanna is a magic-wielding heroine. In this series, she has no powers, but she's got her own bag of tricks. Popular escape artist and magician Zatara is accompanied by his clever teenaged daughter and apprentice, Zatanna. Zatanna (Zee, for short) is close friends with DJ, and the willful teenaged girl helps him get out of tight spots with her escape-artist training and smoke-and-mirrors tricks. Zatanna would be intrigued by DJ's adventures and become his "side-kick," or a sort. And hell yes, she's got to wear the fishnets on stage.

Lilith "The Omen" Clay: Titans fans know her as Omen, the mysterious mind reader who long sought the truths behind her origins. For this series, Lilith would be a mentalist - "The Omen" - at Haley Circus, able to read minds and sometimes see the future. Lilith would also be on a quest to find her true parents and try to learn the source of her powers. Lilith is often scared of her powers and wonders whether they are a blessing or a curse. Withdrawn and troubled, Lilith is drawn to DJ's strength and confidence. Lilith provides some "super-power" vibe to the cast, but without overshadowing DJ. Her presense would also open up new story possibilities into the unexplained and supernatural. Her powers would also help DJ seek out crime from town to town.

For the first season, I'd create a season arc with two of Haley Circus' own residents: The bizarre brain-in-a-jar called "The Brain" and the talking genius gorilla, Mallah. The two masterminds would recruit fellow freaks (Houngan, Phobia, and others) and commit secrets crimes as the circus traveled from place to place. Seeing themselves as united in freakdom, Brain and Mallah would refer to their enclave as "The Brotherhood."

Bring On The DCU

It's a little harder figuring in Bat-characters, but I'd love to see a "team up" with a teenaged pre-Batgirl Barbara Gordon, an encounter with carnie-freak Croc, a run-in with a mysterious burgler known as the Catwoman. And, for sweeps, what's a circus without a clown? The circus would be the perfect backdrop for the Joker's version of "The Greatest Show On Earth," his own twisted circus extravaganza. It might be nice, in later seasons, for DJ Grayson to meet a precocious Tim Drake or a street urchin with an attitude named Jason Todd. Some other characters that might be useful in "The Graysons" may include Clayface, Lady Shiva, David Cain, Poison Ivy, Firefly, The Mad Hatter, and The Scarecrow.

Titans characters are a bit easier, since many of them are teens, and would fit well with a similarly aged DJ Grayson. Also, the Titans has its share of non-powered super guys, as well as teenagers that recieved accidental powers they have trouble dealing with. I can imagine tales that would involve archer Roy Harper (Speedy) in a possible recurring role as Grant's rival, carnie-kid Beast Boy, and perhaps the rest of the freakish Doom Patrol with him (especially is the show can establish a version of "The Brotherhood"). Some other Titans that could fit "The Graysons" universe could be Aqualad, Raven, Cyborg, Wally West, Magenta, Danny Chase, Flamebird, Thunder & Lightning and Pantha. And with Grant and Slade Wilson around, It would be great to see the rest of the Wilson clan (Joseph, Rose and Addie) eventually.

The show could also accomodate some of the Titans' most famous adversaries, like Brother Blood (a dangerous cult leader who lives off the energy of his followers), The H.I.V.E. (a vast criminal network), and even Cheshire and Vigilante as teenagers. With Lilith in the cast, I can also imagine her bad-seed illusion casting brother, Haze, as a recurring nemesis/frenemy. I would also take a page from the animated series and cast Gizmo as an annoying high-tech teen terror and Red X as a mysterious thief.

Then there's Nightwing's own rogue's gallery. Blockbuster might serve as a useful recurring nemesis with a vast crime network. It would also be natural for DJ Grayson to meet Double Dare, a pair of acrobatic thieves.

Some other DC characters could fit into "The Graysons," such as The Creeper or Deadman (who had circus origins himself).

Hey, CW, if you need a consulant, just give me a holler!

Seriously, though, if the show wants to please fans while striking its own path, it needs to be true to the character of Dick Grayson and his universe of characters. If the source material is treated with respect while creating an entertaining program, the show can have a successful run.

Bill Walko

What you y'all think?

What's your take on "The Graysons"?