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Comic-Convo: Outlining a Grayson TV show

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No, there are no plans as of now for a “Grayson” TV show. But since Pat and I are huge fans of the series, we outline what we would want in case it ever happens. Which it won’t, but we’re dreamers OK?

Itho: So, here’s my thing; I love Nightwing. As a character and a concept. A Nightwing TV show COULD be boss, if done well. Here’s my other thing; comic adaptations are sooooo farrrr behind. Like, everything starts at square 1 which is from 40-50 years ago in comics. It’s why we won’t see “Court of Owls” in film for at least 10 more years. So when I heard TNT might do a Nightwing TV show, I immediately thought a show on DC’s relatively new series “Grayson” would be much better for the network.

Pat: I’d love a well done Grayson TV show as it’s the most interesting interpretation of the character since Morrison’s Batman & Robin. That said let me ask you right from jump: Batman or no Batman?

Itho: On the one hand, Batman does appear in the comic and is the impetus for Dick being a secret agent. On the other, we’ve seen how teasing Batman has worked on Gotham; which is not very well. I was going to say No, but with the necessity for flashbacks and all I’ll say Yes to Batman.

Pat: Interesting, I think that’s the elephant in the room when doing any story that’s Dick Grayson related outside of the context of Batmam continuity. Like as a character he could theoretically work without Batman but on the other hand it’s never been attempted and if you wanted to do something similar but outside of that context why not just make up a new idea altogether?

Itho: I’ve “seen” Nightwing before meeting Batman in a fanfilm; its interesting but due to restrictions it wasn’t really justified. I agree, without Batman I think you’re better off making up a new idea. If you want to show flashbacks to Dick’s childhood, his time as a crime-fighter, and before he joined Spyral; you need Batman. And, in my mind no movie or show has really captured the dynamic duo together since “The Batman”.

Pat: Yes at the same time this has to be a show about Dick Grayson in Spyral which means you have to assume the audience understands his backstory & what the new status quo is which is fine as “mysterious circumstances” tends to be a major element of most new TV dramas. A couple nights ago I saw the movie Lucy for the first time and whoa that was amazing. Now that got me thinking for a show runner why not have Luc Beson? That guy has spent his entire career doing international espionage films & he has a whole staple of film makers that he’s worked with on hits like Taken, Columbiana, The Transporter ect so the guy has the resume and he made The Professional which is like one of the greatest movies ever created.

Itho: I’m not sure how well the general audience knows Dick Grayson past Robin (if even that) but I take your point that the show can’t lay out every little thing. I’ve only seen Taken and The Transporter (which is now a show on TNT oddly enough), but I’ll say Ok to Beson. What about main actors? I’ve got 3 for Dick Grayson;

Milo Ventimiglia (Peter Peterally from “Heroes”),Matt Bomer, or Sam Witwer.

Britne Oldford as Helena Bertinalli,

and Robert Knepper as Mr.Minos, the head of Spyral. Thoughts on them?

Pat: I literally didn’t know any of these actors but based on some very basic google searching I like Milo for Grayson and everybody else you mentioned.

Itho: So we’ve agreed on Showrunner, actors (except for Batman [!]); what about format? Monster/Mission of the week, or long form character arcs? The book itself is only about 4 issues in and we have only an inkling of how THAT works, but it seems like one-and-dones mostly.

Pat: Yeah def keep the one and done format and just run with it balls out. That’s partially why I like Luc Beson is because in his films, no matter if he’s directing, writing or producing, always take place within an international setting and I’d love to see that in Grayson. One episode in Rome and then the next in Capetown. The monster of the week stuff has been great for the comic and I think a sci-fi/crime/espionage mashup would be awesome (again I love Lucy) Something with a similar premise to the Futures End issue would be great on TV. More importantly have the done in one but then add little things that all connect that tie the entire season or show together. That way you reward repeat viewings.

Itho; Sorry, I saw “I Love Lucy” and had to regain my composure…

I think the Futures End story would be good as a season or series finale; but seeding in things to move the plot forward would be essential (Why Dick is working for Spyral, will he be discovered, what type of missions he does). I never saw it in the comics but I’d like to see it in a show as to WHY Spyral recruits Dick, like the training process and all that would be cool. Since we want quality (and this hypothetically would be on TNT) should it be condensed to 6 episodes, or 13? Fewer episodes equals more budget to me, so they could afford to travel around to different places.
Pat: I’d go True Detective style and say maybe 8-10 could be the sweet spot although being that were talking a lot of one and done episodes maybe it would need more. Also I def didn’t mean I love Lucy but that is Mrs Hess’s fave show and weirdly I grew up on it because of my grandmother.
Itho: Dude, that’s is, LITERALLY, the funniest clip of Aziz Anzari I’ve ever seen! Ok, we got a rough episode idea. How deep into the DCU do we go? Stormwatch, Justice League, Aliens, Teen Titans, Blackhawks, STAR Labs. What’s jumping the shark for this show, sense the threats Spyral fights are meta human based?
Pat:  One of the great parts of the comic is how they utilized under used characters in the DCU. The first issue is great in its use of Midnighter. The dude is a Batman analogue from the Wild Storm universe. He really doesn’t make sense in the context of DC since Batman is already there but in that issue he’s great. That would be the type of stuff I’d want to see in the TV Show; Midnighter, Grifter, Hitman, KGBeast, Bronze Tiger ect. Make it weird. Once you throw the Joker in there or something it’s too much. Keep it weird like a modern James Bond & you’re golden

Itho: Yeah, C-list all the way. I love how “Arrow” is using Ted Grant (Wildcat) and Ray Palmer (The Atom). This plays into DC’s strengths of having such a huge backlog of characters. I noticed that list of characters is non-powered, no superpowers in Grayson’s TV world?

And who could we have for villains on the show, besides the random meta targets Dick chases down?
Pat: Well Grifter & Hitman have powers but I was going for weirder like the dude that saw through the barrel of his gun in issue three. The whole thing with DC’s huge backlog can be a strength or weakness depending on how you play it but yeah I think here it could really work as lesser known characters will probably be more interesting in the context of international espionage. Like you said before using the KGB as the big bad for the finale would be great but also flipping that as most great espionage fiction does and making it so you don’t know who the good or bad guys are. Make Spyral seem nefarious, maybe even Batman at points. The idea is to keep the veiwers on their toes without ever jumping the shark. That’s a lot more difficult in practice then theory as we’ve seen shows like Homeland that started out great but become more terrible each season as they try to up the ante on “crazy spy shit” But again, Luc Beson could probably make that concept sing.
Itho: Yeah, that’s a good point; and probably why “Arrow” and “The Flash” are tiptoeing around the use of superpowers for some respects. I think nonpowered characters work better on television but that just gets so stale; that’s 99% of everything. So I think that’s a good format for a Grayson show (which anyone in Hollywood could steal). Let’s talk about what TNT actually wants to do; make a Titans show, grown-up versions of the Teen Titans. Yea or Née?
Pat: I am such a purist for the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans that I’m probably the wrong person to ask but seriously, no thanks. Why do adult Titans? The whole point is they they are teens.

Itho: Well, 1) It’s TNT (which is funny because ‘TNT KNOWS DRAMA’), and 2)They want to cash in on those kids that watched “Teen Titans” and grew up. I mean there was a ‘Titans’ comic that I stopped reading because it was 6 twenty-something’s not being teenagers or funny, but the concept is there. But yes, that is what TNT wants to do. Nightwing, Starfire, (and Cyborg, Beast Boy and Raven I’m assuming) not being teenagers and being a team. Which is why I would much much rather have a Grayson show. If you think about it; “Blackhawks”, “Vigilante”, or old school Sandman would work better on that network than straight up B-list superheroes.

Pat: I guess it fits a proven format although I think having them be teenagers is what makes them inherently interesting. Not to mention think of that two page spread in outer space that introduces Starfire in New Teen Titans #1, is there anyway TNT could pull that off as well as Perez did? Comics just do somethings better then film or straight prose. Something else I was thinking about, Starfire in the Grayson TV show? Back as a love interest? Do I need to let go of that Wolfman/Perez run?

Itho: Y’know, in ‘Titans’ there’s a scene where Dick and Kory hook up (long story, mind-control) and Dick admits there’s no future of them together. I’ve never settled on a major love interest for Dick Grayson, it always depends on which version I’m seeing. “Teen Titans” cartoon? Starfire. 70s comics? Barbara Gordon. I feel like he and Bruce are alike in this respect, only Dick makes the effort to try before it fails. Starfire in Grayson has potential, in that they can’t do it in the comics right now. Like, not until another reboot. It could make for some fun tension between Dick and Helena, as well as someone Dick could talk to when he’s in the states and needs a favor. Alien ex-girlfriend would definitely push the type of characters that could be on the show.

And no, you can hold on to the Wolfman/Perez run to the very end.
Pat: The Starfire/Grayson relationship is such a key point to the character (they were almost married) that I feel like has been wiped out of New 52 continuity. It’s cool because the way that the woman he connects with best is literally an alien says so much about him as a person, especially considering that they are both orphans. If they introduce Starfire as crash landing on earth in Grayson and show them falling for each other that would be so rad.
Itho: So in this continuity, did Dick not join the titans? Was he Robin or Nightwing, or is both of those too much for a layperson to grasp?Anything else you want to see on the show? Anything essential to make it feel like Secret Agent Grayson man?
Pat: I mean if I’m not mistaken Dick didn’t join the Titans and might have never been Robin in the continuity that led to Grayson so I suppose that would make sense for the show. The fact that Dick is working covertly for Batman would probably do better as a reveal later on in the series actually. And yeah I mean DC reset continuity a couple times because they didn’t think the people buying their comics could grasp it so I’m not sure your average TNT fan is going to get all that.
Itho: Well, we saw in the Futures End ones shot he was in a Robin outfit; but those are all good points. Throwing the viewer into this world, teasing Dick’s previous lives out slowly, then revealing he’s working for Batman would be so good to see on TV. I was thinking it would be cool if the other Spyral agents, aside from Helena, were disguised sort of like those Scrambler Suits from “A Scanner Darkly”. The leader’s face is always in the Spyral, the agents that are not out on missions all do too, so Dick never knows who he can trust or who his friends are. And of course Dick’s aversion to shooting is a must too, to build tension with his co-agents.
Pat: What if they revealed that later on. Like when you’re watching you see all their faces normally but when people try to remember it’s scrambled? Have Dick & Helena be the exception for reasons we find out later?
Itho: That could be cool as well; like partners have built in immunities to each others “blinders”, so on missions they can keep track of each other in case of danger. Dick’s surprise to that would make for a good scene, finding out how deep he’s in and that Spyral has unique tricks to learn/navigate. I still think having the Mastermind’s face be obscured is the way to go, like in the comics. Like there is no clue to what his face really looks like, if he’s smiling, disappointed, angry; its all in his voice and mannerisms. I think Robert Knepper could sell that.
Pat: Yeah Mr.Minos would be good to always stay that way for the reasons that you mentioned, plus it would introduce the concept to viewers. So far we have Dick joining Spyral on a secret mission by Batman that is revealed later on. The episodes are monster of the week type joints fighting underused DC charachters and old Wildstorm properties with Easter eggs planted throughout leading to a larger mystery that is revealed in later episodes. At some point Starfire falls from a distant planet and Dick says “Did it hurt…when you fell from heaven?” The Spyral leader will always have the weird face for viewers but later on it will be revealed that everybody looks that way in the agency when you try to remember them. Dick will be played by Milo Ventimiglia, Britne Oldford plays Helena, Robert Keeper plays the head of Spyral. Luc Beson is the show runner using his staple of awesome directors and writers to make the show a work of kick ass fucking art. Anything I’m missing?

Itho: Yep, a budget, time-slot, and any chance in hell of this show happening. I think we just spring boarded the best comic book show to never happen.

I think it would be cool if Tim Seely and Tom King were brought on to consult, and Mikel Janin’s art could be used in the credits and DC logo (like Sorrentino and Manapul’s appear in “Arrow” and “The Flash” respectively) but other than that I got nothing. I hope 20-30 years from now an exec is looking through some old comics and decides “Hey, this ‘Grayson’ book is the shit. This could have legs…” and we get the kind of show we just laid out.
Pat: Man one can hope right…