Back to School – Dick Grayson Goes to College

Art by George Perez

Let me tell you a little known comics secret. Dick Grayson, alias Nightwing, alias the first Robin, Bruce Wayne’s ward, is a college drop out. And he attended for over a decade (well, not in comics time). Meet me after the jump and I’ll tell you all about when Dick Grayson went to college.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I was introduced to comic books at a very young age. Like many of us, my gateway drug was the 1966 “Batman” TV series, but yeah, I was around when it originally aired. When I was old enough to read, the comics were in the middle of a backlash against the campiness of the show.

Writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams had turned Batman into a darker more serious caped crusader. There was a new status quo at work. They changed a lot. The characters had grown and moved on.

Neal Adams changing the Bat status quo in the early 1970s

Wayne Manor was closed up and Bruce Wayne moved into the penthouse of the Wayne Foundation Building with a new Batcave deep below it. He drove a new electric Batmobile that looked more like a regular car than a super rolling arsenal.

Gone were the colorful super-villains of yesterday. Now Batman solved mysteries or fought foes like Man-Bat and Ras al Ghul. The villains that remained were insane and incarcerated in the horrific Arkham Asylum.

And Robin went away to college.

Hudson University

A major part of the Batman revamp was the writing out of Robin from the Batman stories. Robin was relegated to a solo feature in Detective Comics where he began to be known as the Ex-Boy Wonder, or more accurately Robin the Teen Wonder. He was growing up.

Hudson University was described as being upstate from Gotham City in the town of New Carthage. The town seemed to be as much in need of a caped crusader as Gotham was, so as Dick matriculated at Hudson, Robin also quickly made his presence known. He made fast friends with law enforcement as New Carthage’s resident superhero, frequently being called upon by Chief Frank McDonald just as Batman was signaled by Commissioner Gordon.

Hudson University is also where Dick met and began to date fellow student Lori Elton. A redhead, like future flames Barbara Gordon and Starfire, she served very little purpose other than arm candy and a Lois Lane clone from which to protect Dick’s secret identity. The relationship couldn’t have been that serious as Robin was also flirting with Batgirl and the Joker’s Daughter throughout this same time.

The Teen Titans

Cover by Nick Cardy

Dick Grayson’s going away to school not only signaled the end of the dynamic duo but also of Robin’s alliance with the Teen Titans. Speedy would visit him on occasion but for the most part he left the team.

While he was away, an assassination at another campus effectively devastated the Titans. They returned to their civilian identities and were guided by a new mentor and benefactor named Mr. Jupiter. I loved these stories, but in hindsight they were more like the Scooby gang with powers than the real Titans.

When Aqualad, who had also left the team, went looking for help against the Ocean Master, he went to Hudson University to find Robin. Initially blaming Robin for the Titans’ situation, Aqualad got the team not only back together but also back in costume. Robin remained with the team until their title was cancelled.

Costume Capers

Much like Supergirl during the same era, Robin was much discussed in letter columns as a character in need of a costume makeover. Personally I blame the short sleeves and the manny hose. Readers would send in their designs and sometimes Robin would actually wear them in the comics.

Fashion chat from Justice League of America #92, 1971

The furor may have started with the introduction of the Earth-Two Robin in 1967 who wore a costume that combined elements of both the Batman and Robin uniforms. The ball really got rolling however in a JLA/JSA team-up where the older Earth-Two Robin gave his counterpart a costume designed by Neal Adams.

This costume featured glider wings that made Robin appear to fly. Our Robin never wore it again but the Earth-Two Robin eventually adopted it for his own. While our Dick may have passed on it, the fans never forgot the flying costume.

Batman Family

Many folks might not remember, but after Barbara Gordon was a librarian and Batgirl, and years before she became Oracle – she was a Congresswoman. And one summer, Dick Grayson interned with her in Washington DC. This led to their dynamite duo team and a May/December flirtatious relationship. Of course later retcons would make them closer in age (as well as remove her stint in Congress), but at the time there was at least a five to ten year difference.

These stories appeared in the oddly named Batman Family series. Besides team-ups, it also featured solo stories of Batgirl and Robin as well as reprints. Here writer Bob Rozakis became Robin’s main scripter and introduced new foes for him like the Joker’s Daughter and the Raven. Notably the Raven would both directly and indirectly end Dick Grayson’s relationship with Lori Elton.

The New Teen Titans

The Teen Titans would reform again in the mid-seventies briefly. This run on the title by the aforementioned Rozakis would bring the Joker’s Daughter onto the team, give Mal Duncan powers, introduce the concept of the Teen Titans West, and also finally provide the team with an origin story. Despite all that, it was canceled.

When the Titans returned next, it would be both an end and a new beginning for Dick Grayson. Raven would manipulate events to form this incarnation of the Teen Titans in order to stop her father Trigon. One of those events would be Dick Grayson dropping out of college to lead this new group of Titans.

With the New Teen Titans Dick would find his first serious relationship with the alien Starfire. He would also drop his Robin identity in favor of a more independent one of Nightwing. Like I said new beginnings, and that’s not even counting the wild success the New Teen Titans title was.

Hudson University has rarely been mentioned since. Professor Martin Stein, both Killer Frosts, and Amethyst’s father were all former attendees, but beyond that, it is largely forgotten, except maybe by old folks like me.

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5 Replies to “Back to School – Dick Grayson Goes to College”

  1. I remember Hudson U…with Dick hitting the books while Batman was lured by the night siren, Nocturna! But then that was the 1980’s.

    Who would have thought that Robin would pull a Van Wilder?

  2. Nocturna, wow, that was a lifetime ago – and probably written out of continuity along with Night Slayer and Hudson University too.

  3. Great recap…I didn’t know some of that history

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