The life of a superhero is often dangerous and stressful. In addition to protecting innocents, superheroes have to balance a secret identity with their personal life, so it’s little wonder that the pressure can take a toll on mental health. But some comic characters are able to remain optimistic no matter how bad their circumstances become. Nightwing is a perfect example.
You’d think that partnering with Batman for so many years would have left a dark mark. But Richard Grayson has been able to take everything in his stride. From his earliest years, the original Robin has maintained a positive attitude that’s stayed with him throughout his life.
From a mental health perspective, that’s pretty powerful. So, let’s take a closer look at the life of the original Boy Wonder and see what makes him such a great role model for positive mental health.
Finding the silver lining in tragedy
A defining character trait, Dick’s optimism makes him unique among the other Robins and sets him apart from Batman. His story was introduced as a direct comparison to The Dark Knight’s. Like Batman, Dick came from a loving family and he was forced to witness the death of his parents at a young age.
However, rather than be consumed by darkness, Dick chose to embrace his own approach to fighting crime. As Robin, he wore a colourful green and red costume, which contrasted heavily with the brooding uniform of his mentor. He cracked jokes and kept criminals distracted, while Batman opted for a blunt and brutal approach to stopping the bad guys.
Another key difference between Dick and Bruce was that he never had a problem with relying on his friends to help him fight crime. Along with Starfire, Beast Boy, Raven and Aqualad, Dick formed the Teen Titans, a group that became a family to him. While Batman contented himself to be a loner, Dick didn’t lose his faith in other people and as he got older, this attitude helped to establish his independence.
Stepping out from Batman’s shadow
Eventually, Dick and Bruce fell out, which led Robin to strike out on his own. During his soul-searching, Dick took on a new identity and rechristened himself Nightwing. He did this after spending time with Superman, who told him of a Kryptonian folk hero that was cast out by his family. The original Nightwing decided to become a vigilante and protect the innocent.
It feels appropriate that the legacy of the Dick Grayson that we know today started with Superman instead of Batman. An embodiment of hope, Superman’s personality aligns well with Dick’s. Both are determined to bring light into the world and maintain sunny outlooks. So, by sharing the story of Nightwing, Superman helped Dick to be reborn into the person he was always destined to become.
Years later, Nightwing and Batman moved beyond their differences. Dick was able to challenge Bruce’s viewpoint, which is why their father and son relationship is so important. Nightwing helped his adoptive father to see that hope can exist and that being open to change isn’t a weakness.
Batman might be a high-functioning depressive, but he still suffers from depression. Dick is one of the few people that he can share his thoughts and feelings with. And as a result, it makes him a better crime-fighter and happier person in general.
A relatable mental health role model
Nightwing’s willingness to be there for the people he loves is what makes him such an inspiring character. Even when everything is crashing down around him, Dick can find a way to see the positives and put others at ease. He’s the kind of person who constantly looks to elevate others and remind them of their own strengths. We all need people like that in our life.