Everyone knows that Nightwing is a former Boy Wonder Dick Grayson, but how many people know about the origin of his name as a Kryptonian hero? In fact, Grayson’s recent adoption of his dog Hayley ends up paying homage to the original Nightwing in a roundabout way.
Although Dick Grayson adopted the nickname “Nightwing” after growing out of his little green “Robin” shoes, the legacy of this name goes back much further. The first Nightwing to appear in DC comics dates back to Superman #158 of 1963, in which Superman and Jimmy Olsen shrink in size to visit the bottle city of Kandor. While there, they don a pair of costumes clearly inspired by Batman and Robin, and begin fighting crime as Nightwing and Firebird. When it came time for Grayson to act on his own, the former Boy Wonder drew inspiration from the times of Superman and Olsen in Kandor and took the name Nightwing as a tribute to the Man of Steel.
In his own series, Dick Grayson’s Nightwing recently adopted a pit bull puppy named Hayley. Grayson also started calling her his buddy, giving her the nickname “Snapper”. While it’s adorable, it also pays homage to the original incarnation of Nightwing in a rather roundabout way. The original Nightwing and Flamebird had their own crime fighter named Nighthound. A telepathic dog kept in a Kandorian kennel, the Night Hound appears for the first and only time in “Superman’s Buddy, Jimmy Olsen No. 69”. In the story, the enemies, Superman’s revenge squad, wreak havoc in Kandor. Superman and Jimmy Olsen shrink down to investigate, and find themselves confronting a telepathic dog. However, Nighthound saw the goodness in Jimmy Olsen’s heart and eventually switched sides to help Nightwing and Flamebird thwart Superman’s Revenge Squad plan.
After rewriting the continuity after 1986’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, the story of Superman and Jimmy Olsen as Nightwing and Firebird was erased from the DCU. Still, giving Dick Grayson his own dog friend is a nice homage to the original legacy, intentionally or not. He also pays tribute to the classic image of heroes with their favorite assistants. Superman has had several over the years, not only with Crypto-Super-Dog and Striki-Super-Cat, but also with Comet-Super-Horse and Beppo-Super-Monkey. Giving Dick Grayson his own canine companion is a play on this proud comic book tradition, even if it’s updated for modern sensibilities.
And while Nightwing’s place in comic book history may continue to evolve and change, we hope that Hayley/Snapper will stay for a long time.