Spoiler warning for Detective Comics #1062
Even though Nightwing does not have the power to see the future, he does know the one thing that will certainly kill Batman: old age. Despite saving Gotham City for over 80 years, Batman rarely shows his age, and he never show signs of aging in the main DC continuity. But Nightwing seems worried about Bruce’s increasing years, and for good reason.
Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson—otherwise known as Batman and Nightwing—have been working alongside each other practically since Batman’s debut as a character. Dick Grayson originally served as the first Robin, making his first appearance in 1940. Dick has been drastically aged up over the years, as have many of Batman’s kid sidekicks have. Whereas Dick began his Robin career around the age of eight, he’s now working as Nightwing, somewhere in his mid- to late-twenties. The exact ages of these iconic characters are less important than how, despite his sidekicks being regularly introduced and then progressively aged up, Bruce Wayne himself has seemed to hover somewhere in his mid-thirties for decades.
Batman’s historic age is well over 80, however, and that tidbit is humorously addressed in Detective Comics #1062 (by Ram V, Simon Spurrier, and Rafael Albuquerque). When Nightwing calls Batman, who is in the middle of a series of medical tests. Bruce is worried that something is wrong with him after making a few mistakes in a recent battle. Dick starts to ask his mentor to consider “the fact that you might be getting too old for—” before Bruce cuts him off with a smirk and a dismissal of Nightwing’s concern over Batman’s increasing age and, possibly, a decrease in his abilities.
This is a fun exchange that emphasizes Bruce and Dick’s close relationship, especially after decades of working together on the page. Bruce treats Dick’s concern as a joke, but in reality, Nightwing has a point about Batman. As the Batman supporting characters continue to age—whether that be Nightwing himself or the latest Robin, Damian Wayne, who has aged four years while characters around him remain the same age—Batman hasn’t been aging. This raises an interesting metatextual question: At what point does Batman begin aging, and when does it become a problem within the narrative? When will Bruce Wayne have to retire from Batman in main DC continuity?
The answer to all these questions is obviously “never,” or else DC would have to retire one of their most well-known characters. But this is still an interesting problem for a medium like superhero comics. Time and age work differently in serial stories like those that feature both Batman and Nightwing. But as Nightwing—Bruce Wayne’s first ward and sidekick—continues to grow older, fans and writers alike need to ask the question: is Batman finally getting too old to be Batman?
Detective Comics #1062, is available now from DC Comics.
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Author: Kate O'Donoghue