One of the greatest comic book characters of all time is Dick Grayson, also known as Nightwing. The former sidekick of Batman took over the mantle of Nightwing in the 1980s and became an amazing protector and ally of Batman, who is mostly established in Blüdhaven and more recently in New York since the Teen Titans moved their headquarters there. Dick Grayson has been through a lot since the 1940s, and his stories are one of the best ones in the DC Universe. However, one comic book story started great. It ended on a note considered one of the most controversial moments in comic book history – the act between Tarantula and Nightwing that enraged the fans and critics. Here is what happened.
In the Nightwing issue #93 from 2004, Dick Grayson’s identity is compromised by the criminal mastermind Blockbuster, which sends him into a spiral and deep depression. After putting his family in danger, Blockbuster is viciously beaten by Nightwing and almost killed. After seeing Nightwing won’t kill Blockbuster, Tarantula arrives and shoots the criminal in the head. Dick is miserable, hates himself, and feels every person he knows will be disappointed in him. During his emotional breakdown, Tarantula takes advantage of Dick’s poor state and sexually abuses him even after the man doesn’t consent. This moment is one of the most controversial moments in DC Comics.
In the rest of the article, we will further discuss this comic book issue, fan reaction to the infamous scene, and why it is so problematic. If you are interested, stay with us until the end.
Nightwing is known as a wholesome character who does anything to protect the ones he loves
Dick Grayson is the first Batman sidekick in DC Comics history and one of the most popular characters ever. His tenure as Batman lasted 40 years until Jason Todd, a new Robin, was created in the 1980s, and Dick Grayson decided to move on and become Nightwing.
His solo superhero career has been surprisingly good, and the character absolutely blossomed in his new role. Dick Grayson soon became a fan-favorite character and the first member of the Bat Family dynamic.
Throughout his tenure in DC Comics, there were many versions of Dick Grayson, but importantly, the character mostly stayed true to himself. Nightwing is serious about his job but is also an easy-going and witty man who spends his free time mentoring his younger “siblings.”
For example, when Damian Wayne became Robin, Dick immediately stepped into a role of a mentor who taught Batman’s son how to adapt to the new society and become the best superhero he could be. Dick Grayson mentored all Robins; he did a great job doing that since being a superhero in Gotham could be deadly for anyone (Jason Todd learned that the hard way.)
He is attentive toward people he loves and dedicated to his craft – he is an acrobat, and even with time passing and Batman saving his life by adopting him, Dick never forgot his roots.
However, despite being wholesome and kind, Dick does have flaws that are not beneficial for himself necessarily but do help superheroes. Nightwing tends to make the world a better place, and that burning desire is usually detrimental to his character.
Unfortunately, in 2004, in his Nightwing #93 issue, Dick Grayson stumbles upon his greatest nightmare – the endangerment of people he loves because of his superhero life.
I would even say this particular issue, the period is where the DC writers really put Dick’s character through hell, and frankly, it wasn’t necessary. Let’s find out why.
Tarantula sexually abuses Nightwing in his vulnerable mental state
The synopsis of this comic book issue goes something like this. Nightwing is going through a life crisis, with the criminal mastermind Blockbuster destroying his life piece by piece. He lost everything – his job, but his anonymity as well.
Nightwing realizes that Blockbuster has revealed his identity to the world and that his loved ones are in danger. By her words, the award-winning journalist Maxine Michaels accidentally leaked the information from Blockbuster, and while she explains her side of the story and reasons, she is shot in the head.
The criminal mastermind emerges from the shadows and threatens Nightwing, his family, and his friends. Blockbuster, also known as Roland Desmond, goes on a tirade of learning about Dick Grayson and his secret life and realizing a superhero’s biggest weakness. Desmond explains how he will deal Dick Grayson the fate worst than death and that he will make sure everyone he knows, even everyone he interacts with, will be dead.
This whole tirade and speech are happening during Nightwing’s vicious beating of a criminal – the monologue fuels Nightwing’s terror and anger. However, Nightwing eventually stops and throws Blockbuster down the stairs while horrifyingly looking at his bloodied hands. Dick Grayson lost control, and the man he almost killed brought him to the edge.
This is when Tarantula, also known as Catalina Flores, arrives, a vigilante in Blüdhaven who kills corrupted police officers and criminals in the city. Nightwing never approved of her crime-fighting methods, so when she came to the scene of him beating Blockbuster up, she took the opportunity to kill the criminal himself. This is where Nightwing abruptly changes his superhero code, and during his breakdown, he leaves Blockbuster to the mercy of a vicious vigilante. Desmond didn’t expect that, and Tarantula used that opportunity to kill the man.
Afterward, Nightwing is outside, in the middle of the street, at the peak of his mental breakdown – he doesn’t have a job, he endangered his loved ones, and he broke the code he always followed. Tarantula doesn’t read a room at all, and ignores the man’s awful mental state and goes on to sexually abuse him. Specifically, Tarantula comforts him but uses that opportunity to straddle and have sex with him. Nightwing says no, but Tarantula still does the deed, making this moment one of the most controversial parts of DC Comics.
Nightwing’s sexual abuse isn’t the only moment where comic book writers went overboard. Marvel Comics had a story involving Captain Marvel being raped by Marcus Immortus and being pregnant with … him.
Of course, both comic book publishers tried to “forget” these stories for good reasons, but they still are used as examples of how not to develop characters.
In the example of Nightwing, the superhero is under insane pressure by the sense of duty and fear that his loved ones will suffer because of his actions. He loses his job, gets compromised, and is blackmailed by a criminal mastermind who threatens to hurt everyone he knows. Dick Grayson is already suffering, so why the writers felt the need to add more to his mental breakdown.
If your story only has value because it has a shocking moment, it isn’t good. What’s sad is that the lead-up to this story was actually solid, and Tarantula’s deed ruined the whole storyline for everyone.
The shock value prevailed in this storyline, and thankfully, the fans and critics “destroyed” this comic book issue and condemned the people who greenlit the storyline.
Even the most cheerful characters need to fall to get back up, but because of that moment, Nightwing wasn’t the same – that story didn’t only destroy his job or superhero life, it destroyed his dignity, and sometimes that’s worse than anything.
There are more examples like these; we hope we never see them again. Shock value shouldn’t dictate writers’ stories because if they do, they fail.