Interview: Brett Booth on NIGHTWING and Redesigning the DCU

NTW_Cv21_1vqpw3i4mo_After illustrating him as Batman in the pages of JLA (and ushering his little brother Red Robin into DC Comics’ New 52 in the pages of Teen Titans), artist extraordinaire Brett Booth returns to draw Dick Grayson monthly in April’s Nightwing. Booth generously took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about his latest assignment, the challenges that come with a new series, and what it’s like to have such a significant hand in redesigning so many heroes and villains for the DC Universe!

Matt Santori: Congratulations on the new series, Brett! After working on both Justice League of America and Teen Titans, drawing a solo book must be a very different experience! What challenges are you finding with the transition from teams to a single hero in Nightwing?

Brett Booth: Thank you! I’ve actually done more single character books than team books so it’s more of a readjustment. I had thought that doing a single character book might give me more free time than the team book but nope. There’s a bit more wiggle room for a team book. If a pose doesn’t quite work for one character you can either cover it with another or try to make the others characters look better. With a single character they are front and center, the book revolves around them so I spend more time trying to find the right pose than I did before. And then of course there are more backgrounds to draw, they aren’t super difficult or anything but with only one character there is more of them (backgrounds) to draw.

TT_Cv15MSG: Is Nightwing a character you have had a personal affinity for, or are you now just getting to know him with the assignment?

BB: When I was a kid watching reruns of the old Adam West Batman show, I preferred Robin. I don’t know why, but even now I prefer him to Bruce. Maybe because he’s a bit more fun! Plus, I like to draw more agile characters, so NW is perfect for that. I’d actually been talking with Bobbie Chase for awhile about taking over Nightwing after Teen Titans, so I’ve been drawing sketches of him to get a good feel for him. But, of course, drawing a few sketches and drawing an entire book are two different things, so while I’m on my third issue of the book right now, I’m not 100% settled in.

I try to switch the art up a bit for every book I do — they all have different moods. JLA was more grim, TT was supposed to be lighter with more energy and NW is sort of a combo. Since it’s not set in Gotham, it doesn’t need to be as dark, but it’s still a big city with bad people in it, so it has to retain some of Gotham’s darkness — yet have that energy that Nightwing brings.

NTW_Cv20_qesfn340ly_MSG: Dick Grayson has a long and full history of being handled by a wide variety of artists. What characteristics define Dick for you and how do you translate those into your handling of him?

BB: Fun, energy and ah… I’ll say, hottie. He was the guy making the jokes when Batman and Robin fought Mr. Freeze or the Joker. He’s having a good time! Unlike Bruce who can’t seem to get over the death of his parents, Dick has. He’s moved on and he’s doing what he does because he likes it, not out of some warped sense of duty to people he didn’t really know (sorry Bruce, you have… issues).

MSG: Moving Nightwing from Gotham City, a well-established locale in the DC Universe, to Chicago is a big change as well! How are you preparing for and executing the look of a real life city on the page?

BB: Well, two ways. I am doing existing buildings like the Sears Tower (not called that anymore, but no one outside of Chicago really knows that) or the subway/train things. But at the same time, it needs to be better, so there might be more large buildings, less areas for trees. In reality, there are not that many really tall buildings so you would have to miss out on the cool city leaping shots. It’s the problem with using a real city. Plus most cities look the same. I know that city dwellers will try to argue this, but to us non-city folk, you can’t tell them apart. It’s why you can use Chicago for the Avengers movie and call it New York. So you use things like City Hall or a museum to sort of set the location. Think of it as Chicago Plus. We are messing with the city a bit, for specific reasons as well, that I can’t quite tell you about yet.

Dr+Fate+FINAL+(2)MSG: Your character designs have been popping up all over the DC Universe lately, especially in the pages of Earth 2 with the Atom, Grundy, Mr. 8, and Dr. Fate. How did DC first approach you about this opportunity and how are you handling having such an important hand in the crafting of the New 52?

BB: I did a few designs for Batgirl and Nightwing in 2011. I got an email from Pat McCallum (Earth 2 editor at the time) about maybe doing a few designs for him. Since I love doing character designs, I of course agreed — Hawkgirl and Solomon Grundy to start. I had a blast and they seemed to like them, so they asked me to do a few more. I guess the word got out, because I now do designs for a lot of different editors.

I’m incredibly happy to be asked to do this. I wanted to leave my mark at DC and creating new versions of iconic designs is one way of working on the entire DC Universe at once. It’s really an honor.

HawkgirlDesignBoothMSG: Do you have a favorite design to date, and why is that one your favorite?

BB: Hmmm… I don’t know… I really like Fate and a few others that are upcoming that I can’t mention yet. But I’d have to say Hawkgirl, since she got me started. And it was a plus to get to work with James Robinson again (always a pleasure).

MSG: How do you decide how much tradition versus novelty to include in new character designs? Is it a question of trying all sorts of things to see what clicks or do you have a particular method of attack for each new design?

BB: I think that’s the tricky part — deciding what makes that character’s design scream that character. What I try to do is get as much info about the character as I can: backstory, how they got the powers in the new universe. I pull up old designs and see what was the ‘thing’ — the wow factor that made that costume sing. I try to use that in the new design somewhere. There is never too much info, because you never know what will trigger the idea.

image[1]With Hawkgirl and Fate, it was their origins. With Hawkgirl, I had more room to play with, as her defining design elements are her wings. The helmet was optional, but after talking to James I got the idea to go with what I did and change the colors to reflect that. Black Lightning and Blue Devil were a bit different as I didn’t get much at first, so the first drafts weren’t quite right. After I got more information, the ideas clicked. Each design is different, and each corner of the DCU is different, so the designs need to reflect that. It can be incredibly frustrating when you can’t get a handle on the character but when you can, it’s so much fun, and so very rewarding.

MSG: Any last words or special teases you can share with the Comicosity audience about your upcoming work?

BB: Lots of new heroes and a few old ones will be popping up in the pages of Nightwing. Might not be how you think, but we’re really trying to get a feeling for the world Dick Grayson now finds himself in.

MSG: Thanks so much, Brett!

Nightwing #19, the first issue of Brett Booth’s run on the DC Comics title, hits stands on April 17, 2013. The artist’s work can also be seen on his blog at


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