Dick Grayson is the original Robin, the archetypical sidekick. He first appeared in Detective Comics #38 (April 1940) in a story by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson. Grayson was the orphaned son of murdered trapeze artists. Bruce Wayne identified with Grayson’s plight and offered to become his guardian. Grayson joined Wayne’s crime fighting Batman alter ego as Robin, the Boy Wonder. He possessed a natural acrobatic skill which carried over into his crime-fighting activities. He had a more easy-going and friendly demeanour than his mentor and made friends throughout the superhero community. However, his closest friends were the sidekicks of Batman’s Justice League allies and together they formed their own group, the Teen Titans, with Robin as their leader (The Brave & the Bold vol. 1 #54, July 1964).
Grayson’s relationship with his mentor became strained as he grew to adulthood. He aborted a university education and spent almost all his time with the Titans. A close encounter with the Joker prompted Batman to “announce” Robin’s retirement – Wayne’s attempt to force Grayson into a safer career. However, Dick was unwilling to quit and assumed another identity, the Nightwing (Tales of the Teen Titans #44, July 1984). It is telling that Grayson picked a character from the mythology of Superman’s homeworld and not from the bat/robin iconography of Batman’s world. Nightwing was successful, both as leader of the Titans and as an independent hero. In time the rift between Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson healed and Dick became an older brother to Tim Drake, his successful successor as Robin.
Batman was pivotal in Darkseid’s defeat during the Final Crisis. The New God’s last spiteful action was to throw Bruce Wayne through time with the Omega Effect. All of Wayne’s friends and allies (except for Tim Drake) believed him dead. Dick quit the Titans after Bruce died (Titans #11, May 200), closed down his secret identity as a museum curator in New York (Nightwing #152-153, March-April 2009) and devoted himself to the growing crisis in Gotham City. The power vacuüm created in Gotham City by Batman’s absence almost tore the city apart and Jason Todd – another ex-Robin – sought to fill that vacuum by becoming a new bloodthirsty Batman. Dick clung on to his Nightwing identity, until his confrontation with Todd finally forced him to accept that Batman was too deeply engrained into Gotham City’s psyche to let die (Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1-3, May-July 2009).
Grayson worked to make the world believe that Batman was still alive. He even warned the JLA about trying to honour Batman’s passing. He told them “The criminals [...] need to think he can’t die. They need to still think he’s out there. Batman lives. Always.” (Batman #687, Aug 2009). Not only did the world not know that Batman had died, but they also didn’t know that Bruce Wayne was dead. Just before Batman “died” the villain Hush had himself surgically altered to look like Wayne as part of a foiled scheme. With Wayne gone, Hush now found himself kept on a short leash by Alfred Pennyworth and Grayson. For the time being they have allowed Hush to continue posing as Bruce Wayne as it served their own purposes (Streets of Gotham #1-3, Aug-Oct 2009).
Grayson moved the Batman’s base of operations to the Bunker beneath the Wayne Foundation building and created a new Batmobile with flight capabilities. Grayson’s Batman was more visible that the original and was noted by commentators as being more vocal. He did adopt some of Wayne’s grimness, but that didn’t totally subdue his older persona. He confessed to Alfred,
I’ve always known what I’d do if.. if anything happened to Bruce. I just didn’t want to face it. That was my worst, worst nightmare when I was a kid. This is what kept we awake at 3.30 AM. As long as I was Nightwing I could pretend that I’d never have to take over as Batman. I could act as if he’d always be around.
Dick Grayson (Batman and Robin #1, Aug 2009, written by Grant Morrison).
Grayson’s Batman was going to take on Damian Wayne (Bruce’s son with Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter) as the new Robin. This left Tim Drake (Bruce Wayne’s Robin) feeling alienated. Drake had refused to accept that Bruce was dead and, knowing that he would have to break some rules, assumed the identity of Red Robin (one of Jason Todd’s multitude of aliases) in order to stop any come back from causing problems for Dick and his allies. Tim then left Gotham City to search for clues to Bruce Wayne’s whereabouts and found that the only other person who believed in his crusade was Ra’s Al Ghul and his League of Assassins (Red Robin #1, Aug 2009). Coincidentally Damian Wayne had been trained by the League of Assassins and he had inherited his father and grandfather’s intensity and demeanour. The new Batman and Robin chaffed against each other’s personalities. Damian disobeyed Grayson’s orders while fighting Professor Pyg’s circus troop and was kidnapped. The experience of being saved only slightly softened Damian’s demeanour, but he at least started to obey Grayson’s orders (Batman and Robin #1-3, Aug-Oct 2009).
Dick had to prove himself during the weeks following “Batman”‘s return. Two-Face, the Penguin, and Black Mask each sought to control crime in Gotham, but Two-Face, who had tangled with Nightwing just before Batman’s death, thought he recognised the new Batman. He even managed to break into the old Batcave, but a ruse by Alfred and Grayson managed to convince him that Grayson was indeed the real Batman (Batman #688-691, Sept-Early Dec 2009). The other claimant to the Batman cowl, Jason Todd, returned as the Red Hood, an even more lethal vigilante with his own sidekick called Scarlet (one of the girls defaced by Pyg). Todd argued that Grayson’s Batman couldn’t replace Bruce, but he ended up having to save Todd from a legendary hitman called the Flamingo (Batman and Robin #4-6, Nov 2009-Jan 2010).
Why does Dick deserve to be in the Justice League? Because he deserves to be Batman. Because he’s been in the League before. Because he’s led the League when Batman has been dead before (Joe Kelly’s “Obsidian Age” storyline). Even before that he was part of one of the UN’s Justice League Task Forces. As Nightwing he has been on the League’s radar of potential members for quite some time, but he has declined at least three offers of membership. The first when the “Big Seven” were enlarging the League (JLA Secret Files #2, 1998) and then when there was an aborted attempt to rebuild the League immediately before the Infinite Crisis (JLA #121, Dec 2005). Most recently when Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were building a list of potential members in “The Tornado Path” they considered offering Nightwing membership. Superman and other League founders were in favour, but Batman noted that he’d already asked Nightwing and that he had declined.
Everything changed with Bruce Wayne’s death. It has taken time for Dick to get use to his new role as Batman and everything attached to that (sidekick, Gotham, team-ups, etc). He’s already had his first team-up with Superman so Batman’s seat with the Justice League is the last part of his inheritance from Bruce Wayne. The unresolved question about Dick Grayson’s attachment to the League is whether he’s going to end up as its leader. He’s led practically every other group he’s been associated with and there isn’t another clear leader in the League’s new line-up.