wealth inequality

Nightwing and the New Superman Show Us the Other Way Superheroes Can Do Good


Outside of their roles as heroes, both Dick Grayson and Jon Kent are champions of social justice.

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Nightwing #89, on sale now from DC Comics.

While superheroes are mostly known for doing good, a common criticism of them (both in-universe and in real life) is that they often only focus on supervillains and never do much to change the system for the better, only to maintain the status quo. Whilst there have been several classic comic books over the decades that have debunked this accusation and even characters that are created specifically to address issues that people face, it seems that a recent trend in superhero comics in recent years has sought to address this issue and we have seen an uptick of comics showing our heroes to be more socially aware and tackling subjects such as wealth inequality, racism and climate change more head-on and thus reflecting the real world.

In both Nightwing and Superman: Son of Kal-El, writer Tom Taylor has had the two proteges of DC’s two biggest heroes move into roles that tackle issues related to structural inequality, social justice issues, and human rights.

Related: Nightwing’s Latest Reveals Batman’s Well-Hidden Soft Spot

The two characters are currently teaming up to investigate the murders of several meta-humans across the globe, eventually leading them to a trail that involves none other than Lex Luthor. Previously, the original Superman, Clark Kent, had asked Grayson to watch over his son Jon and act as a role model, something that Dick has taken to heart considering his admiration for Superman. This eventually led to the revelation that Dick Grayson is a major investor in the Truth, the independent media outlet that Jon and his boyfriend Jay Nakamura work for that exposes the plight of the nation-state of Gamaora.

While discussing the Truth’s future Jay (disguised as Gossamer) says that he thinks Dick’s current work in Bludhaven is “inspiring”. This is in reference to Dick’s founding of the Alfred Pennyworth Foundation in the city, investing large sums of the inheritance he obtained from his former butler after his death and setting up a youth outreach and project to help alleviate poverty in the city. Naturally, this has led to Dick becoming a philanthropist and a public figure, a role that Bruce Wayne has sometimes adopted with the various charities and projects Wayne Enterprises invests in Gotham. However, whilst Bruce has done a lot of philanthropy and charity in his time, he has had to always delegate it to his employees whilst juggling his role as a C.E.O. and career as Batman takes up most of his time. Dick meanwhile only has his role as Nightwing to worry about, meaning he can take a more proactive role as Bludhaven’s wealthiest good samaritan.

Related: Nightwing is DC’s Best Big Brother

Similar to Dick, Jon has also taken a much more forthright role in bringing about societal change than his father has. While Clark as Superman is no stranger to fighting social injustices such as racism and wealth inequality, he recognizes his limitations as a Kryptonian on dictating how humanity should govern himself, a fact he reiterates to his son when Jon asked why he doesn’t do more. Being half-human and half-Kryptonian, Jon is more inclined to understand his homeworld but also knows what it’s like to be an outsider. The fact that he is the son of a refugee is not lost on the Son of Kal-El, and in his role as both Superman and an independent journalist at the Truth, he is committed to raising awareness of mistreatments of migrants and the impending catastrophe of climate change as he is to fighting supervillains. Unafraid of the potential backlash, he can be seen standing in solidarity with the oppressed, even if it means going to jail or falling foul of public opinion.

Whilst the heroes of the DC Universe try their best to make the world a better place and do what they can to fight injustice wherever they say it but like to keep their power in check so as not to overreach what they choose to intervene in. However, the younger generations of heroes like Jon Kent and Dick Grayson see the potential for a more proactive approach to how they improve the Earth. It is an interesting modern development, considering many people within the fictional universes of DC and Marvel and even in the real world often criticize superheroes for often only ever bandaging problems and maintaining the status quo. More of that not though, we often see these heroes doing their best to fight issues that we face in the real world and it is a trend in superhero storytelling that seems to be happening now more than ever.

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