Part One
Marvelous, Fantastic Heroes


by David Kennedy

In 1973, Charles Grayson, the youngest son of Dick Grayson, the second Batman, was 13. Fascinated by his father's crimefighting career to an extent that his elder siblings, Angela and James, simply weren't, he wanted to be Robin. He'd insisted since the age of seven that his father train him, just as he had Bruce Wayne Jr. At that time Wayne was 23, and beginning to feel rather self-conscious about the whole thing. Okay, so the costume he was now wearing covered his legs [1], but still... He decided to try focusing on Wayne Industries and his relationship with Kara Kent for a while, and see how things worked out.

Badly, as it happened.

After six months, it was beginning to look as if Dick and Chuck [2] Grayson would never speak to each other again. Chuck felt his father was being overprotective, that he wasn't being allowed to take the risks his father or Bruce Jr. had at his age. Simultaneously, he also felt that he'd never be as good as the previous Robins, and he projected his feelings onto Dick, believing he was being judged. And, after all, he was only getting to do this because Junior had taken a sabbatical. If his dad had to choose, he'd defer to Old Man Wayne's judgement, and it would be his son getting all the fun, right?

For his part, Dick found the whole experience fraught. He cared about Bruce Jr. and, when Bruce was younger, he had emphasised not to take unnecessary risks, just as Bruce Sr. had for him. But with Dick as Batman and Chuck as the Robin, this was the first time a Batman and Robin team had actually been blood related. He didn't know if he was being overprotective or not, and this made him edgy. Helena Wayne refused to patrol with them, claiming it was impossible to talk to either of them and Batgirl would have to work independently until it was sorted out. Something was going to snap.

The breaking point turned out to be the Joker. During a fight between the less-than-dynamic duo and the Clown Prince of Crime, Chuck was shot in the shoulder. Dick felt strongly that the boy was just too reckless to continue with a crimefighting career. He was outraged when Chuck told him that if he'd been paying more attention to the situation and less on "mollycoddling" the whole thing would have worked out. After being released from hospital Chuck announced he was going to stay with his Great-Great-Aunt Harriet.

A few weeks later Bruce Wayne Jr. was Robin again.

Chuck Grayson wasn't giving up though. He was going to prove he was a competent crimefighter. He designed his own costume, based loosely on the 19th century hero Nighthawk and a Batman-like identity DC Comics had created for Superman [3]. He decided to utilise the Superman character's name, knowing Clark wasn't really using it. He became Nightwing. And yes, his first costume really did feature a high collar and open neck. It was the Seventies, if that's an excuse.

For a couple of years Chuck fought low-level crime, and the very occasional "super villain" as Nightwing. Knowing the family patrol patterns, he avoided Gotham's "authorised" vigilantes, and denied all knowledge of the new crimefighter whenever Harriet forced him and his father to talk. However, Dick wasn't convinced, and he got even more suspicious when Chuck took on his own partner.

Mary Elizabeth "Bette" Kane was the niece of Elizabeth "Betty" Kane, who, of course, was never really Bat-Girl, and the great-niece of Kathy Kane, the first Batwoman. Like Chuck she was fascinated by the legacy of the Bat, and convinced her family could have been a greater part of it, if her great-aunt had only been given a chance. A year younger than Chuck, she had had a crush on him all her life, and was the only person he told the truth.

In 1975 Bette Kane created a costume modelled on the Robin design, and followed Chuck on patrol as Flamebird [4]. Chuck wasn't happy about this, but realised that saying it was too dangerous for her would make him sound just like his father. Bette hadn't even had the training Chuck had, but insisted that her tennis practice (she was the under-19s champion) and aerobics would be enough.

The fact that Nightwing had a blonde, female "sidekick", and Chuck and Bette had attended Bruce Jr and Kara Kent's wedding together did not escape Dick's attention. He tried to press Chuck on it at the reception, but the fifteen year old refused to talk to him and he didn't want to cause a scene. However a simple "So, Bette, how do you like 'the family business'?" got the whole story. However, even once the truth was confirmed, Dick wasn't sure what to do about it. Training him hadn't worked, forbidding him hadn't worked. It seemed all Dick could do was hope Chuck didn't get too far over his head.

At the wedding, however, Chuck had met another of his father's cousins. His name was Tom Grayson [5]. He'd overheard the conversation, and mentioned to Chuck that, if he wanted crimefighter training, but didn't want to be tied to the Bat-Family, the he knew someone who might be able to help. He introduced Chuck to Leo Cragg.

Leo Cragg had been one of the many crimefighter in the 1930s and 40s, under the name "The Prowler". He had met Tom and Frank before, and Tom had reason to believe he might want to train an "apprentice".

This was a disaster. Cragg was a very bitter and obsessive man, and Chuck was not good at taking orders. In addition, Cragg's crimefighting methods were similar to those of his contemporaries the Spider and the Shadow, whereas Chuck had the Batclan's feelings concerning such things as lethal force. They parted on bad terms, and it would be many years before Cragg considered taking an apprentice again. (6)

Meanwhile, Chuck was beginning to wonder about his own attitude. Sure, Cragg was not the kind of crimefighter he wanted to be, but his resistance to proper training of any type suggested he really wasn't as into this as he thought. If he was just being Nightwing to get back at his father, wasn't that a bit childish? What if something did go wrong?

Before long, something did.

Visiting his sister Angela [7] to borrow some money, he heard her on the 'phone to Helena Wayne. Apparently Batman and Robin had been caught in an explosion whilst pursuing Two-Face. Without thinking, Chuck ran home, pulled on his Nightwing costume and rushed to the save his Dad.

He was quite easily defeated by Two-Face, and chained up next to Batman and Robin. Eventually Batgirl (Helena) was able to effect a rescue [8]. Chuck's presence merely kept Two Face on alert and complicated the rescue.

Chuck was badly shaken by this. He decided to give up being Nightwing for a while. Not that his father was right, or anything, but... he could have died. Because he'd been getting in the way, his father nearly died. He told Bette that it really was too dangerous to do this sort of thing without proper training. She had to agree.

Unfortunately Chuck wasn't sure what else he should do. It was still awkward between him and his father, although they were talking, and he and Bette discovered they didn't really have much in common [9]. After they'd split up, he made a decision. He was going show everyone he was capable of accepting training and fighting crime, but he'd do it his way. He was going to become a cop.

It was impossible to do that in Gotham City, he felt, for the same reason it was impossible to be a costumed crimefighter. The shadow of the Bat was everywhere. After some thought, he decided to go to Vegas, hoping he could clean up that town in the same way his Grandpa Jim cleaned up Gotham.

Upon entering the Nevada Law Enforcement Academy, he quickly heard rumours of a behemoth Mob enforcer called "Mr Fixit". He dismissed them as an attempt to scare the rookies. He was wrong.

Mr Fixit was Robert Bruce Banner. He had reverted to his original Hulk form, the one with the amoral but intelligent personality, and half the power of the "Childlike" and "Savage" Hulks. He had taken a job for Mafia boss Michael Berengetti under the name Joe Fixit. He was also occasionally called Blockbuster. He didn't care which, as long as nobody realised he was the Hulk [10].

Although he was twice absent due to unspecified family emergencies [11], Grayson graduated from the academy with flying colours. Despite his lack of area knowledge he managed to acquire a number of contacts, including a showgirl at a science fiction themed casino ("The World of Tamarra"). Her name was Catalina Flores but used the stage name "Starfire" and, Grayson couldn't help noticing, she was of striking appearance, especially in a costume consisting of orange body paint and a couple of metallic straps. She also seemed to know all about Blockbuster.

Starfire explained that Joe Fixit wasn't just Berengetti's muscle. He was also an organisational genius, and the brains of the outfit. Most of the cops were on the take, including the police chief. Since it would take a SWAT team to subdue Blockbuster long enough to read him his rights, the few honest cops couldn't go it alone. Few people really knew who he was, but those that did were terrified.

Grayson asked how Starfire knew so much about this. She refused to say. In any event, Grayson was determined to do something about this. His plan was simple: put on the Nightwing suit and take out Berengetti and Fixit with a frontal assault. It was a very bad plan.

Nightwing arrived at Berengetti's office just in time to see Fixit kill Berengetti. When he realised there was a witness, Fixit, rather than attacking Nightwing directly, slammed repeatedly against a load bearing wall until the entire building collapsed. The Hulk, unharmed, walked away. Nightwing was badly injured, and only survived because Starfire had been following him and phoned an ambulance.

While he was recuperating, Starfire told him her real name was Catalina Berengetti. She was Michael's estranged daughter. Despite Chuck's protestations she decided to become a crimefighter, to both avenge and atone for her father. She called herself the Tarantula, [12].after the 1940s crimefighter and author Jonathan Law

While John Law was a semi-effectual vigilante, he was a far better mystery writer. Many people believed that his roman a clef about costumed vigilantes Altered Egos: Behind the Mystery of the Mystery Men was an expose of the personalities, foibles and identities of costume vigilantes. Actually it was an exercise in fictional biography as well as an attempt to explore the mystery man experience using real vigilantes for verisimilitude. Law became a minor celebrity for a while as the media lauded his book as an expose. His attempts to explain the reality of his work became lost in the media storm. Then came the backlash, people who believed that Law had tried to slander their heroes vilified and exposed his work as a fraud. His publisher, fearful of the backlash, distanced themselves from him…hanging him out to dry. Law was forced to eke out a living writing under various pseudonyms.

Catalina had been encouraged by her father to have an identity apart from her family, which she had known was rich and powerful and made money through gambling, which is way they were looked down upon in society and often besmirched in public. She had even accepted her fathers help in creating a false identity that of Catalina Flores with valid papers for that identity. He assured her there was not anything illegal about it. Catalina attended law school and then entered the FBI academy. While at the academy she discovered that her family truly was guilty of the crimes that they had been accused. Afraid of being having her true identity discovered she broke ties with her family and used the new identity to escape from her father. Michael Berengetti. who despite his love for his daughter would not allow her to endanger the family by possibly talking to her colleagues. Plus, he had many plans for his daughter first to put her inside on the FBI under her Catalina Flores identity and give the Family necessary intelligence about FBI plans. Secondly if this did not work out he planned to have her marry into a rival family and seal the rift between these two families through marriage.

Michael Berengetti, whose name was not Berengetti but rather a name which not even DC or Marvel comics dared to print, was not a man to let sentimentality cloud business. He had his own brother Fredo killed and his brother in law, Carlo, when they chose to align themselves with enemies of the family. One of his other daughters, Mary would die as a result of some of his machinations. When Catalina chose to cut herself off from the Family, he first applied pressure. He let it be known to Catalina's superiors that she was in the FBI under false pretenses and let it be known what her true name was. He however informed her that he had done this to allow her time to return home where his lawyers would fight on her behalf and get her a light sentence. She fled from the FBI and her family. Michael Berengetti had made his daughter into a federal fugitive

After Catalina disappeared Michael had his organisation looking for her. In his search for Catalina, he made a bargain with a small time mob enforcer. This turned out to be a devil's bargain for which not even Michael Berengetti could extract himself. He found that just as he had taken over Moe Green's Las Vegas operation from within, his organisation was coopted. Mr. Fixit kept Berengetti around for his knowledge of the other families and their politics and because it amused him to make the king a pawn. Berengetti knew that if he dared to oppose Fixit, Fixit would attack his family rather than Berengetti personally. One of Berengetti's famous quotes was When they come...they come at what you love.

Catalina had the notion to bring down his father's organisation to redeem him, she also knew she needed to defend herself from her father's men should they discover her. She trained at a local gym and took martial arts training at a small storefront dojo. To her surprise one of the students/instructors at the dojo was an older man who lived in her building. He watched her intently and offered to train her privately. Believing his was a come on she rejected his offer. When he knocked on her door, she first believed that he was going to be turn out to be a pest.

He revealed that he knew who she was and told her who he was. She had heard of him and understood why he was living under a different name.

Catalina tentatively agreed to let him train her. He trained her not only in martial arts but in obscure weapons such as the whip, cross bow, throwing knives and other. When she was ready he offered her a dark costume with a mask and cowl which had upright ears, he said it was based on the costume of one his costumed colleagues who had worked for OSS but had gone back. He thought that since she was going to be a hunter of men, she could call herself the Huntress.

She took the job at the casino and began her career as the Huntress. The Huntress' particular targeting of the Berengetti family and Fixit's organisation made her their special enemy. They managed to track her to the apartment building where she lived. One of the residents of the building let it slide that the old man in one of the apartments had once been a costumed crime fighter. Berengetti's thugs visited Jonathan Law and beat him for information about the Huntress.

She was out with Nightwing at the time digging up information on Mr. Fixit

He never gave her up. Jonathan Law ended up crippled by this ordeal. After this could only walk with the use of a walker. Although Dick Grayson did not like asking his relatives for favors, he arranged it so that Cranston, Grayson and Wayne would buy the apartment building where Jonathan Law lived and transfer half ownership to him so that Law would have a place to stay and he could supplement his social security with additional income. Law's pride would not allow for anything that smacked of charity.

Catalina made slight changes to her costume and began calling herself the Tarantula in Law's honor. Law's crippling made her more determined than ever to take on the organization of Mr. Fixit

Chuck had already decided that the direct approach was a bad idea, so he decided to continue working with the police, and bring the crooked cops down from the inside, whilst amassing information on Blockbuster's organisation. Tarantula, meanwhile, was still determined that the direct approach was the best approach, which led to much argument, especially since Eleanor's idea of the "direct approach" reminded Chuck uncomfortably of Cragg. They still worked together occasionally, but not very often.

Meanwhile Chuck had had another idea. No longer able to be Batwoman, and finding life as a librarian and housewife unsatisfying, his mother had used her organisational abilities to set up the Oracle Foundation, a sort of voluntary detective agency that employed many costumed heroes, both permanently and on an "ad hoc" basis, including the second and third Black Canaries [12] and Power-Girl (or Power-Femme). In addition to working as an agent of the foundation, Power Femme was, as Karen Starr, a great help in computerising the offices, making Barbara Grayson one of the first "data detectives". It occurred to Chuck that this was just the sort of thing that was needed to bring down Blockbuster, and so, with a redesigned and more sensible Nightwing outfit, he became an agent of the Foundation.

The new, more focussed Nightwing often found himself working with Power-Femme, and soon they began dating[ 13]. They had a lot in common, seeing themselves as the "light grey sheep" of the "World's Finest Families". This relationship soon became more serious, and it was shortly after Karen had given birth to their child that she and Superman battled Doomsday [14].

Along with his mother, Chuck helped Karen through the trauma of this assault. She continued to work with the Oracle Foundation, constantly improving its computer equipment, mentoring Barbara in its use, and becoming a dedicated hacker in the interests of justice [15].

Chuck continued to work for the Las Vegas Police Department, as well as the Oracle Foundation. He remains determined to break Blockbuster's organisation [16]


[1] The first "Adult Robin" costume had been created by Dick Grayson in 1947. An attempt to combine the Batman and Robin costumes, he was later forced to admit it looked, well, silly. Although, he insisted, not as silly as a grown man fighting crime in short pants. In 1967 Bruce Jr. simply added yellow tights to the standard Robin uniform, and altered some of the accessories. A new costume, with features of Bruce Jr.'s "adult" costume, was later adopted by Dick's grandson, Tim Drake, who flatly refused to wear the bare-legged version at all.

[2] Dick named his son after a distant cousin, a scientist who had been involved in early research into what would eventually become the Bionic Man Project. However the idea that Dr Charles Grayson actually succeeded in creating a cyborg with the brain of his co-worker, Dr Robert Crane, utilising 1940s technology and neuroscience, is ludicrous. Probably.

Chuck also shared his name with another distant relative who worked in the film industry in the 1950s, where he laboured on very bad horror movies under a producer who happened to be distantly related to Jim Gordon. Doubtless it was his Gotham connections that inspired Francis Gordon to create "Attack of the Bat-Monsters!" The film itself was never released, however a docudrama of the production was made in 1999. See

[3] For more details on Hannibal "Nighthawk" Hawkes, see Jess Nevins' "Some Unknown Members of the Wold Newton Family, Part 3: Reach For Yuh Genealogical Charts, Stranger!"

[4] Again, the name was based on the fictitious exploits of Superman in Kandor. "Flamebird" was supposedly the name Jimmy Olsen utilised as his sidekick.

[5] Lt Tom Grayson was a Marine, and, along with Lt Frank Corby, had fought the masked villain Lightning, who killed Grayson's father. In the Fighting Devil Dogs For more information Please See Thanks to Professor Power for alerting me to his existence and thus the connection between Nightwing and the Prowler.

(6) In Eclipse's "Prowler" and "Revenge of the Prowler." Leo is shown coming out of retirement to train a replacement. These issues also portrayed two of his earlier adventures. In a one shot comic the The Prowler in White Zombie, Leo is shown in one of his earliest cases in which he fought against the Zombie Master Murdere Legendre. Although part time vigilante Hobie Brown would adopt the name of The Prowler, there does not seem to be indication that he had known Leo Cragg. He was mostly likely inspired by the stories about the legendary vigilante.

[7] Although Angela Grayson was slightly contemptuous of her family's costumed careers, she nonetheless had the same drive for justice as most of her relatives and joined CIALD under the codename "Chase". A much later comic recounting her exploits made "Chase" her actual name and removed all connections to the Bat family (giving her a fictitious sister, for example), due to Bruce Wayne's insistence, and the fact the real Chase didn't fit into their continuity anyway. Writer DC Johnson couldn't resist a slight hint to the fact her father was "the Sixties Batman", however, and made him "The Acro-Bat", a character seemingly based on the "camp" 60s TV show which Dick and Bruce had always hated.

[8] DC changed just about everything, but this event was the basis for "A Lonely Place of Dying", the story they used to introduce Tim Drake as Robin (at the time it actually occurred, Tim was about a year old).

[9] Bette made a few forays as Flamebird on her own, but was constantly hounded by her "friendly rival" from school, Duella Dent, a distant cousin of the relic hunter Finnigan Dent. She saw herself as Bette's opposite number and decided that, as "Distant relative of a man occasionally mistaken for Two-Face" was not the opposite of "Bat-Girl's niece" (and never mind that Betty Kane was never Bat-Girl), she had to reinvent herself as the daughter of a supervillian. Initially she chose the Joker.

Calling herself "Harlequin", and acting as heroine or villainess as the mood took her, she created an elaborate and self-contradictory backstory for herself, which she gradually came to believe. Eventually she became a genuine villainess and was judged insane. Blaming herself, Bette retired her costume.

After her short lived tennis career, she went on to marry a man called Arthur Brown who, to her horror, turned out to be a two-bit crook and Riddler wannabe who spent most of his time in jail, or CIALD's Suicide Squad. Although they swiftly separated, Bette fell into a deep depression, and became addicted to alcohol and tranquillisers for a time. She is now recovering. Bette and Arthur have one daughter, Stephanie, born 1980, and raised by Bette.

The Dent family seems to have a history of insanity. In addition to Duella and Finnigan, the psychopathically obsessive relic hunter, there is also a distant cousin in England, Arthur Dent, who suffered from a severe disassociative syndrome, as though he believed the entire world to be a fake. This psychotic break appears to have been engendered following his mysterious disappearance in 1978, when he was not seen for six years. He briefly returned to his home town in 1984, at which time the above assessment was made, then disappeared again. His current whereabouts, and connection to the disappearances of Patricia Macmillan and Fenchurch Street are unknown, as is any connection between his initial disappearance and the UFO scare that occurred at about that time.

[10] When DC eventually reported these events, in addition to making Dick Grayson Nightwing and relocating the events to the fictitious city of Blüdhaven in the 1990s/2000s, they also made Fixit/Blockbuster the brother of the Blockbuster who had fought Batman in the sixties, who was, of course, really Banner's ancestor, Mr Hyde. In fact, they had utilised the second Blockbuster before, in adventures where Batman had fought the Savage or Childish Hulk. To explain why Blockbuster now had Banner's intelligence they said he had sold his soul to a demon called Neron.

[11] The assaults on his parents by the Joker and Two-Face. Chuck was too horrified even to note that, as he predicted, Bruce Jr had got to be Batman.

[12] Yes, the Tarantula. "Catalina Flores Berengetti was the basis for the DC characters of Huntress II (called Helena Bertinelli, the first name coming from Helena Wayne) and Tarantula II (called Catalina Flores).

[13] See Dennis Power's article on Green Arrow for details of the Canary/Arrow family.

[14] DC Comics combined the fact that Nightwing was seeing a superpowered alien with the showgirl persona of Eleanor Bertinelli to create Starfire of Tamarran. "Starfire"'s real name was supposedly Koriand'r, a reworking of the names Karen Starr and Kara Zor-El. The real Power Girl's attitude to this varied from outrage to amusement, depending on who was asking and how they asked. (Thanks to Dennis Power for this, as well!)

[15] Their son was, after much debate, named James Zorrel Grayson-Starr. Like Joel Kent, he has no superpowers. However, noted futurologist Dr Isaac Asimov turned up interesting evidence that may detail one of his descendants. A "Space Ranger" for the Council of Science (forerunner of Starfleet Command) he seems to possess qualities that, while not quite superhuman, are certainly at the peak of human ability, as well as a keen deductive mind, an instinctive grasp of science (a quality associated with Kryptonians) and, possibly, limited invulnerability (although Dr Asimov attributes this to a "glimmer shield" supplied by ancient Martians). His name is (or, rather, will be) David "Lucky" Starr.

[16] It is this relationship, as much as Dick and Barbara that is being alluded to with the current comics' portrayal of Dick "Nightwing" Grayson and Barbara "Oracle" Gordon.

[17] In Marvel Comics, the "Mr Fixit" personality eventually lost control, leading to yet another battle for dominance between Banner's personalities. While this did, in fact occur, Fixit had been canny enough to make arrangements so that the organisation would continue, even if he "disappeared" for a time. Banner had not enough memory of his time as Fixit to realise this. Whenever the "Fixit" personality was dominant he would, if possible, ensure his organisation was still running.

While it still remains to be seen if Nightwing will defeat him, there is known to be a possible future where he fails. In that future Mr Fixit's organisation has become an empire, and Fixit calls himself "The Maestro". According to comics writer Peter David, he will be defeated in the year 2080 by his past-self and Janis Jones, the descendent of Rick Jones. In fact, both these characters are cyphers created by David. The Maestro's defeat will involve another Bruce Banner, and a teenager with a hairstyle consisting of a large "crest", but both of these descriptions refer to the same person. The Banner clone Buddy Blank, aka OMAC. That Buddy Blank Omac was a clone of Bruce Banner was revealed in The Islands of Dr.Moreau by Dennis Power.

OMAC did not kill the Maestro, but took him to a psychoblock, where advanced variants of the techniques pioneered by Leonard Samson were once more used to integrate his psyche. These were only partly successful. While the Maestro reverted to human form, he had no memory of being Bruce Banner, and, although not particularly vindictive, retained a great deal of the amorality and selfishness that the Fixit personality represented. The doctors decided that this was as good as it was going to get, and released him, naming the new personality John Eisenhart.

copyright 2003 by David Kennedy

All rights reserved. The text and design of this page are ©  2003 by the author, David Kennedy. No
copying or reproduction of this article or any portions thereof in any form whatsoever is permitted
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