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C2E2 celebrates, Chicago-style

'Nightwing'  |  Courtesy DC Entertainment

"Nightwing" | Courtesy of DC Entertainment

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Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2)

♦ April 26-28

♦ McCormick Place West,
2301 S. Lake Shore Drive

♦ Tickets, $25-$65

♦ Visit www.C2E2.com

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Updated: April 26, 2013 11:45AM



Holy relocation, Batman! Nightwing (aka Dick Grayson, the original Robin) has left Gotham and is currently fighting crime in the Windy City.

“Dick’s just learned that Tony Zucco, the mobster who murdered his parents, is in fact very much alive and living under an alias in Chicago,” says book writer Kyle Higgins. “So Dick takes a sublet apartment in Wicker Park and begins to hunt for him.”

Higgins is a New York Times best-selling author, who grew up in the southwest suburb of Homer Glen. He’ll be talking with fans and signing autographs all weekend long at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2), the elaborate pop culture convention that spans all things comic books, anime, manga, video games, movies, television and related toys. Hundreds of exhibitors and panels will be featured in the event, which runs April 26-28 at McCormick Place West.

For those who haven’t been following the comic book happenings of Mr. Grayson: He’s tired of living in the shadow of The Dark Knight, has ditched the Robin costume, created his own crime-fighting hero, Nightwing, and took to fighting crime in the fictional Bludhaven, a neighboring city to Gotham.

Grayson made the big move two weeks ago in Nightwing No. 19 (DC Comics, $2.99) and in one memorable panel can even be seen giving new meaning to the term “turnstile jumping” when he leaps off a building and onto a moving Blue Line train car.

“I really like that image because he’s smiling and it’s the first time in a long time that he’s done that,” Higgins says.

Chicago has often filled in for Gotham City on film and while a handful of DC characters have fought crime in Chicago before, none has ever called Chicago home.

“Both [book artist] Brett Booth and I knew we wanted to explore a city that exists in real life. Nightwing previously fought crime in New York. I didn’t want to use it. It’s been overused,” he says. “With Chicago, there is an aesthetic and a feel to city that is unique — a personality if you will — and that hasn’t been explored in comics all that much.”

It isn’t the first time that Higgins has paid homage to his hometown, either. While enrolled in film school, Higgins received accolades for his student film “The League,” a noir set in the 1960s about a union of superheroes in Chicago.

And though he is using a real city in the comic book, purists should be warned: This is still a work of fiction.

“I’m trying to be as faithful to the city as I can. Brett and I are using as many real locations as we can,” Higgins says. “Still, this is the DC Universe’s version of Chicago.”

Future issues will feature a nice exchange on the top of the Congress Hotel, at Soldier Field and in the Loop. Higgins says this isn’t merely hometown pride.

“For me, it’s about taking places and locations that suit the story,” he says. “The fact that I grew up here and used to think ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be cool if a superhero could have been here’ is beside the point.”

Though the character himself states that he sees his time in Chicago as being temporary, Nightwing may find himself sticking around a lot longer than even he originally intended.

“He’s initially here to find Zucco, but the story goes beyond that,” Higgins says. “Brett and I really wanted to explore why there aren’t any masked superheroes in Chicago. Our premise is that there used to be, but they are now all dead, and Nightwing will have to unravel that mystery in future issues.”

As for the likelihood of other famous superheroes and villains popping in for a visit, Higgins says it’s looking pretty good.

“I can’t reveal anything yet, but yes, he’ll be entertaining a few out-of-town guest,” he says. “For a city that’s never had a superhero to call its own, Chicago may soon have more than its share.”

♦ ♦ ♦

While DC’s rival may not have anything as showy as a Chicago-set story arc, that doesn’t mean Marvel doesn’t have anything to tantalize its legion of fans.

On screen, “Iron Man 3” hits movie theaters May 3, and should keep the excitement created by last year’s blockbuster “The Avengers” burning.

Within the pages of the comic books, the superhero team of Avengers has just finished an all-out civil war with another Marvel super group, The X-Men. The two groups are attempting to bury the hatchet by creating a new group, the Uncanny Avengers. In addition to Captain America and Thor, the roster also includes Wolverine, the Scarlet Witch and others.

The Uncanny Avengers book writer Rick Remender will be at C2E2 all weekend to talk about his series, which first published last fall.

“For the fans, the book features a lineup of heroes we’re unlikely to ever see on film,” Remender says. “The characters are licensed by different film studios, but fortunately I don’t have that problem.”

In assembling the new team, Remender had a wish list of heroes, of course. He didn’t get every character he wanted — at least not yet.

“I really wanted Storm, but the editors told me she was already in too many books.”

The team is currently battling Red Skull, the Nazi villain last seen on film in “Captain America.”

“He’s really the perfect villain for the book,” Remender says. “He’s someone trying to cleanse the mutant plague from the earth. Of course, he won’t stop there. Evil people will always use fear and hatred as a means of grabbing power.”

Misha Davenport is a local free-lance writer.



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