“I’ve always described him as the most popular character that nobody’s ever heard of,” says Danny Shepherd about the DC Comics superhero Nightwing, the main character in the local fan-made Nightwing: The Series. Shepherd should know: He’s been living and breathing Nightwing for the better part of two years, as the co-creator, producer and star of Nightwing: The Series. Shepherd and his creative partner, Jeremy Le, put together a Nightwing video on a whim in 2012, posted it on their YouTube channel (youtube.com/ismahawk) and watched views soar (it’s now at more than 1.5 million).
“The video wasn’t very good, but it got such a huge reception that people just kept on asking for more,” Shepherd says. So in early 2013, Shepherd and Le put up a Kickstarter campaign to fund what was meant to be a three-part Nightwing web series. The goal was to raise enough money to do justice to the pair’s favorite comic book character: “If we make a web series, we don’t want to do it unless it’s high-quality, high production values—something that Hollywood could put out.” Nearly two years and $34,000 later, they were ready to unveil Nightwing: The Series, a now five-part production featuring the superhero also known as Dick Grayson, former Batman sidekick all grown up. The onetime Robin now sports a costume with a sleek blue logo and has abandoned Gotham City for the town of Blüdhaven.
To give the series the professional production values that they dreamed of, Le and Shepherd worked with producer Domenica Castro and director Adam Zielinski, UNLV classmates who recruited a talented crew, from stunt performers to sound designers. “People thought it was a cool project, and they just wanted to help,” Shepherd says, and the efforts have paid off. With three episodes posted so far (the first episode just passed 300,000 views), fan response has been strong.
Although DC parent company Warner Bros. has allowed the series to go on as long as it doesn’t make a profit, the prospect of a TNT pilot featuring Nightwing has Shepherd worried that future episodes may not be a viable option. Instead, he and Le are looking at other DC characters including the futuristic Batman Beyond and Kyle Rayner, a lesser-known Green Lantern. And they’re hoping to work on original material as well. Whatever they come up with, the Nightwing series has gotten them a fan base eager to see what they do next. “The biggest complaint we’ve gotten is that it’s too short,” Shepherd says. “People want more.”