Neither Bruce Wayne nor Dick Grayson wanted Nightwing to be like Batman, so he used a different hero as a benchmark for success.
Since first renaming himself Nightwing, Dick Grayson has struggled to escape Batman's shadow. More specifically, he strives to be anyone but Batman. It's not about Bruce Wayne himself, though, as history suggests Batman doesn't want Nightwing - or any of his dependents - to really be like him.
Instead of having the same dark attitude towards the world as Batman, Nightwing strives to be a well-adjusted hero. In theory, in order to stop Batman's path, readers would expect Nightwing to carve a path for himself. While he's done it in a number of ways, that doesn't mean there isn't at least one superhero who helps him set the benchmark for his own unique path. Enter Jay Garrick's The Flash.
In The Flash #134 by Mark Millar, Grant Morrison and Paul Ryan, Nightwing has a lunchtime conversation with Wally West and Jay Garrick, both versions of The Flash. After learning from their waitress that Captain Cold is causing a riot downtown, Jay insists on going it alone, forcing Wally to follow the doctor's advice not to get up until the next day. Wally reluctantly agrees, and Jay leaves, also making time to pay the check. "This is who I want to be when I grow up," Dick gushed.
Jay Garrick's Flash is The Hero Dick Grayson Wants to Be
There is certainly a reason why Nightwing admires Jay Garrick so much. After all, as far as the ideal symbol of a well-adjusted hero is concerned, Jay fits the bill perfectly. Unlike other versions of the hero, Jay Garrick's Flash isn't seduced by darkness, but instead manages to maintain a healthy balance between his superhero life and his personal life. Plus, one of Dick's best friends in the hero world is Wally West, so it makes sense that Nightwing would have the same affectionate feelings for the Flash before him.
Probably the most interesting thing about Nightwing's admiration for Jay Garrick is how the two reflect such strikingly different generations of heroes and different comic book sensibilities in general. Despite not debuting as his newest character until the mid-'80s, many of Nightwing's qualities and characteristics embody the way modern heroes are portrayed, which may explain why Nightwing is the new center of the DC multiverse. After all, Nightwing is jovial, tongue-in-cheek, bold, down-to-earth, like many Today, heroes are being portrayed.
Meanwhile, everything about Jay Garrick reflects the golden age past, an unquestionably pure, deadly no-nonsense stoicist, filled with pride as overwhelming as his nobility. Yet it's those classic hero tropes that Nightwing finds so appealing. Some of these qualities can even be attributed to Nightwing himself. By choosing to emulate and admire the ideal hero of the past over Batman, Nightwing becomes the ideal hero of the future.