What's the Deal with Nightwing and Starfire? -

What’s the Deal with Nightwing and Starfire?

If you’ve been watching Titans on HBO Max, then you might have noticed that something seems to be going on between Dick and Kory. Nightwing and Starfire have both had dreams of a little girl who seems to be their daughter, which makes things a bit awkward since they aren’t a couple at the moment. While Dick and Kory did share a passionate night together during Titans season one (so long ago!), the threat of Trigon prevented them from revisiting the moment.

Now it looks like Dick and Kory might be getting close again, and for longtime Titans fans, that’s not surprising at all. In fact, you could say it’s all but expected.

For those who are unaware, Nightwing and Starfire’s relationship was a key part of Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s New Teen Titans run. The 2003 Teen Titans animated series featured its own puppy love relationship between Robin and Starfire, and Teen Titans Go! is—well, as crazy as that show gets, it also stays pretty true to Dick and Kory’s comic book romance. Some of you might be wondering, what is their comic book romance? Why did they break up, and where does Barbara fit in?

The first time Dick saw Kory, it was in a dream—no, not the same dream as we’re seeing on Titans. Rather, Raven planted the idea for the New Teen Titans in Robin’s mind via a dream in DC Comics Presents #26. Even in this subconscious encounter the mysterious alien known as Starfire showed affection for Robin, leaving the Boy Wonder perplexed. When the group came together for real in 1980’s New Teen Titans #1, Dick met Kory for the first time. The first meeting was a bit complicated because she was an alien refugee on the run from slavers and she didn’t speak English.

The problem with the slavers was easily solved thanks to the newly formed Titans, but the second problem had a more creative solution. In 1980’s New Teen Titans #2, Starfire kissed Robin, taking the Boy Wonder by surprise. She explained that her race can absorb knowledge of a language through touch. Kory further explained that any skin-to-skin contact would have worked, but kissing was more fun.

As the Teen Titans grew as a team, Dick and Kory grew closer. Both of them were striking out on their own for the first time. Dick was nearing the end of his partnership with Batman and trying to find himself outside of the Dynamic Duo relationship that defined his childhood. Kory was a former princess who was now a refugee, hiding from slavers on a strange new world.

The topic of romance finally came up in 1982’s New Teen Titans #16, but Dick rejected Kory’s advances. At the time, Dick was in a relationship with a vampire named Dala (no seriously, check out Batman #345). But once the vampire romance predictably ended, Dick began to work through his feelings for Kory. After Starfire was kidnapped by her sister Blackfire, Robin began to realize just how much he cared for her.

After rescuing Kory, Dick confessed that he had fallen in love with her in 1982’s New Teen Titans #26. The two began a relationship, with Alfred chaperoning their first date. The romance was a passionate one, and Dick felt thankful for Kory grounding him during a period where he was feeling adrift. When Dick quit being Robin in 1984’s New Teen Titans #39 and adopted the Nightwing identity in Tales of the Teen Titans #44, he credited Kory for helping him evolve and grow.

In 1986’s New Teen Titans #17, Starfire got married—but it wasn’t to Nightwing. Kory returned to her home planet of Tamaran where she was forced to enter into a political marriage with a prince named Karras. Kory told Dick that the marriage was just political, but his morality wouldn’t let him continue a romance with a woman who was someone else’s wife. Dick returned to Earth heartbroken, as Kory remained on Tamaran with her new husband.

Kory eventually returned to Earth and the Titans after realizing that Tamaran was no longer her home. It took Nightwing some time to look past her marriage, but the couple eventually reconciled in 1987’s New Teen Titans #34. A few months later, Dick and Kory moved in together in 1988’s New Teen Titans #39. Kory gave Dick a shoulder to cry on when he learned about Jason Todd’s death in The New Titans #55, and the couple grieved over the death of Karras in The New Titans Annual #6.

However, a small rift began to form between them. Kory began to worry that she was getting too lost in her relationship with Dick and wanted to find herself outside of the coupling. Dick sensed the distance growing between them and it only made him cling to Kory tighter. The shapeshifter known as Mirage complicated the matter further when she turned into Kory, tricking Dick into sharing a bed with her.

In an effort to save the relationship, Dick proposed to Kory in New Titans #99. Despite their long relationship, most of their friends were worried that they were getting married for the wrong reasons. Before the ceremony in New Titans #100, both Dick and Kory privately wondered if they were making the right decision. The couple completed their vows, but a demonic Raven (she was going through some stuff) blasted the minister before he could complete the ceremony.

Raven attempted to corrupt Kory with a demonic seed, which put her in the hospital. The days after the wedding were complicated as the Titans ousted Dick as their leader in favor of Arsenal. Raven’s attack had shattered Kory’s psyche, leaving her bedridden. To make matters more complicated, Dick and Kory weren’t sure if they were legally married.

Kory healed herself by going through an ancient Tamaranean ritual, which caused her to temporarily forget Dick. After she regained her memory in New Titans #112, Kory concluded that their marriage wasn’t legal and it was time for her to be on her own. She and Dick agreed to meet for one last date in New Titans #114, but Kory never showed up. Their relationship was over.

It would be years before the couple saw each other again. Dick let Kory crash at his place in Blüdhaven when she had nowhere else to go. They served on the same team again during the 1999 Titans series, but the unresolved nature of their past relationship made things complicated. They two admitted they were still in love with each other in 2000’s Titans #19, but a static-filled connection prevented them from hearing one another.

A few years later, Jade became worried about how Dick was leading the Outsiders, so she brought Kory onto the team to help keep him in check. This resulted in more sparks flying, culminating with Dick and Kory spending the night together in 2005’s Outsiders #28. Unfortunately, Dick was too weighed down by recent personal tragedies and their night together didn’t lead to a romantic rekindling. Dick and Kory had another romantic encounter when one of Trigon’s children manipulated their emotions in 2008’s Titans #3.

Nightwing and Starfire addressed this moment during an emotional conversation in 2008’s Titans #5. Dick told Kory that while he would always love her, he was no longer IN love with her. And that was it for a while.

The two continued working together as close friends and teammates. Another rekindling seemed to be brewing in Teen Titans Academy #2, as Kory gave Dick a birthday gift that seemed to be adult in nature. This never went further, however, as Dick began to grow closer with Barbara over in Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s Nightwing.

So, let’s address that elephant in the room. How does all this square with Dick’s relationship with Barbara Gordon? Shipping wars are the staple of any fandom, and the war is a particularly heated one in Nightwing’s case. For years fans have argued whether Nightwing belongs with Batgirl or Starfire and there are great, truly informed cases made for both. And that’s great for fandom, but as far as storytelling goes, I’m not sure we need to pick one relationship at the expense of another. People are complicated creatures and live long enough to have multiple relationships, and frankly, anyone who swears someone can only have one love of his or her life probably hasn’t lived all that much.

We can support Dick’s current romance with Barbara while still acknowledging that his relationship with Kory was important. Dick grew as a person while he was with Kory, and that romance is a fundamental part of who he was. Dick’s time with Kory helped him learn how to define himself outside of his relationship with Batman and evolve from Robin to Nightwing. She also helped Dick get more in touch with his emotions, a skill Bruce wasn’t the best at teaching.

It’s also important to note that Kory is supportive of Dick’s relationship with Barbara. When Dick and Babs got married in Dark Knights: Death Metal: The Last Stories of the DC Universe #1 (yeah, it happened…but it’s complicated), Kory told them both how happy she was for them. In 2022’s Nightwing #88, Oracle called Starfire to protect Dick when she suspected he was being targeted by assassins. In other words, Barbara trusts Kory with Dick’s life.

This is a long way of saying that Babs and Kory are comfortable with one another, so don’t feel like you have to pick sides. Although there was once jealousy between the two women (see 2000’s The Titans #15), in the present day, both heroines have a deep respect for one another. Dick and Kory may not be romantically involved anymore, but their relationship remains strong—and let’s be honest with ourselves, we don’t know what might happen between them in the future. Starfire will always be an important part of Nightwing’s story, and visa versa. And that story is still being written, so who knows what upcoming chapters may bring.

Titans’ midseason finale is now streaming on HBO Max. For the latest news out of Titans Tower, visit our official Titans series page.

Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DC.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, “Gotham Gazette.” Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.