The protagonist of Batgirl in this period, as I’ve been discussing, was Cassandra Cain. She was a teen-aged protégée of Batman, dealing with issues of identity, values, and heritage, so her coming-of-age story was parallel to that of Tim Drake as Robin. But she was a new character, especially fresh since she was female and of Asian extraction.
When Batgirl launched in 2000, the magazine outsold the much older Robin by about 50%. Then its sales started to slide—as the industry has come to expect for all its titles. The sales of Robin could slide, too. The January 2002 rise for both magazines came during a crossover. The big jump in Robin sales in 2004 was when DC got a case of the Stephs. But the long-term trend is clear: while Robin bobbed along, Batgirl gradually ran out of its original gas.
But then Cass Cain learned to
And that left little fuel for future stories. To be sure, there were other factors—most importantly, the original creative team of writer Kelley Puckett and artist Damion Scott moved on. But other characters have survived such changes.
The fundamental problem was that Cass Cain won. Bruce Wayne and Tim Drake never resolved their Foundational Conflicts that way in the main storylines. Clark Kent and Dick Grayson did resolve theirs, in Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” and the Batman stories of 2010-11, respectively—but those storylines led immediately into reboots that restored the characters’ original Foundational Conflicts. In a series, the problem with a happy ending is that it’s an ending.
DC ended the Batgirl magazine with its Infinite Crisis reboot. I suspect that the company editors set out to restore Cass Cain’s Unresolvable Foundational Conflict by taking her back to her roots as an assassin. By editorial mandate, she reappeared as the villain in a Robin storyline.
Bruce Wayne’s death led to a reshuffling of the team he had assembled, with a new Batgirl. Cass Cain simply disappeared for a while. Eventually DC portrayed her fighting crime back in Asia, still linked to the Batman team through Tim Drake but comfortable working on her own. She had traveled farther than any of Batman’s male protégés and come of age. But as a protagonist, as opposed to a supporting character, she had nowhere else to go—not without a new Foundational Conflict.
And in DC’s latest universe, Cass Cain hasn’t yet appeared at all.