19 February 2012

The Paradoxes of Stephanie Brown’s Story

Stephanie Brown’s biggest fans appear to have two big beefs with DC Comics:
On the one hand, this is like complaining that the food is horrible and the portions too small. If Stephanie’s stretch in the red and green was so demeaning, shouldn’t we be pleased the company is tacitly admitting that treating the character that way was a mistake?

Similarly, DC’s revamp last year wiped out many of the least popular storylines of the past decades: Roy Harper losing his daughter and an arm; Superman’s mullet and blue period; the deaths and betrayals of about two dozen Titans; and so on. Just the things that many fans have said they wish they didn’t have to think about.

On the other hand, the loss of Stephanie’s work as Robin in the current continuity, and her departure from the role of Batgirl, leave her with a much lower profile. It’s not even clear if the character exists in the current continuity. The changes also push the moment when females can be Robin off into the uncertain Dark Knight Returns future; stately Wayne Manor is once again an all-boys club.

Either way, as I wrote back here, this change provides yet more confirmation that nothing ever comes easy for Stephanie.

My take on the change is to read Stephanie Brown’s story from 1992 to 2011 as a successful coming-of-age. In the final issue of her Batgirl she confronted her father, the villain Cluemaster, who originally inspired her to become Spoiler. In that magazine, Batman Inc.: Leviathan Strikes, and other recent stories, she’s shown herself to be a full, trusted member of the Batman team. Her unresolved foundational conflicts are over. Stephanie won.
Of course, it would have been nice to see more good stories along the way.

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