Welcome back to Screwed Over, a place to vent on some of the forgotten heroes of DC's New 52. We've previously taken a look at the Teen Titans and Wally West, and now move over to the Bat family. While the Batman titles and history were left relatively untouched at the onset of the New 52, things have steadily been changing more and more to fit in with the new 5 year timeline.
Batman moved forward unscathed into the New 52, but the Robin timeline was heavily convoluted. With Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and Damian Wayne all serving as Robin (or at least in that capacity, as Drake was apparently only Red Robin) it’s led to some conflicting issues with fans of the Boy Wonder. The Batgirl situation is no different, with 3 different heroine’s wearing the mask. DC decided to keep it simple going into the New 52 and Joker’d their own Batgirls with a crowbar.
Currently Barbara Gordon wears the heels of the New 52 Batgirl, and it’s a welcome return to a great character. Barbara was the best Batgirl and those that followed did so in her shadow, and generally under her wing. I love that Babs is back wearing the bat, but at what cost to my beloved Bat history? Let’s take a look at that first.
Barbara Gordon donned the mantle of the bat in a unique way, with the producers of the 60’s Batman starring Adam West bringing the idea to DC. There had been a Batgirl before her, but she was quickly retconned out of history along with her mentor Batwoman. When Bab’s burst onto the scene in both the comics and on TV she was an instant hit.
Barbara, daughter of Commissioner Gordon, was a brilliant, talented, and inspired librarian who became Batgirl on her own…without the approval of Batman. This is never a good start. She eventually earned his trust and respect and had many adventures with Batman and Robin (Grayson), who she developed a relationship with that never really evolved into anything until later in both their lives. Her career as Batgirl ended tragically one night, and a simple knock on the door altered her destiny forever. Or so we thought.
Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s legendary graphic novel The Killing Joke wowed readers with its stunning graphics and brutal content, not to mention its pitch perfect rendition of the relationship between Batman and the Joker. A simple knock at the door of her father’s house leads to a face to face with the Joker, who casually shoots Barbara through the spine and later abuses her, torturing the kidnapped Commissioner Gordon with pictures of the act. This one night of violence forever changed Barbara Gordon, paralyzing her from the waist down and opening a new chapter in her life.
Recovering her strong will and drive but not the use of her legs, Barbara was bound to a wheelchair. She turns this into a positive and becomes a behind the scenes force in the DC Universe known as Oracle. She is the information superhighway. She excels in her role providing info to the Bat family and eventually other heroes in the DCU, including the Justice League.
Oracle was one of the strongest female characters in the DCU, not to mention a shining example of a great handicapped role model. Sure, fans would have loved to see her as Batgirl again, but her role as Oracle is a loved and respected growth of the character. She not only provided suuport and intelligence to her associates, she formed the Birds of Prey with Black Canary, and proved herself to be a valuable member of the team. I strongly feel her contribution to the DCU as Oracle outweighed her good deeds as Batgirl. With some of these contributions being her guidance and mentoring of the other girls on this list.
Cassandra was introduced during the No Man’s Land story arc, in which Gotham City had been devastated by an earthquake, causing the rest of the country to shut its doors and leave Gotham City to the savages… and the Bats.
Daughter of top assassins David Cain and Lady Shiva, Cain raised her in the language of fighting, meaning that while Cassandra was a top level martial artist, she had no understanding of words or speaking. She was a silent killer, until she ran across the Batman, who took Cassandra under his wing and made her a soldier in his war. Cassandra proved herself time and time again, becoming one of the strictest followers to Batman’s guidelines of justice. He even gave her a cave. Robin never even got his own cave.
Eventually Cassandra came under the guidance of Barbara, who worked with her to improve her way of life, teach her how to sign and understand words, reading, etc. Easily the most skilled fighter of the Bat family next to Bruce Wayne, she worked alone more often than not, able to handle threats some of the others weren’t able to. When she was eventually gifted with the ability to speak she lost a part of her fighting prowess, and endeavored to regain her skills at the cost of even her own life, if it came to that.
Her time as Batgirl saved the young Cassandra Cain, and turned her from a life of an assassin to a defender of Truth, Justice, and the Batman Way. She willingly gave up her role as Batgirl to the next entry on our list and became Black Bat, a member of Batman Incorporated. Her successor may not have been as capable a fighter as Cassandra, but after months of a grudging respect that blossomed into friendship, she had no qualms about handing over the mantle of the bat to the biggest casualty of the Batgirls.
Poor Stephanie. From the moment the New 52 was a glimmer in DC’s eye she was doomed.
Stephanie Brown was the daughter of the Cluemaster, a B-villain from Batman’s world. She hated her father and set about ruining his fiendish plots by becoming the Spoiler, a masked heroine with only one goal. Eventually she entered into a relationship with Tim Drake (Robin III), who helped supply and evolve her crime fighting career, despite his reluctance to do so. Batman discouraged her at every turn, yet Stephanie fought on, always determined to make a difference.
When Tim had to retire as Robin, Batman decided to give Stephanie the role of Robin after she pleaded her case. The first in-continuity female Robin, Stephanie had a unique relationship with Batman that threw back to the first Batman and Robin pairing, while offering up something completely different. Stephanie tried so hard to do right by Batman, and prove herself worthy of the Robin title, that it would eventually be her downfall. She was killed by Black Mask and became the second Robin to die for Batman’s cause.
But this was not the end of Stephanie Brown. She was later determined to be alive, hidden from Batman by Leslie Thompkins, who is basically the female Alfred in Bruce Wayne’s world. Leslie wanted a different life for Stephanie, but she soon returned to Gotham once again in the role of Spoiler. She began training with Cassandra Cain, who eventually handed down the role of Batgirl to Stephanie, at the private request of Batman.
Steph started under the wing of Barbara Gordon almost immediately, with the constant watch of the first Batgirl keeping her on the right track. She had a short career as Batgirl, but did the costume proud and her dynamic with Barbara was an extreme high point of the series. It was like the little sister had grown into her big sisters shoes, and after all the trials and heartache and pain she endured it seemed right. It seemed like she had finally found her place.
HOW WERE THEY SCREWED OVER BY THE NEW 52?
Oracle is gone, and Barbara Gordon is once again Batgirl. Her time as Oracle is supposedly still intact, and she still has her past in the wheelchair. But Babs was cured and back in the costume with only a few years passing when she wasn’t Batgirl, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for the Oracle we know and love. It also means Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown were effectively wiped out of existence, their entire history flushed down the drain.
Cassandra may show up, as Batman Inc. is still running and the Black Bat could be a legitimate hero with no ties to the Batgirl legacy. I hold out hope that Cassandra Cain will return to the Bat family at some point in the future.
Unfortunately things don’t look good for Stephanie. At least, not the Stephanie we know. If she does appear I imagine it will be in full reboot mode, with none of her history left intact. The Robin timeline is convoluted enough right now without adding Steph’s time in the tights. And her role as Batgirl would also have to be wiped as there just isn’t enough time or reason for her to have taken on the role given the few years that Barbara was out of it.
So while Oracle and the Batgirls are losers of DC’s New 52, Stephanie Brown is the ultimate casualty of the reboot. Which, unfortunately, seems to be the role she was born to play.
Next time we’ll take a look at another missing hero from Gotham. Stay tuned.