Wednesday, February 9, 2011

BATGIRL WEEK: Before The Cowl

As I was perusing the comments over on our contest post, I noticed that a lot of Batgirl readers out there have not had any prior experience with our young Miss Brown, so I wanted to take the time here to discuss the life and legend of one of our favorite characters, Stephanie Brown.

Our story begins in a little know magazine entitled Detective comics in issue #647. Stephanie Brown was created by Chuck Dixon and Tom Lyle in a story arc as a foil to her father the Cluemaster. The Cluemaster was a third rate villain, at best, who bears a striking character description to The Riddler. After his release from Blackgate, he was deemed reformed, and came back to his home life with his wife, and his daughter, Stephanie. As comic books have told us, through cyclical story telling, a tiger can't change his stripes, and the Cluemaster was at it again, and as determined as ever to destroy The Bat, and leave with profit. The only difference? No clues, just profit.

Overhearing her father's plans with criminals, out of revenge for being a poor father, Stephanie dons the guise of The Spoiler, to spoil her father's plans. She does so by leaving painted phrases giving away as many details as she can all across Gotham City. Batman and Robin take notice of these clues, and give chase. After finding Stephanie in the cloaked disguise of The Spoiler, Batman and Robin eventually take her under their wings. Stephanie is reckless, and causes a lot of problems for the Bat-family throughout her career, but the one thing that she has always kept is determination.

Stephanie has gone through a lot over her career, one of which involving a critically acclaimed teen pregnancy storyline that resulted after an ex-boyfriend left Gotham post-Cataclysm. Tim was there to support her, and Stephanie never gave up. Ultimately, she decided to give the baby up for adoption due to her current lifestyle, and she had to move on.

One of the my favorite storylines regarding Miss Brown was the one when she became the first female Robin, outside of The Dark Knight Returns. Tim Drake had left crime fighting as a promise to his father, and Stephanie was bound and determined to take up the mantle of The Boy Girl Wonder.

These three issues were some of my favorite comics featuring Stephanie prior to her Batgirl run. And as I've stated before, she had the best hair I've ever seen in a comic.

Unfortunately for The Girl Wonder, Stephanie disobeyed Batman during a mix up with Scarab, and he fired her from the position, which sucks, but she did agree to the terms of her probationary period. Batman was harsh with Stephanie, and I don't blame hardcore Steph fans for hating Bruce, but you should really hold that against Bill Willingham, DC Editorial, and fans that weren't receptive to her role as Robin. Although, in my opinion, she did an amazing job.

It wasn't too long after she was let go that she "died" in the War Crimes saga, in which Dr. Leslie Thompkins had a cure for Stephanie, but didn't give her the medication to make an example of her to all would be crime fighters. On her "death bed" she asked Batman if she was really Robin, to which he replied "yes." A decent moment for The Dark Knight.

It was later to be revealed, when Spoiler returned in Robin #173-174, that Stephanie had relocated to Africa with Leslie Thompkins to escape from the madness of Gotham City. After this, Stephanie was welcomed back into the Bat Family with open arms, as Bruce had suspected all along the Leslie Thompkins would never sacrifice the life a child to prove a point.

After her return, Bruce Wayne was sent back in time by Darkseid's Omega Sanction, Dick Grayson became Batman, Tim Drake became Red Robin, and Bruce's son, Damian Wayne became Robin. Cassandra Cain, the Batgirl of the time, left the cowl vacant, and Stephanie stepped in.

Are you up to speed now? There is so much more to discuss including the Robin/Spoiler Special #1, and so much more, but I hope this piece caught you up to speed on the current Batgirl, Stephanie Brown, from where's been to where she's going. And I think we can all agree that the quick to act, strong willed Gothamite is in good hands with Bryan Q. Miller and Dustin Nguyen, can't we?

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