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Batgirl and Robin 
21st-Aug-2009 10:24 am
So, Batgirl v3 #1 came out yesterday. And this post contains spoilers, specifically on who is under the cowl now. If you don't want to know, skip on.

I loved the issue, all of it. I'm going to start by explaining the FedEx arrow I saw, and why it bothered me, but it didn't detract from the story for many reasons. However, it's still there.

Stephanie Brown was Robin. Now she is Batgirl. Aside from future flashfowards, Elseworlds, and Tim and Jason playing dress up in BftC, this makes her only the second person to ever officially, in continuity, with the right channels of approval, don both the R and the Bat. Dick resigned from Robin as he got too old, and took on the Batman cowl out of loyalty to his father. Steph was sacked as Robin for a stupid reason (although to be fair, her reasons for taking on that mantle to start with were stupid and out of character for everyone involved), and she's taken on the Bat cowl because her ex-boyfriend told her not to be something else (Spoiler).

As a child, did you ever ride an invisible horse up to your friends and announce that you're Porthos, only to be told that you can't be Porthos, you have to be Juliet, and be quiet because you've beeen kidnapped? Or sit down and reach for Ironhide and have it snatched away, only to be told you have to be Arcee, who doesn't have a toy, so you have to pretend or go away (and also, haha, her name means "a bit like an arse"). Or tuck your arms into your coat, do up only the uppermost button, then swoop in and announce that you're Batman, only to be told that you can't be Batman. But you can be Batgirl, if you have to play.

If not, then that's OK, and I'm not surprised you didn't see any arrows in the idea of with Stephanie now being Batgirl.

If you did, and I did, then maybe you're used to the suffix -girl being used as an insult, because -girl is not as good as -man.

And it didn't matter, really, how great Batgirl was, or Arcee. Batgirl wasn't part of the 'club' in the TV Show (she was independent, and that's great, but she was also Other.) Arcee didn't even have a toy. And Juliet - Juliet was so crap I invented my own Mary Sue when the boys were playing Dogtanian.

Stephanie was Robin, and she was sacked from that for saving Batman's life. She was her own hero - Spoiler - and Batman and Robin both repeatedly told her she couldn't be that either. As a younger girl, she cheerfully ignored them, but now she's a young woman, she's been told "you can't!" so much she's finally hung up the eggplant.

It's OK, though, because she's allowed to be Batgirl.

Alright, that done; I really liked it, and I'm excited that Steph finally has her own series, and she's been promoted from 'Robin's girlfriend who is a vigilante' to 'the title character of Batgirl'. I'm glad Barbara will be helping out; while I'm sad there's no Birds of Prey, Barbara needs a #1 operative and she's been a good mentor to young girls before. I'm expecting a little tension between her and Steph in the next issue, but I hope she realises that she no longer owns the title of Batgirl. Cassandra passed the cowl on, and she chose Stephanie. I hope that - after a few Babs related control issues, Oracle will respect that.

This is an important thing about Batgirls - they choose their own successors. This is why Helena, who's technically the second Batgirl (excluding Bette Kane, who has been retconned as never having been), doesn't fully count; she took on the mantle without Barbara's knowledge and never lasted long. Barbara only received Batman approval retroactively after she'd already invented the persona. Cass, the 'true' second Batgirl, was found by Barbara and mentored primarily by her; Bruce had a very heavy hand in it, but really, it was Barbara's blessing that counted in that decision. And now, Cass has chosen Steph, without even consulting Dick. And Dick, aside from remarking that she's not as good as Cass, can't step in, because Batgirl is only peripherally in the 'club', and Batman only gets to tell her what to do when she's Cassandra, who just happens to idol-worship him. Barbara and Steph (and Bette and Helena and we might as well mention Kate) do the Batgirl(woman) thing whether the men approve or not.

Steph's voice was spot on from start to finish. The art was also spot on: that's what Steph and Babs and Cass all look like, and Dick and Damien are recognisable. Garbett is a great artist - whether he's deliberately taking the lead from other artists on how to draw characters, I don't know, but I saw Quitely's Damien, St Aubin's Babs, and   - I don't want to look up artists now - the Steph from the tail end of Robin and Cass from the first ongoing run of Batgirl. They were instantly recognisable and as in character as Miller's writing.

Miller's faced with a problem with this title: the three main characters in Batgirl have all suffered recently by bad writing and bad editorial decisions. Steph has been in limbo since Dixon left DC: no one but Dixon (and Weaves) has ever written Steph well, so to see someone get her spot on, warts and all from the first issue is encouraging. Babs' personality has deteriorated since Simone left Birds of Prey (which, IC at least, I blame on the break up with Dinah), and her own Oracle Miniseries, and now Miller's has to pick her up with a chairangst ship on her shoulder the size of the Aerie One. She's been painted into an 'angry' corner and he's decided not to ignore that.

As for Cass - well.

Cassandra Cain has not been written in character or well since the end of her own series. She's been changed and messed with and gone through a personality 180 so sharp that I'm surprised anyone even recognises her. I really don't think there's any feasible way someone could write an  in character or good Cass-Batgirl right now without throwing out the past five years of 'development'. Miller did a very good job, though. There's even a delightful 'Take That' against her recent treatment by Steph telling her: "you're not very chatty". Cassandra, remember, has body language as her first language, not English. She spent her own series speaking rarely and efficiently, and suddenly in her last mini she was transformed into some monologuing murderer.

Miller's picked Cass up, remembered that she's not supposed to be chatty, remembered she's Steph's best friend, and handled the transition with as much class as possible. Hopefully Cass can slip into the background for a while and come back when we're ready for an IC Cass again.

Maybe she'll go on a retreat with Connor Hawke and Cissie King, and they'll come back all fixed. We can only hope.

Miller's interview with Newarama gives me hope he'll do good things with this comic, so it's definitely promoted to #3 on my DC must-read list, because I love my girls.
21st-Aug-2009 10:03 am (UTC)

I did not see your arrow, but I think that's because I'm too invested in the character and I'm super gleeful for her. We've gone from Cass knocking Steph out to keep her out of fights to Cass handing her the cowl. Steph's been looking for that kind of validation/welcome/acceptance ever since day dot, and she's getting it from Cass, who is hard to please. So basically I am like "OMFG BWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"

I will make a post, 'cause I think I have to. But oly when I am done being EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

(The arrow I saw was that now the girls wearing the logo of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman - the Big Three - are all white and blonde. Which isn't a big deal, really, I mean, they all have established characters and reasons and stuff, it's just ... I can't not see it now, you know?)

21st-Aug-2009 10:07 am (UTC)
Yeah, I've also seen that arrow. It's why that I'm sad Cass had to leave, but I do think she did have to, after what they did to her. I was worried it might be Misfit, and I didn't want a meta in the role.

Let's be fair, that was a tough fight Cass was keeping her out of. Also I think I have to have an icon of them fighting together like that.
21st-Aug-2009 10:18 am (UTC)
I was starting to think I was the only one that liked this issue :D

In my opinion, it was time for Steph to drop the Spoiler mantle anyway. Much as I love her as Spoiler, it is a persona created by a young girl trying to rebel against her father - a product of anger and revenge as much as a wish to do something better with her life. She's outgrown it's original purpose, and her reasons behind being a vigilante have changed, so even if she hadn't taken up Cass's cowl I think it would have been time for her to find another persona for crime fighting. Taking up the cowl just gives her an added edge of acceptance by the boys, who aren't going to find it so easy to tell her to stop or that she hasn't got what it takes with Babs and Cass standing right behind her. Like you said, in the case of Batgirl, the boys really don't have much say.

Cass needs to find her own path too. I mean, apart from the way she was treated, I always felt like the Batgirl mantle is just a stepping stone anyway, not the final destination. Kind of the way Robin is for the boys.

Um. yeah. In conclusion, can it be time for issue 2 yet? XD
21st-Aug-2009 10:31 am (UTC)
21st-Aug-2009 11:44 am (UTC)
I feel faintly sorry for anyone called Miller writing a Batbook, just like the other Morrison and the various other Moores in comics always have that problem of people seeing the surname, thinking 'Oh!', then noticing the forename and thinking 'Oh.'
21st-Aug-2009 11:51 am (UTC)
Or the reverse, in Bryan Miller's case. Where "Oh GOD NO!" becomes "Oh, OK." on seeing the first name.
21st-Aug-2009 12:08 pm (UTC)
I have to say something very similar to what you and barrysarll were saying on the go-'round above.

I haven't read the comics in a long time, and would only be able to pick them up by various shady means, I think, but I read your and others' posts about them because they're interesting and because you write them well.

Largely due to weaverandom I understand a few things about Stephanie, so, yes, in many respects it's cool to see her in an official outfit because "official, historical" trumps "recent, individual" in some senses. Which is not to say that I don't see the arrow. I probably wouldn't have if I'd read it alone, but we all help to raise each other's consciousness and that's basically a good thing.

But most of my reaction to this post was "Miller? Female-centric comic series? ...Good writing Miller female-centric comic series recent Miller what the hell? Next up Dave Sim writes the defining Wonder Woman series?" I had to follow the interview link to see that the world hadn't gone upside down.

I did think Carrie Kelley was cool, though.
21st-Aug-2009 12:12 pm (UTC)
And Bill Willingham revives Birds of Prey!

No, I can't even bring myself to joke about that.
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21st-Aug-2009 01:18 pm (UTC)
I didn't mean specifically to imply there was a hierarchical difference between -girl and -woman, although obviously there implicitly is. However, Batgirls are teenagers, and semi-sidekicks. Steph is 19, and Babs and Cass were both teenagers when they wore the cowl. All things being equal (which they're not), Batgirls are the equivalent of Robins, who are also children/teenagers.

Catwoman, OTOH, has always been an adversary (and a lover) of Bruce, on his level. 'Catgirl' would be kind of icky in that respect. As the only teenagers I can think of offhand in that corner of the 'verse are heroes, I can't come up with a more suitable villainous counterpart. This is probably because Batman beating up a child is icky, while the Joker beating a child to death is because he's just that evil.

Also, Batwoman exists. She's independent of Batman and it's not obvious yet why she wears that symbol, but she exists and has existed for a long long time.

So Stephanie Brown vs Selina Kyle is probably not a fair comparison, but it just bothers me a little that girls can't be Robins, they have to be Batgirls.

Although it is worth mentioning that Catman and Catwoman have absolutely nothing to do with each other, beyond each carrying a torch for a member of the Batclan. That's probably a Bat vs Cat difference, though. Bats are 100000000000000000x more iconic for DC than even Catwoman.
21st-Aug-2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
Does-- does this mean I now have to add a DC title to my pull list?
21st-Aug-2009 02:30 pm (UTC)
You mean you don't already have Detective Comics and Secret Six?

STEPH IS BATGIRL, CATI. There are waffles, and she says 'like'.
21st-Aug-2009 06:04 pm (UTC)
I was very curious to see what your reaction to this would be. Not because of the plot, to be honest, but because of the writer. I don't know if you know (but you probably do), but Miller also writes for Smallville. And all the non-mythos fans absolutely hate him and he's currently being slaughtered over this issue and a negative review he got for it.

So, it kind of warms by heart that you like him (so far), because I like him, too.
21st-Aug-2009 06:52 pm (UTC)
What's a non-mythos fan? And where ca I see these negative reviews? Everyone on my friendslist loved it.
22nd-Aug-2009 07:23 pm (UTC)
Cass, the 'true' second Batgirl, was found by Barbara and mentored primarily by her; Bruce had a very heavy hand in it, but really, it was Barbara's blessing that counted in that decision.

THIS! It really bothers me that there isn't really any recognition now of the relationship between Cass and Babs, and that Bruce is the only one who gets any credit as mentor/parent to Cass.

Nice well-rounded review, btw.
22nd-Aug-2009 07:44 pm (UTC)
Everything about Cass post-her series cancellation bothers me, and that includes the 'Cass is great, Steph suuuuuucks!' fans. As far as I'm concerned, she dies somewhere in 52, and was replaced by a clone. They just haven't worked this one out yet.
29th-Aug-2009 06:09 pm (UTC)
Not to sound daft, but... is that mask sewn into her face?
29th-Aug-2009 07:01 pm (UTC)
No, it's just clumsily drawn. The costume usually includes a face mask completely sewn over the nose and mouth, but in this picture it has been torn away, revealing the person underneath to be other than Cass. (i.e. white)
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