Friday, October 5, 2007

Eww, Robin was a girl

So about a couple of years ago or so, DC had Stephanie Brown, aka Spoiler (Tim Drake / Robin's flame) become Robin - how dare they!? Actually, this move wasn't met with much disapproval from the fan base that I can recall and everyone knew that Tim Drake would be back as Robin at some point. What people didn't expect was that Stephanie would just be Robin for such a short time, that her stint as Robin wouldn't really be explored, and that she'd end up having a stupid death and get no tribute in the Batcave as Jason Todd did (the second Robin).

It was Bill Willingham's (Fables) idea to have Stephanie become Robin as he was writing the title at the time. Due to circumstances beyond his control, Robin and all of the Bat titles around that same time were involved in a dumb crossover and it appeared that Willingham had to scrap his original plans with where he was going with Stephanie as Robin, to fit this new editorially driven storyline.

One of the reasons companies such as DC or Marvel will have character and title crossovers is to create a more unified impression that those characters and titles exist in the same universe and or that those events will have long reaching ramifications (another reason for crossover events is the hope that people will pick up titles that they normally wouldn't). I generally don't like when titles are "forced" to participate in these events because too often they seem forced and we end up with bad story arcs like Batman: War Crimes, a storyline which in addition to being where Stephanie received one of the worst treatments a comic character has received in recent memory, it's also where long time strong Batman supporting character Leslie Thompkins received her character assassination.

I think if DC hadn't shoe horned the Batman: War Crimes crossover into the Bat titles at the same time that Willingham had decided to make Stephanie Robin, that we could have been treated to at least a couple of years of fun storylines where we saw Stehanie grow into her Robin tights (no pun intended) and that there could have been an interesting dynamic going on within the Bat titles where how Batman related to having a female Robin was explored. Instead we have a scenario now in the Bat titles in which just the existence of Stephanie isn't even acknowledged (let alone given tribute to) and Leslie Thompkins isn't used, so her character that was strongly established for years is wasted. I think all of Batman: War Crimes was badly planned (was it planned at all?) and this story arc will be viewed for years to come as the story fans and DC wished didn't happen and they'll probably somehow retcon what they did to Leslie Thompkins anyway. Batman: War Crimes ranks (pun intended) with what Marvel did with Aunt May post Amazing Spider-Man #400 (where she "really" died) and the non mentioning of whatever happened to Peter and MJ's baby. DC could make a lot of people very happy by simply placing a Stephanie Brown memorial in the Batcave. Presently there a good amount of DC fans that have been ringing in on this for years and will continue to do so, so DC doing this would be an acknowledgement by them that they listen to their fans and that they do care about their character's legacies (and I know they do, contrary to what some of their storylines suggest).

This illustration is by Mike Maihack and appeared on Project Rooftop where different artists redesign superhero costumes. The above illustration is by Dean Trippe. Check out Project Rooftop for more on how the character of Stephanie Brown was wasted. Another long running site, Girl Wonder, also has excellent continuing in depth coverage of Stephanie Brown, aka Spoiler, aka Robin.