Be warned, this is spoiler-heavy in regards to Robin #174.
So Stephanie Brown, aka the Spoiler, is back.
I’m not gonna get into the whole thing with her coming back, read the goddman comics instead (including an upcoming Robin/Spoiler special). This is mostly me just going on and on for no reason other than that I think it’s a good thing.
If you follow comics, particularly Batman and its various titles, you might be familiar with Spoiler. The daughter of B-level Batman villain the Cluemaster, Stephanie took up a costume to combat her father and ended up a somewhat unwelcome member of the Bat-family. She dealt with an unexpected teen pregnancy (I’m not gonna lie, her giving that baby up was a tear-jerker), her father’s on-and-off returns to crime and eventual death (revealed later to be a lie, he actually ended up as part of The Suicide Squad), and an eventual promotion to become the 4th Robin.
Long story short, she messes up big time, accidentally igniting a gang war that leads the villainous gang boss Black Mask to capture and torture her with a power drill and hacksaw (there’s an action figure for Black Mask complete with power tools as accessories, believe it or not). Believed dead (at the time), unlike the last Robin to fall in battle (Jason Todd, also returned to life, albeit through a really stupid way), she has no memorial in the Batcave. Todd is memorialized by Bruce with his costume preserved in a glass case and the plaque “A Good Soldier”.
For fans over the years, Stephanie’s lack of memorial, or even mention (compared to how much Jason’s death affected Batman over the years and his later treatment of Tim Drake as Robin) has understandably been a sticking point for comic fans. Some felt it was a bad editorial mandate. Others, shitty writing. Others, decent writing. Some, just bad taste. While others saw the whole thing as an atrocity. DC editor Dan Didio stated at one point that she didn’t have a memorial because, despite what Batman told her, she really wasn’t considered Robin and that in fact it might have all a ploy to pull Tim Drake back into the fold, out of his temporary retirement. Granted that Batman would willingly risk Spoiler’s life like that seems incredibly cruel of the man, though many advocates of this theory point to his previous regard for her vigilante activities (less-than favorable). For a while in the titles Batman and even Robin to an extent, even when the two dated, would try to sway her from her path. Even when Stephanie became friends with the second Batgirl, Cassandra Cain, Cass would point out that Stephanie’s lack of real hardcore training, compared to her own, Tim’s, and Bruce Wayne’s, was getting in her way and making her vunerable should she ever come across anyone who really knew how to handle themselves.
However, she persevered and for some (like me), Batman did gain a measure of respect for her and truly did consider her a Robin. The reason he gives in this issue of Robin as to why then there’s never been a memorial seems a bit…off (and a sort of editorially-mandated nod to the rabid foaming masses call the fans), but makes sense. Granted I try not to let fandom raving influence me too much though, so I might be the only one.
Stephanie essentially came to stand as a mascot by feminist (or just annoyed) comic book fans, representing “Women in Refrigerator” syndrome (look up Gail Simone to read about that) and the blatant misogynistic usage of a female character as a tool, not to mention her death and the fact that it was celebrated with that “awesome” action figure”. Girl-Wonder.org came to adopt Spoiler as their mascot, the new Alexandra DeWitt (don’t ask, just look her up).
Now, do I think that it was indeed, a blatantly shitty and misogynistic move by DC, what originally happened to Stephanie?
No. I think it was definitely a symptom of a culture where the “damsel in distress” and using women as an easy victim because well golly gee, they’re reckless and emotional and physically weak, of course! is still prevalent. I think it was done without really thinking it through, how it’d look when it hit the stands that the first female Robin falls in battle mere weeks (in canonical time) after taking up the mantle. ‘Cause it looked bad. Really bad. I also think that there also wasn’t any thought put into how it’d also look to ignore her contributions to the Bat-family, which would at the very least get her a plaque on the wall.
But I don’t think it was a sort of “sitting around the giant table with evil Didio at the head laughing maniacally and screaming ‘FUCK BITCHES KILL THAT FUCKING BITCH BY ISSUE 123!'”. I think it was just stupid. A sort of “yeah we’re dudes sitting around writing this, mostly white dudes, what could possibly go wrong by killing off our female Robin like that? I totally saw it in a grindhouse flick from the 60’s, it’ll look great!”. Or something like that.
Is her coming back simply DC caving into years of badgering and pestering by the fandom? Maybe. I don’t think it’s entirely that, though the “…and that’s why there’s no memorial” line probably is. Is her coming back awesome? I think so, mostly because I enjoyed her with Tim, their interactions and the way she was written. The way they were written.
So yeah…here’s hoping she doesn’t end up killed off or something so that the upcoming Final Crisis and Batman RIP can sell a few more copies or whatever.