Anonymous asked: What do you think of this Batgirl #6 mess?
Ahaha, I’d wondered if anyone would ask me to weigh in on this one. I was going to avoid saying anything, since I feel like I’m way too biased to look at this one rationally, but the more I think about it the more I feel like my bias matters.
SPOILERS FOR BATGIRL #6 FROM THIS POINT ON.
I feel like this is a detrimental move, even if it was accidental. I strongly believe that Gail Simone did not intend for it to be read as such, but paired with the realities of female representation in the New 52’s Bat titles, it’s caused a bit of a riot. With Steph’s Robin days axed due to pesky ovaries, the representation of teenage female heroes in Gotham was lowered. The panel’s invalidation of the importance of Batgirl being a legacy title has diminished that representation even more. Yes, Babs was the first Batgirl, and yes, she was iconic, but the Batgirls who have come after her shouldn’t be swept under the rug.
This matters. This is important. It may be written off as a throwaway line in a comic book, but it’s a lot more than that.
Let’s unpack the implications built into Bruce’s statement. The quote is, “You were always meant to be Batgirl, Barbara.” I feel like I can see where Gail Simone was coming from with this—-she meant that Barbara’s determination and inability to let injustice slide would have brought her into a role like Batgirl. Contextually, it works. Kind of a muddy way of expressing that, but hey: it’s Bruce, and platitudes (no matter how awkwardly sincere) make him break out in hives. But for much of the readership, that isn’t what came through.
The implication is that Batgirl was the end goal for Babs, and that Bruce had given this his blessing—-and holy cats, is that loaded with problems and I’m getting flustered just trying to grapple with it. Time for a list.
1. This means that Batgirl, in Bruce’s eyes, is a superior title than Oracle. It reduces her achievements into a transitory state that isn’t worth acknowledging. The ableism in that is unreal. I won’t get into the debate of whether or not that implied statement is true (it’s not; debate over), but it devalues Oracle’s worth.
1.5. PS, I don’t love that Batgirl is who she is meant to be. She’s in her twenties. Calling her a girl is demeaning, but understandable from an editorial point of view. Kate’s already got the Batwoman title, and goodness knows that nobody wants to fight her for it. I know, I know; reading too far into that one, but it irks me, so I felt like mentioning it.
2. There’s this weird overtone that Bruce has always meant for her to have the mantle, and that she should be happy to have his approval now. Frankly? Fuck that. She never needed his approval, and did the right thing in spite of the disapproval of the overbearing male authority figure. The best thing about the Batgirl legacy is that it IS removed from the other Bats and Robins. The sexism in the Batfamily (and if you try to tell me there is no sexism in the Batfam, I will promptly laugh myself sick) has been a wall that the Batgirls have had to scale. I’ve always felt that this is realistic, and that it says something great about the women who wear the Bat on their chest: everyone is telling them to sit down, and they’re choosing to fight. That endurance and dedication and passion for what’s right is beautiful. The Batgirl mantle has never been Bruce’s to give. There’s this wonderful matriarchal aspect to it that is, unfortunately, gone.
3. Because all of the Batgirls are gone. Even if the Bat editors have created a loophole for them, that loophole is only big enough for Cass—-and even that is debatable. On top of that, the uniquely female relationships built into the Batgirl legacy have been distorted: Cass is the same age as Jason, which means there’s only a couple of years between Babs and Cass. The mentor/student mother/daughter relationship just won’t read the same way. And since Steph’s entire history has been wiped (something that I discussed already at length), the events that brought her to Batgirl have disappeared. Even though Bruce asked her to do it, Cass gave Steph the cowl as a sister and a friend who saw that she needed it. That’s a beautiful legacy. That’s an important legacy, because it’s emphasizing the relationships between women. BQM addressed this in one panel in the last issue of his Batgirl run by showing us a future where Nell, an African American girl, became the next Batgirl—-with Steph’s support and blessing.
4. Even if they do exist, they don’t matter. They were keeping the cowl warm for Babs, apparently. Their fights and victories and failures have instantly been invalidated, because Batgirl is all about Babs. We can have FOUR Robins who LOOK THE SAME, but we can’t have more than one Batgirl—-though they are radically different from one another. Because that’s just plumb confusing! If you’re not an upper middle class white girl, good luck finding representation in the streets of Gotham.
Ugh. I’m sorry. I’m getting bitter, and I shouldn’t let myself do that. But seriously, this is a big deal. How many teenage girl heroes are in Gotham—-especially ones with the autonomy that both Cass and Steph had, pre-reboot? What about the disabled readers, the POCs, and the abuse survivors who are looking for their heroes? I’d like to know, because I’m one of them.
God, I hope they have something planned for the girls that makes this hurt less. I want to believe that they’re going to give us something that will make me go geeze, I feel terrible about being so critical! I WANT to eat my words, DC. I WANT this to be something that the writers address, and not a continual “they’ll play a part eventually”.
So, I was thinking about Stephanie Brown in the shower (something I frequently do), reflecting on how problematic Steph’s history will be in the reboot (something that I’ve discussed at length before), and I found myself thinking, what if they just decided to not reboot her?
How great would it be if DCnU!Steph was actually just pre-reboot!Steph?
And she goes back to Spoiler because SPOILER: SHE KNOWS STUFF AND ALSO THINGS ABOUT YOU BATFOLK, but they don’t remember her?
And she just shows up in the cave one day and is like so uh Bruce, let’s talk about all of the Robins and also your parenting skills (PS, I’m taking your son to the zoo and don’t even try to stop me)?
And it’s a complete reversal of how she was sidelined, left out of the loop, and crapped on at various points in canon?
How great would that be?
Pretty freaking great, if you ask me.
Commissioned by loxes. Part three: in which Batman and Batgirl have a sleepover, Steph compares him to a Disney princess, Dick earns a gold star, and Alfred is Alfred. 9900+ words, bringing our grand total to over 20k. There is nothing redeeming about this smut, so I’m going to warn that this is all about people who really enjoy sex really enjoying sex. Part one is here, part two is here. Crossposted to AO3, as usual. There…may be more of this in the works.
yellowis4happy asked: Good Steph Brown reads besides BQM's run?
I was going to post a short list, but…well. You can see that a short list is not what happened. I guess this could be considered semi-essential reading? I still feel like I’m leaving a lot out, but when it comes to this lady, I tend to be overly thorough.
- #647-649: Steph’s intro! These can be tough to find, so if you can’t, just…talk to me. I happened to find my physical copies of them in a quarter bin at my LCS. It made me a tiny bit sad, especially since her Batgirl: the Road Home issue was in there, too.
- #796: This issue is IMPORTANT. It’s the only issue of Detective Comics that Steph got during her Robin run, and it deals with what I construe as the real reason Bruce fired Steph. She almost kills Zsasz, and we know how Bruce feels about those kind of things. He sees and recognizes that a lot of Steph’s fighting power comes from a history of abuse, and that she is a survivor above all else. She reminds him of Jason, and we know how Bruce feels about that, too.
- And this is where I pretend that War Crimes doesn’t exist.
- #634: All said and done, she’s only been mentioned/featured in five issues of Batman—-and none of them are while she was Robin. Go figure. #634 is the “epilogue” of War Games. Bruce reflects on having to tell Tim that Steph was dead—-he’d let him go days without knowing that she’d passed away, because he wanted Tim to go home and sleep—-and meeting Crystal by Steph’s grave. Crystal told him that “all she ever wanted was to be like Batman”. She says: “You wanna know what Batman’s ‘Good Fight’ has gotten me? A dead husband, a dead daughter, and a grandchild I will never meet.” Bruce goes back to the manor and starts drinking bourbon. True story. Interesting continuity note: the very next issue is the start of Under the Red Hood.
- #3-5: Steph and Tim meet up while stalking Cluemaster. This is where the seeds of their future relationship was planted
- #56-65: Steph and Tim start dating and it’s adorable! But in #59, she announces that she’s pregnant. In #65, she has her baby.
- #92-95 + Birds of Prey #39-40: In #92, Tim finds out that Bruce told Steph his secret identity. Cue tantrum! I love this issue a lot, because Bruce patrols with Steph and kind of takes her under his wing. He shares HIS FEELINGS. And I wanted so much more of this. This is what their Batman/Robin dynamic should have been. The rest of this arc is Daddy coming back home and bringing his prison bf Eddie with him. Steph shadows Dinah, tells her what’s going on, and Black Canary kicks open the door and literally screams at Cluemaster and Riddler until they leave. And it’s awesome.
- #102-105, 107-113, 116, 119, 120: I adore Jon Lewis’ Steph. In some ways, I prefer the way that he writes her to BQM, and I think in my own writing I try to hit a middle ground between the two. #111 is literally the defining issue for me when it comes to Steph. If you haven’t read it before, I won’t spoil it, but almost always makes me tear up a little. Robin #111 made me fall in love with Steph. Her short scene in #113 is Steph beating the stuffing out of Riddler, and ugh there is so much about that ONE LITTLE SCENE that I wish people would touch on. If you solve the riddles that Eddie tells her as she introduces him to her trusty fist, you’ll find some interesting things about what he thinks of her.
- #122-128: the work-up to Tim’s quitting. 126-128 are Steph’s issues AS Robin.
- This is where I’m not going to acknowledge War Games.
- #170-174 + Robin/Spoiler Special #1: AWW YEAH, BACK FROM THE DEAD. There are a ton of problematic things about the method and tone, but hey—-this is where my girl came back, so I can’t complain too much. I’m not going to rec the rest of the arc (175-183), because it is just a travesty, in my opinion.
Batgirl (Cass!Batgirl’s run)
- #20-21, 26-28, 31-32, 38, 53-55, 61: Did I just rec every issue that Steph is in? Why, so I did! I especially love 20-21 (their first meeting), 38 (it’s a date and YOU CANNOT CONVINCE ME OTHERWISE), and 53-54 (Robin!Steph and Batgirl!Cass). #53 is another issue that defined Steph’s character for me.
- #22, 37: #22, written by Devin Grayson, is an issue that I like the idea of, but her voice for Steph is more bubblegum ohmigosh!!! than it should be. In #22, Spoiler and Batman team up and it is kind of heartwarming! in #37, Spoiler and Batman team up and Batman sets her up for failure and is a giant dick about it when she fails!
- #9-12: Tim gets to see how much Steph has changed since she took up the Batgirl mantle. It made my shipper’s heart ache, just a little. Yost’s voice for Steph is pretty good.
Commissioned by loxes: Dick and Steph team up to take down an orally-obsessed serial killer with a taste for blond girls. Dickbats has avoided working with the new Batgirl, but this time he doesn’t have a choice. Set just after Batman: Black Mirror, and before the end of Steph’s Batgirl run. This one’s a hard R, so keep that in mind. I had to break this beast up a bit, so have the first 4500+ words. I hope you enjoy it, loxes!