There are a few DC characters that despite how poorly they’re treated, they still remain fan favorites. While there’s plenty that could be listed, Stephanie Brown easily tops the list. She’s been an integral part of the Bat-family for over 20 years with more costume changes than Superman. While many characters stay the same, Stephanie has shown the most growth of any DC character, with fans crying foul over her two year absence from print. She’s probably the best character you’ve never heard of.
Stephanie’s had three different identities over her superhero carrier, having to fight and earn every one of them, despite Batman’s wishes. Her father is Cluemaster, Arthur Brown, a d-list Batman villain. Prolific Batman/Robin writer Chuck Dixon reinvented the character in Detective Comics, having not been seen since before Crisis on Infinite Earths, creating Stephanie. Stephanie, discovering her father is a villain, and a Riddler knockoff at that, she dons her own costume to spoil his plans, aptly calling herself Spoiler.
Having stopped her a father a few times, Stephanie takes a liking to crime fighting, and continues patrolling a few nights. Quickly she draws the attention of Batman and Robin (currently Tim Drake). Tim, also a teenager, developers feelings for her. The two awkwardly date. Awkward because Tim is unable to reveal his identity to her for fear of compromising his allies. Stephanie finds out she pregnant from an ex-boyfriend who left Gotham after the earthquakes. Tim helps her give the baby up for adoption, which was difficult for her.
Batman decides to train Stephanie, having her mentor under the Birds of Prey. He also tells her Tim’s identity because reasons. This drives a wedge between the dynamic duo. Ever the bio-polar sociopath, Batman decides she’s not crime fighting material, and cuts off her training. This does little to dissuade her nightly patrols. Tim’s dad eventually discovers his crime fighting escapades, forcing him to hang up the cape. Seeing the opening, Stephanie sneaks into the Batcave, demanding a chance to be Robin. She’s given a trial period, but is ultimately fired after disobeying two of Batman’s direct orders.
Trying to make amends, she stole one of Batman’s plans to unite all the gangs of Gotham under one banner. The plan, depending on Matches Malone to delegate, utterly failed as she didn’t know Matches was Batman’s mobster persona. This incites a massive gang war in the story War Games. Ultimately, she’s kidnapped by Black Mask and tortured. She escapes, finding her way to Leslie Thompkins hospital. She died as Batman stood by her side, telling her yes when she asked if she ever was really a Robin.
Batman discovered she could have survived but vital health care was withheld. Leslie, going completely against 60 some odd years of character, explains that she left Stephanie die to serve as a warning for other children who want to follow her example. Batman, furious, makes her leave Gotham. Despite her death, there was never a memorial in the Batcave, as there was for Jason Todd, inciting fan rage.
Surprise! Two years later it’s revealed that Stephanie didn’t actually die. Leslie faked her death so other villains couldn’t use her against Batman. She decides to come back to Gotham after living in Africa with Leslie, putting on her old Spoiler hood again. Bruce dies, Dick becomes Batman, Damian becomes Robin, Tim goes mad searching for Bruce as Red Robin, and Stephanie becomes Batgirl. This Batgirl series, solely written by Bryan Q. Miller, was amazing. Lasting only 24 issues, this is the one series fans should read to understand why she’s so popular. Also, when Bruce returned, she slapped him. He deserved it.
Like many, Stephanie was a casualty of the New 52. Her series was cancelled, Barbara was Batgirl again, and Stephanie was gone. Miller, writing the digital Smallville comic (continuing the TV series), had Stephanie as Nightwing, Batman’s partner in his first introduction. Editorial mandate forced him to change her to Barbara, coloring her hair red instead of blond. This outraged fans, as they were sure she would be forgotten. Over two years in, she’s finally been reintroduced in third issue of the year long weekly Batman series, Batman Eternal. Echoing her original origin, she’s discovered her father is Cluemaster.
Despite some mishandling, Stephanie’s been an endearing character. It’s understandable why her presence in the New 52 was sorely missed. Hopefully, she’ll be given the treatment she deserves. And for the love of Zeus, read that Batgirl series!
What’s your favorite Stephanie Brown series? Think she’s been mishandled? Comment below!
So many bios to write.