In this blog entry I would like to talk about the death of a comic book character that once was Robin. No, I am not talking about Jason Todd, who was killed due to a fan phone poll (he’s been brought back to life anyway!), but Stephanie Brown, the fourth Robin.
For those who have no idea who Stephanie Brown was here is her Wikipedia entry.
Project Girl Wonder is another website that looks at the disgraceful treatment that Stephanie has suffered at the hands of DC Comics. They could perhaps articulate things better than I.
Comics writer Gail Simone has made a list of female comics characters who have suffered. It can be viewed at Women In Refrigerators.
One of the things that has struck me about this whole Stephanie Brown ordeal, is not just how DC Comics treats its female heroes, but how it treats its female readers. (You’d think that being a male I wouldn’t know about these things!)
When Bill Willingham started writing the Batman story that became known as War Games, he was told by his editors that Stephanie was to die by the end of the run. Willingham has said it was his idea to have Stephanie accepted briefly as Robin, so that she would have done something memorable in her time as a Batman supporting cast member. I’m not sure if his plan worked too well, as when Stephanie became Robin it created a buzz. People became interested in the Bat comics and it could have created great storylines and a great chemistry between Batman and his new Robin, that had not been seen since the days when Dick Grayson wore the pixie boots. Perhaps Stephanie, with her enthusiastic attitude, could have helped Batman lighten up a bit, since one of the main criticisms of the way Batman is currently written is that he is too grumpy.
If Stephanie had of remained Robin the writers could have allowed Tim Drake, the previous Robin, to gain an identity away from Batman. They could of allowed him to grow up.
However, Willingham and DC decided to keep their plan of killing Stephanie and having Tim return as Robin. Stephanie had to suffer one of the most horrendous deaths after she was tortured endlessly by Black Mask and a cordless power drill. Steph somehow survived this barely, only to have another one of Batman’s allies, Dr Leslie Thompkins, refuse to treat Stephanie’s injuries. She basically allowed Stephanie die just to teach Batman a lesson.
Since then much of Batman’s family have disappeared. Stephanie is dead, Leslie has been exiled, Oracle has quit Gotham City and Batgirl has inexplicably turned evil. (Mmm, it’s just the female Bat characters who have left!) These of course were all editorial decisions and perhaps contrary to what readers really wanted. DC editor in chief Dan Didio wanted Batman to return to being a loner, where if he wants help he will get it from Robin (Tim again) or Alfred. Basically DC are going to give us Didio’s vision of how Batman should be, regardless of whether we want it or not. Personally I think he should just allow the writers to go about writing comic books without any of his editorial interferance, but that is perhaps just my opinion!