We can’t talk about Barbara and Cassandra without discussing Stephanie. Yes, Stephanie Brown, the bright light in all of Gotham. The streak of blonde hair against a dark background. The girl who loves waffles.
It is difficult to read Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl series without comparing her to Batman himself. Where he is dark and brooding, she is light and witty. Where he seems infallible (at times), she worries about he upper arm strength. I would argue that her gender helps make her the superhero we’ve come to adore. Her gender highlights those traits and makes it acceptable to be a happy superhero in a dark city.
There is something endearing about a young college woman making it out on her own. Batgirl is the superhero coming-of-age story, and Stephanie is the perfect vehicle to tell it through. Her face is drawn open, inviting, connecting with her audience. It’s recognizable and friendly, something many male superheroes seem to lack. No matter how friendly Superman’s face is, it is no match for Stephanie and her goofy grins.
Stephanie fights for her position in Gotham, much like she fights for her position in the DC Universe. The character has been mistreated, from being denied her time as Robin by DiDio to her torturous death in Detective Comics. Nods to her in the New 52 have been suppressed for reasons unclear to readers.
There is a certain amount of controversy behind Stephanie. While the source of controversy is unclear, one thing is for sure: Stephanie isn’t revisiting the DC New 52 anytime soon.
DC has light-hearted characters sprinkled throughout (Damian, during his tenure, was a pleasant comic relief; and the current Supergirl can be cheery and fun), but they are few and far between. Stephanie was DC’s introductory character, a superheroine that could draw in just about everyone. You can read the love Miller had for this character in every panel.
Maybe it’s that love that kept her from being a member of Gotham in the New 52. With the darker tone Batman, Batgirl, Batwoman, and other Gotham-related books have taken, Stephanie just doesn’t fit in. And that is a shame. There is a sense of elbowing her out of comics, and many feel it’s uncalled for. Whatever the reason behind her absence, there’s no doubt that this character was a woman fans could connect with.
All images are from Batgirl 1-24 from DC Comics.