If you’ve been a reader of DC comics in the past few years, that is not a name that will leave you feeling neutral. Folks tend to get pretty heated when the blonde Batgirl comes up. That’s not uncommon among the fanbases of the other characters that have been left by the wayside when DC rebooted their entire line as the New 52. Krypto, Wally West, and, for that matter, the rest of the Flash family have been lamented to no end. Things are a little bit… more with Stephanie, though. I’ve noticed that the most vocal readers across the gamut of online comic book communities fall squarely into two camps.
A) LOVE HER
No, really. Folks love Stephanie the way that Browncoats love Firefly, that Marshmallows love Veronica, the way… you get the point. Having only had a two-year run as Batgirl, she has proved to be one of DC’s most popular and polarizing characters. Hell, fans didn’t stop at demanding Dan DiDio, executive editor over at DC, to bring her back on message boards and (super awkwardly) at conventions. They mailed the dude waffles. A ton of friggin’ waffles.
B) HATE HER
Now, granted, much of the vitriol against Steph doesn’t come from a natural dislike of the character. It comes from the fact that once she, the Batfamily, the New 52, Dan DiDio, or breakfast food is mentioned in a discussion about comics, Brownies (Is that a thing? If not, it should be) lose their shit. Threads are derailed, conversations become arguments over why a relatively minor character has garnered such popularity, and much squeeing is squeed. The haters think it’s ridiculous that these fans think that they’ve actually been victimized over the marginalization of Stephanie Brown, making these… er, non-Brownies (Blondies? Eh) revel in Steph’s lack of appearances in the current line.
So, which do I fall in? Humbly, I submit to you that I… I am a Brownie. Perhaps I’m a moderate Brownie, the same way that people are a moderate Liberal or a moderate Conservative (read as: doesn’t really mean a thing), but I’ll try to… you know, keep from losing my shit.
Since Scott Snyder recently announced the return of Stephanie Brown (WOOOOO-HOOOO – ahk! Sorry, won’t happen again) in the pages of this year’s new weekly book, Batman Eternal, I thought it’d be a good time to talk about what fans of the purple-clad crime fighter are looking for with this character and what made her so fantastic in the first place.
Erm, from a completely neutral point of view, of course.
1) She’s fun to read.
Much of the New 52 has been dark and gritty, to the point where typing that sentence is a bit tiresome. Some of it works excellent, some a bit less; some of it is fun to read, some a bit less. And, honestly, less is fine, sometimes. I love a book that will scratch and my psyche and make me question the redeeming qualities of humanity as much as the next reader… but Steph was never really about that. She goes through some hard shit, yeah, and her tales have always been emotionally engaging and sometimes even rife with tension… but then there’s the levity. The fun. The adventure. Even at her lowest, toward the end of her ongoing series when she was confronted by her father, the villainous Cluemaster, and showed a series of disturbing (but cool-as-heck) futures… she remained an engaging character to read. Even when the girl was down, she was never a downer. If she can inject some of that energy into Eternal, the book and even the Bat-line, which is really solid as is, might be even better for it.
It’s not uncommon for superheroes to throw quips at their foes, but damn do Steph’s sassypants fit her well. Steph’s day-to-day voice and her dorky, clever battle cries make her engaging and funny without really having to stretch hard for a laugh. Her voice is realistic in that her quips don’t have that forced set-up and subsequent rimshot. Every barb she throws comes from who she is, who her combatant is, and the situation at hand. It turns what could have been a cut-out character into a three-dimensional hero – a Buffy Summers of Gotham, one might say. Minus the vampire lovin’.
3) Bryan Q. Miller.
Now, I know BQM isn’t one of the folks scripting Eternal. That duty falls to head Bat-writer Scott Snyder and a team of writers consisting of James Tynion IV, John Layman, Ray Fawkes, and Tim Seeley. I’m most excited for Seeley, who crafted an exciting, character driven, hilarious, and brilliant story in Hack/Slash, perhaps the most underrated horror comic – and maybe creator-owned comics, period – in recent memory. For Stephanie Brown, though, BQM set the standard. Steph’s voice, in her time as Robin and then Spoiler, had been a bit all over the place before she began to don the cowl, but BQM established her in a real, human way, and I hope that this new cabal of exceedingly competent writers pick up the ball from him instead of revamping her. Some characters needed updates – it’s true. I don’t know if anyone would argue that the New 52 has made bad updates across the board. Some of their tweaks have been truly inventive… but I don’t think Steph needs one. It’s cool if she’s Spoiler, as long as, beneath that hood, is waffle-lovin’ Stephanie Brown.
4) Stephanie is us.
That’s the coolest thing about Stephanie. She’s not a brilliant scientist who had a mishap. She didn’t fall into a vat of acid-spiders who gave her a ring imbued with the power of a yellow sun. She’s not a woman out of time or a demigod or a god-god. She’s… you know, a student. She has people-problems, lives a regular day to day life, and she eats a hell of a lot of waffles. She’s not the brightest person on Earth, but she is clever and she can solve problems. She’s flawed and she’s weird as heck. She’s like… huh, she’s kind of like Jennifer Lawrence in a Batsuit, and who in the world isn’t down for that?
Batman Eternal hits comic shops this spring. I, for one, am pumped.
PAT SHAND is a writer and editor for Zenescope Entertainment. He, too, likes waffles.