When Bruce Wayne returned and secretly confronted his cohorts during DC Comics’ “The Road Home” series of one-shots, testing their abilities and in essence their right to wear the Bat Symbol, current Batgirl Stephanie Brown responded in a way that surprised everyone — including herself — and simultaneously asserted herself worthy of the mantle. She slapped Batman in the face.
Daughter of the small-time criminal Cluemaster, Stephanie first introduced herself to the Bat Family as the rookie crime-fighter known as Spoiler, acting against her father’s wishes and eventually alongside the dynamic duo. She went on to not only form a romantic relationship with then-Robin Tim Drake, but eventually donned the Robin costume herself for a brief period of time. After an apparent — but later revealed as faked — death, Stephanie disappeared from the Bat books for a while, resurfacing during the “Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” crossover once again under the Spoiler identity. However, Steph graduated to the big leagues after Bruce Wayne’s “death,” taking on the role of the newest Batgirl in her very own ongoing series.
Since donning on the cape and cowl, Stephanie has formed a close relationship with both former Batgirl Barbara Gordon and daughter of the supervillain The Calculator, Wendy Harris, both of whom act as her point women during missions. To complicate matters, along with her nights as Batgirl, Steph spends her days as a college student while desperately attempting to keep both identities in balance.
As THE BAT SIGNAL lights the metaphorical skies of Comic Book Resources once again, “Batgirl” writer Bryan Q. Miller answers the call to give the rundown on his plans for the title in the coming months, what makes Stephanie Brown a relatable character and why readers won’t be seeing her pulling up to school in a brand new Ferrari anytime soon.
CBR News: With Bruce’s return, Stephanie is still doing her thing. She’s much more confident in the role of Batgirl, but still maintains her self-deprecating sense of humor. What can you say about where you’ll be taking the character and what we’ll be seeing from her?
Bryan Q. Miller: Moving forward, not specifically in issue #17 and #18 because they’re a little more separate from the larger arc, now that she knows who she is as Batgirl and she’s finally comfortable with the life she has, there’ll be the challenge for her of that world that she has become comfortable with changing around her. It’s going to be her trying to maintain her position, her status, not just in her own life but in her relationship with her mother and her relationship with Barbara. Gail [Simone] has the “Death of Oracle” thing happening, which will impact how Team Batgirl works. She’s got that murder rap as well, put on her by the cloister of rogues from issue #15 and #16. Even though she was cleared, there will still be repercussions from that happening. She’s finally comfortable, but the world will be throwing that back in her face. “How important is it for you to stay who you are?” It’s her navigating a sea of change as the year goes forward.
Nothing ever comes easy for Stephanie, it seems.
No, no. If it was all easy for her, what fun would that be?
Artist Dustin Nguyen came onto the title in a grand way with issue #15. I wanted to talk about the opening three pages to that issue, which gained a lot of talk for it’s adorable and yet concise recap of the history of the Bat Family. How did that segment come together?
I was trying to take advantage of a valuable resource. [Laughs] Knowing that it was going to be Dustin’s first issue on the book and how much people do love his Lil’ Gotham stuff — if you ever see Dustin at any conventions, almost all people want are little chibi drawings — it was a really good way to frame a jumping on point to catch people up who haven’t been with the book or who haven’t been with the Batman saga to understand everything. Also, I knew it was going to be something that would be published in previews for the book, so that style and that kind of collection of images would go out to the world and get people’s attention. And he knocked it out of the park. So, it was a good internal storytelling device and hopefully an effective marketing tool to say, “Look, Dustin Nguyen’s over here.” Also, it’s awesome.
“Batgirl” has a pretty great cast already between the new characters introduced through Stephanie at college and Team Batgirl with Oracle and Wendy. But throughout the first year and even now, we’ve seen guest appearances from other characters from the greater DCU. Is this something you’ll be continuing in the coming year?
A little bit of both. We spent a lot of time, if not all of last year, with Stephanie proving to the everybody in the Bat Family, all the Gotham heroes, why she deserves to be Batgirl, why she should be Batgirl and why she was right for the job. That presented a very natural way to get all of the Gotham folks into the book. It helps brings in other readers from other titles as well, so they can see their favorite characters interacting with Stephanie. This year, we’ve got Damian again, of course, and he’s always a kick to write. There will be a few issues where Blue Beetle will come in to help with the story. So, in that sense, it’s broadening her support network outside of the Bat Family. It’ll be other heroes of approximate the same age, to which she can relate, who exist out there in the world. It’s not just her and Supergirl. Although we did have that fun issue with her and Kara taking on all the Draculas last year. But aside from that, it’ll be her dealing with the threat of the Order of the Scythe that presented themselves in issue #15 and #16. That’s kind of the spine of the arc for this year. They’re the instrument of change in her year going forward.
One of the interesting aspects of “Batgirl” is that you put a pretty big focus on Stephanie’s personal life as a teenager and student, as much as you do her life as Batgirl. Where did that want come from, the idea to include that aspect as such as big part of the title?
I think the want and the need to do that comes from wanting to make Stephanie an everyman and as accessible as possible. It’s very easy to give one’s self over to just doing the hero stuff all the time. But with just the hero stuff all the time, there’s not that much to latch on to. How much of us have run from rooftop to rooftop or have fought someone who shoots laser beams from their fingertips? Whereas lots of people can say, “Yes, I have fallen asleep in class,” or, “Yes, I have been late on a report before,” or, “I have tried to make my relationship work with my boyfriend and girlfriend or with family.” It’s one of those things to try and make Stephanie as accessible as possible, so folks can find a hero that’s like someone they know or they wish they were.
You touched on this earlier, but I want to come back to it because it warrants further discussion. Oracle has been a big part of this book, so how much effect can readers expect the current “Death of Oracle” storyline to have on “Batgirl?”
Honestly, there’s nothing I can say to it that’s within my rights to say because it’s going on over in Gail’s “Birds of Prey.” But it definitely will have an impact on how Team Batgirl works. I can say that.
Besides Oracle, there is Wendy, the daughter of the villain Calculator, who you’ve made into a very integral part of this title. Some people see her as Oracle Junior, but what can you say about your plans for her and the role she’ll be playing moving forward?
It’s very easy to just say Proxy is Oracle Lite or Oracle Junior because she is good with computers and she is very smart and she is in a wheelchair. So, there are an alarmingly similar number of characteristics between them. However — and I’m pointing my finger in the air here — what hopefully will become more apparent as the year moves forward is, she goes about things very differently than Oracle. She’s not come to terms with her condition in the same way Oracle has and Wendy has a bit of a temper that Barbara Gordon does not. She’s very much a hothead. She’s very aggressive. She’s very much by the book. So, she and Stephanie, because they both have criminal fathers, are kindred spirits to an extent. But at the same time, they’re not going to get along as easily as Stephanie and Babs did once they got through their Batgirl related baggage. It’s a very different relationship and hopefully that will become more apparent as we go forward.
Looking at the current arc, as you mentioned, it doesn’t completely tie in with the rest of the year’s story but instead shares loose ties with “Batman, Inc.” How much will that series and those plans be influencing your stories?
Not too much. I believe Batgirl is going to show up in Grant’s side of the fence for another mission at some point. So, aside from some new toys from the official Bruce Wayne money coming their way — new upgrades and new weapons and new computers — it won’t impact the storytelling very much.
It’s too bad that with that Bruce Wayne money, it all has to go to the Batgirl side of things. Stephanie can’t treat herself to a Ferrari or something.
No she can’t. She doesn’t actually get paid for being Batgirl. She and her mom live a very modest kind of life. So, that’s certainly something that could come up at some point. But the title’s spine this year is more about catching the guys that blamed her for murder and killed an innocent student than it is gallivanting about on international missions of intrigue.
Obviously, you have this year planned out, but what about beyond 2011? Some writers plan out years and years ahead for stories. How far do your plans reach for Stephanie and “Batgirl?”
I would say that barring whether something turns into a two-part or three-part issues, I’ve got safely tucked away coming out of the finale of this “Order of the Scythe” arc, probably at least another year or two. But that’s what I have planned out. There’s always potential for more!