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Thoughts on the Return of Stephanie Brown to the DC Universe

by  in Comic News Comment

One of the biggest reactions from fans to NYCC news has been Scott Snyder announcing Stephanie Brown’s return to the DC Universe in the pages of the new Batman weekly series, Batman: Eternal.

And on the one hand, don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly pleased, as well. I definitely enjoyed both Chuck Dixon’s work with Stephanie as Spoiler and Bryan Q. Miller’s work with Stephanie as Batgirl (Grant Morrison also did a really good job with her in Batman Incorporated). However, the excitement of the character’s return sort of speaks to something I’ve always had a bit of a hard time understanding, which is the exaltation of a character over a character as written by a specific creator. To wit, Chuck Dixon’s idea of a character who “spoils” her father’s attempt at villainy is a really good one, but not really for a sustainable character. It’s a good idea for a story arc or two. And I think Dixon viewed Spoiler as such – someone to show up here and there. It is just that when he began writing her personality in relation to Tim Drake’s in the pages of Robin that she began to almost force her way into the comic further. Dixon clearly didn’t intend for her to be such a major character, she just naturally evolved that way due to how he wrote her and how fans reacted to how he wrote her.

Similarly, Stephanie as Batgirl was not some obvious solution and in fact, you might recall that it outraged many fans who wanted to see Cassandra Cain keep her gig as Batgirl. However, once again, Bryan Q. Miller used Stephanie’s place in Bat-history (and all the groundwork Dixon had done) to make the character a compelling new Batgirl.

So here’s my concern – Tim Drake no longer is all that involved in the Bat-books and there really is no context for the usage of Stephanie Brown as Spoiler in the current DC Universe. She is basically right back to where she started under Dixon only without Tim Drake’s Robin to bounce off of and without the years of character development Dixon and Miller did on the character. With the earlier stories I mentioned today, the excitement about the return of Quantum and Woody and the return of Miracleman are based on the fact that their original creators were returning to write them. If Miracleman was just getting his own series set in brand-new continuity by Creative Team X, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting, news-wise, even if Creative Team X was a good team.

James Tynion IV is a fine writer and I’m pleased to note that he thinks he can do something with Stephanie Brown, but we’re not talking about the continuation of Dixon and Miller’s work here. This is, in effect, a brand new character and I just don’t personally understand getting excited over just the introduction of a character with the same name and the same look as Stephanie Brown/Spoiler. For instance, I was a fan of Fire and Ice before the New 52, but their usage in Justice League International in the New 52 was horrible. It wasn’t something that excited me as a fan – since the basic concept behind Fire and Ice wasn’t what made them compelling characters, it was the work that Giffen and DeMatteis did with them that made them compelling characters. Remove the development of the latter (which is inherent to a reboot) and the former becomes meaningless.

This doesn’t mean that Spoiler won’t be an awesome character under Tynion’s pen, it just means that when you’re dealing with rebooted characters, their mere usage is not really necessarily a cause for celebration. Wait until you see HOW they’re used to celebrate.