WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Detective Comics #980 by James Tynion IV and Scot Eaton, in stores now.
For the past few months, Detective Comics‘ cast has been all too preoccupied with the future. When Tim Drake from an alternate and bleak future timeline traveled to the present in order to prevent his world from becoming reality, he set events into motion that would almost guarantee his very warnings.
Although he was eventually defeated, another villain — Ulysses Armstrong, aka the General — brough Tim’s OMAC and Brother Eye technology online and unleashed it upon the Colony, as well as present day Tim Drake. Now, Tim has the knowledge of his alternate self, both past and future.
In order to discourage Orphan and Spoiler from fighting against him, the OMAC-influenced Tim decided to show both girls what they were supposed to be, in a different timeline — in his timeline, which itself split off from DC’s pre-Flashpoint timeline. He shows them both footage of a time when they were Batgirl, when they had their signature costumes that their respective fans know and love.
This pivotal scene is meant as a distraction, but it turns into fuel for both characters. More than that, it might be a sign of things to come. Bringing this history into play right now doesn’t seem arbitrary, and it makes us wonder if these two Batgirls might be coming back to the DCU.
Cassandran Cain and Stephanie Brown both had popular stints as Batgirl that saw them become fan-favorite characters in their own right. While Barbara Gordon first wore the cowl, these two followed in her footsteps in different eras of DC Comics, each of them eventually becoming some readers’ favored Batgirl. Cassandra replaced Barbara after she became Oracle, while Stephanie, who was first Spoiler and even Robin for a brief period of time, eventually replaced Cassandra in the Batman: Reborn era of DC. Both Batgirls had such strong devoted fan bases that their departures from the mantle were mourned — but never forgotten.
After the events of Flashpoint and the arrival of the New 52 in 2011, the continuity of the entire DC Universe was streamlined and retconned, and the history of both characters was drastically altered. In this new timeline, Cassandra and Stephanie had never been Batgirl. Worse still, they were nowhere to be seen for the better part of the New 52 — that is, until 2015’s Batman: Eternal brought both characters back , assuaging the outcry from fans who desperately missed their favorite characters. Cassandra was now a part of the DCU once again, this time with the codename Orphan, and Stephanie assumed her original identity of Spoiler.
Cassandran and Stephanie were now back in the Bat-family… but it wasn’t the same. Without their Batgirl identities, the characters were different, perhaps even only seen by some as a pale reflection of what they were, forever in the shadow of what they could be. Perhaps then this is the reason it might not simply be a coincidence that Detective Comics #980 brought back the idea of the both of them as Batgirls.
For his Rebirth-era run on the title, writer James Tynion IV made Orphan and Spoiler part of Detective‘s recurring cast. Under his watch, the characters reclaimed their rightful place alongside the rest of the Bat-family, and now Tynion has gone even further to please their fans. When Cassandra and Stephanie see what they were supposed to be, what they were in future-Tim’s alternate timeline, they react in an unexpected manner. While both are taken aback at first, obviously shocked by what their current reality has taken from them, they are not discouraged like Ulysses and Brother Eye had hoped. Instead, they both realize that their place, their worth, has always been there. They both see that they have it within themselves to wear the Bat-symbol.
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