DC’s Two Evils

Katherine Keller, after asking for a memorial for Stephanie Brown in the Batcave, received a letter back from DC stating “there are no plans” for such.

She, in return, asks DC the tough question: Does this mean that Stephanie’s not dead, or that DC’s editorial team are “a bunch of double standard lovin’ sexist {bleep}s”? She goes on to explain why it matters:

Because it’s so Incredibly. Glaring. when she has no permanent memorial of any kind (but Jason Todd — the boy who returned from the dead — still has his prominent, repeatedly-featured-in-current-stories shrine); when her tragic and brutal death has been barely acknowledged by her comrades in arms, mentors, and friends; when her former boyfriend Tim Drake spends more time mourning the death of Superboy — and tries repeatedly to clone him back into existance — than he ever spent mourning her death.

That part about Robin and Superboy I find particularly creepy. Although if DC was honest about it being an attempt to attract yaoi readers and took it further in that direction, I’d be applauding. That, however, would require DC writers and editors knowing about yaoi and its popularity. And being ok with comics targeted at girls.


18 Responses to “DC’s Two Evils”

  1. Barry Says:

    It took me a few moments to realize that Stephanie Brown was not in fact, a real person, but a comic book character. Disappointment at the lack of a memorial for a real person I can understand. For a fictional character, not so much.

  2. Ragnell Says:

    I’d be very angry if DC said that Robin’s grief over Superboy was an attempt to attract yaoi readers — because it is not an attempt to attract yaoi readers.

    It’s a simple matter of book difference. The Teen Titans creative team, who killed a number of characters (well, they died in IC but its the same writer) specifically to cause angst, is playing up Robin’s grief.

    The Batbooks, driven by editors who killed Spoiler and numerous other character so they could forget them and dial back the books to the “Basic” bat-setting, are apparently trying to forget about her. Hence, no memorial in the Batcave, no reference to the character form Batman or Robin.

    In Robin’s book, last I heard (I dropped it because the writing was weak) he was angsting over the newly villainized Batgirl II, and not Spoiler or Superboy.

  3. kalinara Says:

    I think a more accurate comparison would be Stephanie’s death to Jack Drake’s.

    Kon is a Teen Titans character, the Teen Titans writer is addressing his grief. It’s not his job to spend panel time addressing Tim’s grief for a character that’s appeared in maybe one issue.

    The batbooks should be dealing with Stephanie. And I do agree that they’re dropping the ball there. But the more fitting comparison, to me, would be between Jack Drake and Spoiler. Both characters died around the same time, by the same writing staff. Jack however gets mentioned with relative frequency while Steph doesn’t.

    I just hate seeing a good argument weakened by a poor comparison. :-)

  4. kalinara Says:

    Ack. An amendment to my previous comment:

    It’s not his job to spend panel time addressing Tim’s grief for a character that’s appeared in maybe one issue.

    I mean, in one issue of Teen Titans. :-)

  5. Johanna Says:

    Barry: These are fans, and that’s the kind of discussion that happens in fandom. People are operating within the “rules” of that arena. Of course a real person’s death is more important, but that doesn’t mean one can’t react emotionally to a fictional one as well.

    Ragnell: I know it’s not about yaoi — I was imagining a much more flexible and with-it DC where it could be, and what those kinds of stories might be like. Sorry I wasn’t very clear about that.

    Kalinara: When most of DC is busy making money from emphasizing how much tighter and connected their universe is these days, I don’t find your distinctions very compelling. I understand your point, but I don’t think it’s fair for DC to have it both ways, emphasizing more connections only when it increases sales.

  6. david brothers Says:

    In Robin’s book, last I heard (I dropped it because the writing was weak) he was angsting over the newly villainized Batgirl II, and not Spoiler or Superboy.

    For the story arc where it was revealed she turned, yes, but he’s also dealt with Spoiler, Superboy, and Jack Drake. I think that he’s actually grieved over Jack more in the book, and he broke down in tears when Bruce finally asked him to be his son.

    There hasn’t been a lot of angsting, though. Beechen’s Robin is pretty stable overall. He isn’t Kid Batman the Emotionless Wonder, but it seems like he’s already been through the stages of grief.

  7. Barry Says:

    I understand connecting to characters – it’s why we enjoy fiction. I honestly thought that your post was describing DC’s reaction to a recent creator’s death, until I remembered who Stephanie was. Then it seemed kind of trivial in comparison.

  8. Johanna Says:

    I’m sorry, I probably did assume more context visible to the reader than was valide, and I should have explained more of the background.

  9. Lisa Jonte Says:

    Popular fiction (which I daresay comics are) is a reflection of the time in which it is created. In this instance, a female character, the only (I believe) female Robin in current continuity was tortured to death with a fucking power tool and (editorially speaking) thrown in the trash heap.

    This really isn’t about mourning the loss of a fictional character as much as it’s about the implicit statement DC seems to be making by not giving that one character the same due they have led readers to expect. When a Robin dies, that Robin gets a memorial, unless that Robin is female and dies in an horrific and sexualized manner. I don’t know about you, but to me that’s one scary, fucked up reflection.

  10. david brothers Says:

    When a Robin dies, that Robin gets a memorial, unless that Robin is female and dies in an horrific and sexualized manner. I don’t know about you, but to me that’s one scary, fucked up reflection.

    Er, no, that isn’t quite right. A Robin has died and he got a memorial case. It was in no way a trend. The bit about being female is kind of irrelevent here, since Todd is the only Robin who died and got a case. DC have not led readers to expect that dead Robins get caves any more than Marvel led readers to expect Matt Murdock’s girlfriends get sais in the heart, or Spidey’s girlfriends to die on bridges.

    I don’t want to clog up Johanna’s blog with this, but I do understand what the “Give Steph a memorial!” crew is trying to do. I like Steph and I wish her death had been handled better, rather than sticking her into a Robin costume for a couple months to increase the cheap drama. I would’ve loved in Bill Willingham had never touched a Bat-book.

    I just don’t agree with their hoped-for end result.

  11. david brothers Says:

    “DC have not led readers to expect that dead Robins get caves”

    “that dead Robins get cases,” obviously. It’s been a late night.

  12. Lisa Jonte Says:

    David, I’ll have to defer to those who know the continuity better than I, (admittely, my knowledge of the DC universe is becoming somewhat dated.) But I still think DC are sending a messed up message over this whole thing.

    Though, I think giving them all caves is a brilliant idea.

  13. Johanna Says:

    Yeah, I like the idea of a memorial grotto … much neater than a plastic box.

    How many Robins died and didn’t get cases, David? I’m totally in sympathy with the idea that this directly demonstrates DC’s double standard, but I’d like to know more about why you don’t find it convincing.

  14. david brothers Says:

    (forgive me if this is slightly disjointed and rambly, I’m on week two of ridiculously late nights)

    I guess my problem with the case idea is that I can’t bring myself to think of Steph Brown as Robin. There’s a kind of mental disconnect there. She is to Robin as Ben Reilly is to Spider-Man, if’n you strip away all the clone saga nastiness and ill will. She is the plot device Robin.

    I don’t come to this from the perspective of “RAR ROBINS ARE BOYS HANDS OFF” like I’ve seen a few people on forums do. I think that Carrie Kelly is the best Robin ever, for example. It’s just that for me, Steph Brown is Spoiler first and foremost, mainly due to the great Chuck Dixon run. I was excited that she was going to be a Robin when I first saw that dope Daimon Scott cover, but then I actually read the story.

    She was going to be Plot Device Robin. A half-Robin.

    Robins are Batman’s children. Tim, Jason, Dick, and Carrie all ended up being Batkids. As children, they get his secrets, they get his support, and they get his love.

    Steph got none of that. She died not knowing who Batman really was, he limited her access to the cave, and he basically hired her to be Robin under an impossible-to-fulfill contract. He fired her when she did the right thing, but disobeyed his orders, as I recall. During all this, it felt a lot like a stunt to bring Tim back and get some cheap drama out of War Games (which was a garbage story, period, but I definitely don’t want to get into that!).

    She was an employee, not a Robin. That, to me, is where a real crime.

    I’d rather Steph not be a Robin at all than be a half-Robin, a temp-Robin, a “go get my coffee and don’t ruffle the cape on your way out”-Robin. Spoiler was a great idea and a great gimmick, from Cluemaster on down. Spoiler is who should be remembered, not a brief and ugly trip down Plot Device Syndrome lane.

    That is, more or less, why I feel that Steph does not need a cave. It isn’t that she doesn’t deserve one, but it would be hollow and pointless in my mind. Steph wasn’t one of his children. Honestly, Cassandra was barely one of his children and she was around him all the time. Steph was an employee who was a better character on her own than she was on Batman’s team.

    I do wholeheartedly support some kind of memorial, or even a scholarship fund– no, even better, a youth center set up in her name. Bruce has the money for it, and he’d better have the guilt and good heart for it, too. At the very least, her child needs to be given a full ride in life courtesy of the Martha Wayne Foundation.

    I just can’t get behind the “Steph was Robin and she needs a case!” thing. She was Spoiler and should be honored as such, or even just as Steph Brown.

    I dunno. Does all that make sense?

  15. The Dane Says:

    Actually, i’m there with you David. For me, becoming a Robin was a step down. Spoiler was an original character and one fairly well-liked from what I gather. Robin has always seemed to me a stepping stone to real heroing. Be Robin for a while and then, when you’re ready, be yourself. Stephanie started out as herself. Sure, she could use some training from Batman, or really probably anyone, but she didn’t need to become Robin. She was already something better. She was Spoiler.

    And it was Spoiler who died.

    And it was Spoiler who I miss (mourn‘s probably a little strong).

    If Batman wants to make a Spoiler case, that’s fine. But I think a Robin case for Stephanie would be a devaluation of who she was. Of course, not everyone sees Robin the same way…

  16. kalinara Says:

    I understand your point, but I don’t think it’s fair for DC to have it both ways, emphasizing more connections only when it increases sales.

    I would agree. Except that we’re talking a solo book versus a team book. In a solo book, there’s lots of time to explore the aspects of the main character. All of his grief and rage and pain and experiences. There’s 22 pages devoted to a character each month. So if Spoiler’s death was dealt with in Batman or Robin it would make sense.

    Teen Titans is a team book though. 22 pages divided among Tim, Rose, Cassie, Eddie, Vic, Gar, and so on. Kon was a Titan, ergo it makes sense that the comic book would dwell on Kon’s impact on the team.

    But say there’s a page or two about Kon. A team member, who’s dead. Whose death impacts the whole team.

    That only leaves twenty pages to be divided among Cassie, Tim, Gar, Vic, Eddie and Rose at the very least. Not to mention whatever actual plot’s going on at the time.

    And it’s hardly fair to the fans of Gar, Vic, Eddie, and Rose, who don’t have comics of their own to showcase their emotional turmoil and tribulation, or even Cassie (considering Wonder Woman’s extreme lateness) to waste the space dealing so heavily with angst that should be expressed in his own series, or in one of Batman’s.

    (Admittedly, an issue was spent on Jack Drake’s death, but that served to interconnect the characters in terms of metaphoric family. Unfortunately, thematically, it wouldn’t mean the same thing to showcase Steph like that. She’s a romantic, not a familial connection)

    That’s why, ultimately I think the Kon-Steph comparison doesn’t hold weight. (Where the Steph-Jack Drake, or Steph-Jason does)

  17. 4thletter! » Blog Archive » Round Up Says:

    [...] Johanna Draper Carlson made a post on this subject a couple days ago and I ended up responding. I make an appearance in the comments thread and try to articulate why I feel that way. I really do have (what I think is) a well-thought out and reasoned point, so give it a look. I wonder if I could expand it into a better-edited post for here… [...]

  18. Johanna Says:

    David, yeah, it makes sense — Spoiler was a much better character than treating her as a temporary plot device. But once DC said, badly written as it was, “no, really, she’s Robin”, then she should be treated as the other Robin was when he died.

    On the other hand, if DC wanted to do a story pointing out how Batman’s behavior was abominable and worthy of condemnation because of his misuse of her and his double standard, I’d no longer care about the case. But they won’t treat the property that way, story and character logic be damned.




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