When DC Comics announced their major reboot into the “DCNU” as many fans call it, there were, as you’d imagine, many changes. Some pleased people, some were troubling, some caused outrage. And, honestly, the way DC management has chosen to handle their fans’ concerns has made some things worse.
Many characters have disappeared in the reboot, with differing accounts of what may have happened to them, or what may lie in their future. One of the vanished is Stephanie Brown, who has been Spoiler, Robin IV, and Batgirl III (or IV if you insist on counting Helena Bertinelli briefly wearing the costume). Her stint as the title character in the Batgirl comic was a fan favorite, wonderfully written by Bryan Q. Miller, and it’s abrupt cancellation displeased many.
As the DCNU developed, Steph fans were even more displeased. While the powers that be at DC seem to be going far out of their way to avoid making definitive statements about the various missing characters, the circumstantial evidence about Steph Brown looks bad for her fans. Barbara Gordon is Batgirl again, and in nearly a year of stories, there have been no mention whatever of other either Steph or fellow former Batgirl Cassandra Cain in the books.
We have definitively seen that Steph’s time as Robin has been erased, making her not only the only retconned away Robin, but the only former Robin to not be active in new book. In the Batgirl books, they have very strongly implied that Barbara has been the only Batgirl. And there has been no mention at all of either Spoiler, Steph’s first identity, or Cluemaster, her father and reason she started her heroic career in the first place.
Not only did Steph vanish, but, surprisingly, so did her writer. Bryan Q. Miller was a fan favorite, and his not getting and books in the DCNU surprised many. However, after the first few waves of announcements, we finally learned that Miller had been given a book. They were continuing the long running hit show “Smallville” in a Season 11 book, and Miler was announced as the writer.
Then, things got even better. Miller announced that one of the characters he’d be bringing in was Steph Brown, as that world’s version of Nightwing. Now, that’s not a costume she’d even worn, and it wasn’t a part of the main DC world, but it made Steph fans happy.
Until this weekend. During the massive excitement of ComicCon disturbing rumors began to surface. Bryan Miller tweeted that he’d been removed from the Superman panel at the Con. And then stories started going around that Barbara Gordon would be replacing Stephanie Brown in the Smallville comic.
Now, understand, Steph’s appearance wasn’t rumor. Miller himself announced, there was art released, this was in TV Guide (why, I don’t know, but it was). The rumors swirled, and DC didn’t’ comment on them until Saturday the 14th.
Now, we’ve gotten this:
The outspoken fan who dresses as Batgirl and has often been critical of DC’s policies towards female creators took the mic to thank the panel for making an effort to expand their roster of creators by inviting the likes of Anne Nocenti and Christy Marx as well as putting Becky Cloonan on “Batman” for an issue. She said there’s still more work to be done, but she was very heartened by the way DC spoke out the policy and worked to make a change.
She then asked about the conflicting talk of whether Stephanie Brown would be replaced in the “Smallville” series by Barbara Gordon after the former idea was announced online. “That is true, and there’s a reason for it,” DiDio said, saying that he supported a switch from the original plan to stay in line with “Smallville’s” practice of introducing iconic versions of the DC heroes into the world of Tom Welling’s Clark Kent. “If we’re going to introduce a character into the ‘Smallville’ world, I want them to be the most iconic versions like Barbara Gordon or Dick Grayson, and maybe down the road we can do more.”
Ok, let’s look at this a minute. “Most iconic”? In Smallville? Really? Why is Bart Allen the only speedster in the Smallville world? Why make up the character of Chloe Sullivan? Or change the races of long time Superman supporting characters Lana Lang and Pete Ross? Why introduce Kent Nelson as Dr. Fate only to kill him? Why was Clark known as “The Blur” for so long? Black Canary as both a radio shock jock and hurling knives? NONE of those things are iconic, no matter how you’re using the word (which Dan Didio seems to have a very fluid definition of).
I’d be really curious to hear what led to this sudden about face. I really doubt Bryan Miller got as far as releasing art and doing interviews without someone at DC knowing what he was doing. Clearly, he got approval somewhere, or at the very least wasn’t told “No.” Yet somehow, after it got as far as art not only produced but released, DC pulled the plug on the story. And the “most iconic” rationalization, which was very strained before this, falls apart here. The “most iconic” Nightwing is Dick Grayson, NOT Barbara Gordon. I’ll also point out that so many of the changes they made to costumes made the characters no longer “iconic” in the comics. Superman wearing armor, Harley Quinn barely dressed, and Damian Wayne as Robin are far from iconic.
I don’t tend to put much stock in conspiracy theories, but there seems to be something afoot with some of these characters. Scott Snyder is currently the writer of Batman, and behind the recent major Court of Owls crossover. Even he can’t use them, to judge from his recent comment that he’d like to use either Steph or Cass when he was told they were “ok to be introduced.” I have a few contacts in the comics field and around the edges, and some sources are saying the recent change has nothing to do with “iconic,” but that the Steph and Cass characters are “toxic,” and Didio and company will not approve their use anywhere.
I don’t know what happened to cause DC to suddenly yank the rug out from under Steph fans yet again, but no one I know of is happy about it. Is it really that hard to give Steph’s fans a little something?
I’ll go out on a joke, as someone posted in a great picture for so many of the missing in action from DC: