Thursday, June 22, 2006

Profile: Spoiler

Stephanie Brown, Spoiler
First appearance: 1992 in Detective Comics

Current status: presumed dead

Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: after Chuck Dixon, her creator, left his job as a writer on the Batman line, including Robin, where she made many of her appearances, the title slowly began to turn into a train wreck. The following writers, when dealing with Stephanie’s character, seemed to be deliberately trying to write her in an unlikable mode, and the fact that Batman himself was shown as increasingly disapproving of her working as a vigilante did not help matters at all. It was in the Batman crossover, War Games, that she really got slapped in the face, when, shortly before it began, she was written as a temporary replacement for Tim Drake, the current Robin, in his own costume, and got “fired” by the Masked Manhunter after just two issues, then when she was bashed up in the crossover itself by Black Mask, who left her with an injured shoulder with a gun he’d initially given her as a challenge to shoot him, and when she didn’t, he took it back and shot her. Then, when she was in Dr. Leslie Thompkins’ medical ward, she appeared to have died there, and a couple months later in Detective Comics, it was said that Thompkins had allowed her to slowly pass away.

What’s wrong with how this was done? One of the worst things about Stephanie’s killing is that it was part of a gross editorial mandate, that also led to the death of Tim Drake’s father over in the Identity Crisis miniseries. Just like that notorious mini, the War Games story and what led up to it was also misogynist, depicting Stephanie as an irritating, annoying failure. Robin was not allowed to meet with her when she was being hospitalized, and then, after her presumed death, Batman did not even show any genuine sorrow, one more reason why his investigation that revealed that Leslie supposedly led to her death rang false and bore no impact.

I once found a most cynical message on Comic Boards in which a poster justified her death simply “because she was annoying.” What’s really laughable and insulting about that is the fact that this is a totally fictional character we’re talking about here, and if she was ever annoying, something that only really happened shortly before her death, it’s the fault of the writers.

Chuck Dixon himself argued some time ago that DC was killing off some of the characters he’d written for the Bat-world. With Stephanie’s victimization, I’d say that was by far the worst insult to one of the better Bat-writers of the past decade.

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