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Essay

The Batfamily Reunited This Week, Except for One: Let’s Not Forget Batgirl Cassandra Cain


One of the more easily pointed to examples of sexism in the New 52 concerned which of the five characters to be called Robin and three characters to be called Batgirl made it to the new continuity. Editorial explained to fans that two Batgirls would be erased from the setting so the “most iconic” one, Barbara Gordon, could be returned to the costume, to make things simple for new readers. However, in the other Batcave locker room, all four of the male characters who had been Robin were brought over to the New 52, despite the new universe having a hard age limit of five years from the first appearance of Batman.

This week saw one of those women (spoiler for Batman #28) Stephanie Brown, the third Batgirl and fourth Robin, return to comics as the Spoiler in a sneak preview of the next story arc to engulf Gotham City and the Batman-related titles. And while I’m very excited to have her back, I worry about Cassandra Cain, the first person of color to join the Batfamily, who is now that last Batgirl sitting on the bench with the rest of the New 52′s abandoned heroes.

Aside: It would be better, though not as succinct, to describe Cass as the only Batgirl or Robin who cannot pass for white. Dick Grayson, the first Robin, after all, is of partial Romani heritage; and while he is rarely drawn in a way that shows it, Damian Wayne, the most recent Robin, is of mixed Arab and Chinese descent on his mother’s side.

I believe when one female character gets a chance at wider visibility in the industry, the argument should never be that another female character “deserves” the spotlight more (I’m looking at you, Captain Marvel “fans” who were tearing down Black Widow after the most recent rumors of her solo film). The best response is “good, now also [this other character].” To quote the Tumblr refrain: “Why not both?” It’s even meaner to pit Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown against each other because, when they both existed in the same universe, they were close friends.

Cass and Steph both grew up with abusive supervillain fathers (though the degree of abuse was certainly a difference between them), they were both accepted as Batman’s allies at around the same time (Cass as Batgirl, and Steph as the vigilante The Spoiler), they were about the same age, they both headlined a popular Batgirl title that sold consistently well (Cassandra’s Batgirl was the first time the character had ever starred in her own title, Steph’s was cut short by the announcement of the New 52), and they both had to deal with an editorial environment that had it out for them to an extreme degree.

Stephanie Brown claims the title of the only female Robin in the main DC continuity not because editorial thought it was high time to break that gender barrier, but because it had been decided she would be tortured to death by villain Black Mask at the climax of an upcoming storyline in the Bat-books. Folks at DC thought her visibility as a character would have to be increased if that death (which technically came from completely uncharacteristic deliberate neglect at the hands of another long-standing female character, Dr. Leslie Tompkins, who was then also removed from Batman stories) were to have a proper impact on readers. Eventually, Steph’s death was hamhandedly retconned to have been a fake all along: Batman was revealed to have suspected it all along but not told anyone, even Robin (then Tim Drake), her off again on again boyfriend, because… because everybody knows Batman’s a jerk. This doubled as an explanation for why Batman had appeared to have been in no way torn up about Steph’s death (especially compared to what was then only other Batfamily death in combat, Jason Todd).

Many story arcs later, in the first issue of a new Batgirl series intended to feature Stephanie Brown, Cassandra confessed to Stephanie that she had become disillusioned with being Batman’s partner, and so was leaving her the Batgirl role. This was after a long period where Cassandra was written as a villain, murderer, and head of the League of Assassins. This might not seem so outrageous in a genre where heroes regularly switch sides when writers decide it would be more interesting, but here the twist ran particularly contrary to character backstory. Former DC Editor Scott Peterson described the initial concept for Cassandra like this: “cheerful and chipper and always up and good natured and she has a complete and total death wish.” The way that was managed takes a little explanation.

Cassandra’s origin was as the daughter of two of the world’s greatest assassins, David Cain and Lady Shiva, who conceived her in what was essentially a business transaction. David Cain was fascinated by the idea of repurposing the language portions of the human brain to read physical cues instead of verbal ones, and after many failed experiments with kidnapped children, he decided he needed to raise one from birth. By the age of eight, Cassandra could not speak, but was as dangerous as your average seasoned assassin. At around that age, under her father’s orders, she killed someone for the first time. With her heightened sensitivity to body language, Cassandra could read every inch of the man’s pain and fear as he died, and in that instant she resolved to escape her father and never listen to him ever again. As a teenager, she came to Gotham and became one of the homeless kids who worked as a spy and gopher for Barbara Gordon, then Oracle, during the events of No Man’s Land, and eventually with Barbara’s permission became the second Batgirl.

She was introduced in an era where the writers and editors of the various Batman-related titles were comfortable and interested in focusing on the interpersonal relationships between the various characters and their various emotional problems. And so they developed a way in which she could be mentored by Batman despite the fact that she was, in experience and ethics, a perfect sidekick: she was convinced it wasn’t enough to merely help people as Batgirl. The only true way to atone for committing the act of murder, in Cassandra’s eyes, was to die in the act of helping innocent people, and she would sometimes accept her own death as the most efficient solution to a problem rather than considering all of her options. Naturally, the pragmatist Batman had absolutely no time for that.

Where was I? Right. That’s why writing Cassandra Cain as a murderer and assassin, or someone who had become “disillusioned” with Batman’s mission really leapt miles away from the core character. Oracle and Nightwing once suddenly realized that, years after she’d started being Batgirl, Cass had only just realized the celebrity Bruce Wayne was Batman, purely because she had not even a casual interest in his secret identity. She didn’t meet Batman and wonder “what makes him do this.” It was enough for her to know that what he did was good. Obviously he would want to do it. Because it was good.

But Cass and Steph also have some differences. Steph is talkative, even bubbly, while Cass, while very intelligent, is still working out prepositions. Stories about Steph can easily tap the “teenage superhero with high school woes” where Cass’ family status kind of prevents it. Steph’s character is fundamentally aspirational, about trying very hard to be something very hard, and picking yourself up when you fall. When Cass started being Batgirl, she was already better at hand-to-hand fighting than any member of the Batfamily barring Batman. She would go on to do things like beat Lady Shiva in a fair fight, something only a handful of characters in the DCU are capable of.

And of course, Steph is blonde and blue eyed, and Cass is, and has always been drawn as, (obviously) Asian.

There are lots of reasons why Stephanie Brown would have larger, more vocal fanbase than Cassandra Cain. She’s been Batgirl more recently, her series was very popular when the New 52 was announced and so she became an easy example of a popular but inexplicably benched female character, though editorial edict has kept her out of the spotlight many times she has had the luck to have been written as a more consistent character, and she’s a much more classic superhero trope: a Peter Parker, if you will. But I think it would be incredibly naive to ignore the potential that her race (and the fact that she has more conventionally feminine personality characteristics) has to give her a better chance with fandom and editorial.

If you’re about to get up my butt about how liking Stephanie Brown doesn’t make a person racist, please refer back to the portion of this article where I point out female characters should not be placed in opposition to each other. Liking Stephanie Brown doesn’t automatically make you racist (you might be racist for any other number of reasons, I don’t know, man). Is the reason I’ve never really been interested in Steph and have always and immediately loved Cassandra Cain that I, myself, am mixed race? There are all kinds of reasons why folks identify with a character. Sometimes, it’s because they and that character would be marking down the same thing on a U.S. Census form. It’s important to acknowledge that, and the ways it can warp our media when one particular census category makes up most of the folks in charge of creating our media and advocating for it.

Editorial isn’t perfect, and neither are fandoms. If we claim that part of the reason we wanted Stephanie Brown in the New 52 was in order to increase the diversity that was lost to editorial edict in the reboot, or that we wanted her back in part to address the ludicrous claim that three Batgirls must be reduced to one for simplicity’s sake but four Robins is perfectly accessible, then it would be the height of hypocrisy to sit back and relax now that Spoiler is back, while Cassandra Cain is still benched. I hope my worst, cynical fears are proved wrong, and I hope to see Cass as Black Bat, her most recent superhero identity, grace comics pages again.

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  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much! Cassandra is one of my favorite characters. Her books started coming out just as I started getting into to comics and I collected them religiously. They were so wonderful. And to have her story and character destroyed by editorial mandate and then to watch her disappear entirely was heartbreaking.

  • Blackbat

    This article made my entire Valentine’s Day. I, too, am mixed race (which includes Asian) and it was so comforting to read that someone else feels the same way as I do regarding one of the very few comic characters I could truly relate to. So… just… thank you.

  • Kensei Yonzon

    New 52 made me very angry and sad at once because I had introduced Cassandra Cain to my very impressionable then-four year-old daughter who was learning Wushu. here was a role model she really could identify with — we’re Asian — someone closer to herself than her favorite Batman.

    there was already a grievous dearth of Cassandra Cain in other media, and she hungered to learn more about the character. Arguably one of the better characters in comics (aside from the off-character murderous version), I thought she was a great hero for my daughter to follow. Then boom.

  • Travis

    Both Cass and Stephanie were pretty much irreparably damaged during that horrible period of DC’s mid-2000s. I’d want another universal reboot AND a completely new editorial staff before I’d be okay with DC bringing Cass back.

  • Anonymous

    I am a fan of both Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain. I like them for two different Reasons. Cassandra is a kick ass woman of color who despite everything she has gone through, was still inately good. (honestly, a part of me could see her growing jaded with the batfamily conscidering everything she had gone through at the time but not with the idea of saving other people). What i loved about Stephanie was that she was the epitome of not giving up what you believe despite everyone telling you you are not good enough. Honestly, the pairing of Stephanie and Cassandra as friends felt perfect to me because they balanced each other out. Cassandra was focused on her mission, while Stephanie, in her words, belived there was still room in thier line of work for hope.
    I belive that Snyder will try to get Cassandra back into the game. because him, and Miller (and quite frankly many writers) view them both as personal favorites. And many have worked hard at trying to get them back. Editorial has been an ass, but they haven’t stopped. I hope they don’t give up the fight.

  • Gordon Borland

    I always liked that despite the tragic background which would be the perfect set up for yet another angsty protagonist Cassandra Cain was one of the most optimistic Bat-Characters.

  • Anonymous

    If editorial hates her that means’s Cass is a lock for season 3 of (Green) Arrow, right? It worked for Nyssa.

  • Elizabeth Wells

    I’m a fan of Cass Cain and Steph Brown because they are *friends*. It’s a slightly dysfunctional friendship like all of Cass’s relationships, but they are totally there for each other and fit each other’s weirdness. I want to see them hang out and fight crime together.

  • Anonymous

    I always thought that Cassandra Cain could have eventually taken over for Batman. She understands Bruce better than just about anyone with the exception of Alfred and she’s more like Bruce than all of his proteges, even Damian. And considering how she has an awareness of every minute change in a person’s body language, that kind of attention to detail can be translated easily to hone her detective skills.

    Although, one thing that always annoyed me about how all the other characters treated Cass was that no one ever bothered to teach her sign language.

  • Thomas Hayes

    Hear hear x1,000,052.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this article. My #1 concern was now that Steph is back, the fan campaigns or DC would no longer see much reason to bring back Cass. Which is doubly gross because she was already thoroughly screwed over before the reboot.

  • Young & Polish

    Erm, I’m quite sure Babs had her own Batgirl title in the 1970s, she was also a Congresswoman then, so Cassandra isn’t the first Batgirl to have her own title.

  • Anonymous

    This is a really great and necessary post.

  • Young & Polish

    Ok, my bad, she didn’t – but I remember she appeared on her own in Detective Comics frequently.

  • Harrison Grey

    Sometimes, I almost feel sorry for DC. They think they’re fixing problems by finally bringing back Stephanie Brown, and then we have something else to complain about.

    Then, of course, I remember that DC brought all of this on themselves by screwing things up so badly in the first place, and that these complaints are entirely justified.

    Also, I’d be up for a Batgirls title, where we have all three of them fighting crime as Batgirl together. Seriously, give them each a secondary codename to identify them (Batgirl Red, Batgirl Black, Batgirl Purple; or something) if you’re afraid it would be hard to tell them apart, and give us a whole team of Batgirls. Although I would be even more interested in having Barbara be Oracle again, but that’s another story.

  • Harrison Grey

    And Helena Bertinelli. And possibly Wally West, once the Flash starts up, considering the West family is being cast. Wow, Arrow may be the repository of awesome characters that DC Comics wants to get rid of.

  • Kash Mitaukano

    SO RIGHT! Whenever I do my many Cass and Steph comics Cass is always Head cannoned as ASL fluent. THANK YOU FOR POINT THIS OUT!!

  • Kash Mitaukano

    War Games, Infinite Crisis, and One Year later ruined the girls. Though Cass was getting better for a bit when she was in The Outsiders but they killed that book pretty quick. Honest to goondness I just want them to be homies and have stupid girl talk again.

  • Kash Mitaukano

    Thank you guys for posting this, it’s spot on! It’s a shame too as two other DC benched characters Onyx and Connor Hawke were brought back as visibly white characters a week or two ago. I was hoping sincerely that DC wouldn’t bring Steph back without Cassandra, but as usual hopes were dashed by DC editorial. It’s almost as if they do not want to have multiethnic, or just non caucasian characters at all since Black Bat was such a failure. I TRIED to like that comic but it was just terrible, no fault of the leads nationality at all, just terrible writing.

  • Travis

    I know. They always had great chemistry when Spoiler dropped in on Cass’ book. Leave it to DC to see a good thing and say, “We must destroy it!”

  • Neal

    I recall Cassandra as being one of the most compelling characters of the bat family. I was drawn to her series as far back as highschool. One of my more proud moments, I leant the first Cass Batgirl graphic novel to a female friend in a school where comics weren’t really popular unless it was SlamDunk. It made its way through four other girls before it got back to me. Couldn’t even be mad about it.

  • dontmindme

    Cass and Steph work best as a unit, same as, I would argue, Damian and Dick. I mean, gah, you’re building a female legacy over here, with Babs and Cass and Steph, that operates side by side but separate from Batman. That is interesting, that is important, and that has so much potential. I just wish DC understood that.

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    Yeesh, writers really need to stop using ‘because batmans a jerk’ to handwave all their bad writing decisions. XD
    I mean, yes he is in fact a jerk, but that does not excuse poor plotting and he isn’t enough of a jerk to hide an elephant pile of plotholes behind. XD

    Also, I just want to say I heartily agree about not tearing down one character to try boosting up a personal favorite. I see that sort of argument across the internet FAR to often on to many mariad a subject. People spewing hatred towards Barry Allen because they are ‘fans’ of Wally West to name an example.
    Hating something simply because you like something else more is a really stupid reason to spew hatred.
    Thank you for that message ^^

    As for Cassandra Cain herself…I confess im not a fan personally. Its more because she is a super dark and broody character whose not as emotive as I would like.
    While I like Batman who shares alot of her similarities, im specifically a fan of the silver agey ‘Adam West’ batman who can get caught up in flangrant sillyness and act the straight man without bringing things down.
    While Cassandra doesn’t really show any over the top sliding in that direction unlike Batty has….
    Though I hope for fans sakes that they get to have her eventually

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    …..Im not very familiar with the character, but is she clever enough to take up the ‘Oracle’ slot for the birds of prey? It would be a pretty wild way to bring that particular trinity together.

  • Anonymous

    Somehow I miss the old times when comics were just about superheroes instead of political correctness and overly complicated backstories.

  • Anonymous

    Are you confusing Cassandra Cain as Black Bat who didn’t have a solo title under that codename with Batwing the African member of Batman Inc that has a solo book despite being named after Batman’s plane?

  • Kash Mitaukano

    I meant to write Batwing, yes, I wasn’t confusing the two. It happens when I type too quickly. It’s not a very good book though I honestly can not get into it.

  • Anonymous

    It’s even a repository of characters that nobody realized could be awesome like Felicity “Firestorm’s step-mom” Smoak.

  • Mark Brown

    And based on his own actions during Cass’ run as Batgirl, Bruce was closer to her than any of the Robins. He made her his assistant at Wayne Enterprises functions, gave her her own place, and was totally the overprotective father when Superboy tried to hook up with her.

  • Mark Brown

    Yes to everything (though I’d argue that Stephanie’s “death,” as ham-handed as it was, was ultimately necessary to make her the Batgirl she became).

    Honestly, I’m more troubled by Cassandra’s turning evil because the whole story (she was drugged and brainwashed, and it was basically a big rape-as-character-development arc) wasn’t even covered in a single book –you had to be following Batgirl, Teen Titans, and a few other titles to piece everything together.

  • Adrian

    For any Birds of Prey episode or project, I figure Felicity is will be the Oracle of the bunch for obvious reasons.

    I’m still hoping for Maggie Q as Lady Shiva, though.

  • Jeyl

    I would love to see Cassandra Cain come back. Honest to all the internets!

    …but not here. Not in this “New 52″ universe. It’s not broken, It just doesn’t work. Saying that it’s broken gives the implication that it can be fixed, and since everyone in the editorial believes that making Wonder Woman the accidental and illegitimate daughter of Zeus was the best thing to ever happen to her, I don’t see that changing any time soon.

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    True, her taking up that role is highly likely. The only thing that might make it difficult is how cornerstone her role is in Arrow, meaning if it did become its own thing, the show would probably lose her as a regular.

    And Q seems a sound choice, though im not familiar with the actress beyond what I just looked up.

  • Christopher Challice

    For the longest time I thought Cass was Batman and Shiva’s kid. There were hints that she understood him better than even robin and Batman would let her do things that he’d never let a Robin touch.

    Granted I was wrong buuut I thought it would have been awesome.

  • Christopher Challice

    Granted, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Let both Stephanie and Cass in damn it.

  • Bean

    I never really took to Stephanie Brown. Nothing against her, really. It’s just that I never really was intrigued by her character. Cassandra Cain, on the other hand, I was instantly fascinated by. The character hook was unique, and I was always…ALWAYS interested in her adventures. Which I should have taken as a sign that she was in trouble.

    I love DC, I really do. But Dan Didio has marginalized all of my favorite characters except for the Iconic ones…and I suspect only then because he fetishizes the Silver age. Tim Drake is my favorite Robin-And I don’t know what the hell his character is about anymore. Cass is my favorite batgirl, and even before the new 52, she was shuttled off to Hong Kong for reasons that were…poorly explained. Wally West was my favorite Flash, and….well, he might be back? Or something?

    Feeling personally attacked by Didio aside, Cassandra Cain deserved so much better than she got. If I had my dearest, monkey’s paw/Wishbone/Genie Lamp wish, they’d introduce her as the new Robin.

  • Adrian

    Well, it’s only wishful thinking at this point that a Bird of Prey show would be made.

    At the very least, we’ll get the occasional appearance on Arrow every season.

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    Thats true, though the showrunners have directly stated in an interview that if they get enough seasons, that we WILL get a Birds of Prey, and that they want to build up and develop those involved before making it a reality. Its all a matter of them wanting to build and develop the characters to reach that point.

    Whether they can get away with a full spin-off for the trio or not will depend upon how well Flash does I suspect. If they can display the talent for making multiple shows in this universe work, and present an awesome enough idea, I can see birds of prey totally happening.

  • http://adornyourhearts.tumblr.com Xomyx

    Yeah I really wanted to like it, art was gorgeous with Marcus To but very obviously written by a white guy who’s never been to Africa. And then when they had all kinds of superhero guest star, leave Africa, and finally got rid of David, I had to give up.

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    It does hurt matters that his love of characters from 40+ years ago is throwing out all of the characters that the last few generations have grown up with. And that his harsh exclusion of non-silver age material (but with darker and grimmer stylings that made the 90s okay by retrospect) makes it pretty clear that his ‘returning DC to its roots’ spiel is not quite accurate.

    Ive heard complaints from people who have pointed out that close to 80% of teen titans roster no longer exist to name a good example of thee damage.

  • Bean

    The thing that drives me absolutely nuts is that there is no reason at all why these characters can’t co-exist. I mean, even if you absolutely no way no how want Barry Allen and Wally West to be Flash together, you can easily put out two books, and title them Differently. Barry can title his book Flash: The Fastest Man Alive and Wally’s book can be called “Adventures of the Flash” Or something. Hell, let Barry Stay dead in the modern Era, and call his book “Classic Flash”.

    Same with Cass and Stephanie, to drag things back around to the proper topic. Batman Incorporated proved you can field variations on a character. Let them both be Batgirl and One live in…say, New York, and the other in Chicago. Or you could keep the Alternate Identities. Black Bat (I really, really want to Ship her with Red Robin with a name like that, though. Okay, I want to ship them anyway.) And Spoiler. Why…why can DC not handle this? I mean, if we can think of this stuff, surely they can.

  • Stealthfire

    I’m picturing some kind of Powerpuff Batgirls thing going on now and it’s awesome. Seriously, Babs fits as Blossom, Steph as Bubbles, and Cass…is a bit of a stretch as Buttercup, but it could work!

  • Nick Gaston

    If DiDio and his ilk are focused on “The Silver Age…but with Gore!”, I’m actually kind of looking forward to the generation of comic writers who bring back “The Dark Age…but with soul and heart!”

  • Jake Mertz

    Cass was always my favorite Batgirl. I haven’t kept up with the new 52 at all, because I hate all the changes they made, and benching Cass is definitely one of them.

  • Anonymous

    Yes! Out of all the bat family, she’s the one the biggest drive to continue his legacy. I love that her story was a parallel to his; watching a death at an early age, vowing to prevent others from experiencing the same. But her being the cause of the death she witnessed drives her more than any other member of the bat family. She doesn’t care about secret identities or balancing life with being a bat. She care only about saving lives. I think that makes for some great stories, and a great successor to Batman.

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    I recall another idea concocted by Greg Weisman who had worked on the last reboot. Wherin he had at the time wanted to push for them to do an ‘earth 2′ sorta thing like they did before for the golden age, so that they could keep the originals but move on and do something new at the same time. (Only for the idea to be thrown out because apparently they felt that since certain titles were selling well, they couldn’t reboot them and that it would confuse readers somehow if they had a two separate universes with Batman and Green Lantern and such)

    Yeah >_>

    Or rewriting things so that a character never existed in earth one and is gay in earth two, establishing his children as super never existed in a limbo that makes their chances even grimmer than what what Cassandra Cain is suffering from -_- *fan of Jade and Obsidian*

    It IS really obvious, and there is no logical reason why that cannot work. Though they have been doing some pretty nonsense things with the continuity from the get go of the current reboot.
    ‘Oh lex luthor and superman totally have the same long history and everything but with an entirly different status quo and everything.’
    ‘Oh, all the previous stries about mister freeze are totally cannonical, but he apparently imagined his relationship with nora and is a creepy stalker’

    ‘Oh, tim drake always called himself the red robin because there can never be two robins at once to confuse readers, and his parents are in witness protection, alive but he can never see them. also, his name isn’t time drake’

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    I recall another idea concocted by Greg Weisman who had worked on the last reboot. Wherin he had at the time wanted to push for them to do an ‘earth 2′ sorta thing like they did before for the golden age, so that they could keep the originals but move on and do something new at the same time. (Only for the idea to be thrown out because apparently they felt that since certain titles were selling well, they couldn’t reboot them and that it would confuse readers somehow if they had a two separate universes with Batman and Green Lantern and such)

    Yeah >_>

    Or rewriting things so that a character never existed in earth one and is gay in earth two, establishing his children as super never existed in a limbo that makes their chances even grimmer than what what Cassandra Cain is suffering from -_- *fan of Jade and Obsidian*

    It IS really obvious, and there is no logical reason why that cannot work. Though they have been doing some pretty nonsense things with the continuity from the get go of the current reboot.
    ‘Oh lex luthor and superman totally have the same long history and everything but with an entirly different status quo and everything.’
    ‘Oh, all the previous stries about mister freeze are totally cannonical, but he apparently imagined his relationship with nora and is a creepy stalker’

    ‘Oh, tim drake always called himself the red robin because there can never be two robins at once to confuse readers, and his parents are in witness protection, alive but he can never see them. also, his name isn’t time drake’

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    …..Im actually really looking forward to that. I hope I am alive to see it.

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    Im still convinced that the current Wonder Woman is Donna Troy and that Diana will pop up and save the amazons from the curse before long.

    While it is a terribly brokeen mess, It is not necesarily unfixable, it just needs REALLY skillful writers at thee helm making the cannonical decisions.

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    Ive sadly never had the opportunity to see this, by any chance are there any specific stories of the pair you would recommend to somehow who is curious about how Cass and Steph bounced off one another?

  • Jamie Jeans

    Frankly, I thought it was racist bullshit that Cass Cain just gave up on being Batgirl after Bruce’s death, and thus handed it off to yet another blonde haired, blue eyed, white girl, of which DC Comics has tons of already. Looking back, it’s irritated me just how damned much white fandom in general gushed and praised Stephanie Brown while either burying or doing their best not to mention Cass Cain.

    On the other hand, considering the garbage writing of DC Comics, especially in regards to the women NOT being written by Gail Simone, I’m kinda glad Cass Cain was not brought back. I can only imagine how they’d whitewash her.

    But hey, so long as white fandom has their saviour and lord Stephanie Brown, starter of Gang Wars and nowhere NEAR in the same league as Cass Cain herself…

  • Jamie Jeans

    EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW…. no! Just NO.

    Gods, that would be one of the worst things to happen to Cass Cain, to appear on that garbage show.

  • http://mordicaifeed.tumblr.com/ Mordicai

    CASSANDRA CAIN FOREVER.

  • http://mordicaifeed.tumblr.com/ Mordicai

    Isn’t that the Morrison Renaissance in a nutshell?

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    im now picturing Betty Cain and Charlie Gage-Radcliffe being added to the mix with them manning a giant robot and going after criminals who gigantify after they are defeated, prompting them to combine their giant robots into a gianter robot to stop the menace….

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t seen Cassandra Cain very much in the comics. When she was going through was sounds like a lot of interesting character conception, I wasn’t reading much (I lived in a comic book desert. If they didn’t sell it at the grocery store or gas station, I never saw it. I had to special order Catwoman through a mail service). When I moved and suddenly found myself with my pick of several excellent comic shops, Cassandra was a brooding, murdering assassin and felt like yet another Deep Dark Batman Character (uhg, Deep Dark Batman). Steph was a breath of fresh air. The people working on her brought something to the Batman franchise that I didn’t see very often: FUN. Less brooding, bemoaning, and bitterness, much more bonding and smiling.

    I would have liked to see the Cass mentioned here. I would have liked to see this tight relationship with Batman, this desire to do good and I sure as hell would have liked to see these sistafriend bonding moments with Stephanie. Do a Bats of Prey title with Barbara, Stephanie and Cassandra. I’ve largely abandoned DC but I would buy a title like that.

  • Anonymous

    One of the things that makes Cass my absolute favorite Bat person and charactor in comics is that she has a disability. She is dyslectic and has difficulty speaking (mute when she was introduced) and convoying her feelings, and forming relationships. I read her as having a bit of autism. This may be me projecting a little of myself unto her character, but I find it increadably nice (for lack of a better word) to find a character in comics with a disability that is not a murderous crazy person.

    Its something about Cass that seems to be somewhat overlooked. It is very difficult to find a positively protraid character with a mental disorder/disability. Cass is great in that it’s also one of her strengths.

    I truly wish I had been reading comics when I was in grade school and had discovered her. I think my outlook may have been positively changed if I had known she was kicking villainous ass.

  • Anonymous

    I think if (when, if we are feeling optomistic) I think it would be great if Cass was mostly mute again. I would love seeing her learning sign language. I’m not well educated in the neurosciences or teaching by any means, but it seems like she would find it easier to learn than actual speach. Her mucals pertaining to language would probley be very atrophied and weak as she never seemed to use them besides sighing laughing or grunting before talking. And since sign language is very symbolic, it would likely help her with reading and expanding that part of the brain. If I ever were to finally make the Batgirls web comic I’ve been sitting on the past few years, it would be one of the things I would explore. I recently posted here that one of the best things about Cassandra is that she comes across as having something of a learning or mental disability but is protrayed pretty positivly. As someone who is a bit autistic, I thind her very encouraging as a roll model.

  • Anonymous

    She’s similar to JeeJa Yanin’s character in Chocolate.

  • Ryan Colson

    Call me crazy, but I think the Batmen of Many Nations mostly beat Cass as the first “person of color” to be in the Batfamily.

  • Ryan Colson

    And yes… it’s gimmicky or whatever but I kinda think more than one Marvel character fit just as true under that..

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    What, like Black Adam? He’s kinda a separate family though, even if he shares an origin with Billy Batson

  • Anonymous

    As I always like to say Cass Cain is the most successful Asian hero (male or female) to hold a solo title in modern DC history. In a company with an Asian co-publisher that should mean something but apparently nope.

    Didio obviously had it out for her. Canceling her title while it still had good sales (in its sixth year), turning her into a Dragon Lady stereotype who loved to kill (WTF?) so she could be a villain for a male Robin (who was somehow able to beat her in a fight), retconning that as her being drugged up by Deathstroke, returning her to Batgirl in a mini-series written by the very same writer who had written her in Robin (and had pointedly done no research on the character) and while that was still on-going already planning on bringing back (“the one and only”) Batgirl Barbara Gordon all the while (in the mini-series “Oracle: The Cure), when he chickened out on that he had her give up the Batgirl in ONE PAGE to a blue-eyed blond girl (yes I like Stephanie but let’s face it the racial connotations of the switch-over and how badly Cass was treated/written to make it happen is like the elephant in the room). Cass was then mentioned only two or three times in the entirety of Steph’s Batgirl run and if you hadn’t read the first issue and just started reading with #2 then you would never have known there was a Batgirl between Steph and Barbara (neither of whom seemed concerned where she was although by DC continuity the last time she dropped out of sight she became as super-villain). When the switch-over occurred Didio promised (in writing in the DC Nation column) that there were “big plans” for Cass in the year ahead. “Big Plans” apparently really meant she would not appear in any DC comic for an entire year. When Fabien Nicieza asked to use in Red Robin the DC editors apparently told him fine because they had NO plans for her. When Bruce Wayne came back from the dead, Cassandra was the only sidekick or former protege who had ZERO scenes with him (Bruce even had scenes with The Outsiders’ Freight Train, a Didio created character Bruce didn’t know). The next we hear Morrison has re-branded her as Black Bat, the Batman of Hong Kong even though she didn’t know Mandarin and had no connection to Asia (Lady Shiva was from Detroit, not China). Then she returns to Gotham for Gates of Gotham, still has zero scenes with Bruce or Barbara (the two characters who most appeared in her Batgirl run) and reboot happens and BOOM, there never were any Batgirls except Barbara Gordon and Cassandra Cain never seemingly existed. All four male Robins (even the one readers voted to kill off) however – they EACH got their own title.

    That is the history of the last decade of Cassandra Cain. DC has treated the character badly for no reason (except that Editorial seems to dislike her). In this editorial environment I hope she doesn’t appear at all. Because if she does = cannon fodder time.

  • Ben English

    Morrison was writing comics before the Dark Age so I’m not sure he counts.

  • Ben English

    Oh hey I’ve found the fifth world incarnation of NeoProdigy. (Seriously, fuck off with the pitting Batgirls against each other shit.)

  • Jay Insult

    If we want the full boat of Batgirls back, let’s not forget about Betty/Bette Kane, the FIRST victim of the “one in/one out” rule with respect to Batgirl. When Barbara Gordon premiered, both Kathy Kane/Batwoman and Betty Kane/Bat-Girl were relegated to rarely-seen Earth-2 relics. Betty, now known as Bette, resurfaced on Earth-1 & post-Crisis continuity as Flamebird, never acknowledged again in canon as being a part of the Batgirl lineage (and in a pretty tacky origin story, was a tennis star who wanted little more than the attention of an aloof Dick Grayson/Robin). Betty/Bette’s history as Bat-Girl or otherwise in present canon is murky at best. New Earth canon long held that she was Flamebird from the start. Grant Morrisson’s “it’s all canon” philosophy would include her adventures as Bat-Girl (and sidekick to Kathy Kane’s Batwoman, who is established to be a completely different woman than Kate Kane’s Batwoman, ALTHOUGH we have seen that Bette is in fact Kate’s cousin…WHEW). In the New 52, who the damn hell knows?

    In any event, in the scope of history, there have been as many Batgirls as there have been Boy Wonders. And lest we forget, Helena Bertinelli operated as Batgirl during No Man’s Land (in the costume soon passed on to Cass) for probably about as long as Stephanie Brown was Robin. So maybe it’s more accurate to say there have been MORE Batgirls. And Helena Bertinelli can pretty much be considered “benched” in the new 52 as well, since she was always a very different character than Helena Wayne.

  • Ben English

    Isn’t Bette still appearing in Batwoman though? I haven’t been able to keep up with it lately but I don’t know why the new creative team would have dropped her after all the build-up JHWIII and Blackman put into it.

  • Ben English

    Honestly it’s utterly shocked me how long it’s lasted… Obviously it’s had serious problems on the writing end, not to mention the continuity fustercluck from the climax of Batman Inc. I really have a hard time faulting DC for it though. They’re clearly trying to make the thing work, even if giving the role to Luke is somewhat tonedeaf.

  • Jay Insult

    That’s the thing though, when you have pre-Crisis, post-Crisis, the Morrison-verse (for lack of a better term), and now the New 52, it becomes exceptionally unclear what is in and what is out. Presumably, Bette’s tenure as Bat-Girl is out of continuity, HOWEVER it was acknowledged during Morrison’s run on Batman prior to the New 52 reboot. So who the hell knows, really. But like Cassandra Cain, Bette should ALSO be a factor in any “No Batgirl left behind” discussion.

  • Ben English

    Right. I’m just saying Bette wasn’t left behind. She’s been appearing in the New 52 since the start and has her own badass new costume and a new codename… Hawkfire (which I think is stupid but at least doesn’t tie her directly to Dick Grayson and Kryptonian mythology.)

  • Jamie Jeans

    The more I read on what Cass Cain did compared to Steph… well, yes, I am going to compare the two, and again I’m going to point out the garbage of replaced a woman of colour with yet another stock DC blonde haired, blue eyed white woman.

    I don’t hate Stephanie Brown as much as others do, I just don’t believe she deserved the mantle of Batgirl, especially getting it from Cass Cain in the manner that she did.

    But please do go on, avoid the subject of replacing women of colour with more blonde, blue eyed white women… it really is entertaining.

  • Ben English

    I’m not avoiding the subject. Yes, the way the transfer took place was a huge problem, but that problem started long before Stephanie put the cowl on. Cassandra had her character assassinated, was transformed into a crude Asian stereotype to be a villain for Robin, and instead of acknowledging she was behaving out of character and helping her, the core Batfamily cast aspersions on her and treated her as a villain for years. It was horrendous.

    More importantly, Cass’s solo title ended with her effectively ‘graduating’ from the role of Batgirl. One of the reasons it never felt right for her to just go back to being Batgirl after the ‘Dragon Lady’ phase was over was that aside from all the baggage of the One Year Later era, it felt like a reversion, as empty and false as a 28 year old Dick Grayson or a 30 year old Babs Gordon returning to being Robin and Batgirl would have been. It’s how the Bat characters worked before the New 52: you start as a sidekick/intern/apprentice/whatever and eventually graduate. Dick becomes Nightwing, Barbara becomes Oracle, Jason dies and returns as Red Hood, Tim becomes Red Robin.

    DC didn’t know what to do with Cass, and as weak as the transfer of the Batgirl identity from her to Steph was, it was really long overdue. Cass had an adult role to assume and Steph, after all the bullshit from War Games to Batman Reborn, was herself long overdue to be accepted into the Batman family proper.

    That’s my take on it, anyway. But here’s the thing. “This character doesn’t deserve to be X” is a terrible argument, period. Stephanie Brown is not a real person and ‘starting a gang war’ or ‘not as skilled as Cass’ are attributes assigned to her by writers–writers who were themselves mostly white and male. When you bring up bullshit like that in the context of ‘this character doesn’t deserve’ to be ex, you’re essentially engaging in a big logical shell game.

    Not to mention, accepting the same sexist rhetoric that DC does when they contend that three very different Batgirls is too confusing and incomprehensible but four black-haired, blue-eyed white-passing Robins isn’t.

  • http://mordicaifeed.tumblr.com/ Mordicai

    I more was referring that, to the best of my knowledge, he coined (or at least popularized) the term “Renaissance,” for the post-Kingdom Come, “oh hey, All-Star Superman!” paradigm.

  • http://mordicaifeed.tumblr.com/ Mordicai

    I more was referring that, to the best of my knowledge, he coined (or at least popularized) the term “Renaissance,” for the post-Kingdom Come, “oh hey, All-Star Superman!” paradigm.

  • Jamie Jeans

    Riiiiighttt… because if anything, DC Comics needed MORE blonde haired, blue eyed, WHITE characters in the roles of women of colour, a group they sorely under represent. Yes, why, that Asian woman clearly had it too good for too long and needed to be taken out for her own good.

    Ohh… and ALL the Robins? You mean, the three WHITE, MALE Robins and the one Robin of colour? Lovely display of male privilege there.

    About the only thing you got right was that it does come down to poor writers, but also the decisions of the executive not to hire better writers and to push upon readers yet more white characters, which is, as much as I know you and others hate to see this, racist.

    But as other more prominent fans of Cass Cain have pointed out to me, Bruce ordered Cass to give the mantle to Steph Brown… and that the Nu-52 fandom is clearly for whites only, with only the bare minimum of people of colour.

    Combine that with the whitewashing of Connor Hawke and Onyx, in Black history month no less (and no, I don’t give a shit if the latter was an artist mistake, that says plenty about that company), it’s almost for the better that DC Comics NOT use her until the current editorial staff is FIRED and replaced with actual competent people who care about diversity in their storytelling rather than jacking off to silver age nostalgia and keeping it straight and white.

    So no, Stephanie Brown did not deserve to be Batgirl. If anything, her being Batgirl was more a bone thrown to the white fangirl group who seemed to throw up almost not a single fuss that Cass Cain was tossed under the bus.

    Yeeshhh… I really gotta take my friend’s advice and stop slumming it here on these comment sections.

  • Ben English

    Read what I wrote, jackass. I specifically wrote ‘four black-haired, blue-eyed, white-passing Robins’. The only female Robin relevant to this discussion is blond. The only one failing to check his male privilege is you, which is exactly why I compared you Neo-Prodigy in the first place.

    I have been involved in the Cassandra Cain fuss-rasing since the start. I was involved with Casstoons, I wrote to DC, I bought books Cass was in because she was in them, regardless of whether I was particularly interested in the story. You don’t get to mask your irrational hatred of a character behind racial indignation when you’re coming off as a sexist prat.

  • Top Hat Joker

    Uh? I can’t see “All-Star Superman” as being related to the Dark Age by any stretch of the imagination. From what my friends tell me, it’s got plenty of brains and heart, but remarkably little Mullet!Superman or clone!Luthor or… pretty much anything that happened to Supes during the Dark Age.

    And I say this as a guy who’s a gigantic fan of 90′s comics – or at least the Batman titles. Remember, Stephanie Brown debuted during what most fans deem “the Dark Age”.

  • http://mordicaifeed.tumblr.com/ Mordicai

    …which is why I’m citing it as being an exemplar of the “Renaissance.”

  • Jamie Jeans

    And yet you don’t mind that they put Cass Cain aside for yet another blonde haired, blue eyed white woman, a character who did little to deserve the mantle of Batgirl and who gets a shot in the Nu-52 while Cass Cain remains ignored and put aside.

    But hey, keep on going on your way there. Your “Yes, BUT-” argument more than points out that so long as a character of colour had a chance, then it’s perfectly fine to put them aside for a white character who has nowhere near the depth nor complexity, but hey! She’s white!

    So that makes everything alright.

  • Anonymous

    Very true, EvilMonkeyPope – in fact ever since I saw Chocolate, JeeJa has been my fancasting for Cass should she ever appear on the big screen.

  • Anonymous

    ^This. I LOVED it whenever they would work together.

    I’d have loved in the New52 to even just see a “Batgirls” comic with all three batgirls, or if they’re so stuck on reverting Babs from the decades of excellent character development as Oracle, then give Steph and Cass different codenames and make a sort of “Bats of Prey” series.

    Heck, I’d religiously buy just a duo book of Steph and Cass working together in a different city (we haven’t seen, say, Bludhaven in the New52, why not take a visit there and have them be the protectors of that?) than Gotham.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t have my comics with me (in the process of moving), but I know Steph and Cass first teamed up in Cassandra’s Batgirl series, either 19 or 20, and they teamed up pretty regularly throughout after that (I also think there were some Robin comics with the two of them in it, but I don’t have any numbers offhand)

  • Anonymous

    Sadly I think the closest we’re going to get to Cass in the New 52 (at least for the next few years), is the “Strix” character in Birds of Prey – who from reading that series, looks like she was mostly a big middle finger from the writers toward Didio by creating essentially a New52 Cass in all but name (while he and the other editors banned her) – even the origin is about right, only she was trained as an assassin by the Court of Owls instead of David Cain, but she even has the little-to-no talking thing going on like Cass did when she started out