For almost nine months now, I’ve had a couple of strict rules regarding my consumption of Batman comics. Before instituting them I simply consumed every title that I thought would keep me abreast of current Batman continuity, but when it was announced that there were going to be two Batmans, I found myself so simultaneously disgusted and apathetic about the state of said continuity that I had to implement some drastic measures.
Thenceforth, I would read Batman comics only if they featured a Batman who was actually Bruce Wayne and if they were not written by Grant Morrison. Truthfully, the former rule has been difficult to maintain, since I always forget which comics actually feature Bruce and not Dick Grayson these days. The Dark Knight? Bruce. Batman? That’s Dick Grayson. Detective Comics? Dick. Streets of Gotham? Bruce… I think. Batman and Robin? Dick. Batman, Inc.? Well, that’s written by Grant Morrison, so I don’t have to worry about that one.
But this week, I picked up a copy of Batman Inc. #6. Touché, Mr. Morrison. You knew exactly how to get me back on board, at least for one issue: You brought Cassandra Cain back.
Cassandra Cain is the second Batgirl, instituted as a character in 1999, as an almost completely mute street urchin of mysterious origin. Mysterious, because she probably didn’t learn to be one of the world’s greatest martial artists just running around Gotham alleys.
(Sometimes I think Gotham is nothing but alleys. They really should have hired better city planners.)
I liked Cassandra because her origin was distinctly different from the other members of the Bat-family. Both of her parents were still alive (they were assassins, but they were still alive), and she didn’t spend too much time angsting over her significantly abnormal past. She’d seen what Batman did, and wanted to do it too, that was enough motivation for her. Her costume, also unusually for a female superhero, covered every inch of her body, including her face, the prominent stitches around lower half of her mask lending it a distinctly creepy vibe.
(And it looked much more like a “female Batman” costume than a “female bat-themed costume.” To quote a joking Catwoman, “Batman, I didn’t know you had… transitioned.”)
She was Batgirl for a good long while, and I always loved it when she’d show in my Batman comics. There were a lot of really interesting things that writers did with the kind of strange but stable personality that might grow out of her origins, and I liked watching them experiment. And then, right around the end of 2004, she dropped off the face of Batman comics. Someone decided to make her a villain for a while, and decided that it would be paradoxically characteristic for the rest of the Batman family to just let her, and she was just sort of abandoned as a character. Despite that, Cass has a significant cult following that’s been waiting and asking for a long time for her to be brought back to the stories that they read.
Last year, when DC’s Blackest Night and Brightest Day arcs brought back a whole length of dead heroes and promised to change up a lot of rosters, replacing modern inheritors of various costumes and personas with their classic originals, there was some, I think justified, outcry, that DC hadn’t quite thought through the overall impact of these changes on the diversity of the DC universe. Many of the characters who would be giving up their current superhero identity to let the classic character back into the role where characters who were Black, Asian, Hispanic, multiracial or female, and the classic characters were almost exclusively white and male. It became clear that DC intended to reintroduce a Batgirl character to Gotham, and instead of using Cassandra Cain, a woman of Asian and European descent, they would be using Stephanie Brown who, while a female character with a significant following in her Spoiler identity, was still as white as every other member of the Batfamily. This only fueled the fire, for fans of Cassandra.
But lately writers and editors have been dropping hints that we’d see Cass taking a larger role in the Batfamily somewhere, and Grant Morrison’s Batman, Inc. is all about Batman (Bruce Wayne Batman, that is) building an “army” or global network of Batman proxies to combat a mysterious but imminent threat and also to obscure his true identity. It seems like the feelings of Cass fans and the feelings of writers and editors finally aligned to make her a part of Batman, Inc.
So, editors at the Big Two. You give a lot of lip service to wanting to capture the “female market.” Well, here’s how you got me to buy an issue of a comic even though I despise what its writer has done to my favorite hero’s continuity, and even though the art was terrible and pretty much every shot of Bruce Wayne’s full face looked like… well, you know that scene where the villain appears for the first time to the heroes and they’re about to die and it’s the last cliffhanger panel, and the villian is just standing there drinking in their doom with a crazy, crazy, happy look on his face?
Yeah, it was really weird art. He looked like a happy alien psychopath.
But I bought it anyway. And I read it. You got me to buy it because it had Cassandra Cain in it, and I’ll probably buy anything else you put Cassandra Cain in, as long as her character seems interesting, because I’d like to support the obscure characters I like and try to convince you to do more of them. So: you’ve got a significantly female cult following for a character. Try… putting that character in a comic. I admit it! I’ll buy anything with Cassandra Cain, Renée Montoya (The Question), or Kate Kane (Batwoman) in it. It’s why I’m reading Birds of Prey, the only consistently written by a woman title that DC puts out. It’s why I’m salivating over Batwoman‘s eventual release, and hoping against hope that it can be good even though its writer jumped ship because he felt creatively stifled at DC.
Come on DC. You’ve already accomplished one miracle. You got me to buy a Grant Morrison Batman comic again.
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