Monday, 12 November 2012

Flogging A Dead Horse: The Everchanging Status of Cass and Steph

It's something of an established fact that the treatment of Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown in recent years in DC has... been somewhat inconsistant. And complaining about it really at this point has become not so much flogging a dead horse, as beating it into a finer and finer paste.

The infuriating thing about the situation for a fan though, is how despite there being somewhat legitimate reasons for not including them, for a given value of "legitimate", the measures taken to ensure they don't appear have gone from being irritating to outright bizarre.
It's already been established that such leading names in the DC writing stable, such as Scott Snyder, Gail Simone and Grant Morrison, have all attempted use the characters, but have been blocked for one reason or another.

One example of the reasons they've given for not including the characters was that they're not "iconic" enough to take precedent over, say, Barbara Gordon's Batgirl. This was the given explanation for why the Smallville version of Nightwing in Bryan Q Miller's Smallville comic when from being Stephanie Brown to being Barbara Gordon, despite BQM having done interviews in June about how he was bringing back the character from her erased from continuity solo series...

...Which was then immediately followed by people backpedalling the next month, and saying that Stephanie was never meant to appear in the series in the first place, as it was only a rumour. This was despite the writer having given at least one interview regarding now it WAS meant to be Stephanie Brown in the series.

Okay, they were trying to appeal to new readers who might only be interested in the female Batperson (not Batgirl, as she's Nightwing in that universe) that they might have heard of due to having been established in other media already. That character being Barbara Gordon. Okay, well that's something of a believable reason for not including Stephanie in the series (though you could argue that if they wanted the audience to be more familiar with Cass and Steph they'd have them in more formats beyond comicbooks), one that we have ro begrudgingly accept despite the confusion surrounding the interviews and the like.

Where the decision to exclude the pair starts to become more bizarre is in the recent re-editting of Dustin Nguyen's Lil Gotham series, where Steph and Cass appeared in the background, as a wordless cameo in a crowd. Since the series is based in a more child-friendly reimagining of the pre-reboot DCU, where both Cass and Steph existed in a prominent supeheroic capacity, you'd think that their position would be secure, even as a background joke. Well...

Let's just say that prompt action was taken to remove this rogue appearance, even after the comic had already been released on the online comicstore Comixology. This lead to a lot of confused readers, some of whom managing to grab the book before Steph's hair colour changed from her standard blonde to black, and those who got it afterwards, where Cass remained the same but Steph was now apparently someone dressing as her as a costume.

It should be noted that at New York ComiCon, just before the book was released, Dustin Nguyen actually joked to someone about he was able to able to sneak Cass and Steph into the issue, and laughed about the idea that someone could edit them out. This leads to the question: if the characters can't allowed to be in a series of out of continuity holiday specials, let alone legitimate, out of continuity stories, what exactly is the reason for them being held back?

It isn't helped that, even within the month of August this year (2012), Dan Didio hasn't even been able to keep a straight answer as to what's happening to the two consistant even on a daily basis.

On August 13th, he joked on facebook that Stephanie doesn't exist yet.

On the 26th, he said that they were going to come back, but there are no immediate plans to do so.

And then a couple of days later, he said that Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain fans were a vocal minority, there wasn't any ground support for the character to justify bringing them back at the moment. He also notes, regarding the Smallville appearance, that since it's a Superman book they weren't going to put Steph in just to appease the writer and a small amount of fans, and that BQM was wrong to say she was ever going to be in it

Huh, that last one sounded a little hostile. Though I guess that being bugged by a "vocal minority" on a frequent basis could be construde as being annoying, instead of a fanbase eaer to see a character they like come back again. These guys are your target customers, at least faking an attempt to be polite and see their point of view isn't exactly being unreasonable.

The last, as of this point, bit of information regarding the appearance of Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown came up in October, prior to the Lil Gotham debacle, where Dan had this to say regarding the characters. 
"You know, me and Stephanie, we go way back. The story with Stephanie Brown goes, they came to me as Executive Editor with the "War Games" story, and said we're going to kill Stephanie Brown. I knew Stephanie Brown for who she was, and said, 'I don't know, if this is going to be the big ending to your story it doesn't feel big enough at the time, because the character wasn't strong enough yet.' So I said, 'Why don't we make her Robin for a short period of time, build some interest in her, and then we kill her!'

"Little did I know... so we did and we wound up bringing her back and the level of excitement wasn't there for what we thought it would be, for the amount people were talking about it. So we went ahead and made her Batgirl, and the stories were interesting but it never really took hold, with the sales, with the expectations we had for the series.

"And again, I say this for every character that's 'missing' with the exception of Wally West (laughs). No, I'm kidding. I say this for every character that's missing, even including Wally West, including Donna Troy, all of them. The reason why we didn't go out there and say 'every character is dead' or didn't kill them off in front of people is because everyone has potential. And every character can come back if the story is right, or at the right time, with the right environment.

"Our main goal was never to introduce everyone all at the same time. We can't do that. If we do that, then we're right back where we started, that's the last thing we want. Every character should be reintroduced with story." 

He does make several good points here, in regard to the characters being introduced to the story in a dramatic way instead of just showing up. This makes their return more impactful, as well as introducing them to new readers... but considering they've kept all the previous male Robins, even the ones with complicated backstories (Damian Wayne and Jason Todd in particular) this explanation does have at least some holes in it. It also doesn't explain the Hair Thing from Lil Gotham.

More information coming as it appears, but frankly I'm just getting tired of the whole business. I mean, it says a lot that when the DC Nation programming block when down following Stephanie Brown's appearance in Young Justice, that the theories that it was solely due to someone wanting her editted out of the episode were equal parts plausible and moronic at this point.

Though in regard to that final point, it's more likely to be an issue with the Milestone Comics characters, such as Icon, Static and Rocket, then Stephanie's appearance, despite them all having prominent roles up to this point. Evidence from this can be found in some of them being editted out of the tie-in Young Justice comicbook series.

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