Character: Stephanie Brown, also known as Batgirl, Robin, or Spoiler
From: DC Comics (main universe)
First Appearance: Detective Comics #647 (DC Comics, 1992)
Currently Appearing: Batgirl
Formerly Appearing: Robin
Created by: Chuck Dixon (writer), Tom Lyle (artist)
Character History: The daughter of a D-list Batman villain named the Cluemaster, Stephanie grew up in Gotham City, while her father rotted in jail. Her father, released from jail when Stephanie was a teenager, went back to crime. Stephanie created the Spoiler identity to stop him. With the help of Batman and his sidekick Robin (the third Robin, Tim Drake), she did.
Stephanie stopped being Spoiler for a time. But two more times her father caused trouble, so Stephanie became Spoiler, becoming closer to Robin each time. Eventually, they reformed a relationship, despite Stephanie not knowing his true identity or name.
Soon after, though, Stephanie learned she was pregnant by an ex-boyfriend. Robin helped her through the birth of her daughter, who Stephanie gave up for adoption, hoping the child would be protected from Cluemaster's legacy. Stephanie also soon learned that her father had died as part of the government program called the Suicide Squad, and she confessed to Robin that she had nearly been raped as a child - and that her father had probably had the man killed, but she would never now the death now that the Cluemaster was dead.
Stephanie and Robin's relationship hit several rocky patches, caused by Robin's secret identity and Stephanie's jealousy. Eventually, Robin's father found out he was Robin, and forced him to quit and sent him to boarding school. Their relationship ended when Batman, perhaps looking to guilt Robin back into action, asked Stephanie to assume the Robin mantle, becoming the first female to do so.
To get her to agree, Batman gave Stephanie Robin's real name (Tim Drake) and trained her, along with the then Batgirl Cassandra Cain and the Birds of Prey, Batman's allies. Stephanie jumped at the chance, despite Tim's disapproval.
But Stephanie failed miserably as Robin. Impetuous, she twice disobeyed Batman's orders and he stripped her of the title. Trying to get back in Batman's good graces, Stephanie, still as Robin, set into motion a plan that required the workings of Matches Malone - a guise of Batman's. Since Batman did not know what Stephanie had done, a gang war was set off, ending with Stephanie being nearly tortured to death by the gangster Black Mask.
Stephanie's life, though, was saved by Dr. Leslie Thompkins, an longtime ally of Batman's. At the expense of her own reputation and hoping to scare Batman out of using teenagers as allies, Leslie covered up Stephanie's survival and fled to Africa with the girl. Stephanie didn't tell her mother she was alive.
Months later, recovered both physically and mentally, Stephanie returned to Gotham with Leslie, revealed herself to her mother, who she promised she would give up the heroics. Instead, Stephanie again took the Spoiler name, and tried to reconnect with Robin.
Shortly after, Batman was killed, and Cassandra Cain, still Batgirl, gave up her name and costume to Stephanie. Confronted by Oracle, the first Batgirl, Stephanie earns her respect and approval to claim the Batgirl name. Stephanie becomes Oracle's protege and starts college at Gotham University.
Personality: Stephanie is aggressive and impetuous, but also deeply caring and loyal. She fights for justice and wants to undo the actions of her criminal father. Since her return from Africa, she can still jump head first into situations, but now she does so knowingly and with more care. She has promised herself that she will live up to name and legacy of the two previous Batgirls and make Batman and Tim (now Red Robin) proud of her once more.
Archetypes: Stephanie, in her early years as Spoiler, represented most classicaly the Overeager Teenager - dying for validation in the eyes of her criminal father, and latter, her hero boyfriend and his mentor. In her first narrative in Robin, her main role was as the Girlfriend. She could also be seen narratively as the Sidekick, for either Robin or Batman. Because of her father, Stephanie could also lay claim to the title of Sins of Father, as her becoming Spoiler had everything to do with her father's criminal nature. Later, Stephanie became the Replacement Death - when she took over and died as Robin, she had, in fact, replaced Tim in the narrataive. Her "death" also stood as the Afterschool Special - as it was her own actions that brought her down. She also joined other woman in comics as part of the Women in Refrigerators - a term coined for superhero girlfriends and wives who die for little or no reason. With her return and her ascension to the mantle of Batgirl, she has become the Self-Empowered Hero and a Post-Feminist Woman, someone who accepts her mistakes and must move on from then.
Main Analysis: Stephanie might be the epitome of the comic book revolving door for secondary characters who get a second chance. In comics, since nothing lasts forever and dead is never dead, Stephanie has gone from teenage superhero girlfriend to nearly causing her own death to taking the mantle of the one of the most recognized superhero names in the world: Batgirl.
In comic book terms, Spoiler wasn't all that special or significant. Daughter of a comic book villain that had only made a handful of appearances in comparison to the more popular Riddler (who the Cluemaster was obviously patterned from), Spoiler existed nearly exclusively in the Robin supporting cast - the main character's on/off again girlfriend. She popped up from time to time in other Bat-family books, but never extensively.
This changed when Spoiler took the title of Robin - one of comic book's most recognized characters. It was heralded as a new direction - the first female Robin in actual DC continuity (the first female Robin is Carrie Kelly, from The Dark Knight Returns, a tale set in a dark future). Her costume was mostly just a female version of Tim's outfit, but with a few minor changes. She was splashed across covers.
And then she was brutally, horrifically murdered.
Even worse, it was implied that Stephanie not only caused her own death, but that Dr. Leslie Thompkins, a longtime Batman character (she first appeared in 1976), allowed her to die on the operating table to punish Batman. In a single stroke, the writers condemned two powerful women, killing one (being unable to kill the actual Robin) and ruining the reputation of another.
For years, DC toyed with fans about Stephanie by not having Batman put a memorial for her in the Batcave, saying she wasn't a real Robin and didn't deserve a place there. Comic books actually have a long history of pushing forward women and minorities, long before other mediums like TV or movies do. But here, they messed up. They messed up badly.
Stephanie perhaps also epitomizes the problem of supporting characters in comics. All the bad things must happen to her, because the title's star can't be permanently changed or harmed. Therefore, she becomes pregnant but gives her daughter up for adoption (Catwoman would do the same things a few years later), she achieves her dreams only to die, and then becomes a scapegoat after some bad writing.
Stephanie's fate angered fans for so long, that DC finally gave in. But they did better - originally, Stephanie only returned to her previous position as Spoiler, when it was revealed in 2008 that she survived her attack. Now, she has taken the name Batgirl - sure, it's not Robin, but perhaps, it's better for Stephanie.
As Batgirl, in her own series for the first time, Stephanie has become one of the most interesting and well-developed characters in the DC universe. This is actually thanks, in part, to her past as the Spoiler and Robin. She is the only character ever to hold both the Batgirl and Robin names, and as Batgirl (there have been six of them), she has staked her claim against her ex-boyfriend, the mentor that allowed her to die, and the original bearer of the name. By making Stephanie Batgirl, DC has righted its wrong, and given us a character with flaws so big that its far easier to see her as a human being, than a super-hero stereotype.
Alternate Versions: Stephanie has not appeared in any film or TV shows, and she has only showed up a few times in non-staring roles in tales of other worlds. However, she is the fourth Robin (Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and Damien Wayne are the others), and the sixth Batgirl (Betty Kane, Barbara Gordon, Helena Bertinelli, Cassandra Cain, and Charlotte Gage-Radcliffe have all held the title).
Similar Characters: Females Taking Male Hero Roles: Courtney Whitmore as the Star-Spangled Kid in JSA Presents: Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.
Batwomen in Action: Barbara Gordon & Helena Bertinelli (former Batgirls, now Oracle and Huntress, respectively) in Birds of Prey, Kate Kane and Betty Kane (Batwoman and Flamebird) in Batwoman: Elegy, and Cassandra Cain as Batgirl
Buy It Here: Batgirl: Batgirl Rising