It was announced a few weeks ago that Stephanie Brown was going to be the Nightwing in the Smallville comic, and fans rejoiced. Then DC, in true not wanting my money fashion, announced at San Diego Comic Con that Steph was being replaced by Barbara Gordon because Babs is “more iconic”. And then fans cried into their waffles.
The thing I think some fans and DC employees don’t get is Steph has become more than a character. She has become the symbol of everything women in comics and women who read comics struggle through. She has been abused, sexually assaulted, tortured, ignored, impregnated, fired, and fridged. And yet, she comes back for more: still happy, still full of hope. Batman continues to give her crap, she slaps him across the face and keeps going.
Steph first became a battle cry for fans when she, as the 4th person and 1st female to wear the Robin costume, became the 2nd Robin to be tortured and killed. The first Robin to die, Jason Todd, received a memorial case. Steph did not. Fans, seeing the inequity of this, created Project Girl-Wonder and campaigned for a case. She never got that case. Jason came back from the dead, the case remained in the Batcave. She came back from the dead and her lack of case was written off with Batman “suspecting” she had never really died. Sure.
So this isn’t the first time Steph fans have been hurt by DC. It isn’t the first time they have come together to voice their unhappiness. We may be maligned and pushed aside, the same way the Bat-family repeatedly pushed Steph aside, but, like Steph, we are persistent and hopeful.
Steph has gone by many names in the comics: Spoiler, Robin, Batgirl, but what she has remained throughout all of her changes and challenges is the embodiment of hope. Hope that she could do better than her villain father. Hope that she could make a difference in Gotham. She brought that hope to comic fans as well. Hope that women in comics will be treated more like their male counterparts. Hope that female fans of comics will be treated more like their male counterparts. And hope that someday we’ll get to see our Girl Wonder again.