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Relationship Roundup: Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain

Relationship Roundup: Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain

By Meg Downey Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

Relationship Roundup is a monthly column by Meg Downey that focuses on the many iconic relationships within the DC Universe. Each month, look for a different “ship,” romantic, platonic or a little of both, to take center stage.

Passing superhero mantles between people can make things...complicated. The pressure of upholding a legacy, the potential jealousy, maybe even feelings of being replaced by a newcomer. Transitions of power, costumes and codenames aren't always the best way to make friends.

But sometimes, the exact opposite is true. In this month's Relationship Roundup, we're going to dive into a tale of two once (and future?) Batgirls, Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain, and how things that should have made them rivals just brought them closer together. 

Wait, Batgirls? Plural?

If you're new to Gotham City or to the DC Universe in general, you may have never encountered Steph or Cass in their former roles. They've been working regularly with the Gotham Knights in DETECTIVE COMICS as Spoiler and Orphan, respectively, while Barbara Gordon maintains the Batgirl name. But years ago, things were a little bit different in that corner of the Bat family. Back before FLASHPOINT, Barbara had given up being Batgirl in favor of a new role as Oracle, and as a result, the codename was up for the taking.

This is where Steph and Cass come in…sort of. Stephanie actually predates Cass's first appearance in the comics by a few years (she showed up in DETECTIVE COMICS #647, back in 1992), but at first, she was anything but interested in becoming an official Bat. Instead, she went by Spoiler (her costume even looked similar to the one she wears today) and primarily hung around with Tim Drake, trying to win the then-Robin's affection while sabotaging her supervillain father's plans.

Then, years later, Steph actually briefly became Batman's new Robin after retiring her Spoiler identity—all of this before she got the briefest chance to be Batgirl properly. We'll get to that in a second.

Meanwhile, Cassandra was introduced in 1999 with BATMAN #567 during the height of the NO MAN'S LAND event, which cut Gotham City off from the rest of the world and let it descend into post-apocalyptic chaos. Cass wasn't so much looking for a chance to become a superhero either. At least, not really. She had been trained since birth by the ruthless assassin David Cain to be a perfect weapon. Cass wound up in Gotham trying to escape his abuse and control, hoping that the insanity of the No Man's Land would give her a perfect cover and allow her to do some good for a change.

Unlike Steph, however, Cass never paused to adopt a codename or a costume. She didn't really understand the whole "vigilante" thing from an inside perspective, so it wasn't really a concern. Also, the gifted young fighter didn't have any pit stops or checkpoints to clear along the way. She became Batgirl almost immediately after she showed up, when she proved her skill and usefulness in a gang fight that got her noticed by Barbara Gordon herself.

While Cass adjusted to her new role as the official Batgirl, Steph still flitted in and out of various Bat family circles, orbiting Tim Drake, and occasionally stepping on Batman's toes (never a good move, to be honest).

So, How Did They Team Up?

You'd probably expect Steph to start feeling a little jealous in this scenario—maybe even self-righteous. After all, she was there first. She'd been working off and on with the Bat for years before Cass showed up, and yet Cass was welcomed in with open arms while Steph continued to have to prove herself.

But you'd be wrong. That's not to say Steph didn't have her fair share of moments feeling like she was constantly stuck on the outside looking in, but in a surprising turn of events, she never directed that frustration back at Cass. And Cass, in turn, came to trust Steph's unique perspective on the ins-and-outs of the superhero lifestyle. Cass had never been given the chance to live a normal life, while Steph could never really escape hers. Together, they formed a pretty impeccable team.

Cass began to help Stephanie learn to fight and read body language, while Steph began working with Cass on normal, everyday teenager things—learning how to read (Cass had never been taught language), interact with people on the street, dress when not in uniform and so on.

Years into their friendship, Cassandra hit a point where she was expected to do some things for Bruce's new Batman, Inc. initiative that weren't really suited for the Batgirl identity. She had to move on to something new, but she didn't want to leave Gotham short one of its costumed heroes.

In 2009, a brand-new era of Batgirl started as Cass chose to officially pass the mantle on to Steph, while she left Gotham to go deep undercover.

And What About Now?

Though neither Steph nor Cass have actually been Batgirl since the continuity shift in Flashpoint, that doesn't mean their friendship has actually changed all that much. They may be going by new (or in Steph's case, old) names, but they've still absolutely got one another's backs.

And really, who knows what the future might bring? Lately, time and space seem to be having a little trouble keeping things straight, and in this month's DETECTIVE COMICS #980, both of them were treated to a glimpse of the history they can't remember—a history that includes some time as Batgirl for both of them. What that could mean moving forward is really anyone's guess. Your best bet is to keep an eye on the horizon for more Spoiler and Orphan revelations (and with any luck, team-ups!) as the new Steph/Cass era marches on.
 

Meg Downey writes about the DC Universe for DCComics.com and covers Legends of Tomorrow for the #DCTV Couch Club. Look for her on Twitter at @rustypolished.

Look for Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain in the pages of DETECTIVE COMICS, starting in DETECTIVE COMICS VOL. 1: RISE OF THE BATMEN.