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Later this week the semi-finals of the tournament to decide the 2012 Most Kick-Ass DC Woman! will narrow down the current field to the last two finalists. Over the next two days I’m running pieces that make the case for each of the four semi-finalists - Stephanie Brown, Barbara Gordon, Dinah Laurel Lance/Black Canary and Wonder Woman - to get your vote for the title. Here is a piece by a previous guest poster Pamela R. Bodziock on why Stephanie Brown should win the title. Her thoughts follow:
Since her disappearance from DC continuity with the New 52 relaunch, much has been said about Stephanie Brown. Starting existence as Spoiler – a do-gooder out to “spoil” the plans of her D-list supervillain father, the Cluemaster – Stephanie began her comics run mostly as an intended love interest for Tim Drake’s Robin. Her time in the Bat Family saw her taking on the mantels of both Robin and Batgirl (at least in the old continuity), and, while she had to fight and persevere for her acceptance into Batman’s team, she eventually earned the respect and approval of every last member … even Damian Wayne.
While watching her numerous supporters clamor for her return – both online and at conventions – I realized Stephanie Brown just may redefine the term “fan favorite.” And those fans are quick to point out her myriad kick-ass qualities: her undefeatable optimism. Her never-say-die attitude. Her high good humor. Her refusal to give up or give in. Her dedication, not to vengeance or dark justice, but simply to hope. All this in the face of a personal history that included a criminal father, a tough teen pregnancy, physical abuse, and a near-death experience.
The problem, perhaps, with stopping my Steph-Defense right there, is that dedication and determination are hardly rare qualities in the world of superheroes. Batman himself is the Poster Superhero for dedicated willpower, and the Green Lanterns rather make a career out of it. And characters like Batman may lack Stephanie’s light spirit and humor, but I’d be hard-pressed to say that most superheroes aren’t about inspiring hope, one way or another. So what is it about Stephanie Brown that makes her THE most kick-ass? What IS it about Stephanie Brown?
I’m not the first to cite this moment, taken from issue #28 of Cassandra Cain’s “Batgirl” title. Stephanie Brown, as Spoiler, has approached Cass Cain for training. Cass tries to say No, but Steph isn’t having any of it. A first training session finally commences, with Cass not only dodging every punch Steph throws at her, but also easily managing to knock Steph to the ground with one blow.
And Steph – exhausted and nauseated – pauses long enough to throw up on Cass’s feet, before getting out, “Wow. So … same time tomorrow?”
The thing about this moment, to me, is that it’s not really Cassandra that Stephanie is fighting “ad nauseam” to defeat. Like anyone practicing a new skill, the real person she’s fighting, to beat and to better, is herself. It’s telling that the villain she faces off against in her first arc as Batgirl is the Scarecrow, because Stephanie isn’t just battling the Bat Family’s doubts and fears about her to earn her cowl. She’s fighting her own.
The fact that she’s able to win that fight against her own doubts – without the darkness and brooding so common among her fellow superheroes – is precisely what makes Stephanie so unique … and so powerful. It’s not just that Steph is determined. It’s that, more than any other superhero, Stephanie Brown is able to get out of her own way and strive to be the kind of hero, the kind of person, that she really wants to be. The fact that she can do it with her senses of fun and of humor intact is, undeniably, a superpower in its own right. One that even us ordinary, non-superpowered folks can all aspire to have.
It doesn’t matter what’s thrown at her: darkness, despair, her own doubts, even a continuity in which she no longer exists. Despite it all, that humor, that lightness, just won’t go away. Whether it’s criminal masterminds or a publishing company that’s trying to stamp her out, Stephanie Brown is about overcoming all the obstacles – even the ones we try to put in our own way.
And that’s about as kick-ass as you can get.