After each recording of the podcast, Superheroes for Dummies, I write a recap of everything I’ve learnt. Following from Tim Drake, here is Stephanie Brown’s history with Robin. A short and unfortunate history.
Stephanie Brown was first introduced as the daughter of Cluemaster, one of Gothams lower-level criminals. Initially, she was unaware of her father’s criminal side. But one night, she found him plotting with some gangsters in the house.
From that day she rejected this side of him and decided she would do everything she could to spoil his plans. Stephanie donned a purple outfit to make sure her father knew he was being watched, creating her alter-ego, Spoiler.
Each time her father would start a plot, she would roam the streets trying to thwart him. She soon realises she likes being a crime fighter in general and began regular patrols looking for other criminals. It was through these patrols she started to regularly cross paths with Robin. He didn’t appreciate the help at first, but the two soon became close.
After some time, they would enter a relationship, going through some major trials together; both as a couple and as crimefighters.
Stephanie makes multiple attempts to join the fold in the Batcave. As Spoiler she tries to convince Batman that she is worthy, and for a short time he trains her. This doesn’t last long, however, as Batman decides she doesn’t have what it takes to make it as a crime fighter.
It was around this time that Drake’s father had sent Drake to a private boarding school. Distance and some close calls while patrolling all added up, putting a strain on their relationship.
This was the first in a chain of events.
After a particularly brutal battle, Drakes father finds out he is Robin. Threatening to give away the identities of the Bat-Family, the only way Drake can appease him is to stop being Robin. Around the same time, Stephanie came to visit him in school. Finding one of his classmates trying to seduce him, she assumed he had been unfaithful.
Angry and upset, she breaks up with him. Wanting to prove everyone wrong, she then approaches Batman, demanding to be Robin. Possibly because he was also upset at Drake, he reluctantly agrees.
Fuelled by anger, Brown struggles in the role of Robin. Batman trains her for months and gives her an advanced suit a lot like Drake’s. But as he perceived previously, she doesn’t have the right skill set and he fires her as Robin.
Desperate to prove herself, Brown finds some of Batmans plans to rid Gotham of crime and puts one of them in motion. Unbeknownst to her, this plan revolved around one person – an undercover persona of Batmans.
The plan quickly falls apart and an all-out, city-wide gang war erupts. In the chaos, Brown is captured by Black Mask. He tortures her in an attempt to find out the secrets of Batman. She escapes, but not before Black Mask learns the secrets of the master plan and is able to unite the gangs under himself.
Seriously injured, Brown manages to make it to the clinic of Leslie Thompkins, one of Bruces oldest friends. But its too late, with Batman at her side, she dies of her wounds.
There are a few reasons why this death has caused controversy and confusion.
Unlike he did with Todd, Batman didn’t erect any memorial to Brown. This upset some fans, along with her short time as Robin, they believed she was always just a plot device.
But like many comic book deaths, hers was not permanent. In the original timeline, it is discovered that Stephanie had not actually died, it was a ploy by Leslie Thompkins and Stephanie to hide her away. Stephanie would eventually return as Spoiler and after Batman RIP, became Batgirl.
In the New 52 and Rebirth, however, her storyline was re-written. In this timeline, her times as Robin and Bat-girl were erased, she never died and was Spoiler all along.
However you choose to remember her, Stephanie Brown is a complex character. Her time as Spoiler was well received by fans and some story-lines were widely praised in broader media. Her time as Robin pays her little justice, so as always if you wish to learn more, vote for her own episode.
Steve‘s Suggested Reading:
Batman: War Drums
Batman: War Games
Detective Comics (Rebirth) Volume 1