The Bat-Family: Stephanie Brown & Cassandra Cain

 The one-two punch of two kick-ass Bat-ladies.

Even though Batman is considered the dark and brooding loner of DC Comics, the Bat actually has a pretty sizeable amount of friends and family. You have, of course, his trusty butler/father-figure Alfred, his sort-of friend/partner at the force with Commissioner Gordon, his crime-fighting partner Robin (all 5 of them) and many more. Those are most of the characters that even a non-comic book fan will know. But that's not all of them. There are a ton of different characters who have popped-up in the Batman books over the years. Some were only there for a year or two while others have been around for almost 30 years yet you'll find it difficult to find somebody who knows about that. For this very reason, I'm going to go over two lesser-known characters of Batman's extended family, Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain. Why these two? Well, from all of the often forgotten Bat-Family members they're the once that have the longest histories. They are also my favourites, so there's that.

Alright then, without further ado, let's dive in.

Stephanie Brown: Spoiler/Robin/Batgirl

First up on my little list is my favourite member of the extended Bat-Family: Stephanie Brown AKA Spoiler AKA Robin AKA Batgirl. Yeah. Steph has held many mantles over the years. Created by Chuck Dixon (writer) and Tom Lyle (artist), she first appeared in Detective Comics #647 in 1992. Stephanie Brown is the daughter of Batman D-list villain (and that's being gracious) the Cluemaster and a loving but somewhat neglectful mother with an addiction to prescription pain pills. In and out of prison is entire life, when Steph discovers her father has once again taken up his villainous mantle she decides that enough is enough. She creates her own superhero costume and identity, the Spoiler, to "spoil" her father's plans. 

Originally created as just a plot device to move the two-parter about Cluemaster forward she was well received by fans. As such when Dixon launched Robins (Tim Drake) first solo-book a year later he brought Spoiler over. She became Tim's foil and love interest, gradually became the books co-lead in everything but name and solidified herself as a member of the Bat-Family.

Stephanie Brown in her 2nd Spoiler suit.

Stephanie Brown's history has been … turbulent, to say the least. She went from a bit of a wannabe Superhero that gradually grew in the role and took the responsibilities that came with the role much more seriously to being the focus of a teenage pregnancy storyline. The story was lauded at its time, though not so much these days. With the benefits of hindsight and some interviews, it has become pretty clear that the pregnancy was more of a marketing stunt than anything else. It was thus quickly forgotten after its conclusion. Not long after, Steph became the new Robin. What was meant to be her greatest triumph ended in controversy and the character's greatest defeat. Steph was brutally killed off not long after picking up the mantle for the sole purpose of (see: Women in Refrigerators). Unlike the other Robin who died in the line of duty, Jason Todd, no memorial or anything of the like was erected or held. People did not appreciate it.

Luckily she was brought back a few years later. After a brief resurgence as Spoiler she ended up taking over the Batgirl mantle from the next member on the list. Luck was once again not on Steph's side however as her (quite excellent, I might add) run on Batgirl got cut short due to the New 52 reboot. A reboot which erased her from history. Thankfully, she got brought back in 2014's maxi-series Batman: Eternal and has remained a member of the Bat-Family ever since. She became a big-player in Detective Comics for a while after the 'Rebirth' initiative and is currently featured in Brian Micheal Bendis's Young Justice. She also popped up in the big 'Joker War' storyline and seeds planted in that story could result in Steph getting a bigger presence in DC comics sometime in the future. I personally want this to be the case, but considering DC's treatment of Steph, I'm not holding my hopes up.

Cassandra Cain: Batgirl/Black Bat/Orphan

Going from one former Batgirl to another, we have Cassandra Cain also known as Orphan. Created by Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott, she debuted in Batman #567 in 1999. Cassandra has a surprising amount if common with Stephanie Brown, though most would argue that she's the 'more interesting' of the two. The daughter of mercenary David Cain, one of the people Bruce went to for guidance in his journey to become Batman. Cass was raised by her father to be the perfect assassin. Her 'unique' (read: abusive) upbringing allowed her to read people's movement and predict what they were going to do aside from a large skill-set. However, this upbringing also resulted in a learning disability, she was not taught and had tremendous with eventually learning, to read and write nor was she capable of speech. When Cassandra was only 8 years old, her father made her commit her first kill. As the man lay dying, she used her skills to read what he was feeling. Realizing what she had done, she fled and eventually ended up in Gotham.

Cassandra Cain as the 3rd Batgirl.

During No Man's Land, in which Gotham suffered a massive Earthquake that levelled half of the City, she saves Commissioner Gordon's life. She is then taken in by Batman and throughout the story builds up a bond with him and the rest of the Bat-Family, becoming the new Batgirl. After No Man's Land, she received her own solo-title, something her predecessor Barbara Gordon never did, which chronicled her continued journey. A super-villain father and the mantle Batgirl aren't the only things Steph and Cass have in common. DC treatment of both characters is also eerily similar. In the case of Cass, the controversy arose from her turn to evil during the 'One year later' initiative. After Final Crisis, all DC books jumped forward one year in time with that 'missing year' chronicled in its own maxi-series '52'. 

During this year, after the supposed death of her father figure Bruce Wayne, she stopped being Batgirl and left Gotham. She became one of the leaders of the terrorist organization 'The League of Shadows' and became a sociopathic, vile and murderous woman. Essentially spitting directly into the face of what Cassandra Cain had been, had stood for, up until that point. The outcry from fans and critics alike was nothing to scoff at. It was enough that DC retconned the entire situation to make it so that she was being manipulated. That didn't completely erase the story but at least softened the blow. She eventually passed the mantle of Batgirl over to Steph and after a journey of self-discovery became the heroine Black Bat.

The New 52 saw her erased from DC history as well, but like Steph, eventually returned and became a big player Detective Comics this time under the codename 'Orphan'. She became part of Batman and the Outsiders and then appeared in Joker War. Unlike Steph, Cass's feature is much more clear at the moment. With Barbara Gordon going back to her Oracle persona, there's a Batgirl shaped void at DC. Judging from numerous reports by industry insiders and leaked artwork it's all but a certainty that Cassandra will fill this void and become Batgirl once more.

The future of both

There you have it. The abbreviated history (for now) for both Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain. Two often forgotten members of Batman mythos that both have had a rather turbulent history. They were both very popular characters 10-15 years or so ago but due to DC mishandling the characters and the controversy that arose from it have pushed both girls out of the spotlight. I mean, did you think that it was a coincidence that both of them were, initially, removed from continuity with the New 52? No, it wasn't. Multiple people who worked at DC at the time have confirmed that the company considered both characters 'to controversial' and purposely threw them out, alongside Wally West AKA the Flash. 

They've since returned to continuity, but I've noticed that DC doesn't often include the two in anything. When there's a big Batman family thing going on, the two are usually not even mentioned. Stephanie Brown more so then Cassandra Cain. Like I said in their individual histories, Joker War puts both of them in a place that could potentially lead to the two of them getting a larger role in the future. Even if that doesn't turn out to be the case I'm still very fond of the two and will keep checking out their books. Past, present and future. I hope to have convinced some of you to do the same!