There are times where you have to put your trust in "The Powers That Be" of any continuing interest of yours.
Be it a new front office regime of your favorite professional sports franchise, a new show runner and writing staff for your favorite television program or a new producer taking the reign of a movie franchise. Things have gotten bad, but give them time to turn things around and who knows, a championship run, a stretch of great shows, or the property soaring to new heights could be right around that corner. Give them your trust that they can turn things around; better days are coming because they must have a plan.
Of course, the key word is a PLAN. And at DC these days, one wonders if anyone has sat down and actually hammered out an actual plan for this re-launch as we head towards the one year anniversary. Now change is one thing, change with no thought to the implications for scores of characters and not even a care about characters left by the wayside is another.
While sure I could ramble on endlessly about Wally West, Donna Troy, Jade, and other non-Batman related characters that have either vanished, or at this point can no longer exist the way they used to Pre-Flashpoint, and to say nothing about the hang up with the Superman titles being the sheer lack of communication between Grant Morrison and the other writers and editors, but since this is The Batman Universe, might as well just stick with what’s been bothering TBU lately with a few characters whom clearly have fallen under the category of “plan? What plan?”
First, we will start with Tim Drake and for that matter the Teen Titans as a concept. Issue one of Batman shows Tim being identified as a former Robin, and he is shown as a Robin and muses on his old days in Teen Titans #1. Jump ahead to Batman & Robin #10, Damian declares war on his fellow Robins, hell the issue is called "WAR OF THE ROBINS", and Tim is very much referred to as being a former Robin.
And now, he is not. Apparently out of deference to Jason Todd, he never actually was “Robin” and was always “Red Robin.” While I doubt this means DC will go back and re-issue Tim’s solo titles as “Red Robin” it does serve as a grave disservice to the character, and the fanbase this Robin had cultivated over the nearly 25 years since his debut. The sheer strangeness about it, the reason why it seems that there hasn’t been a grand design from the beginning is the out of the blue nature that it was revealed. During a final day panel at San Diego Comic Con? To say nothing about where the timeline was in terms of when the idea happened. Was DC getting that many complaints about too many Robins in such a short amount of time, to the point where they just said “screw it, Tim’s always been Red Robin?” and just let what has been said earlier in the same New 52 continuity be damned?
Now The Teen Titans is an offshoot of this, and probably should be considered the first inkling of editors, writers and whatnot not exactly being on the same page on the whole New 52 concept. October of 2011, at New York Comic Con, at both the Batman panel and Justice League panel, the concept of the Teen Titans was brought up in relation to the past of Cyborg, Nightwing and Starfire. All of course being members of the iconic Wolfman-Perez early 1980's era New Teen Titans. The Teen Titans name was brought up and discussed by creators in these panels in terms of down the road stories to tell with the characters. Then, last day of the convention, Bobbie Chase, the editor of the Teen Titans title, flat out said that the New 52 version of the Titans that was forming in the pages of the title was the first time any group of young heroes had formed under the name Teen Titans.
Okay, one of your bosses, Geoff Johns, two days prior was talking about Vic Stone’s time with the Teen Titans and how his involvement with this Justice League team would affect that in stories that could flesh him out a bit down the line, and now you are saying that no other Titans team had ever existed. Okay, clearly that should have been a clear sign that there were some major divisions between what certain creators wanted to do with characters.
Next, and this is a title right out of a 1970's Detective Comics backup, or a Batman Family story; The Case of The Disappearing Batgirls!
First off, the Smallville Season 11 issue with Stephanie being replaced as this “Nightwing” character by Barbara Gordon, I’m not entirely sure if it is appropriate to discuss here as it could very well be beyond DC’s ultimate control. This despite their heavy promotion of it months in advance, and while yes stranger things have happened in relation to other media tie-in material, it doesn’t appear that it is symptomatic of the widening gap between creators and editors. Although it is interesting about how something like that can just unravel over the course of one weekend.
However, the news that was leaked in an article promoting an upcoming story arc in Nightwing is a more damning piece of evidence to the idea of a lack of a cohesive line wide plan. Without spoiling too much, the character of Lady Shiva is now to be a contemporary of Dick Grayson, making the character a bit too old, unless they want to go down a road, where yes super hero comics have gone but probably shouldn’t be going too much, to be the mother of Cassandra Cain. Hence, for all intents and purposes, one of the more popular Bat-characters to be created in the last 20 years ceases to be.
Now, yes one can point to the Post Crisis Lex Luthor as an example of the same character only different back story, different characteristics and how he came to be the character, and why can’t that happen here with this character?
Yes. That is an excellent point, a Cassandra Cain can be introduced in the New 52, the same mute ninja warrior that goes on to be a major ally to Batman’s never ending war against crime, only with a tweaked backstory, maybe not Lady Shiva but a new character as the mother figure, whatever. But there is a difference. The new Luthor, for example, was introduced nearly right away in the mini-series Man Of Steel that ushered in the Post Crisis Superman.
Cain fans have been suffering for years and years now, since she handed the Batgirl mantle to Stephanie Brown, of hearing DC personnel trot out the same and tired “We do have plans…we are working to get her in a story…she’ll be an important character in a coming story…” rhetoric convention panel after convention panel, and news site article after news site article. Wasn’t it not too long ago that DC did a “characters to look for” or whatever that was spotlighting characters to be major players in that up-coming year and Cass was on that list. Since then she’s really had a brief role in what, two major ongoing titles (Red Robin and Batman Inc. (when it was still in continuity) and Gates of Gotham mini-series. Not exactly the way a “breakout” character is defined.
Stephanie Brown though, probably has it worse in terms of what is in the new continuity or not, her time as an official Robin is wiped out, so the question is did War Games happen? Also, and this was early on as well and affected Cass, but Barbara Gordon was the only “Batgirl” apparently as well, so did anyone replace Barbara in terms of being a young female hero swinging around Gotham under a “Bat” moniker? At least Cass fans may see glimpses of her going forward in Batman Inc. but Brown, despite the same nonsense spouted out in endless convention panels and articles, has yet to even garner a mention by another character.
In fact, thinking about it now, with Cass gone, the Bertinelli Huntress was just a briefly used alias of Earth-2’s Helena Wayne, Tim Drake’s codename altered, and Stephanie Brown still M.I.A., what exactly of all of Batman’s history from the aftermath of Jason Todd’s death, through the end of Morrison’s RIP (It can be assumed, for the moment, that all of Dick Grayson’s second run under the cowl happened) happened? Did it happen differently, and how? This isn’t cherry picking the best of mostly standalone issues and two-parters during much of the Golden, Silver and Bronze Age the way Post Crisis continuity tried to do. These were well crafted, complex, long and character defining story arcs, and some took years and scores of issues to fully complete. The Knight trilogy, No Man’s Land, Bruce Wayne: Murderer, Hush, War Games, etc. One major part of what made them special were the network that Bruce had at his disposal and the characters behind the names of Huntress, Batgirl, Spoiler, Robin, etc. And this is probably the most damning reason as to why DC needed to have all of this worked out to begin with.
Yes, at the end of the day these are just stories for entertainment purposes, and no one is blinking No Man’s Land back issues and trades out of existence, they still are there if you want to reminisce of course. But the thing that is frustrating is the fact that fans of these characters and past stories are being strung along by creators feeding lines of rhetorical spin month after month, only to be let down and crushed to the point of ragequit when it has been made perfectly clear that there really was no plan all along. Or if there was, clearly the character’s best interests were not kept, and things are happening based on whatever happens to come to a creator’s mind, no matter if it makes sense in the long run or not.
Posted by Steve J. Rogers