Isn’t it sad—or funny, depending on your worldview—whenever DC announces a “prominent role” for a character many of us automatically cringe? Especially when the character in question is poor ol’ Cassandra Cain. She had her own fairly successful series, then DC decided to make her a villain, make her good, give her any number of new personalities and motivations. Batgirl used to be so simple and clean a concept—she went out and kicked ass and let her fists and feet do her talking. Now she’s a textbook example of how not to treat a character.
So when I heard Dan Didio made reference to DC's having some sort of storyline for her in 2010, as a Cass fan (that most wretched of character-based fandoms) my stomach dropped. Then I set aside my comic fan negativity and went into full-on Batman/Dark Knight Detective mode. Investigation. Research. Obsession. Plans within plans. Snarling at my butler and teenaged ward. Prominent role? That doesn’t sound too bad… does it?
Actually, I ran into a snag trying to verify Didio's exact quote on this subject. Newsarama says "prominent role," but I wanted to read those exact words for myself. Prominent. Role. I don't like to attribute words to people without first confirming them, unless I'm doing something silly and not to be taken too seriously; that's almost everything I write in this blog, by the way. A reply to a comment at Daily Scans held a link led me to Funnybook Babylon where they "liveblogged" the DC Nation presentation and all I found was this:
Final updates - Batgirl moving into the old Batcave with Babs Gordon, big Cass Cain storyline in 2010 where she will not be a villain.
She won't be a villain? Funny how they now have to qualify all Cass-related stories that way when announcing a Cassandra Cain storyline. No, this time she won't be a stock baddie so cliched, so horrifically stereotyped they briefly considered changing her codename to Girl Manchu. Cass, not a villain. It made my heart leap.
So there I was, with a dropped stomach and a leaped heart. I immediately made my way to the nearest hospital emergency room where doctors working around the clock saved my life with an experimental procedure and warned me to give up comics or risk death. I promptly came home and started researching the "prominent role" quote on Funnybook Babylon again. The closest thing to the "prominent role" remark I can find is in Didio's exchange with a Connor Hawke fan during the DC Editorial presentation:
Question: Is there any chance of him playing a prominent role in the DCU again?
Answer (I'm guessing Didio): ABSOLUTELY. That's something we have going on for next year. We have some dangling storylines, and we're going to be playing out on that, and we know where that goes.
So it's a question of semantics. Whether we term it a "prominent role" or simply a "big storyline," something's a-cookin' with our girl Cass. And because I can’t help but make fun of things, I started thinking. Speculating. Most of it came in the form of smart-assery. Then I realized, “Hey! I have a blog! Why just think stupid things when I can write them and share with my friends so all the world can see?”
1) Batgirl. Stephanie Brown gets herself killed again or otherwise incapacitated and Cass reluctantly takes up the mantle again in order to avenge her. Or, alternately, a second Batgirl in that “team o’ Batgirls” concept a few people floated on the message boards. Not likely, huh? Nah, I didn’t think so either… I think it’d be stupid to mess around with Steph so soon after giving her a book.
2) Batgirl’s Mentor. Stephanie Brown does an okay job as Batgirl, but Cass sees room for improvement and offers to train her in the weirding way. Or some such. You know what would be nice about this? If they also decide she once again prefers action over talk. She feels more comfortable expressing herself physically than verbally, so she goes back to being small-talk avoidant. They could get a lot of mileage out of contrasting Steph’s chatty nature with Cass’ taciturn one: “A picture—and my foot up your ass—is worth a thousand words.”
3) Villain. I just can't leave well enough alone. The wounds inflicted by the Dragon Lady Cass Era are just so delightfully painful, I must poke at them. So Cass, despondent over the apparent death of Bruce Wayne, decides genetics win out over willpower and years of good intent and gives into her darker urges once more, this time without even the story-crutch of having been drugged. She adopts a sultry costume (after all, she is half-Asian so she’s at least half-Dragon Lady, right? Maybe she can even own a chain of opium dens!), becomes increasingly verbose, raises hell from time to time in various books—mostly Red Robin (she has a sexual obsession with him) and Batgirl (pure jealousy and hissy catfight potential)—and gets her ass handed to her repeatedly in increasingly ludicrous ways by characters known to be inferior martial artists until she becomes the laughingstock of the DC message boards.
Some of this involves her teaming up with her mom, Lady Shiva, and possibly her dad, Cain (despite several storylines in the past having alienated her from him conclusively). The upside of this for DC is they can re-use the racial stereotype from Cass’ previous villain-stint, completely contradict all the painstaking work writers like Kelley Puckett and Chuck Dixon did on Cass in the past, render her entire back-catalog of magazines and trades completely worthless and cause Cass fans either to erupt in another Internet free-for-all of interest-generating publicity or… just quietly acquiesce because they just don’t care anymore and start reading manga exclusively. And DC would never have to worry about them or Cass again.
4) Nightwing. As far as I know, this spot is still open. Sure, Cass seems Bat-averse now but who knows—Steph, Dick or even Alfred might have a heart-to-heart with her and renew her sense of purpose. Then DC could put her back in Batman and the Outsiders and even do a more adult-oriented Nightwing series with her using all those great influences and helpful hints I’ve been yammering about nonstop for years. I’m telling you—such a book would rock. And it would definitely bring a lot of unhappy Cass fans back into the warm embrace of the DC family. Awww…
Of course, when Bruce Wayne returns, he’s going to want his suit back, which means Dick will need his.
5) Something Different? Cass may completely renounce her Bat-family affiliation in favor of something totally freelance. She could reclaim the League of Assassins and forge them into a fighting force on the side of good, become a costumeless martial artist just kind of wandering here and there righting wrongs like her semi-namesake from the old Kung Fu TV series (if it's good enough for Jules, it's good enough for Cass), or come up with some completely new costumed identity and go solo or work with the Outsiders in some capacity.
6) Bruce Wayne. No, I’m not suggesting she'll become Bruce Wayne (although I firmly believe she would’ve tried to take his mantle as Batman from Dick in some fashion... kind of bizarre she didn't play a major role in "Battle for the Cowl," but then that's corporate authorship for ya). But since Cass’ newly-established basic motivation seems to be Bruce-centric enough she’d give up her beloved Batgirl identity, a storyline where she goes on a long quest to bring him back would prove most interesting. At some point she’s going to learn he’s not dead, right? And if he’s so damned important to her, and given her compulsive, driven, action-first nature, she’s bound to try to do the impossible and somehow rescue him, right? Not only does his absence seem to be preying on her mind, she’s the most logical Bat-family member to try it. Everyone else has a job to do right now, and she’s the odd girl out.
7) Nothing. It just doesn’t pan out for whatever reason, kind of like what happened with the Milestone characters. Maybe they just don’t get around to it. Maybe various writers have other plans and no one can find a way to slot Cass into them. Maybe Grant Morrison wakes up in the middle of the night and sends a quick email to Dan Didio detailing the basics for his hottest idea yet—Crisis of the Multiple Infinite Blackest Night Lantern Identity Crises of Infinity Crisis—which grows to involve a weekly series and a monthly, plus tie-ins with every major DC book. The DC universe’s status quo changes yet again.
Characters change, books are cancelled and rebooted, and painstakingly developed plotlines are derailed and rerouted. During the overall storyline, Stephanie Brown is killed and resurrected twenty times, but Cass remains completely absent. In the end, Bruce Wayne is Batman once more, Dick Grayson has de-aged to become Robin again, the other two former Robins are infants, Stephanie Brown is a red-head and still Batgirl, Barbara Gordon has de-aged and can walk but is still Oracle for some reason—and Cass has yet to make an appearance, or even have her name referenced in dialogue.
A year later, she comes back as a Dragon Lady villain with no explanation of where she’s been or why she wasn’t affected in the least by anything that happened to her friends, just a major sexual attraction for Dick Grayson, whom she repeatedly attempts to seduce and/or kill.
Sorry. I had to poke it again just to make sure it's healed. We'll see in 2010, huh?
8) Batgirl. They hire me to write a self-contained-continuity series that’s equal parts Kill Bill, Battle Royale, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Lady Snowblood and Lone Wolf and Cub. Mostly silent Cass puts a hurting on all kinds of nasty suckers while battling her own death wish and increasingly scaring the bejeezus out of Batman and his pals with her intensity and risk-taking. It’d be both poignant and disgustingly ultra-violent by turns. Unfortunately, because she’s a tragic figure, after about 50 blistering, emotional issues or so, Batgirl would have to die fighting both Lady Shiva and David Cain. Because at her base, she's a tragic character and that’s how Koike Kazuo and the Greek dramatists would’ve done it. And it would hurt so good! Chances of this happening? Yeah, right. In my dreams!
9) None of the Above. I'm usually wrong whenever I make predictions about this funnybook stuff, so don't bet on any of my ideas happening.