Friends and lovers: Are Spoiler and Batgirl Gotham’s next big couple?
As Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain work together, has the superhero duo found a new kind of dynamic?
Between all the caped crusaders defending Gotham City, the Bat-Family has not only grown together as a surrogate family, but it has also featured a number of the DC Universe’s greatest romances. Batman and Catwoman, along with Nightwing and Batgirl, are among the most prominent of these relationships, but everyone from Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown to Nightwing and Huntress have been romantically involved at some point in their extensive shared history.
As Batgirls – by Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad, and Neil Googe – continues, a new Bat-Family romance may be quietly underway, between Spoiler and Cassandra Cain, as this Dynamic Duo’s past resurfaces to haunt them in new and menacing ways.
Batgirls has brought all the women who have worn the Batgirl mantle into their own impromptu team, but the focus lately has been primarily centered on Stephanie and Cass in the wake of Stephanie being kidnaped by her supervillain father Cluemaster.
The currently undefined nature of the relationship between Cassandra and Stephanie is more specifically explored in Batgirls #16, in the midst of a confrontation with the Mad Hatter and coming at a time when the romantic endeavors of much of the Bat-Family are currently in a state of flux.
The sins of the father
While Barbara Gordon’s father is Jim Gordon, one of the most honorable (and few honest) cops in Gotham, Stephanie and Cassandra each come from considerably less noble parentage. Stephanie’s father Arthur is the nefarious Cluemaster, a supervillain who focuses on mind games and mental puzzles, not unlike the Riddler. Similarly, Cassandra’s parents are Lady Shiva and David Cain, two of the most lethal martial arts assassins in the DCU, both of whom have attempted to persuade and coerce Cassandra into following in their footsteps and joining them to become a cold-blooded killer.
After Cluemaster resurfaces to menace Stephanie for siding against him with the Bat-Family, it’s Cass who takes point in rescuing her, admitting that she loves Stephanie in Batgirls #14. There is no further elaboration on this point, whether it’s meant to be taken platonically or romantically, though the topic of their closeness comes up again after the Mad Hatter doses Stephanie with Man-Bat serum, causing her to transform into large anthropomorphized bat creature only retaining trace elements of self-control.
Cass describes herself to the transformed Stephanie as her best friend and goes on to recall a moment where they woke up early the previous week, in an effort to get Stephanie to stand down and come back to her senses. As Cass recounts that she and Stephanie shared that they were never alone after finding each other, Stephanie regains control of her actions, helping Cass defeat the Mad Hatter together before the two fly off into sunrise, with Cass never leaving Stephanie’s side as she recovers from her transformation and subsequent dose of antidote.
A different kind of relationship
The idea that Cass and Stephanie had taken their relationship into a full-fledged romance was first suggested in the Batgirls story running in the pages 2021’s Future State: The Next Batman by Vita Ayala and Aneke. Set during an indeterminate amount of time into an alternate future, the story revealed that Cass and Stephanie were indeed romantically involved before having an unseen falling out some time before the events of their reunion against the villainous Magistrate. By the end of the story, Stephanie and Cass had reconciled, opening up the possibility of pursuing a romance with each other again.
While the events of Future State aren’t completely canonical, with several cataclysmic moments averted in the main DCU continuity, it did hint at some major elements coming to pass, including the introduction of new characters Yara Flor and the rise of the Magistrate. Given the glimpse of Stephanie and Cass’ potential future together, along with Cass’ recent confession about how much Stephanie truly means to her, the two could definitely take their relationship to a romantic level in the near future.
The Bat-Family’s next big couple?
Amidst a growing ensemble of young heroes that assist Batman on his eternal mission to defend Gotham, Stephanie and Cass make a lot of sense as a couple, just looking at their respective times as sidekicks. Cass temporarily replaced Tim Drake as Robin ahead of the 2004 crossover event “War Games” when, in an effort to impress Batman, she accidentally instigated a gang war that engulfed the entire city. The resulting conflict culminated in Black Mask seemingly torturing Stephanie to death, though it was later revealed that she had faked her death before eventually returning to Gotham to claim the mantle of Batgirl.
Cass similarly had a strained relationship with the DCU superhero community when she was drugged by Deathstroke to give into her murderous training, leading her to kill several enemies despite Tim’s best efforts to talk her back to her senses. This orchestrated betrayal reached its climax when Cass joined Deathstroke and his supervillain team Teen Titans East in the final story arc of Geoff Johns’ acclaimed run, with Johns joined by Tony S. Daniel. Deathstroke and his team were defeated, and Tim used an antidote to purge Deathstroke’s chemical control over Cass.
Despite both characters having more than redeemed themselves in the public eye, they still exist on the relative fringes of the Bat-Family as misfit outsiders. Both coming from troubled parentages, Cass and Stephanie find commiseration and an understanding in each other that they wouldn’t find from anyone else on the Bat-Family.
The Bat-Family’s evolving romantic escapades
Cass and Stephanie growing closer comes at a time of romantic transition for much of the Bat-Family. Batman and Catwoman have since gone their separate ways after nearly getting married during Tom King’s run on the title, with his subsequent maxi-series Batman/Catwoman exploring how such a marriage could’ve potentially gone. Jason Todd is similarly currently flying solo, after a romance with the Amazon Artemis.
Tim Drake has seen the biggest change of the Bat-Family, embracing his bisexuality and embarking on a thriving romance with his classmate Bernard Dowd, explored in the series Tim Drake: Robin by Meghan Fitzmartin and Riley Rossmo. Stephanie, who previously dated Tim, encouraged him to be true to himself, with Tim eventually finding the space to come out and start a new relationship.
Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon currently have the most enduring relationship within the Bat-Family, becoming a serious couple after years of on-again/off-again romances across their shared history. This leaves Stephanie and Cass perfectly poised to become the Bat-Family’s next power couple, two outsiders brought together to overcome their respective trauma before blossoming their relationship into something more. The DCU has no shortage of superheroes who would be perfectly romantically compatible, and Stephanie and Cass might just find happiness together in a way that has eluded them for their entire lives as Gotham’s latest power couple.
Batgirls #16 is written by Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad, illustrated by Neil Googe and Geraldo Borges, colored by Rico Renzi, and lettered by Becca Carey. The story continues in Batgirls #17, on sale April 18 from DC Entertainment.
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