Stephanie Brown fans might soon have reason to rejoice the New 52, which has thus far not acknowledged the character even in a revamped role (such as Tim Drake, whose background was remixed to cross out his time as plain-old Robin and throw in a pair of supportive, middle-class parents.) Notoriously mistreated by DC but adored by readers, Stephanie seems to be brought up in nearly every conversation about Bruce Wayne’s brood, whether it be fans calling one another out for failing to pay homage to her in Robin-centric fandom, or angry readers bemoaning squandered opportunities to use her in present Batman storylines.
With Damian Wayne’s abrupt and largely criticized death in Batman Inc came a slew of speculations on a replacement Robin and the characters that could fill those shoes. Many thought Harper Row (featured in Scott Snyder’s Batman) would step into the pixie boots, but those hopes were dashed when Synder clarified Harper wasn’t intended for the costume. With the announcement of Carrie Kelley’s inclusion in today’s post-Damian Batman and Robin issue (retitled Batman and Red Robin, to be followed by various other “Batman and _” stories), many were piping up that surely she — having been a Robin herself in an alternate universe penned by Frank Miller — would become the next Robin. Again speculators were hushed, as writer Peter Tomsai noted Carrie’s “not exactly the ‘New Robin’,” but that he doesn’t “want to spoil the story.”
I personally took that as a hint that if Batman picks up another sidekick so soon, they won’t be taking on the title of Robin. But after both reading the issue and exchanging a few tweets with fellow Stephanie Brown fans, I’ve come to another conclusion, and I’d like to take a moment to prop up my hopes with a few panels from the issue itself:
If you’re like me, you probably skip these “Channel 52” pages entirely. While I feel that they’re a fantastic way to pimp out other ongoing stories in the DC universe and help create an atmosphere of interwoven ongoings, I’m twenty-three and the only exposure to the whole television news station format I put up with in my pretentiousness is when the flatscreen in the McDonalds lobby is stuck on CNN again. But the Robin logo caught my eye, so I read the panel and immediately emitted a high-pitched keening noise that should probably be reserved for my wife’s ears only.
A female Robin, who is so clearly independent from Batman that most people question if she’s even affiliated with him.
So that confirms that there’s a new lady to add to the Batman line; whether she’s given an official club membership in the future is anyone’s guess. But her identity isn’t exactly solidified here. There’s no physical description beyond her sex, not even her hair color or assumed age. Some readers might jump to assume Carrie — who was seen earlier in the issue wearing a Robin costume for a party — is the mystery Robin (and probably mouth off about Stephanie getting snubbed again), but I’m not exactly sold.
When we first see Carrie’s apartment, she’s shown playing a video game with a female roommate. A roommate, as @scandalsavage pointed out, who is blonde and wearing purple, a color perpetually associated with Stephanie Brown. To further the this-could-be-Steph speculation, Tealgeezus points out an interesting portion of Carrie’s conversation with her roomie:
Robin fanatics would be quick to point out that Stephanie was Robin number four in prior continuity (no matter what take-backs DC might have attempted), following Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake. (Carrie, who was never featured in normal DC continuity, is often slapped on the list as the sixth.)
So is the roommate really Stephanie Brown, or are these little tidbits just smiling nods to fans chomping at the bit for her inclusion? Further, even if it is Stephanie Brown, who is to say she’s not just a side character, or perhaps poised to become Spoiler in later issues rather than be masquerading as an independently operating Robin?
At the very end of the issue, Carrie and her unnamed roommate briefly discuss the fact that Bruce paid Damian’s debts (with a substantial tip), and Carrie suggests her friend accompany her to the bank to cash/deposit the check. And while Carrie might have just been being playful when comparing her roommate’s presence to that of a bodyguard, her remark could arguably have been indication that her blonde pal packs enough of a punch to be worthy of the title.
Given DC’s track record with Stephanie, it’s far too early to tell if we’re just seeing Stephanie in the clouds or if this is truly the introduction of the snarky snacker who resonates with male and female readers alike for her funny, upbeat attitude and realistic struggles on the dirty streets of Gotham. But I’m willing to bet a box of waffles that this is, in the very least, Stephanie herself, and as the discussion continues, I might throw in another that she’s our mystery girl Robin and Carrie’s a red herring.
(PS: I promise to read Channel 52 from now on, I’ve learned my lesson.)