I was recently asked, “Who the hell is Stephanie Brown?” Well, let’s find out. The daughter of the Cluemaster, a Riddler knock-off supervillain, Stephanie got her vigilante career started as an act of rebellion and vengeance against her father. She’d go on to become Robin for a short period of time before faking her death and going into hiding for a while. Finally, she’d return and become the new Batgirl, taking over from her friend Cassandra Cain.
Stephanie’s dad spent most of her childhood in prison, as he would leave clues to his whereabouts, not in the form of riddles. When Stephanie was a teen, her father would be released from prison and claimed that he was reformed, but she learned that all this meant was he was no longer leaving clues at the scenes of his crimes. This led Stephanie to the idea that she’d spoil her father’s plans by donning a purple-hooded costume as The Spoiler. Gotta love that Gotham-logic. Father is being horrible? Put on a mask and use gadgets to stop him!
Stephanie would use her father’s old M.O. by leaving clues for Batman and the police to find where her father was going to commit crimes. Doing this would draw the attention of the Robin at that time, Tim Drake, which would bring her into contact with Batman himself. Where she’d only been putting on her Spoiler guise to ruin her father with plans to possibly kill him, Batman convinced her it was best to let him be arrested. Soon Stephanie was fighting crime as Spoiler not only as a way of stopping her father, but as another one of Gotham’s vigilantes.
Her new career put her into constant contact with Tim Drake, and the two eventually developed feelings for one another, and even dated for a while. Before dating, Stephanie had gotten pregnant by an ex-boyfriend; with Tim’s help (not knowing his true identity, only that of Robin) she was able to give birth to the child and give it up for adoption.
When Tim went away on a mission, Stephanie was asked by Batman to study with him. While studying with Batman, he revealed Tim’s identity, which eventually caused some friction between the two. (Tim, she works with you and your boss, it’s going to happen eventually.) She also studied with Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, but when Batman stated that she’s not crime-fighter material, the training stopped.
Stephanie continued fighting crime in secret with Tim as they dated. Stephanie would be alerted by the government that her father had died while on a mission with the Suicide Squad (super-criminals who can get out of jail time by going on very dangerous missions). Enraged, Stephanie went on the attack, trying to learn more about her father, primarily by going after his old associate, the Riddler.
In a battle with an occult hitman named Johnny Warlock, Stephanie’s leg was broken. This sent Tim into a rage where he killed Warlock, and then blamed Stephanie for his rage-induced killing (Really, Tim? I like you, but what the hell?). He broke up with her and went off to stay with his father. Stephanie was able to get him to stop acting like a jerk, but it’s also when Tim’s dad learned of his vigilante career, which led to Tim having to quit by his father’s demand.
After Stephanie thought that Tim was being unfaithful with her again (which if I remember correctly were both false and entirely made up in her head; Stephanie, don’t try to beat Tim in the bad ideas department – OH WAIT), she broke things off with him and demanded that Batman train her to be the new Robin. Reluctantly, he accepted, but it became apparent that Stephanie was not a good Robin, and she was fired after two missions.
Stephanie tries to prove that she is capable of being Robin by taking one of Batman’s plans to take over the gangs of Gotham. The problem being that it required Batman’s criminal persona, Matches Malone, thus missing a vital part and allowing Black Mask to take over. Black Mask takes over by torturing Stephanie for information on the plan so he knows what to do to gain control, also killing Orpheus (Batman’s agent in taking over the gangs). Stephanie is rushed to a hospital by Batman where she dies from her injuries due to Dr. Leslie Thompkins’s lack of assistant, as a warning to Gotham’s youths seeking a career in vigilantism. I’d say this is Thompkins’s worst act, but we’re getting to that.
It would be revealed that Thompkins and Stephanie would go into hiding in Africa, so as to make Gotham’s criminals believe she was dead and not be a threat to Batman or her family. This doesn’t take into account that they left her mother and the rest of the Bat family not knowing about any of this, with them all believing she was truly dying. Stephanie is then brought back to Gotham where she reunites with her mother and enrolls in Tim’s high school.
When Batman goes missing due to the Black Glove, Tim is left in charge of trying to maintain control of Gotham. Under Batman’s request, Stephanie plays devil’s advocate to Tim to make sure he is capable of working on his own. She hires an assassin to fight Tim and keep him from finding Batman. Tim learns of her deception and distrusts her, but when a gang war breaks out and the two have to work together to stop it, Tim realizes that Stephanie is there to help make him a better crime-fighter. Stephanie is really good at that whole spoiling thing, so Batman makes sure she does her best.
With everyone believing that Bruce Wayne is dead and Stephanie now in college, mantles are changed with Dick Grayson becoming Batman, Damien Wayne becoming Robin, Tim Drake becoming Red Robin, and Stephanie becoming Batgirl.
Barbara Gordon would step in, and originally asks Stephanie to quit, but with a new drug out in Gotham, the two must work together to put a stop to it. This mission proves Stephanie is capable to Barbara, who gives her a new costume and agrees to aid her. The two work together, and Stephanie balances her life as both a college student and as Batgirl.
As Batgirl she deals with such problems as Livewire, Roulette, Roxy Rocket, and an exo-suit wearing team of superheroes. She is also given her own motorcycle, a redesigned and upgraded Bat-cycle by Barbara called the Ricochet.
When it becomes known that Bruce Wayne is not dead, instead trapped traveling through time, Ra’s al Ghul makes vengeance against Tim for defeating many of the League of Assassins by destroying what’s left of the Wayne legacy. It becomes Tim and Stephanie’s goal to stop Ra’s’s plan, saving Leslie Thompkins, with Stephanie defending herself against an attack since she too is on the list. They are finally able to stop Ra’s’s plan, and Bruce Wayne returns, letting Stephanie know that he wanted her to become Batgirl and is proud of her.
Stephanie’s last mission has her learn of her father still being alive and they reconcile. Stephanie gets exposed to the hallucinogenic plant the Black Mercy, which shows many possible futures for Stephanie. She recovers, and she and her mother get along with an unspoken understanding that her mother knows of her secret. Since the new DC, it is unknown what has happened to Stephanie Brown.
Robin (Vol. 2 #126 as her first appearance as Robin)
Batman and the Outsiders Vol. 2