FAN NEWS

Robin’s Many Masks: The Girl Wonders

Joshua Lapin-Bertone

Joshua Lapin-Bertone

March 20, 2020

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Our celebration of Robin’s 80th anniversary continues, and today we’re going to be spotlighting two awesome girls! Robin might be traditionally known as the Boy Wonder, but that didn’t stop these two girls from leaving their mark. Carrie Kelly and Stephanie Brown are sometimes overlooked in favor of their male counterparts, but that doesn’t mean their time as Robin should be ignored. Although they didn’t wear the masks as long as Dick or Tim, their runs as Robin produced some fan favorite stories that are still being celebrated to this day. For the final installment of our Robin’s 80th anniversary celebration, we’re turning our attention to the Girl Wonders!

 

CARRIE KELLEY

 

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Carrie Kelley was introduced in The Dark Knight Returns #1, which is set in a possible future where Gotham is a dystopian wasteland ruled by gang members. Carrie isn’t an orphan, but she might as well be. Her parents are former hippies who have given up activism and spend all their time taking recreational drugs. Their minds are so scattered that they can’t even remember that they have a kid. Not that Carrie needs their help, this girl knows how to take care of herself.

 

Batman had retired years ago, after the death of Jason Todd, but the rising crime in Gotham inspired the older Bruce Wayne to return to action. On his first night back, Batman saved Carrie from a member of the Mutants gang, which inspired her to take action. Carrie’s friends were happy to play in the arcades, and didn’t feel the need to take action against the rising crime in the city, but that wasn’t Carrie. Seeing Batman made the girl realize she could do more, and she quickly made her own Robin costume.

 

In The Dark Knight Returns #2 the new Robin sneaks into the Mutants headquarters. Was it bravery, recklessness, or both? Either way, it’s a good thing she showed up, because her timely intervention saved Batman’s life. Batman was about to be executed by the Mutant leader, and Robin was able to distract the brute long enough for the Dark Knight to temporarily subdue him. Robin helped the critically injured Batman into his Batmobile, where they returned to the Batcave so he could be nursed back to health. It was an interesting way for Batman to meet his new partner, but the Caped Crusader was grateful for her help. Despite Alfred’s misgivings, Batman made Carrie his official partner. Carrie was a loyal soldier to Batman for the remainder of the series, helping the Dark Knight take down the Joker, fake his death, and start a new underground movement of crimefighters.

 

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Although most people remember The Dark Knight Returns for it’s dark and gritty storytelling, Carrie’s hope and optimism resonated with fans. Over the years various pieces of Batman media have paid tribute to Carrie Kelley, including the New Batman Adventures episode “Legends of the Dark Knight.” In 2013’s Batman and Robin #19 Carrie was brought into mainstream continuity for the first time. Carrie had been Damian’s acting tutor, and had come looking for the boy during a period when he was briefly deceased. When Bruce eventually caught up with Carrie at a costume party, he was unnerved to see her wearing a Robin costume. While Bruce might have been taken aback, fans were overjoyed. Carrie Kelley is a special character, and the sight of her in a Robin costume evokes positive memories from one of the greatest Batman stories ever told. During her first outing in The Dark Knight Returns #2, Carrie told herself “don’t suck.” You don’t suck Carrie, you rock!

 

STEPHANIE BROWN

 

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Stephanie Brown was a teenage girl who originally became a costumed hero to make life difficult for her father. Arthur Brown was a villain known as the Cluemaster, and his daughter suited up as the Spoiler to “spoil” his crimes (Detective Comics #647-649). Although Batman and Robin objected, Stephanie stayed in the hero game, and a romance soon developed between her and the Boy Wonder. After Tim’s father forced him to give up the Robin identity (Robin #125), he and Stephanie drifted apart, until a romantic misunderstanding ended their relationship.

 

Stephanie was always trying to improve herself as a hero, and with Tim gone and Batman lacking a Robin, she decided to step up to the plate. In Robin #126 Stephanie broke into the Batcave in a homemade Robin costume, offering her services to Batman. To Alfred’s surprise, Batman immediately gave her the job. The Dark Knight reasoned that he hadn’t been able to convince Stephanie to retire, so his best bet was to train her himself.

 

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Stephanie trained hard, eager to prove herself to Batman. She had spent years trying to be an official part of the Bat-Family, and she didn’t want to blow her chance. After Batman redesigned her costume, Stephanie Brown was ready to make her grand debut as Robin the Girl Wonder! If we could describe Stephanie’s attitude as Robin in one word it would be “dedication.” She knew she had to work three times as hard to prove herself, not just to Batman, but to other heroes who couldn’t accept her because she wasn’t Tim as in 2004’s Teen Titans #14. Batman pushed her, but Stephanie rarely complained.

 

One of the conditions of keeping the job was obeying all of Batman’s orders, no questions asked. In Robin #128 Batman told Stephanie to stand down while he attacked an cybernetic-assassin named Scarab. When Scarab blinded Batman, Robin couldn’t stand by any longer. She swung into action attempting to apprehend the mercenary, but her intervention failed and Scarab escaped with one of the Batplanes. Batman fired Robin, telling her that she had broken their agreement about following orders without question. Stephanie resumed her activities as Spoiler, and inadvertently activated a failsafe that caused Gotham to erupt in a violent gang war.

 

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Some fans have tried to argue that Stephanie was never an official Robin, but look no further than Batman #633 to settle the debate. After being tortured by Black Mask, Stephanie laid in a hospital bed, seemingly moments from her death. As Batman went to comfort her, she asked if she was really Robin, or if the entire arrangement was just a trick to get Tim back. Batman told her that yes, she was an official Robin. “Then I really was part of it. Part of the legend. Even if it was only for a little while. No matter what, no one can take that away,” Stephanie replied. The next time someone tries to tell you that Stephanie doesn’t count, show them that scene! You wouldn’t want to tell Batman he’s wrong, would you?

 

After her conversation with Batman, Stephanie appeared to pass away. Fans of Stephanie never forgot her brief time as the Girl Wonder, and an online campaign was launched demanding that she receive her own memorial case in the Batcave. The campaign made so much noise, that Tim even made an indirect reference to it in Robin #170. In Robin #174 Stephanie revealed that Leslie had faked her death, and Batman said that he had suspected something all along, which is why Stephanie never had a memorial case in the Batcave. Sure, Bruce. Stephanie continued her heroic legacy as Spoiler, and had her own memorable tenure as Batgirl. Although the reality altering events of Flashpoint have erased some pieces of DC history, Stephanie learned about her secret past as Robin in Detective Comics #980. The news that she had once been Robin in an alternate timeline inspired Stephanie, who realized that if she was good enough to be Robin, there was no end to the things she could accomplish.

 

BONUS: CHECKLISTS

 

COMPLETE CARRIE KELLEY CHECKLIST

 

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1-4

 

* Superman and Batman: World’s Funnest #1

 

Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again #1-3

 

Tiny Titans #33

 

* Tiny Titans #45

 

* All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold #13

 

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1-9

 

Ame-Comi Girls #1-2, #6 and #8

 

* 2013’s Batman and Robin #19-20

 

* 2013’s Batman and Robin #22

 

* 2017’s Batman Annual #2

 

COMPLETE STEPHANIE BROWN AS ROBIN CHECKLIST

 

Robin #101 (alternate reality)

 

Robin #126-128

 

* 2004’s Batgirl #53

 

Detective Comics #796

 

* 2004’s Teen Titans #13

 

* Solo #10 (flashback tale)

 

* All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold #13

 

Are you a hardcore Robin fan, or just looking to learn more about the Boy Wonder? Check out all the Robin-centric activities that our clubs are running in the Community Events Calendar!