My Letter to DC re: Steph Brown
I thought I should put my money where my mouth is and actually write into DC about Steph. I included some info about sales figures, how Batgirl was doing versus other books in the New 52 plus Gotham City Sirens. It gets a bit lawyerly but, well, I am a lawyer so it is in my nature.
Dear Ms. Nelson:
Hello! I’m writing to you as a new comic book reader who has been really enjoying many of the books you’re putting out but have some real concerns. Let me start off demographically, because I’m sure that’s relevant to you: 25-year-old LGBT woman with a professional degree in Ohio primarily reading in digitals and trades. I’ve been reading comics sporadically over the past ten years, through trades in the local libraries and started reading superhero books in late 2010. I was familiar with DC through growing up with BTAS and other non-comic mediums featuring the big properties.
Stephanie Brown was my gateway character, the first character I didn’t have previous experience with that I connected with. I was sad when her series ended but had hopes that she’d appear in the New 52 in some capacity soon, maybe as Spoiler or in Batman Inc.
My concern is that more and more DC has a negative reaction to Stephanie: not that writers haven’t found a place for her but that someone high up in the company has decided she should be persona non grata in the DC Universe for the indefinite future. This was essentially proven when Stephanie, who was slated to appear in the Smallville comics, was replaced at the last minute for Barbara. (Let’s not call it a disproved rumor: BQM did an interview confirming it. He had to have submitted this story at least in January of this year. DC knew about it and approved it until someone changed their mind at the last minute.)
I like Barbara Gordon. I’m reading Ame-Comi Girls and Birds of Prey, both of which feature her. My issue is not with Barbara as Batgirl. The trouble I have is with this notion that Stephanie Brown isn’t marketable or some sort of toxic character that drives sales down, who should be kept out of the New 52 by editorial mandate.
If you look at the sales figures, Steph’s series retained more of its audience than many of the books in the new 52. Stephanie’s run as Batgirl started at 51,000 copies and it’s last issue at Issue 24 was at 23,000, so it retained about 50% of its readers over a two-year run. In comparison, Green Arrow in the New 52 lost half its readers in just ten months, going from 55,000 to 25,000 by Issue 10. This is the same character who had an appearance in Justice League, DC’s flagship title, and has a new TV show on in the fall, but he’s only selling 3,000 more comics per month than Steph was two years in.
Or let’s look at another book that started the same time Steph’s did: Gotham City Sirens. It also lost half its readership in the two years they were running, from 58,000 in Issue 1 to 20,000 in Issue 25. It was actually selling lower than Steph’s Batgirl was at the end. Yet one of the main characters has her own book and the other two are prominent members of team books.
To me, this says that Stephanie Brown may not be a DC headliner, but is a character who’s popular with audiences and has a core group of loyal fans. I don’t understand why she (and Cass Cain: everything I say about Steph also applies to her, I’m just less well-read on her materials) is being shelved through editorial mandate. DC isn’t just waiting for the right story: Scott Snyder confirmed in an interview that he’d like to use Cass Cain but isn’t allowed to. Frankly, the Smallville bait-and-switch was insulting and extremely alienating to the fans who were excited about seeing her in the comic.
The DC Universe is a big place and there’s room for lots of characters. One of those characters should be Stephanie Brown, and the numbers show a lot of people feel this way.
P.S. Batwoman is tremendous and having a gay superhero who’s as great as Kate means a lot to me. I also like Batwing very much. Please give Marcus To lots of work, because I think he’s wonderful. I will buy any book he is on.
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