Thursday, September 15, 2016

Stephanie Brown and Chuck Dixon's politics

I made a post on this blog where I observed how surprisingly sometimes conservative writers treat women better then male liberal writers, which was a follow up to one of my Paul Feval posts.  This post is essentially me adding one more example to that observation.  Once again, I'm making these observations as a Liberal of sorts, a Left Leaning Libertarian-Communist SJW.

Chuck Dixon is one of the more notorious examples of a rare conservative Comic Book writer, probably the most notorious example of one to write for Batman (calling Frank Miller a conservative is a massive oversimplification).  Rumor has it he used to have heated political arguments with Denny O'Neil, I imagine Gun Control is the only issue where I'd side with Dixon over O'Neil.

Chuck Dixon created my favorite Batman character, who is obviously then also my favorite female Batman character, and second favorite Comic Book character over all.  Stephanie Brown aka The Spoiler, formally known as both Robin and Batgirl.

In addition to creating Stephanie, there are other women he didn't create but who largely became how fans of my generation and a little older remember them mostly in comics Dixon wrote, from Sarah Essen to Helena Bertinelli.  The earliest Bertinelli stories were pretty much writing her the same as the later Helena Wayne stories (they had the same writer I've heard), it was Dixon who made her distinct.  He was also heavily involved in the early success of Birds of Prey before Gail Simone took over and they reached their height.  He also co-wrote Batgirl Year One, which I heard Gail Simone tried to convince DC/WB to make an Animated Movie for.

But I mainly want to talk about Stephanie.  Chuck Dixon wrote the three part story that introduced her in 1992 in Detective Comics, and wrote the Tim Drake Robin title for the first 100 issues, he may have took some months off, I'm not sure, but he was the main writer in charge.  Stephanie never got to be Robin in a story Dixon wrote, but behind the scenes he had been championing her becoming Robin for a long time.  That the very first Robin Comic after Dixon left featured an alternate reality with Steph as Robin is probably still the influence of where Dixon wanted to go.

Steph's pregnancy storyline is possibly the only time Dixon's politics seemed to influence his writing.  The narrative doesn't outright condemn Abortion, but he heavily stresses how Steph was firmly opposed to taking that option.

In general Dixon's Batman writing is considered the best of 90s Batman.  Though it's perhaps not a coincidence that many's main criticism of him is being unwilling to give villains sympathy or depth, which was especially egregious when he wrote Two-Face.

The friendship between Stephanie and Cassandra Cain also started on Dixon's watch.  I wonder what thoughts he'd have on the popularity of shipping them?

Almost immediately after Dixon left, the direction Stephanie's story was going took a sharp turn.  She was finally officially being trained by Batman, then out of the blue he tries forcing her to quit.  Helena and the Birds of Prey were in good hands with Gail Simone, but for Stephanie all her fans feel she was horribly mistreated from now till she got her Batgirl run, then she got screwed over again by Barry Allen.

The War Games storyline (and others connected to it) is one I happen to really like, the premise is one I can't believe it took Batman writers so long to think of, and it's filled with wonderful character moments and a sense of escalating tension that anticipates The Dark Knight.

But the treatment of Stephanie is horrible, it's textbook fridging, and most of my fellow Stephanie fans are incapable of forgiving the story for that. And even during the build up to that story, it seemed DC was obsessed with foreshadowing the idea that Stephanie will be the next Jason Todd.

I wonder how many Stephanie Brown fans who lament Dixon's exit know he's a Conservative?

Update September 2018:  Perhaps another good contrast to Dixon here would be Denny O'Neil who he's rumored to have argued with a lot.  O'Niel was definitely a very liberal writer, Green Arrow became so Liberal form being made basically O'Niel own mouth piece in the 70s. 

But he's done a lot to make Feminists not very happy, from the mod Era Wonder Woman debacle, to unceremoniously fridging Kathy Kane/Batman near the end of his League of Assassins saga.  And he was the Batman editor when The Killing Joke happened, meaning he can possibly be said to share some blame for how badly Barbara Gordon was treated there.


  1. Excellent blog! Most of the Steph fans who enjoy Dixon's writing for her do mention his politics - the original founder of the Steph wiki, for example, and several fans on forums or twitter that I've chatted with about Steph. I'm one of the few politically conservative fans I know in comics social circles (I think I know one more, and they were active during the War Games era more than now), so Dixon's always been kind of a beacon of "there's room for me too." However, I love many very progressive writers - Gail Simone, Greg Rucka, James Tynion IV - I think that a good writer will want to talk to everyone, not just people who agree with them in their art.