Thursday, November 15, 2012

How can we save Cass?

That's a question I think about occasionally.  Someone else recently asked it as well, and that got me to thinking about Cass even more.  Not many people are these days, it seems.  Most if not all of the other Cass blogs are moribund in the wake of the Save Cass event, which appears to have had next to no impact whatsoever.  So anytime someone starts a Cass discussion, I'm thrilled to start my overworked, underperforming brain calculating and scheming on this topic.  Save Cass.  How can DC save Cass?  How can we save Cass?

I'm not talking about letter writing campaigns or buying her first issue from Comixology, as worthy as the latter was.  Certainly, people should be encouraged to do both.  And to keep asking Dan DiDio and the rest about when she's coming back at every single DC panel from now until the sun consumes the earth billions of years from now.  But I'm talking about fixing Cassandra Cain as a character in the wake of this New 52 stuff.  She may eventually resurface in the DC universe, but in some subtly-- or not so subtly-- altered form.  What about the old Cass should be kept?  What should be lost?

The first thing they should ditch is the notion David Cain created a lot of other girls similar to Cass and anything that suggests that's one of her main issues with him.  Having been a lousy, abusive father is plenty enough to have Cass reject him in favor of Batman as dad of choice.  Really, after the way he crapped up her childhood and caused her to kill, then emotionally manipulated her for years afterwards when she became Batgirl, the last thing Cass should care about is whether or not Cain really loved her as a daughter or if he was spreading it around.  And even if the point is she's simply angry he did the same to others that he did to her, having a lot of would-be Casses around only dilutes her as a singular achievement.  Introducing this whole element was a major mis-step.  How stupid is it to introduce a character, position her as unique, then duplicate her in various forms a million times anyway?  I'll go ahead an answer that.  It's very stupid.

The second thing they should do is limit her dialogue.  Okay, she knows how to speak and read and write and all that good stuff.  But that doesn't mean she has to be doing so at a university or making long speeches.  Being able to talk and just not seeing much point in blabbing everything you know are different things, and there are already too many snarky, supposedly witty characters cribbed from the Joss Whedon School of Dialogue Writing as it is.  No writer ever really took Cass in that direction, but they sure made her loquacious as all get out, so it was only a matter of time.  Stop it before it happens.  Silent is scary. Silent is cool.

The third thing is drop any notion Cass wants a "normal" life.  While she probably would wish she hadn't spent her childhood being slapped around and shot, the whole "Why can't I be like everyone else?" trope is demeaning and tired.  Cass should enjoy being who she is even through the pain.  As a character she worked best when she was freaking Barbara Gordon out with her ambivalence towards things like having social life and keeping her identity secret.  That's some extreme stuff.  Not everyone wants to wear bikinis on cruise ships and fight crime as a way of meeting boys, Barbara.  Some want to blend into the night and come on like a shadow made of fists and feet and the occasional head-butt.

The fourth is you're probably not going to want to keep the death wish aspect of her personality.  It was cool for the first two years of her monthly because she just didn't seem to care a bit about her own safety, but it's something they resolved and needed to when all her secrets came out and she fought Lady Shiva to the death.  On the other hand, the alarming disregard for personal safety is something that should be played up, but in relation to her just not giving a rip for conventionality.  And also that she's totally comfortable with being a fighting machine possessed of no fear whatsoever.

Drop the "Deathstroke drugged her/she became evil for a while" storyline.  Just eliminate it completely and never speak of it again.  Writing that out of continuity by itself would go a long way towards repairing Cass as a character.

So what should be done?  Boil her down to her essence.  You can keep a lot of her character development-- learning to speak, becoming friends with Stephanie Brown, resolving her father issues by finally rejecting Cain, but at the same time, make her back into that pure silent and deadly character she was.  The girl who wouldn't quit unless you killed her.  DC doesn't even have to keep her as a Batgirl.  There's nothing wrong with introducing her as Black Bat and letting Steph be the replacement Batgirl of record.  At first I was excited about the New 52 as an opportunity for DC to do something like this and get back to basics with this character and make up for a lot of damage, especially when it seemed she'd still be a supporting character in Batman, Inc.

Oh well.  Maybe in a few years or so they can try again.

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