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Someone pointed me to this tonight:
For what it's worth, Nathaniel, I did my best to make the story come from character. In coming up with the justification for turning Cass "evil," my angle on it was that here was a girl who hadn't known parental love in the conventional sense. The closest she had to it (prior to meeting Bruce, Barbara, etc.) was her relationship with Cain. I figured he was a guy she had to feel incredibly, darkly conflicted about. On the one hand, he was terrible to her, denied her so many things, taught her so many other awful things. But on the other, he paid attention to her, and abused kids can confuse love with attention, even if they know better, feelings that can linger long after childhood. So in my mind, she had, for many years, based any sense of self-worth, however warped, on the fact that she was of importance to SOMEONE, even if that person was a turd like David Cain. She wasn't washed clean of that when she joined the Bat-Family -- no one's washed clean of stuff that happens in childhood, it gets properly healed, tamped down or continues to fester and cause problems, waiting for a trigger to set it off. For Cass, the trigger was learning Cain gave the same attention and training to other girls -- in her mind, that removed a big part of her identity, made her un-special, and made he feel like a tool (literally, a utensil) instead of a person...and made her see parallels to Robin, whom she tried to recruit to her side in a very warped way, and blah blah blah.
It's entirely possible I didn't articulate that well in the story I told. It's also entirely possible that my thought process didn't create a strong enough impetus for her character change. I take responsibility on both counts. But in my mind, it did come from a place of character.
The drugging of Cassandra was introduced in another book after her initial Robin storyline and before her reappearance later in the same book killing a shady pharmaceutical officer. As a bandage to explain the radical character change, revealing a character had been drugged is fine, but I wasn't very happy with the choice -- I wanted the change to have come from character. Unfortunately, the story with her murder of the pharm exec appeared after she was supposedly purged of the drug, so we had to do a LOT of tap-dancing in the Batgirl miniseries to explain it. Fudging the timeline WOULD have been an option, but it also would have felt like a cheat to me.
There were a lot of other mitigating circumstances that affected the storytelling as well (requiring us to dash over such items as how she learned to read and write -- there are ways to read the story that she didn't have to have learned those things to do the things she did, but that's immaterial. And in a side note, it always struck me as horribly irresponsible that the FIRST thing Bruce should have done on bringing Cass under his wing was to make sure she learned to read and write through whatever means possible BEFORE having her do anything else, and he didn't do it -- nor did he seem in any particular hurry to get it done. In any case, had I stayed on the book, we would have come back to an explanation of that, but I left of my own volition), but they're not interesting, and they don't change the fact that, as the writer, it's my job to get the story out, clearly and satisfactorily, regardless of the constraints. In this case, a lot of Cassandra's fans felt that didn't happen, and I totally understand and regret that.
But I did try to make the story come from character, just so you know!
Thanks for your comments,
I'm not sure we're so different in our opinions about the Cain/Cassandra relationship. What I was talking about was Cassandra's perception of that relationship, and the mini was from her point of view. I remember the issue you're talking about with Cain and the films -- it was indeed excellent. I was just trying to focus on Cass' perception of the whole thing (or what I perceived that to be). Cain absolutely is a complex character, but I think in the situation we showed him, he was desperate and would say anything to help him accomplish his goal, up to and including manipulating his daughter, whether he believed what he was saying or not. Especially if he had trained many other girls the same way as Cassandra (and maybe he feels just as strongly for them as he does Cass), because I think he's more mercenary than father, and mercenary concerns come first. But that's nuance, and sometimes that doesn't come across in comics (or maybe just in my writing of them ).
The reading/writing thing...It seemed to me that, in the year Bruce, Dick and Tim were away, Alfred (and Barbara, to some extent) would have the opportunity to pay much more attention to Cass (and being compassionate souls, I figured they'd wanted to for some time), and so would throw himself into making sure she learned how to read and write. I freely admit I didn't understand how big an aspect of her character that was to the fans...To me, it never rang true that, in all the time she'd been with the Bat-Family (and it had been awhile), they hadn't really made it a priority to see to her "education," as it were.
Maybe it goes to my view of Batman. I was fine with the dark Dark Knight until I started writing Robin and thinking about Tim's (and Dick's) relationship to Bruce, then my opinion really changed. I mean, here's a guy who (at the time I started on the book) had essentially adopted three children. Surely, he had some sense of love for them, some paternal feelings, in addition to just seeing them as crime fighting partners. That was something we never really got to see much in the books. So, in Robin, I tried to show more of that side of Bruce -- the loving, understanding, teaching Dad. Then I started thinking how that jibed with Batgirl-Why had he never adopted her? And would Cass have asked herself the same question? And with no viable answer, would she be hurt? I think so. And then, when presented with evidence that her relationship with her actual father had been, to some extent, a lie, could those things dovetail? Seemed reasonable (and still does) to me.
Anyway, good conversation, and you bring up some really good points. Thanks for making me think even harder about the characters. And I hope having some insight from the "horse's mouth" is helpful and interesting for readers like yourself.
To my knowledge, Bryan's excellent Batgirl series is not a response to the Cassandra Batgirl in tone or anything else...but my knowledge about the editorial decision-making process is pretty limited. I think they just thought there was an opportunity for some good tales to tell...and I think Bryan's doing a great job of it.
Glad you like the "insider baseball" thing. I would always love it when the Comics Journal (back when they covered mainstream comics) would occasionally really dig in with a writer about their thought process and how they regarded characters. Amazing Heroes rarely went that deep, and Comics Interview only did so a little more often. To me, those are the kinds of questions I'd want answered. Hmm...Maybe I should start a blog called "4-Color Baseball."
Nathaniel, I think maybe what we need is a new book called "Cassandra Cain," eh? (Don't worry, I'm not hinting at anything, and certainly not dropping a rumor I'm writing anything to do with Cassandra -- just empathizing) BTW, I was as shocked as anyone at Cassandra's abrupt abandonment of the role -- I had no idea that was coming at all. Even the Batman RIP storyline was a complete surprise to me...I was told about it while in the middle of writing the last issue of the Batgirl mini... and it changed our ending from what I hoped was going to be a genuinely happy one to a much more melancholy and foreboding one (the gravestone shadow was Mike Marts' and my last-second idea-- concocted as I paced in the hallway outside the offices of The Pink Panther animated series I was working on at the time -- to acknowledge what was coming). Maybe more in keeping with the character, but in all honesty, I was hoping to give her a happy ending for once.