The news that Steph Brown was to be replaced at the last moment as Batgirl in an upcoming arc of Smallville was a very heavy blow to her fans, but nowhere near as heavy as the one that came shortly after it: The leaked information that she and Cassandra Cain were considered “toxic” by some higher-ups in DC and were therefore very unlikely to be used in any meaningful way for the foreseeable future. This was, naturally, met with anger and dismay. After all, to be told that a character you hold dear has no place in the current plans of the company is disappointing. But to be told she is “toxic” and therefore never will be is downright crushing.
Perhaps even worse however, was the lack of any official explanation or even any further information on why the company had taken this truly peculiar stance towards two of it’s own characters. Unfortunately, this kind of unhelpful silence is something many of us have come to expect from DC Editorial. None the less, it’s a question that needs answering and, in the absence of an official statement, I’m going to attempt to do just that. So, our question is:
“Are Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain *really* toxic for the DCU?”
Firstly, in the spirit of fairness, we should make sure we know exactly what is meant when a person or character is described as “Toxic”. Sources vary, of course, but according to my copy of the O.E.D there are three accepted definitions for the word toxic. They are as follows:
2 “Of, relating to, or caused by a toxin or other poison.”
3 “Capable of causing injury or death.”
Fairly clear cut. What I’m going to do is take a look at each of these definitions in turn and see if they could, fairly, be used to describe either of these characters. Then, after summarising my own thoughts and opinions, I’ll return to the original question with, hopefully, something like a definitive answer. Here goes: