William Rosenthal ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
After the shocking events of Batman, Incorporated #8 written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Chris Burnham, the Batman universe has a hole in its roster. Bruce Wayne’s son Damian, most commonly known as Robin, has been killed off after the conclusion of the Death of the Family arc. Without missing a beat, The New 52 must now answer, “Who will become the next Boy Wonder?” And it’ surprising to say it might not even be a boy.
During Batman’s remorseful crime-fighting spree across Gotham, series author, Scott Snyder reintroduces us to Harper Lee in Batman #18. Harper starred briefly in Batman #7 as a mysterious neo-goth who defibrillates Batman with her own homemade device.
In this issue, we learn Harper is an impoverished young woman living in Gotham with her brother Cullen, both of whom are constantly hiding from their criminal father. Despite this, Harper is an accomplished engineer, working on the Gotham City power grid and has an obsession over The Dark Knight for his crusade to bring justice to the city.
Harper’s reemergence into the spotlight just as Damian leaves the Bat-Family makes me think that she will take over the role of Robin. She shares several traits of previous Robins which makes her a fitting candidate for Batman’s sidekick.
First of all, every Robin brings a new talent whether it is Dick Grayson’s acrobatics, Tim Drake’s deductive skills, or Jason Todd’s ferocity. If Harper became Robin, she would employ her skill with electronics. One of Batman’s trademarks is his arsenal of gadgets. Harper can make new gadgets for Batman to use in combat. Maybe Batman is out numbered but Harper had developed an electronic grenade to dispatch several enemies at once. There has yet to be a tech-savvy Robin in Batman’s family. She could also take on a coordinating role, directing Batman to stop criminals before they get far. This is reminiscent of how Oracle used to work with Batman, but with Barbra back as Batgirl, Harper has the chance to fill that position as well. It’s a talent yet to be implemented into his team, making Harper an invaluable ally.
Although, skill is nothing if Robin doesn’t have a reason to fight. For Jason Todd, it was the potential to fight. For Dick, it was a sense of belonging and family. Harper wants to change a world that is intolerant to her loved one, her brother, Cullen. As a homosexual, Cullen is constantly the target of hate crimes, but Harper is always there to back him up. We see her stand up for her brother a lot in Batman #12: first, after finding her brother beaten and his head shaven as a hate crime, Harper does the same to herself in a show of solidarity and subsequently fights off a gang with a homemade taser.
Just as Batman is more than Bruce Wayne, Robin has to stand for something bigger than the costume or the person wearing it. Harper is the embodiment of social equality and civil rights, especially in the pursuit of equality for the LGBTQ community. The cause has seen immense activity from the youth, teenagers like Harper. Robin champions the ideals important to the younger generation. Harper has the opportunity to be that kind of hero, but whether Snyder will make that move is yet to be seen.
When talking about the possibility of a female Robin, you can’t forget the original, Stephanie Brown. Stephanie left a poor impression of what a female Robin could be. During her run as the Girl Wonder, she disobeyed orders, tried to control Gotham’s crime world, and accidentally started a gang war which ultimately caused her death by Black Mask. After the launch of The New 52, there hasn’t been any mention of Stephanie. In an interview with DC Women Kicking Ass, Batman editor Mike Marts, when asked if she’d make a comeback, answered a resounding “nope.” Marts said that they are “staying away from her.” I believe that they chose to stay away from this character because they want to take a new approach to redefine what a female Robin could be using Harper.
However, we fans won’t know if Harper Row is intended to be the new Robin until after the events of the Requiem arc. For Batman to choose a new Robin, we need to see if he even wants to fill the position or how Harper will fit into his recovery. It might be another few months before we see Harper even considered for the cape and tights, but she’s more than a suitable character.
Could Batman make Harper a Girl Wonder? Right now, the answer seems to be “maybe, but likely.” I’m looking forward to it as I am in love with the character. She’s smart, skillful, and passionate about a cause; everything I want to see and expect from a Robin. I hope to see her take Batman’s side and fill the shoes so many other kids have worn before.