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Cassandra Cain

Cassandra Cain is a fictional character in the DC Universe, and the most recent Batgirl. Cassandra is the daughter of assassin David Cain and Lady Shiva. She first appeared in Batman #567 (1999), and was created by Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott (though it was Alex Maleev who designed her costume).

Fictional character biography

Birth

A uniquely gifted warrior, Cassandra Cain was conceived and trained from birth with the intention of creating the perfect bodyguard for Ra's al Ghul. After many unsuccessful attempts to train children from birth in martial arts to make them inculcate it like a native language (the most successful being the abandoned child The Mad Dog), David Cain, a member of al Ghul's League of Assassins, decided the right genes were necessary to create this "One Who Is All". Cain searched for the perfect mother for this child, finding her in the Wu-San sisters of Detroit, who practiced martial arts with each other nearly every moment of their childhood in a type of sister's language. Cain sympathized with the younger sister, Sandra, when he noticed that she held back out of love for Carolyn. To "help" Sandra reach her full potential, Cain murdered Carolyn, then lured Sandra into an ambush by the League of Assassins, where he defeated her. Cain spared Sandra from death on the condition that she bear his child, and leave her for him to raise. Awed by the potential heights she could reach in her physical talents now that Carolyn was gone, Sandra agreed to Cain's bargain in order that she might go on to become the unstoppable force of nature known as Lady Shiva: creator and destroyer. Shiva's hope for her child was that she might one day grow to be the one force that could stop her reign of destruction.

Childhood

Trained by her father, assassin David Cain, to be the ultimate martial artist and assassin, Cassandra was not taught to speak. Instead, the parts of her brain normally used for speech were trained so she could read other people's movements and body language and predict, with uncanny accuracy, their next move. This ability lives up to her namesake; Cassandra in Greek mythology had the gift of seeing into the future, but was cursed so that nobody would ever believe her predictions. This closely relates to her capability of 'seeing' her opponents' next move at the cost of being (initially) unable to speak. This also caused her brain to develop learning functions different from most, a form of dyslexia that hampers her ability to read and write.

When she was 8 years old, Cain decided his experiment had progressed far enough for him to test Cassandra's abilities in the real world, and took her to kill a businessman. At the time, Cassandra had no idea what she was doing and believed it was only a game (an interpretation in keeping with her own reaction to what happened, and matching the interpretation of Alfred Pennyworth, an expert on children who saw a tape of events). After striking a deathblow, she "read" the target as he died, and saw death as he saw it. "Terror and then... nothing". In addition to scarring her emotionally, she realized murder, like Cain's profession, is wrong, and she ran away from her father.

Batgirl

After spending the next ten years homeless, beating herself up mentally over what she'd done, Cassandra came to be one of Oracle's agents in the No Man's Land Gotham. After proving herself by saving Commissioner Gordon's life, she was given the Batgirl costume with the approval of both Batman and Oracle. She became Barbara's ward.

Batman eventually learned about Cassandra's past when Cain transmitted a video he had made of the murder to the Batcave, but Batman nevertheless continued to accept Cassandra after she took several bullets to save the life of a hired assassin, proving her devotion to protecting human life.

In 2000, Cassandra became the first Batgirl to be featured in an eponymous ongoing comic book series (although the Barbara Gordon Batgirl has been the titular Batgirl character for a number of one-shot comics and mini-series). A telepath "rewired" her brain to think with words and understand English (although speaking properly took longer, and she still could not read or write) at the cost of her ability to predict and read people. This left her unable to defend herself in a fight, as that part of her style relied completely on her ability to read moves, not the "strategies, patterns, and tricks" employed by Batman and most other martial artists. Fearing that she would meet a fate similar to former Robin Jason Todd, Batman refused to let Cassandra wear the Batgirl costume and patrol the city until she could learn adequate defensive skills, which he estimated would take at least a year of work. She soon discovered that assassin Lady Shiva could read people like she used to be able to, and asked her to reteach her. Lady Shiva accepted, on the condition that in a year they would have a duel to the death. Knowing that she would never kill again and would most assuredly lose, but preferring to be "perfect for a year" rather than "mediocre for a lifetime", Cassandra accepted and Lady Shiva retaught her in a night.

One year later, Cassandra kept the appointment - and died within minutes. Then Shiva restarted her heart, having realized that Cassandra "wanted" to die (although not why), and wishing for a fight Cassandra would try to win. In the ensuing battle, Cassandra realized that Shiva had her own death wish, and defeated her, although she spared Shiva's life.

Though not known for her private life, she did have a one time romance with Connor Kent after meeting him on a cruise ship. He was the first boy she ever kissed and even visited him at his home in Smallville, though the relationship never turned serious.

Batman regards Cassandra very highly. During War Games, he relied heavily on her to help control the violence of the gang war in Gotham City.

Following War Games, Batgirl moved to Blüdhaven with Tim Drake (the third Robin) at Batman's suggestion and with his financial support (Nightwing had been injured during the crisis, and the Gotham City Police Department had declared all costumed heroes illegal). There, Deathstroke took on a contract from the Penguin to kill Batgirl and decided to let his daughter Rose (the current Ravager) do the job instead. Cassandra beat Rose by playing on her emotions to leave her open for a critical strike, giving Deathstroke no choice but to get her medical attention.

During all this, Cassandra started developing friendships and even a very short lived relationship with a boy named Zero. Unfortunately, her friends would all later be killed in the Blüdhaven disaster.

During this time, Cassandra also went undercover for Batman in the Justice League Elite , working under Sister Superior- sister of the deceased Manchester Black- and assorted anti-heroes as a superhuman 'black ops' team, working to track down and eliminate metahuman threats to the populace before they went public, masquerading as an assassin named Kasumi. During this time, she worked with Batman's old fellow JLA members Green Arrow and Flash, and formed a certain bond with Coldcast, who was the first person she revealed her real identity to. Although he was subsequently accused of murder, she and the rest of the team soon realised that he had been manipulated by renegade Elite member Menagerie, who was also being manipulated by the spirit of Manchester Black as he tried to drive his sister to destroy London. As the JLA fell, the Elite, united by the spirit of the deceased Manitou Raven, freed Vera and vanquished Black, although the team disbanded after this last mission.

Revelations

Cassandra gathered evidence that indicated that Shiva could have been her mother, and sought out Shiva to confirm this. After being proclaimed by Nyssa al Ghul as the "One Who Is All", the students of the League of Assassins split their allegiances, half following Shiva and the others Cassandra. In the ensuing confrontation, Cassandra was mortally wounded by her "adoptive brother", The Mad Dog while heroically saving one of the students under her leadership. Shiva revived Cassandra in the Lazarus Pit, then answered Cassandra's questions on her parentage. When Cassandra asked Shiva if she had killed more people since their last battle and Shiva said that she had, Cassandra asked if she would ever stop. Shiva responded "It's why I had you," and Cassandra agreed to fight her to the death once more.

In an evenly matched battle, Cassandra managed to break Shiva's neck, paralyzing her. She appeared ready to place Shiva in the Lazarus Pit, but Shiva pleaded with her not to do so. In response, Cassandra impaled Shiva on a hook hanging over the pit, apparently killing her. Although Cassandra's intent regarding this action is unclear, whether to kill her or let her fall into the pit and be revived, it has been confirmed that Shiva is alive in One Year Later. Cassandra then abandoned the identity of Batgirl and returned to her life as a wanderer.

52: World War III

Following the events in Infinite Crisis, Cassandra was left behind while Batman, Robin, and Nightwing left for their year long trip and Harvey Dent was charged with protecting Gotham instead of her. Deathstroke however approaches Cassandra and preys on her desire for a loving father as well as her feelings of abandonment. Although shown off screen, Deathstroke managed to inject Cassandra with drugs from a distance, that warped her mind allowing for him to prey on her her with more ease.

One Year Later

Cassandra took on the role of a villain by becoming the head of the League of Assassins following the One Year Later continuity jump, as established in Robin #150 (2006). She has used her position as head of the League to draw in Tim Drake, the third Robin, as an ally. She began killing former students of her father, David Cain whom she deemed unworthy and used Robin to free David and reunite with him. She then urged Robin to kill David, and join her in leading the assassins, but when Robin refused, she shot her father herself. She and Tim then eventually engaged in a final battle where she maintained the upper hand. The fight came to an abrupt end when the platform on which they fought, exploded, leading Cassandra and Robin to flee in different directions. Robin returned to find David missing, and all the ninjas' necks snapped. Tim had managed to record the conversation he had with Cassandra, using it as evidence to clear his name with the police. Unfortunately it also branded Cassandra as a murderer.

Cassandra also recently appeared in Supergirl #14, battling the title character, (Kara Zor-El), in her role as leader of the League of Assassins. She is hired by an unknown figure (later revealed to be the supervillain Dark Angel) to kill Supergirl, and attempts to do so by kidnapping Supergirl's friend, Captain Boomerang. Supergirl arrives at the League's Tibetan headquarters to confront Cassandra, previously unaware of the kidnapping. Cassandra, in her Batgirl identity, attacks Supergirl, wielding twin swords that emit red sun energy, which sapped away Supergirl's powers. Just as Cassandra prepares to deliver the killing blow, Kara mysteriously extrudes crystals from her body which wound Cassandra. What happened to Cassandra following this particular story was not explained.

This story is shown to follow Robin One Year Later, as in Supergirl #14 there is a file in the Batcomputer titled 'Cassandra Cain & the League of Assassins', showing this takes place after she battled Robin. In Teen Titans vol. 3 #44, it revealed that Cassandra battled Supergirl first, before attacking Teen Titans with the Titans East.

Cassandra also reappears in Robin, having done some business with Dodge, a wanna-be superhero with teleportation powers, who was injured and put into a coma when he interfered on one of Robin's cases. Having awoken, Dodge seeks revenge against Robin and is approached by Cassandra to steal a drug which gives humans metahuman strength for her, in exchange for money. After Dodge leaves, Cassandra and a mysterious ally (possibly Deathstroke), make plans to use the package Dodge delivered, to create an army. Whether this takes place before or after her battle with Supergirl or the Titans East storyline is unknown. Cassandra makes another appearance, when she murders the corrupt businessman who has been producing the meta-drug and who Robin was unfortunately unable to take down legally. From a distant rooftop, Cassandra quietly tells him "you're welcome Tim."

Cassandra is also on the roster of Titans East and is once again wearing the Batgirl costume. Cassandra remained in the role of a villain, under the command of Titans East's leader, Deathstroke. It is revealed in Teen Titans vol. 3 #43, that she is being drugged by Deathstroke. In issue #44, after a rematch with the Ravager and a brief confrontation with Robin, Robin injects a counter serum (prepared in case Deathstroke regains control of his daughter again) to Cassandra. She apparently regains control over herself, with a desire of revenge by killing Deathstroke for violating her like Ravager and Terra before her. In Issue #45, Cassandra is allied with the Teen Titans (to which Miss Martian comments that she is more in control of herself now), and faces Slade, Match, and other former Titans East teammates, before being subdued by Risk. Soon after, Cyborg, Raven, and Duela Dent summon former Titans Nightwing, Donna Troy, Beast Boy, and Flash (Bart Allen), who joins in against Slade's team. Batgirl attempts to kill Deathstroke, but is stopped and knocked unconscious by Nightwing, who demands that Slade face the courts. Unfortunately, Deathstroke escapes from the Titans with the help of Inertia, and after the battle is over, Batgirl and Duela Dent both vanish without a word.

Batman and the Outsiders

After a long absence, Cassandra Cain retakes the Batgirl mantle joining the Outsiders at Batman's request at the end of Batman and the Outsiders #2. Cassie has moved into the Outsiders' apartment, but has not shown much desire to interact with her teammates socially. Almost immediately after asking Batgirl to join, Batman also offers membership to Green Arrow who is furious to learn that the former leader of the League of Assassins is on the team as well. While on a mission, Green Arrow and Batgirl battle one another, and end up gaining an unusual sort of respect for one another. The team as a whole begins to slowly accept Batgirl into their ranks, when she frees all of them from the Chinese Military.

Following the events of Batman R.I.P. the Outsiders have been left in disarray with the loss of their leader. Batgirl, believing that Batman brought her in as a contingency, takes command of the team, while they attempt to locate Batman.

The Search for Slade & Cain

After being re-accepted into the Gotham Knights by Batman and Robin as well as joining the Outsiders, Cassandra has moved into Wayne Manor, where Alfred makes many attempts to try and help re-establish her as a member of their family. However, Cassandra seems reluctant to allow herself to become comfortable with Batman's team, as she still has a thirst for vengeance against Deathstroke and her father David Cain, both of who manipulated her over the past two years. And so, Cassandra begins investigating the whereabouts of the two men, only to be attacked by a mistrusting Nightwing, who claims she cannot be trusted. Robin and Batman however agree to give her the benefit of the doubt that even Cassandra feels isn't very wise of them, considering her intent to kill both Slade and Cain. While searching a possible base of operations, Cassandra finds herself facing off against a mystery woman who has a group of dead young women held in a device of questionable origin. The woman is revealed to be Batgirl's half-sister, who rebelled against Cain. She has spent most of her life trying to kill Cain, but each time resulting in failure. Although reluctant, Batgirl offers to work with the woman, feeling that by pooling their resources they can find Cain and Slade. However, the two women are taken down by Ravager who tracked them down. The three women agree to work together and continue the search for their fathers. The story is still ongoing.

Controversy

Critical reception of the One Year Later storyline had been mixed. In general, the portrayal of Tim Drake has been praised, whereas Cassandra's depiction "rings false even given the One Year Later". Upon being asked if Cassandra's characterization was editorially mandated, writer Adam Beechen stated that "When I came to the book, I was told that the first arc would deal with presenting Cassandra as a major new enemy for Robin. From there, I worked out the details of just how that would come about with our initial editor, Eddie Berganza, and then his successor, Peter Tomasi. In a followup interview, he clarified further, stating "They didn't present me with a rationale as to why Cassandra was going to change, or a motivating factor. That was left for me to come up with and them to approve. And we did that. But as far as to why the editors and writers and whoever else made the decision decided that was a good direction, I honestly couldn't answer.

In recent interviews and press conferences, Dan DiDio and others have stated that Cass will "be going back to basics," like in her early adventures before she was able to talk. Later, Geoff Johns was quoted saying: "We will be addressing in Teen Titans exactly what the deal is with her. Is she a bad guy? How? Why? She was a completely different character before “One Year Later,” so let’s find out what happened.

In protest, some fans have created websites or written web comic satires to organize and express their dissatisfaction. These actions have not gone unnoticed to the DC Comics editorial leadership. According to Wizard Magazine #182, the storyline was "one of the most controversial changes to come out of DC's 'One Year Later' event", and "fans rose up in arms, organizing websites and letter-writing campaigns to protest the change." Dan Didio commented "I'm glad to see there was a reaction created, it shows that people care about the character and want to see something happen with her".

The aforementioned news of Deathstroke drugging Cassandra has the potential to remove or at least explain much of the controversial factors of Cassandra's turn. Yet as this particular plot is still unfolding, the reasoning may change further still.

In October 2007, DC announced that Cassandra would be taking up the Batgirl identity as a member of the Outsiders in the upcoming Batman and the Outsiders ongoing series to be written by Chuck Dixon, which appears to, or is hoped to, begin resolving the controversy.

In February 2008, Dan DiDio revealed during a convention panel that writer Adam Beechen will be writing a new Batgirl mini-series. Beechen himself states that the story will answer all the questions from the last few years, and will address all of the questions of why Batgirl has been acting the way she's been acting, and set the stage for new Batgirl adventures to come.

Costume & equipment

Her costume as Batgirl was composed of black skin-tight leather. Her mask covers all of her head with the exception of the eyes, which were darkened, and symbolic stitches surround the mouth of the mask. Instead of Barbara's yellow bat-logo, Cassandra had a hollow, yellow-rimmed black one. This costume was originally created and worn by the Huntress in the early stages of "No Man's Land".

Like the other members of the Bat-Clan, Cassandra also wore a yellow pouched utility belt, which contained grappling hooks, batarangs, mini-explosives, tracking devices, a hand-held computer, binoculars, plasti-cuffs, and smoke pellets. However, Cassandra rarely uses any of these devices as Batgirl.

Titans East showed some slight differences in Cassandra's costume, such as a yellow interior to her cape, as well as a classic "capsule" utility belt as opposed to the pouches. However, in Teen Titans #43, the once hollow bat-symbol appears to have been filled in and her cape is once again completely black, and there is a new line of stitching going up the forehead of her cowl that was not there on previous costumes. This particular version of the costume may only be the a result of the artist's interpretation, as her appearances in Supergirl and Outsiders had Cassandra in her standard Batgirl costume.

Training and abilities

Cassandra Cain has arguably the most prestigious training of any martial artist in the DC Universe. As a child, Cassandra received intensive training by her father, along with several other members of the League of Assassins, including Bronze Tiger, Merlyn the archer, and a series of instructors hired by Cain, including Alpha. Upon taking the mantle of Batgirl, she was trained further by Batman, Oracle, Black Canary, and then by Lady Shiva, and has received supplementary instruction from Onyx. She was also very briefly trained in detective methods by Tim Drake during their time in Blüdhaven.

In Batgirl #14 the writer, Kelley Puckett, places Cassandra in a position within the story in which her skills are analyzed by a group of government experts. Through this panel, the creative team reveal to the reader that the character is written as having no metagene. Her genetic status was felt to be incompatible with her recorded abilities by one of the experts, however, who stated: "Her individual moves are borderline human. It's her aggregate speed that's metahuman. Look -- humans can throw a 100 miles-per-hour fastball, smash concrete blocks with their heads, and run 4.2 forties. What they can't do is all of that at once. It's not so much physical as... as mentally impossible. Too much to coordinate.

Language skills

As a side effect of Cain's abusive training, Cassandra's brain developed learning functions different from most. Having been brought up by Cain deliberately without speech, the communication centers of her brain learned body language instead of spoken or written language. Thus, she originally had as much trouble learning spoken and written language as a normal individual would have in learning body language. Although she was able to learn some very basic things ("no," "yes," "me") the same way a normal person can learn to recognize smiles and frowns, it took a telepath rewiring her brain to teach her to speak and understand English. Even then, she only spoke with extreme difficulty (very falteringly, short sentences with long pauses, frequently using the wrong words, etc). The unusual way in which she was raised resulted in a form of dyslexia that hampers her ability to read and write. In Batgirl #67 Oracle performed a number of tests on Cassandra, determining the severity of the problem:

"The language centers of your brain are all over both hemispheres. Not centralized like with most people. When you try to read or write, your brain doesn't know how to keep it cohesive."

This, however, may have been retconned. In Robin #149 it is revealed that both Cassandra and Tim Drake had been taught by Batman how to communicate using Navajo code, a code requiring that its user be able to speak English and Navajo, as well as be able to read and write in both languages. Since she had apparently learned this code from Batman, she would have had to possess these skills during her time as Batgirl. However, in light of the fact that her new ability with the written word is seen only once, and is not referenced again, this may have simply been a mistake and not a retcon. Given that Navajo does not have a written form, it's most likely a mistake by the writer.

In the new mini-series Batgirl, the first issue delves into an explanation as to Cassandra's increased verbal and literary skills. It is explained that during the year in which Batman, Nightwing and Robin were abroad, Cassandra and Alfred took it upon themselves to help develop the skills that she lacked due to her less than conventional childhood. By day she took speech and ESL courses. The formal training aided her thought processes related to language and thus her verbalization, improved rapidly.

In other media

Cassandra has yet to make a named appearance in the DC animated universe or other DC cartoons. However, a girl matching Cassandra's appearance did appear briefly as one of Bruce Wayne's assistants in an alternate timeline seen in the Justice League episode "The Savage Time." The creators of the show have stated that this was an uncredited cameo.

Cassandra Cain as Batgirl appear in a cameo alongside Robin (Tim Drake) in the video game Batman: Dark Tomorrow.

Notes and references

See also

External links

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