BAMF Women Superheroes: The Self-Determination of Cassandra Cain

“Everything in my life was sacrificed to make me a killing weapon. I was offered another life if I swore never to kill. Use my skills to help rather...

“Everything in my life was sacrificed to make me a killing weapon. I was offered another life if I swore never to kill. Use my skills to help rather than harm. I swore. Two men made me break my promise. Now, I’m free from their control. I have sworn again never to kill. But I am going to break that promise.”

—Cassandra Cain (Beechen #1 2)

“I wanted this chance. But—the pain won’t go away if I do. It’ll be worse. And, it’ll never go away. Maybe that’s just the way it’s supposed to be for me. Always pain.”

—Cassandra Cain (Beechen #6 18)

Cassandra Cain (now, Cassandra Cain-Wayne; DC Wikia), the second Batgirl (or, third if you count Bette Kane) first appeared in Batman #567—“The Mark of Cain, Part 1”—and was created by Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott—although, it was Alex Maleev who initially designed Cassandra Cain (Wikipedia)—and was intended to be a rival for Tim Drake, the third Robin (Comic Vine).

Cassandra is the biological child of (forced-into-a-pregnancy-to-save-her-own-life) deadly assassin Carolyn Woo-san-cumLady Shiva and member of the League of Assassins David Cain, who plotted and planned, trained and abused Cassandra from birth to become the finest assassin there is—the One Who Is All—and bodyguard of Ra’s al Ghul (Comic Vine).

Yet Cassandra’s parentage and planned-destiny as well as her involvement with the Bat Family (and, lately, Batman Inc.) are really the least interesting things about Cassandra.

I know. Heresy.

Well, okay, except for the friendships that Cassandra develops with future Robin and Batgirl Spoiler/Stephanie Brown and Barbara Gordon. Those relationships are very interesting.

Because Cassandra is incredibly neural-non-conforming having learned body language instead of spoken or written language to the point that she’s practically prescient in her ability to anticipate what an opponent is going to do or act next (Wikipedia), which—due to the hardwiring of Cassandra’s neural-linguistic centers having been programmed from an early age to interpret body language as language—meaning that spoken and written language are exponentially more difficult for Cassandra to pick-up because it’s literally a foreign language to her brain and, therefore, processed like learned-languages are: in multiple places in the brain.

However, an unexpected outcome of Cassandra’s neural-non-conformity—and something that David Cain did not account for—is that Cassandra’s ability to read body language—to be a savant at it—means that she can see to the truth of a person or situation in unanticipated ways.

Which is how Cassandra came to be a part of the Bat Family.

So, let’s clear one thing up right here, right now—Cassandra Cain isn’t BAMF because of her somewhat unique abilities or because she turned her back on a life of crime or whatever and became a White Hat in Batman’s off-again-on-again employ.

Cassandra Cain is BAMF because she realized for herself despite her training that something was wrong for her—not any of this Batman Vigilante Moralism—was wrong for her.

Because Cassandra Cain didn’t become a White Hat because she wanted to fight crime and fight for truth, justice, and the Batman Way or because she lost someone she cared about.

Cassandra Cain became a White Hat because of once—when she was eight-years-old—she learned first-hand that killing wasn’t something glorious or glorifying.

It was just death: “Terror and then—nothing.” (DC Wikia)

And, the person whom Cassandra had trusted—who had raised her to be the perfect assassin, a perfect killing machine without voice or knowledge or point of reference—had lied to her, and Cassandra realized it for herself.

No grand speechifying. No intervention from the more conventional heroes.

Just Cassandra.

Just Cassandra’s own voice which had never been damped telling her that killing was not what the Universe had in store for her.

And, that’s a powerful story to tell, and a powerful message to learn: White Hat or Black Hat, Good or Evil, you get to make that choice.

And, there’s no weakness in choosing either one.

Y’all, Cassandra Cain is the Parker of the DC Universe, and there are few characters I love more than Parker.

Especially since Alfred is the only one who seems to really understand that Cassandra needs a family and a guide to the world that she doesn’t understand:

magazine. It’s almost as though she doesn’t feel she deserves to live here. She certainly doesn’t think of it as home…we need to show her she belongs. Everywhere she turns here, she must be reminded of what she’s never had…Though we called her family, it never left our minds that she was birthed by assassins and raised by a monster of a father. Perhaps on some level, we always thought of her as still his, and not of her first and only as a troubled young woman in need of love, understanding, and acceptance.” (Beechen #1 6-7)

Alfred’s willingness to actually see Cassandra is just as important as Bruce Wayne’s willingness to really only read Cassandra’s surface for a long time or Barbara Gordon’s willingness to give Cassandra an initial chance and to continue being Cassandra’s or even Tim Drake’s staunch support of Cassandra because they “don’t know the whole story”.

And, their acceptance says a lot about Cassandra’s singularity: she’s ultimately trustworthy and deserving of trust.

No matter her birth and breeding.

No matter who her parents are.

No matter what Cassandra’s done, she has the Bat Family’s trust and respect.

(Okay, Nightwing’s an exception to this, but what else is new?)

Because Cassandra did something that none of them did and something that they’re each not certain that they could do.

Because “[a]fter all the Cain’s done to [Cassandra], the fact that [she] moved at all is impressive” (Beechen #6 20)

Because Cassandra made herself a hero.

Works Cited

Beechen, Adam (w), Andy Clarke (a), Jonathan Glapion (i), Mark McKenna (i), and Jim Calafiore (p). Batgirl. #1 Batgirl (July 2008), DC Universe. Digital Comic.

Beechen, Adam (w), Andy Clarke (a), Jack Purcell (i), and Jim Calafiore (p). Batgirl. #6 Batgirl (December 2008), DC Universe. Digital Comic.

Comic Vine contributors. “Cassandra Cain.” Comic Vine. Comic Vine Wiki. 18 Jan. 2015. Web. 13 Feb. 2015.

DC Wikia contributors. “Cassandra Cain (New Earth).” DC Wikia. DC Comics Database, n.d. Web. 14 February. 2015.

Wikipedia contributors. “Cassandra Cain.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 Jan. 2015. Web. 14 Feb. 2015.

Image courtesy of DC

Trie – Deputy Editor

Hey, I’m ‘trie (sounds like “tree”). I’m a university-educated mixed media artist, wannabe writer, and the poster child for the nerd-geek-dork trifecta. I’m also a gender queer, pansexual, polyamorous feminist and Hellenic pagan with a social media habit like whoa.
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