That cover is a bit misleading. Stephanie Brown, introduced in Detective Comics in 1992 and slaughtered in Batman in 2004, died as Spoiler, one of three superhero identities she’s adopted during her time in the DCU:
Spoiler came first; the daughter of second-rate villian (and Justice League Antarctica member) Cluemaster, Brown donned a purple hood to “spoil” her father’s dastardly plans. She later developed a romance with the third Robin (Tim Drake), a friendship with the second Batgirl (Cassandra Cain), and post-partum depression after getting pregnant and giving her baby up for adoption (possibly).
Second came her brief and controversial career as the first female Robin (if you don’t count Carrie Kelley) which, in both the comics and from the mouths of their creators, was either a completely legitimate stint or a total sham designed by Bruce Wayne to lure a temporarily-resigned Tim Drake back to the Batcave. There’s this to consider:
So…yes? She was legit? But why no memorial in the Batcave?
There’s a well-lit glass-walled testament to the most unlikeable and murderous Robin (Jason Todd) but nothing for Stephanie Brown, whose death was significantly more noble and heroic than Jason’s. This became the main sticking point for people arguing about the validity of Stephanie’s career as Robin, and prime evidence for people who claimed her death was another example of Women in Refrigerators Syndrome.
Once again, DC had needlessly killed off a popular character for the sake of adding dramatic weight to a major crossover event (War Games). People whined about it for years – three years, to be exact, upon which DC finally rectified its mistake by introducing an unidentified young woman in a Spoiler costume in the pages of 2007’s Gotham Underground.
They teased the is-she-or-isn’t-she question for a few months, which got a tad confusing. According to Gotham Underground, Penguin was corralling street kids and giving them bits and pieces of superhero costumes he’d obtained, taking one young woman aside and very specifically giving her Spoiler’s old uniform:
If this new Spoiler wasn’t Stephanie Brown, this scene would make sense. If it was Stephanie Brown, either Penguin’s intuition was spot-on or this was just the craziest coincidence of all time.
Turns out this mysterious new Spoiler was Stephanie Brown, who apparently had never died:
And then there’s this little tidbit:
It was intentional. DC knew what they were doing the whole time. And with that revelation, Bat-continuity shifted into presidential-campaign levels of bullshit revisionism.
So if Stephanie wasn’t really dead and Leslie Thompkins merely wanted her to get away from the tumult of Gotham’s streets, what is this:
So…instead of calmly explaining the situation, Leslie Thompkins grabs a gun and demands Batman kill her simply to hide the fact that she’s smuggled Stephanie Brown out of Gotham? Don’t forget to thank the Academy, Leslie! And Batman, the world’s greatest detective, has no idea Stephanie is lurking somewhere in or around this small, remote village? Whoops! And Stephanie has no problem with her mother thinking her only child is dead? Guess not! And Barbara Gordon can’t discern Stephanie’s corpse (particularly her face) from that of a dead junkie? D’oh!
From now on, instead of coming up with some convuluted explanation as to how a certain character has returned from beyond the grave (especially if it jaw-droppingly contradicts everything that’s come before), every DC writer should just write “Superboy punch” and be done with it. Here’s how Steph’s return should’ve gone: