Who the Heck is Harper Row?

The original blog can be found here: http://razingthethirdwall.wordpress.com/

She is full of boisterous spunk, has a vibrant hairstyle and possesses a face full of metal and eye-shadow. No, this isn’t the Avril Lavigne of the early noughties; this is Harper Row. The character has featured, in fits and starts, throughout Scott Snyder’s run on Batman. From her first appearance in Batman #1, through to her starring role in both #12 and #18, readers have been encouraged to consider what life is like for the down-and-out citizens of Gotham. This is a character largely detached from the Batman’s world; the common ground that the comics so frequently tread. There are no psychopathic clowns, no juiced up, back-breaking immigrants and no lightly frosted Germans. Harper Row’s story deals with the impact of Gotham’s social issues on the masses, and serves as a reminder of why Bruce put on the cowl in the first place; his city is in a pretty sorry state.

You go girl!

This fair, techno-punk maiden has, with the release of Batman #18 this week, found herself at the centre of some controversy. Damian Wayne, formerly Robin and the son of Batman, has wound up impaled upon the sword of his older, stronger, metal-masked clone (Morrison wrote it. It’s complicated). Harper Row, a gutsy youth hoping to aid Batman in maintaining his status as a hero or an ideal, has begun to follow Tim Drake’s tried and tested method for landing the vacant Robin position; stalking the Dark Knight. Many comic readers have, therefore, complained that Snyder is looking to supplant Batman’s son with a catsuit clad knock-off.

Best. Internship. Ever.

Snyder has yet to suggest that any character will take on the role of Robin, but the prospect is rightly accompanied by certain concerns. Bruce Wayne has now lost two young boys in his crusade against crime. Jason Todd was beaten to death with a crowbar at the hands of the Joker, and Damian Wayne has met a similarly gruesome end. Hasn’t Bruce now learnt his lesson? As the world’s greatest detective, it is fair to assume that he has now deduced that putting young individuals, regardless of their talents, in the way of super-villains has now, in 40% (2/5!) of cases, led to the death of a Robin. I find it hard to see how Bruce could justify putting another young life at risk.

Sorry, Damian.

Coupled with this, there is no getting away from the fact that Damian was Batman’s son. To replace his own flesh and blood with a largely unknown girl, however brave she may be, strikes me as distasteful. Batman is, as shown wonderfully in Batman and Robin #20, beset by grief, longing and despair, and these are psychological scars that, even for a resolute individual like Bruce Wayne, will linger for the rest of his days. Robin’s absence, and the impact this has on Batman’s methods and actions, will serve as a superior plot device to the introduction and subsequent character-building of a replacement.

Warning: Tearjerker

Despite this, I am certainly in favour of Harper Row interacting closely with Batman. The traditional argument is that Batman needs a Robin in order to retain his humanity, his compassion and his sense of perspective. However, I see no reason why this character has to be the boy wonder. As demonstrated in Batman #18, the actions of a single determined, concerned individual are enough to ground Bruce in reality and impress upon him the importance of his status as an idol, myth or ideal; he has to appear to be above grief, suffering, pain or rage. Assuming Harper Row is to continue in this role as Batman’s connection to the people of Gotham and the city’s realities, then Batman need not replace Damian.

If, through this interaction, Harper Row eventually takes on the mantle of Robin, or as a side-kick operating under a separate moniker, then I will be quite content. Snyder’s narrative often depicts Gotham as being a conscious creature; a dark, shifting creature. Harper Row is the only character capable of providing us with insight regarding what life is like on the ground, for Joe Bloggs, in this bleak, grey, gritty environment. Getting away from the manor, the batcave and the fancy gadgets is something that I eagerly anticipate. Batman is at his best when you strip him down to his driven, determined core and pit him against the evils that Gotham throws at him. With this character on board, I’m looking forward to the ride.

Posted by Dark_Guyver

Just some generic character that Scott Snyder created and is getting forced down out throats.

Edited by Saranth

He's a writer on a pretty lengthy Batman run, which means that he sort of has to introduce new characters; this is the case for both Batman's allies and his associated villains. If we were to be saddled with Tim, Dick, Damian and Jason again, sure, it'd be nostalgic for a while, but it'd get stale. You have to throw these characters into the mixer and see if they take. You don't have to like Harper Row, by all means hate her, but I don't think he's forcing her down our throats. She's largely featured in the issues between Snyder's major arcs, and has therefore been relatively delicately introduced. I mean, he created the Court of Owls and co-created Calvin Rose; he was never accused of forcing them down our throats!

Posted by Gambit1024

I like her.

Posted by mhanuroth

@Saranth: Because the court of owls is a villian that we arent seeing always and calvin rose has his own title he never appeard in batman so if you want buy it is ok. But Harper Row it seems that she is going to be a batman ally and she will appear many times. And we only know her for 2 issues and it really is 1

Posted by Aiden Cross

Very nice write up! I actually really like Harper and i hope she continues to grow closer to Bruce. But i hope for now just an ally and not the next Robin just yet. Let them develop a bit more, maybe in the future :)

Posted by RedQueen

Great post :)

It certainly seems that she's being set up for some greater purpose in the future, whether that will be Robin or not is uncertain. Perhaps a mix of the role of Oracle/Robin?

Posted by akbogert

I'm so glad someone wrote something like this. I quite appreciate it ^_^

I've decided to outright disregard anyone who badmouths Harper for any reason beyond not clicking with her personality (because hey, I like it, but not everyone has to). She was created before Damian's death was in the wings, and for all we know Snyder's plan for her had, or has, nothing at all to do with filling that void.

That said, there is a void. This is a reboot for the DC Universe. This will be a slow burn. This is supposed to last for decades as the continuity. So just as it would have been impossible to eradicate Alfred, or the Joker, or Jim Gordon, or any of the other hypothetical victims of DotF -- because that change would have permanently affected all Batman stories for the foreseeable (again, decades-long) future, no one can reasonably hope that there will no longer be any Robin in Gotham. As painful as the notion of Bruce replacing his own son is, it's also 100% inevitable. Thirty years from now, people who never read a thing that preceded the New 52 reboot will still know the name Robin. They just might not know the older names. That goes for most titles which have been passed between multiple characters over the years. There will be a new Robin. Right now the most likely candidate is Harper. I don't think either of those is actually up for debate, even if people are uncomfortable with the notion.

What is to be seen is 1. whether the transition from Harper now to Harper as Robin is done well and in a believable fashion, and 2. whether a new candidate will be introduced whose relevance to the position is convincing. For all that people complain about Damian's death, it's worth noting that his implementation as the current Robin was somewhat forced, and only later (and, it seems, in the hands of writers who are not Morrison) did people truly come to grips. As I like Harper, I hope she does not end up being shoehorned into the position (if she must be in it at all). But even if her replacing Damian is a little rushed, it can't possibly be worse than introducing a new character after now and then quickly putting them in the slot.

If Batman & Robin gets cancelled for now, then there's no immediate need for a new Robin, and that lets Harper off the hook for the time being. But rest assured there will be another Robin, sooner rather than later.

Posted by Timandm

I'm actually HOPING that Harper becomes the next Robin...
@RedQueen said:

Great post :)

It certainly seems that she's being set up for some greater purpose in the future, whether that will be Robin or not is uncertain. Perhaps a mix of the role of Oracle/Robin?

So... maybe a Roboracle?  Or Orbin?
Posted by RedQueen

@Timandm said:

I'm actually HOPING that Harper becomes the next Robin...

@RedQueen said:

Great post :)

It certainly seems that she's being set up for some greater purpose in the future, whether that will be Robin or not is uncertain. Perhaps a mix of the role of Oracle/Robin?

So... maybe a Roboracle? Or Orbin?

And if she ever becomes a sidekick, she will- by law- have to be named Orbin.

Because that name is awesome.