Who is BATMAN's Mystery Girl HARPER ROW?

Batman #7, pg. 4

Now that the Joker story has started in Batman and is influencing several other titles in the DCU, it begs the question why the title spent one of its issues in August exploring a character nobody has ever heard of.

Why did we get to know Harper Row in Batman #12? Why was she so important? And will she show up as part of "Death of the Family?"

And with the Joker back, is there a chance she's related to The Joker somehow?

Batman #12 told the "origin story" of Harper Row, a teen in Gotham City. She was important enough for a whole issue dedicated to her story. However, two issues later (including September's Batman #0), she hasn't shown up again.

Could DC be saving her for something down the line?

Readers got their first real introduction to the young girl in Batman #7, when she rescued the near-dead Batman from the icy waters of Gotham Bay. Bruce was so badly beaten by the Court of Owls that Harper had to jump-start his heart, using a car battery and jumper cables.

Batman #7, pg. 5

When he woke up, Batman recognized her and said, "I told you once already, leave me alone. I mean it."

In August, Snyder set aside an entire issue of Batman to explore the girl's story, answering the question: How did Batman know her?

But the more pressing question is, why did Batman dedicate an entire issue to this new character? And why did she show up in the midst of the title's first story arc? Fans of Snyder have been guessing on message boards and Twitter ever since she showed up.

Batman #12, pg. 1

For his part, Snyder has been insinuating that she's an important character. "Harper Row is her name and she's a character I've been thinking about for some time," Snyder said in an interview with ComicVine. "I don't want to give too much away, but you'll be seeing more of her in Gotham soon — she has an important role to play in upcoming stories."

So who is she?

Gotham Family Tree

Batman #12, pg. 2

If there's one theme that has been central to Snyder's Batman-related work, it's the importance of Gotham City's history and the families who live there. In his Detective Comics run, the writer explored how a demented James Gordon Jr. would affect his father, Jim, and his sister, Barbara. In Batman: Gates of Gotham, Snyder and current Nightwing writer Kyle Higgins showed the historical links between several well-known families in Gotham City, some related to current-day heroes and others whose lineage produced villains. They furthered that idea in the Grayson family's revealed links to the Court of Owls.

And in the shocking conclusion to "The Court of Owls" storyline, the big-bad villain behind the attack on Bruce Wayne was revealed to be none other than his alleged brother, Thomas Wayne Jr.

IIf the comic is staying on trend, Harper Row is probably related to someone else in Gotham City. In Batman #12, Harper Row had a brother named "Cullen," which offers few clues. There's a mention of a father, and no mother, but we never met either and they didn't seem to be around anymore. So who are her parents? Chances are that Harper Row is connected to someone in Gotham's history. But who?

Pre-52 Daughters

Batman #12, pg. 3

While the New 52 reboot was originally touted by DC as making very few changes to Batman's continuity, the fact is, a lot of Gotham's history has been scrapped. Many of the characters have been revamped, and everything from Barbara Gordon's past as Oracle to Tim Drake's time as Robin looks to be sketchy-at-best.

However, Snyder's numerous nods so far in Batman toward several pre-New 52 concepts — particularly the Thomas Jr. reveal as an "owl" — indicate he's open to reinterpreting and updating established ideas from pre-New 52.

So, if Harper Row is someone's daughter, what little girls from pre-New 52 would be worth revamping?

Catwoman's daughter: In the New 52, it's already been established that Batman and Catwoman of Earth 2 had a now-full-grown daughter named Helena Wayne (see World's Finest). While that's a revamp of a long-standing tradition of Earth 2 stories, there was another "Catwoman's daughter" for awhile in the main earth's continuity. Catwoman Selina Kyle briefly had a baby named Helena, part of a fan-favorite run on the pre-52 Catwoman title.

from Batman #12

We admit that it's unlikely that the full grown Harper Row is Catwoman and Batman's daughter — even though the new Catwoman title made it abundantly clear that they are lovers — because she also has a brother and knew her (alleged) father. But we wouldn't put the surprise of a "full-grown family" past DC, since they're sticking with the story that Batman already has a questionably-aged son named Damian.

However, Harper Row could be Catwoman's daughter in another capacity, similar to other Catwoman sidekicks we've seen. Just before the New 52 reboot, Tony Daniel was exploring a story about a teenaged sidekick named Kitrina who became "Catgirl." Could this be a nod toward that story? Could Harper Row be related to Catwoman in a similar way?

DC does seem to be opening the doors to more Catwoman "team"-type stories, and a more varied history for the character than her New 52 predecessor. Catwoman #0 implied there's more to Selina's heritage than even she realizes, and her inclusion in the upcoming Justice League of America means DC has big plans for her next year. Could Harper Row be part of those plans?

Joker's daughter: The character known as "Duela Dent" has been in and out of DC continuity for years — sometimes with an origin on an alternate earth and other times as a regular DC character. She even showed up on Geoff Johns' Teen Titans team, with the writer once telling Newsarama that he thought the character had a lot of potential.

The fact that Johns is now an executive at DC lends credence to a Duela Dent revival — reinforced by DC's choice to add her to the popular Ame-Comi statues and comics. Her relationship with Joker may have been sketchy pre-New 52, but as we've outlined above, Snyder likes to play with history and has the ability to add something new with Harper's lineage. And the writer's use of a Joker-related character is even more plausible because of his current major storyline: "Death of the Family."

With the entire Bat-family poised to confront Joker over the next few months — involving several non-Batman titles in the DC Universe — it would certainly hit home a little harder if Harper Row, who has already positioned herself as a friend to Batman, ends up being Joker's daughter. And a brother? Why not?

New Batgirl

from Batman #12

It has to be said, even though we're hesitant to think DC would go there. But the mantle of "Batgirl" has been bounced around into the hands of so many people over the last decade that it certainly would fit with the publisher's history. Could Snyder be positioning Harper Row as the next Batgirl?

Since Barbara Gordon's only been in the costume a year, it seems unlikely. But current Batgirl writer Gail Simone told Newsarama that she's putting Barbara on a "collision course" with the Joker, and their long-awaited showdown occurs over the next couple months as part of the "Death of the Family" event.

"It is the once-and-for-all confrontation between the Batgirl and the man who shot and paralyzed her," Simone said in our interview. "This story starts in issue #14, and I have to say, it's pretty shocking."

The Batgirl title has already shown that Barbara's sometimes on shaky grounds emotionally. Would she leave the mantle, even if it's temporary, after a showdown with Joker? And would it be fitting, even a bit of "funny" comeuppance for the villain, if the Joker's daughter took over as Batgirl?

Or, could a Barbara Gordon death be in the realm of possibilities for "Death of the Family?" Probably not, because Simone also told us the battle between Barbara and Joker "does not go as he expected." Our prediction: Barbara kicks Joker's arse (or maybe shoots him through the spine?). Which brings us to another possibility...

Damian's Replacement?

For people who have been reading Batman and Robin under the pen of Grant Morrison and Peter Tomasi, the current Robin, Damian Wayne, has really become a beloved character. So taking him out of the Robin costume to be replaced by someone else would probably not be a fan-favored move for DC.

from Batman #12

But the New 52 universe has established that the role of Robin changes frequently. And the switch from Damian to a female Robin would certainly shake things up in the Batman universe.

So is it plausible that Damian might stop being Robin soon?

The character's creator, Grant Morrison, has confirmed that his time on Batman Inc. is ending in May 2012. And he has always said that he would return to finish Damian's story arc when he ended his time on Batman.

"After the first year of Batman Inc.," Morrison told Newsarama in 2010 when he had left Batman and Robin, "my next big storyline is going to go back to focus on Damian a little bit.

"I do have big plans for Damian in the future," he said. "But I can't tell you what they are."

Recent issues of Batman Inc. have hinted that Damian's story is heating up for an important moment soon. And the struggles between him and Bruce in Tomasi's Batman and Robin — as well as some disturbing inner tendencies toward violence — would certainly support him walking away from the Robin mantle.

So what would Damian do next? As Bruce's son, he would make a terrific Batman villain. And recent statements from Morrison indicate his immediate story won't end well:

"It's about making the whole thing come full circle," Morrison told Comic Book Resources. "I just focused it down on Damian and who he is — the trouble this has all caused him and the trouble it continues to cause through these next few issues until it kind of wrecks everything."

Tomasi has also told Newsarama that he has an "uber-story" planned for Batman and Robin, which indicates something major coming for the Damian-focused series.

Batman #12 variant

So how bad can it get for Damian? We've already tossed around the idea that Barbara Gordon could die. Would DC kill off Batman's son?

It's something Morrison has considered before: "When I first introduced [Damian], I figured I was going to kill him off at the end of that first four-part story," Morrison once revealed to Newsarama. "I thought people would hate him so much. I thought I'd do one of those classic stories where the little bad guy in the last act suddenly does a wonderful thing and sacrifices his life and saves the world and you feel sorry for him. But then I thought, no, this character has a lot more potential.

"I thought, 'I'm going to make everyone love this character, because I think there's some big potential here,'" he said. "It's really worked out. He's really become quite a breakout character from the series."

With Morrison apparently finishing his story arc for Damian currently, the only hint he'll give for how things go for the child: "What I'm aiming toward now was always implicit in the beginning," he told Newsarama. Full circle indeed.

So if Damian does leave the Robin mantle behind — however he may depart — could Harper Row be the next Robin? She wouldn't be the first female Robin, since a character named Stephanie Brown was already in the role pre-New 52 (see her status in our interview with Dan DiDio here). But the aforementioned questions about Harper Row's lineage might make her status as Batman's "sidekick" even more interesting. Hmm...

While we know her back-story and how she got involved with Batman, we still don't know anything about Harper Row's lineage or why she was so important to the future of Batman. It's apparently a case of "wait and see," but we're hoping the wait isn't too long. Harper Row, who are you?

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