What's the ideal relationship between Damian and Casa in your mind ?
Honestly, one of the things that upset me the most about the hard cut from the 2011 reboot is that we were very well on our way to actually seeing the sort of relationship I wanted from Cass and Damian, thanks to titles like Batman: Gates of Gotham (2011)
Now, Damian spends the majority of the book really frustrated and prickly toward Cass during her return to Gotham, and it’s not really difficult to infer why given how absolutely tripping over themselves Dick and Tim are (in Batfamily terms) with having their sister back.
Damian, who is hard to earn respect and loyalty from to begin with anyway, is immediately put off by the most important person in his life at the time (Dick) and the one person he cannot please (Tim) equally being enamored with the sister he’s never met. He’s more than a little jelly. Which makes it hard to forget that prior to that Damian actually really wanted to meet Cass and had hoped for a sort of kinship with her that he doesn’t get with the rest of the family.
[Batgirl (2009-2011) #5 – we’ll put away the reasons I don’t like this scene for now]
I think, especially since the years have progressed Damian’s story since this moment but have neglected this angle what with DC first determined to pretend Cass didn’t exist then with the years of DC making it fact that Cass didn’t exist, that it’s hard to remember Damian’s position in the family here and why someone as “mythical” as Cassandra would be appealing to him.
Damian is constantly judged for his heritage and the pride he takes in both of his lineages, he has committed murder already at the age of 10 which (almost) everyone around him thinks is near unforgivable, and he’s ruthlessly combat oriented whereas the rest of the Bat Family tend to not condone any acts of “unnecessary” violence (and arbitrarily draw that line in different places as they see fit, which is another discussion entirely).
This is a time before the David Zavimbi’s Batwing and before most of the Batfamily even knew Kate Kane as Batwoman all that well enough. So Damian is sort of hopelessly alone in his own mind as trying to be a part of this family that seems to be against everything he’s ever known.
Except all of them talk about the sister Damian has never met.
This isn’t a lot of direct text for this interpretation, because as I said DC was doing their damndest to erase Cass entirely despite the fact that she had been a part of major events for over a decade at the time, but it is there when you read into Damian’s early arc and, especially, read moments like this one in Batgirl (2009-2011) prior to getting to Batman: Gates of Gotham (2011).
Damian hears about this girl who was Batgirl before he came to town. The young woman taken in by Batman and Oracle, who his father loved and respected enough to adopt, who his brothers talk of, who Stephanie Brown was best friends with. He hears all these things and then what he knows about her from the League of Assassins seemingly doesn’t line up.
Like him, Cassandra was a product of the League. Like him, Cassandra’s birth parent who raised her is considered a villain. Like him, Cassandra committed murder before she could ever truly understand what it meant. And like him, Cassandra, reborn in the Lazarus Pits at least once and revived again in some mystic setting, decided to become a member of the Batfamily.
And she succeeded.
For a young Damian, he’s built up this idea of who Cassandra is – someone accepted and beloved by everyone around him, even those he can’t gain the respect of, someone who is known for living a life that spoken through violence, someone who has been on every road he is now attempting to travel himself. And when he finally is in Gotham, she disappears.
The myth of who his sister is grows. And even while he breaks glass ceiling after glass ceiling in his relationships with Dick, Steph, Alfred, and so on, there’s still not that person that is going to 100% understand where he is in life, and why he would still be torn by his loyalties to people he understands is bad.
He’s hoping that Cassandra will be that person and…
She is and she isn’t.
Cass and Damian are very different people. Their personalities are near opposites – she’s cool as ice, capable of violence and temper but purposeful in her choice to look for alternatives when possible. He’s fiery, hot-tempered, very quick to judge. And most importantly, their compassion is not compatible. Where Cass’ compassion is the core of her character, is what made her decide for herself at the age of eight to leave the assassin lifestyle she had been born into, Damian’s compassion is… there but it’s nubile and developing, he’s much more ruled by pride and determination.
Which leads into their eventual team up in Batman: Gates of Gotham where those very different values put them temporarily at odds where Cassandra would, without a second’s thought, save her brother (or anyone else, but especially her brother given the direct parallels going on in Gates) than save a Wayne family monument, whereas Damian would rather die than fail.
[Batman: Gates of Gotham #2 (of 5) “Don’t forget what matters. You’re alive.”]
Dick had similar problems early in his and Damian’s partnership, where rescuing Damian’s life earned him trust, yes, but there was a harsh divide between what they valued on the mission. Dick overcame that by reinforcing Damian and making it clear to him that Dick cared about Damian, that he loved him and took care of him because that’s what he was always going to do no matter what. That was something Damian had never really felt before – unconditional love.
And that was the exact same thing Cassandra was offering Damian in this moment.
The successes, the family heirlooms, so on and so forth – Cass doesn’t care. She will give them up to save someone and she will especially give them up, especially let Damian (in his own mind if no one else’s) fail as long as he was still alive.
Now, Damian’s not overly thrilled with this revelation. In fact he storms off the moment Dick shows up to make sure they’re alright, but the seeds are sewn.
There’s a bit of a moment in issues #3 and 4 where Damian picks teaming up with Tim (his “mortal enemy” at the time) over teaming up with Cass because he’s so disgusted with her for saving his life here, and the moment Damian starts badmouthing his sister, Tim goes for the attack and says Damian’s only upset because Bruce chose Cass over Damian (YIKES Tim he’s TEN wth, take down your overprotectiveness of Cass just a notch plz), which is counter productive if you know anything about how finicky Damian is.
If anything such a declaration would have damaged Damian’s abilities to trust Cass or rely on her, but she saved his life and he’s somewhat idolized this image of her long enough that for the finale of the story, when Cass needs Damian to trust her plan to save the city, he answers the call and they work together marvelously.
[Batman: Gates of Gotham (2011) #5]
They help Dick save the city, and Cass shows that she’s still fond of Damian even after all of the verbal jabs thrown her way throughout the story and stands up for Damian to Tim (who, again, Cass is very close to)
[Batman: Gates of Gotham (2011) #5 – c’mon, Tim, lighten up]
Which, unfortunately, is the very note that we left this relationship on.
Cass and Damian both are arguably completely different characters in the reboot and if they’ve had an interaction in the new continuity I’ve not read it yet. Which is really unfortunate because all this groundwork is complicated, fascinating, and enjoyable. And arguably set up a lot like the relationship I’ve been enjoying in Robin: Son of Batman between Damian and Maya Ducard.
So after all that, what’s my ideal relationship?
Well, something developed organically from the canon I just showed:
Damian comes to grow a real relationship with the actual Cassandra. One that’s not unfathomably started due to Cass’ persistence in showing up in his life over and over again after they’re both in Gotham regularly. They wouldn’t see eye to eye on everything – like I said, personality wise, they could not be more different even with their backgrounds – but Cass would see him as her brother and, eventually, Damian would very much come to see her as a sister.
And that’s where it would come from. A lot of team-ups, a lot of training, and perhaps a running gag where Damian has something stolen from him by Cass and she makes him have to challenge her to get it, very much in the same spirit as the Batman and Robin (2011-2014) storyline where he challenged all of his brothers – except where that was ridiculous and tried to make everyone else look bad, this would just be teasing between siblings with no (major) blood spilled over it.