Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Five Reasons Huntress, Power Girl, and Fury Deserve a Rebirth

Today is the 5th anniversary of Huntress #1 from 2011, which reintroduced Helena Wayne back into mainstream continuity. Her reintroduction even led to the reintroduction of Earth-2 and the Justice Society for the New 52. While it's been nice to see the character re-acknowledged as a canonical character by DC Comics once again, her narrative, unfortunately, is still not where it is supposed to be. In fact, she's still too far removed from the Batman legacy character she's meant to exist as--a situation not helped by DC's obsession with wanting multiple "legacy Batmen" who are not legitimate successors to the cowl.

The same problem has also been true of the New 52 versions of the Justice Society. Characters who originally existed as DC's Golden Age heroes were rebooted as essentially an alternate universe Justice League, complete with the lack of age diversity, legacy, and history. Following the events of Earth-2: World's End, these characters got even further removed from their place as DC's Golden Age heroes to the point where DC essentially abandoned these versions all together in favour of bringing the more classic Justice Society to Prime Earth for Rebirth. With New York Comic Con starting tomorrow, we'll probably hear news about Rebirth Phase 02, including--hopefully--Justice Society news.

There's a lot to be excited about with the return of the classic Justice Society with Rebirth and a lot to be concerned about as well. While I am definitely excited to see a proper return of the Golden Age heroes I know and love, I also worry about how bringing them to Prime Earth will affect the existence of the female successors of the Golden Age Trinity. Is the Prime Earth Justice Society still the same one that originated on the pre-Crisis Earth-2? If so, can we also expect to see a return of the original versions of Helena Wayne, Kara Zor-L, and Lyta Trevor as Huntress, Power Girl, and Fury respectively with their original histories intact?

While these three women have been prominent (even celebrated) members of the Justice Society and Infinity Inc during the Bronze Age, they are also characters who have been repeatedly hurt by DC reboots. Between Crisis on Infinite Earths and Flashpoint, these three women have either been retconned out of existence (Huntress) or have had their histories changed to remove them as the successors of the Trinity (Power Girl and Fury). In the case of Flashpoint, one of them had their origin changed to remove Steve Trevor as her father and was even rebooted as an Apokolips villain (Fury). The other two women (Huntress and Power Girl) were removed from their own stories in favour of keeping the Batman and Superman legacies male, which is sexism.

If the goal of Rebirth is course-correction, and if the revival of the Golden Age Justice Society is staying true to that goal, then I equally argue that we also need to see the return of the pre-Crisis versions of Huntress, Power Girl, and Fury with this Justice Society. Not only is a proper return of these three women three decades overdue, but it's especially important to DC's other goal of revitalising their brand to be more inclusive of diverse readers, especially women. Because I feel very strongly about this, I compiled a list of five strong reasons Helena Wayne, Kara Zor-L, and Lyta Trevor deserve to be included in the Rebirth initiative.

1. THEY ARE THE LEGACIES OF THE GOLDEN AGE TRINITY

Kara Zor-L as Power Girl on Earth-2
There is no denying DC loves their iconic characters, especially their Trinity. In fact, so much of their films, television shows, video games and other merchandise tend to centre more on these three characters than any other characters they own. DC knows Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are their best selling properties, and they especially know fans love the supporting casts and families of these respective properties. It is therefore not surprising DC tends to bank on them more. The fact that the Trinity and their respective families are highly profitable is one major reason they should bring back the classic versions of Huntress, Power Girl, and Fury.

While it is universally acknowledged that the Trinity already have large supporting casts on Prime Earth as is (especially Batman), none of them have what Huntress, Power Girl, and Fury have: they are the daughters and legacies of the Golden Age originals, which is not an insignificant detail. While DC will always celebrate the Silver Age versions as the more iconic/modern incarnations of these characters, they will never be the originals, much in the same way that the Justice League will never be the original superhero team. That honour goes strictly to the Justice Society!

And speaking of the Justice Society, an additional reason for why the pre-Crisis versions of Huntress, Power Girl, and Fury should be brought back is because they take the place of the original Golden Age Trinity on the team. If part of the appeal of the Justice League is that it has Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman as team members, and if part of the appeal of the Justice Society is how they parallel to the modern Justice League, then having the classic versions of Huntress, Power Girl, and Fury on the Justice Society adds to that parallelism.

One of the things that was always exciting to see with the pre-Crisis Justice League/Justice Society crossovers is that we got to see how the two Flashes, two Green Lanterns, and even the two Hawkmen worked together. We got to see how they were similar to each other and how they differed. While Fury never got to be a member of the Justice Society pre-Crisis, Huntress and Power Girl definitely were and they were frequently present for these annual crossovers.

It was always exciting to see the Earth-2 Huntress team up with the Earth-1 Batman because of how they played off of each other. Both were highly skilled detectives who worked with exceptional harmony together, it seemed at times like they could communicate telepathically. The Earth-1 Bruce Wayne was additionally always intrigued by his parallel universe daughter since her presence gave him hope that he could one day be a good father. Seeing as the Prime Earth Bruce struggles to be a good father to his own son Damian these days, he does look like he could benefit from having the Earth-2 Helena Wayne back in his life!

While we rarely saw the Earth-2 Power Girl work alongside the Earth-1 Superman pre-Crisis, there is still plenty of story potential in having these two characters meet in the modern Prime Earth continuity. Seeing as the post-Crisis Superman is married to his world's Lois Lane (just like Power Girl's cousin was) and he also has a child of his own, having him interact with a version of Kara that his Earth-2 counterpart raised like a daughter would certainly add a new and interesting dynamic to these parallel universe cousins. Even having the Earth-2 Kara meet the Prime Earth Supergirl would be exciting to see because of how vastly different their personalities and identities are.

Unfortunately for Fury, she once again never got the chance to meet the Earth-1 Wonder Woman or Steve Trevor pre-Crisis. However, now that Greg Rucka has brought these two former lovers back together in Rebirth, now definitely sounds like a very good time to bring back their Earth-2 daughter into their lives. How will Lyta Trevor respond to the Prime Earth versions of her mother and father? How will they react to her existence? How will her existence change their lives and vice versa? Will she inspire them to follow in the footsteps of her parents on Earth-2? How will their narratives diverge?

If DC doesn't think having the Earth-2 daughters of the Golden Age Trinity on the same Earth as their mainstream families will lead to interesting stories, or if they somehow tell themselves that their existence on Prime Earth won't sell like hot cakes, they haven't been paying too close attention to tastes of their own fans!

2. THEY ARE HEROES OF THEIR OWN STANDING

Helena Wayne as Huntress on Earth-2
Despite being the female successors of the Golden Age Trinity, these three women surprisingly have very different narratives from their iconic parents and cousin.

Starting with Helena Wayne, this charming young daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle may be enough to draw Batman and Catwoman fans to her character, but she is in fact a lot more than just the better halves of her parents. Aside from prowling the streets of Gotham as the Huntress, Helena Wayne is also a Harvard University graduate with a successful career in law. In addition to capturing criminals by night, she also presents her evidence and arguments in a court of law by day, effectively jailing the worst of Gotham's criminal underworld for good. When she's not functioning as a double agent for Justice (either with the Justice Society or solo), Helena does like to spend quality time with her friends and family, and sometimes even her on-again/off-again boyfriend (Harry Sims) when he's not busy thinking about 'the dangers' of Helena's superhero lifestyle.

Kara Zor-L is also a woman of her own standing despite being the Earth-2 doppelgänger of the Prime Earth Supergirl. If the Prime Earth Kara is a teenage girl looking to find her place on an alien world that embraces her cousin as their greatest protector, the Earth-2 Kara by contrast has firm sense of her own identity and purpose. Having been rocketed off of Krypton as an infant at the same time that her cousin Kal-L was, the Earth-2 Kara never got to experience life on Krypton except through her symbioship's virtual reality. As such, it was probably easier for the Earth-2 Kara to adapt to her new world. Upon getting accustomed to life outside of a spaceship, the Earth-2 Kara saw it as her life's calling to take her ageing cousin's place as her new world's Kryptonian protector, not as Supergirl, not as Superwoman, but as Power Girl. Most likely taking inspiration from her cousin's wife, Lois Lane, Kara felt that she needed to stand out as her own hero and not as her cousin's 'carbon copy.' That is, she wanted people to think of her as a superhero with her own identity and not as an extension of her cousin. When she wasn't battling Justice Society villains as Power Girl, the Earth-2 Kara eventually settled for a career as a computer engineer, and later even became the CEO of her own software company, Starrware.

Despite her history as the daughter of Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor being cut short by the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot in 1986, Lyta Trevor was also off to an amazing start. Splitting her childhood between Paradise Island and the United States of America, Lyta Trevor is a character that kids like me can relate to. She is the daughter of an immigrant (Diana Prince) and an American airforce pilot and is therefore a part of two very different cultures with equally strong military backgrounds. Having learned her values and combat skills from her mother, the Amazons, and her military father, Lyta Trevor originally wanted to take her mother's place as Wonder Woman, feeling that she had all of the right skills and judgement to succeed the role. Unfortunately, her mother didn't feel she was ready due to lack of experience and also because she wanted Lyta to pursue a higher education. Lyta eventually caved in and did what her mother wanted by attending UCLA, but it didn't stop her from pursuing a superhero lifestyle. Having reunited with her childhood friend, Hector Hall (Hawkman and Hawkgirl's son), she developed her superhero identity as Fury, and co-founded Infinity Inc when her membership into the Justice Society was rejected. Though her history was changed post-Crisis, Lyta still pursued a romance with Hector and eventually married him. Sometime later, the couple welcomed a son into the world.

Given how very short-lived these three women's stories were as a consequence of Crisis on Infinite Earths, one more reason DC should bring these three women back with their original histories intact is so that their stories can pick up where they left off. To allow them to continue defining the legacies of the Golden Age Trinity while creating legacies of their own. They deserve the same chances to grow and evolve as characters just like every other DC hero in the mainstream universe, and a new generation of fans should be able to read about them as well. My generation was already robbed of their stories thanks to Crisis, let's not let that be the case for newer generations of DC fans.

3. THEY HAVE ONE OF THE MOST ENDURING FRIENDSHIPS IN THE DCU

Lyta Trevor as Fury on Earth-2
This one regrettably applies more to Huntress and Power Girl, as once again, Crisis on Infinite Earths put an abrupt end to these women's stories just when they were starting to take flight. As such, we never got to see Lyta, Kara, and Helena formally bond, leading to the creation of the second generation Trinity as probably intended. This is yet another reason why DC Comics should bring them back into the mainstream continuity. If they didn't get the chance to form that friendship before, having them form that friendship now (especially in an era of internet fandom, the DCEU, and DCTV) would certainly empty some wallets. So let's talk about why these women being friends was off to a great start.

Of the three women, Kara was the first female legacy character to make her debut alongside the Justice Society in 1976. Despite being a conceptually revolutionary character that challenged our ideas about women as superheroes, Kara was unfortunately the only woman on the team. It therefore made sense for DC to create more women as Justice Society heroes in order to alleviate Kara of the burden of representing her entire group. This led to the creation of Helena Wayne who was not only created to be the Batman to Kara's Superman, but even in personality, she provided a nice contrast to Kara.

In Kara's first years as a Justice Society member, she was known to be impulsive, hot-headed, and very opinionated to her male comrades. It often frustrated her that some of the Justice Society members didn't see her as their equal and especially hated being condescended (by Wildcat) due to both her gender and young age. When Helena entered the picture, it helped diversify the Justice Society a bit more and it facilitated the friendship between Kara and Helena right away.

How Kara and Helena met was never explicitly shown pre-Crisis, but we did know that Helena was intrigued by her right away in her first appearance in All-Star Comics #69 when her father was being controlled by Psycho-Pirate. When we later saw them dining together five issues later, it was clear by this point that the two women had become friends, and Helena in particular was interested in helping Kara adjust to civilian life. The presence of Helena brought out a different side of Kara that none of us have seen before.

The Kara we were all used to was very assertive and vocal, and around Helena she was the polar opposite: she was reserved and very quiet. Why exactly did Helena leave Kara feeling this way? Today's DC fans would interpret this as queer subtext (and there is plenty of that in the scene described), but within the context of the story itself, it's likely that Kara simply felt more comfortable around her. She probably felt that she could trust herself to be more vulnerable around Helena because she could count on Helena to not make her feel bad for it. She probably also valued Helena's friendship and didn't want to say or do anything that would compromise that friendship, at least not at first. Once Kara felt more comfortable being her authentic herself around Helena, then she started losing her filter once again.

While Kara and Helena didn't always see eye to eye on things, there was still tremendous love and respect between them. Helena never found Kara's temperament off-putting, and Kara still preferred Helena's company even when she felt condescended by her at times. Over time, these two women would develop one of the most enduring friendships that lasted even after Helena was retconned out of existence with Crisis. When Kara became aware of her Earth-2 past post-Crisis, she found herself yearning to rekindle that special friendship she once had with Helena that it pained her to both remember her and even encounter a version of her on another Earth.

The first time both women met Lyta Trevor, it was a year before Crisis on Infinite Earths. They first encountered her when she attempted to join the Justice Society, only to have her membership rejected by her own mother no less. Feeling sympathy for the young legacy heroine as well as the group she arrived with, both Kara and Helena sought her out and attempted to reach out to her. This actually led to their first team up and the formation of Infinity Inc. While the three women didn't interact much (especially since Kara and Helena eventually rejoined the Justice Society), it was obvious that the three heroines respected each other and possibly looked forward to teaming up again in the future. Unfortunately, because Crisis happened, that future never saw fruition. However, if all three ladies get brought back with Rebirth, that story can still be developed.

4. THEY HAVE STRONG POTENTIAL TO ATTRACT A DIVERSE AUDIENCE

Kara and Helena All-Star Comics #74
Taking into account what all three women bring to the table, they are bound to attract a large diverse audience. Their status as Justice Society characters that made their debut in the Bronze Age would immediately invite back the DC fans who grew up with them in the 1970s and 1980s. Most of these men and women are in the 40s and older now.

Their status as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman legacy characters would especially attract everyone of varying age because of how popular these three properties are with the general public. The fact that they are literal members of these respective families is especially bound to attract a devoted female fanbase because of how passionate women tend to feel about these narratives.

While male readers tend to be more centred on continuity, logical storytelling, and believable character development when investing in comics, I find that women tend to do that and more. While there are men who also draw fanart of their favourite characters, create graphics, blogs, and even write fanfics for them, I find that these activities tend to fall more disproportionately on the female side of fandom than I find it evenly distributed. Why that is is a research project in and of itself, but the fact that women tend find new ways to give these characters more exposure through sheer love of them alone is one way that they gain more visibility, and for that matter, reach more diverse readers.

Another group that these three women would easily attract are LGBTQA readers. We already saw this happen first hand with the New 52 versions of Huntress and Power Girl, and the Wonder Woman franchise has always been popular with LGBTQA readers. One thing I noticed queer women responded very strongly to with the New 52 is the friendship between Kara and Helena. They specifically responded to the various instances of lesbian subtext between them. Everything from Kara holding Helena like a bride during her flights to Helena holding Kara's hand as a way of comforting her did not go unnoticed. However, there was also the issue of writers always reminding us (either in interviews or in the comics themselves) that these two women were 'just friends' as if trying to dispel any rumours of these two women being queer. The constant use of subtext coupled with 'no homo confirmations' then became a case of queer-baiting.

If DC wants to approach diverse readers differently with Rebirth and present themselves as an LGBTQA inclusive company, one thing they can definitely do differently is look at what diverse readers respond strongly to and develop their characters in ways that are inclusive of them. In the case of Huntress and Power Girl, instead of constantly queer-baiting them like in the New 52, why not actually develop them as a queer couple? After all, the pre-Crisis versions were never confirmed to be straight, and both Kara and Helena having had boyfriends in the past is not an automatic confirmation of their heterosexuality. Bisexual women also date men and they still fall into the LGBTQA spectrum. If the 'proof' that these two women are straight is that they were never written as being into each other pre-Crisis, it's worth remembering that the Comics Code of Authority was a thing at the time, and the code did prevent open depiction of queer people. Though there wasn't much of it in the pre-Crisis comics like there is in modern comics, subtext was still present between these two women, even in the catastrophic Crisis on Infinite Earths maxiseries.

Bottom line? If DC is going to be persistently subtexty with Kara and Helena, go all the way, and open that closet door wide open. There won't be a shortage of heterosexual characters in doing so, but there will definitely be an influx of new interested customers at the sound of Batman's daughter and Superman's cousin coming out of that dark and dingy closet!

5. THEY WERE NEVER GIVEN A FAIR CHANCE IN THE NEW 52

Kara and Helena in JSA Annual #1
This is perhaps the biggest reason Huntress, Power Girl, and Fury deserve a Rebirth: they were not given their due with the New 52, much to everyone's frustration. I could go on again about what a wasted opportunity both the New 52 and DCYou initiatives were for Earth-2 and these women. But I've literally been having this conversation for five years now, and I definitely want something new to talk about for the next five.

It should be pretty clear by now what I value most in any narrative: progressive change, thoughtful representation, meaningful character development, and authentic storytelling. Four things Earth-2 was not in the New 52 and these are four major areas Rebirth has been course correcting on, leading to a higher sales turnout all across the DC line. There is no better time for the pre-Crisis Huntress, Power Girl, and Fury to make a comeback than now.

If DC recognises that sexism hurts the commercial success of their female-fronted comics and alienates female readers, relaunching a Rebirth World's Finest book with the pre-Crisis Huntress, Power Girl, and Fury on Prime Earth would definitely compensate for everything that went wrong for these three women in the New 52, and the rage-inducing sexism that factored into their stories these past five years. It would especially compensate for the existence of an Earth-2 that went out of its way to ignore Huntress and Power Girl as the true legacies of their father and cousin respectively, and handed those legacies over to men who haven't actually earned those places. It would especially compensate for the erasure of Lyta Trevor as Fury and replacing her with a stand-in character who is neither Donna Troy in concept, nor a good representation of the legacy of Wonder Woman.

If part of DC's goal with Rebirth is stronger inclusivity of diverse people, relaunching a new World's Finest book with a female editor and a female creative team would also be a step in the right direction. Not only could putting women on a Huntress, Power Girl, and Fury book lead to more authentic storytelling, but given how passionate female DC fans tend to be about these characters and narratives, I would argue they would be much more thoughtful about the way these characters are represented on the page. Given how very popular the Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman families tend to be with women, you can bet there will be significant interest in developing their stories.

Now, of course, hiring women does not guarantee quality storytelling, but women who are fans and successful writers of comics do exist. Among them are Gail Simone, Amy Chu, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Renae De Liz, Marguerite Bennett, and Marjorie Liu. In addition to ones who already exist in the industry, imagine how many more female talents who are DC Comics fans are waiting to be discovered by the company? Has anyone at DC looked in my direction, for example? (Cause I'm pretty confident I will enjoy writing these characters for DC in a Rebirth comic--I'll even quit my day job to give them 200%. Anyway...)

If part of the goal of Rebirth is giving every DC character their due as Geoff Johns implied, then there is literally no reason for why the pre-Crisis Huntress, Power Girl, and Fury should be excluded from the initiative. Even less so if pre-Flashpoint Wally West fans got their white, red-haired Wally back on the same Earth as black Wally. Same for pre-Flashpoint Superman fans who got their post-Crisis Superman and family back on the same Earth as the New 52 Superman and Lois. Literally.

Lastly, if DC is going full circle with promoting the hell out of their Rebirth line of books, then DC giving that same level of promotion to a Rebirth World's Finest book would benefit that book significantly. If they especially market the book as a Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman legacy book with the pre-Crisis Huntress, Power Girl, and Fury, I'm willing to lose my car in a bet that it will actually sell in much higher numbers than the New 52 Earth-2 and Worlds' Finest comics combined. That kind of exposure will especially benefit the characters, especially if it leads to them appearing in their family line of books.

1 comment:

  1. OMG! I couldn't agree more with your points. I miss Power Girl, as she was meant to be. Strong, sure of herself, but still a little ditzy at times. Beautiful because she knew who she was. I missed that in New52 and when she gave up her mantle to that kid... I was outraged.

    Bring back Power Girl, as we knew her. Window and all!

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