Wednesday 13 November 2013

Worlds' Finest #17 Preview

Written by PAUL LEVITZ
Power Girl tries to restore her powers to full strength with the super hero equivalent of space...with disastrous results.

Saturday 9 November 2013

I ♥ Huntress, Day Seven: Helena Wayne's Profession

Here it is ladies and gentlemen, the final topic as we bring I ♥ Huntress week to a close. It is the one final piece of Helena Wayne's history that I am definitely missing from her New 52 incarnation: her profession.

As I've stated in the previous posts, one of the things that was cool about Helena Wayne was that she chose law as her profession. Not only was it fitting for Batman's daughter to pursue a career in criminal justice but it was also a unique aspect of her character that differed from the rest of the Wayne family who were, for the most part, industrialists or practitioners of medicine.

While much of the details on how Helena functioned as a lawyer is not currently known (and she was retconned out of continuity before a future writer had the chance to expand on that aspect of her character) a lot can still be inferred based on how she was written in her back-up stories in Wonder Woman and especially in the Roy Thomas-written miniseries America vs The Justice Society.

One thing that was known right away was that her areas of law dealt with public interest and consumer law. She also had a very strong reputation amongst her colleagues and was a very popular choice lawyer amongst Gotham's citizens. More often than not, her clients were normal everyday citizens and the majority of the people that she prosecuted in court were individuals in a position of power. Sometimes her exploits even prompted the federal government to act such as the time that she exposed a government official for a real estate scam that had left hundreds of people from Gotham's poorer district homeless.

Another thing that was notable about Helena as a lawyer was that she often used her own clients' cases as a way of finding out what was going on in the Gotham underworld and what crime busts she would make as the Huntress. It was also very evident that she was far more invested in her work as the Huntress than as a lawyer, largely because she preferred to stop a crime from happening rather than deal with the politics in court, which would often bend to the will of the person with the most power and money. As the Huntress she also had considerably more control over the gathering of evidence that she could later use to convict a criminal in court and insure that he or she would actually see prison time as opposed to squeaking their way out of the handcuffs through clever exploitation of the justice system. The latter in particular was one of the things she disliked most about her profession.

On the subject of balancing her activities as the Huntress and her actual job, Helena was often times late for work as a consequence of staying up until three or four o'clock in the morning busting criminals as the Huntress. Sometimes she wouldn't even show up to work at all which earned her the contempt of her partner Roger Demarest who thought of her as 'a rich princess who had nothing real to offer the law firm than her good looks and her father's money.' Her senior partner, Arthur Cranston, thought very differently of Helena and actually acknowledged her talents as a lawyer and even had the highest respects for her. He also often times excused Helena's 'strange habits' on the basis that she was one of the best lawyers in his law firm.

Of her entire pre-Crisis career, by far the highest profile case she had as lawyer was the time that she defended the entire Justice Society in a very public court from accusations of treason that her father made in a diary going back to the World War II era. During this case, she fought very vehemently against her father's words and even considered outing her father as Batman (and subsequently herself as the Huntress) as a way of proving the JSA's innocence. This consequently put her at odds with Dick Grayson who challenged Helena in court on Bruce's behalf, and the only way Dick and Helena were prevented from going the extra mile was through the timely intervention of Power Girl who provided the testament needed to put the entire case to rest.

In the New 52, Helena has yet to establish a life and a career outside of being the Huntress, but if/when a future writer decides to develop her character further, I do hope they stay true to her pre-Crisis incarnation and have her decide to have her pursue law again. Not only would it be a logical and progressive career choice for her character even in her newest incarnation, but it would certainly be one step closer to reinstating the character back into the boots of the Helena Wayne I knew and loved from the pre-Crisis days.

Friday 8 November 2013

I ♥ Huntress, Day Six: Romance

It is often stated of the weeping willow individual (that is anyone born between 3 September - 12 September in this case) that they are 'honest with good intuition, but nonetheless frequently suffer greatly in matters of the heart before they find an anchoring partner.'

In the case of Helena Wayne (who was established as having been born on 7 September by Joey Cavalieri in 1984), this very much rings true. While she is a rather remarkable woman on many fronts, she has unfortunately not had much success with finding a romantic partner who genuinely loves and accepts her for the person that she is. This was especially true of the one longterm relationship that she did have pre-Crisis. Even when she did come across someone who actually loved and respected her, that person either turned out to be 'family' or someone who didn't respect personal boundaries and engaged in stalking behaviour.

The first and only known longterm relationship Helena Wayne had in the pre-Crisis continuity was with a lad who was also Gotham's young District Attorney, Harry Sims. Before he learnt of her life as the Huntress, Harry did actually love and admire Helena for her intelligence and assertiveness in her fight for justice in the courtroom. He even turned to her for advice whenever he found himself with difficult cases he couldn't handle, and unsurprisingly, was physically attracted to her as well. Yet, despite these positive qualities, he also maintained very patriarchal views of women and relationships which later influenced his attitude towards Helena once he did learn of her life as the Huntress. In particular, he was not comfortable with the idea of Helena being able to take on dangerous criminals by herself and had an awful tendency to undermine her skill and ability to do so, often rationalising that this line of work was 'too dangerous' for a woman. To top it off, he was not comfortable with being in relationship with a woman who, from his point of view, was 'trying to get herself killed,' once again completely denying Helena's competence in a male-dominated endeavour.

Obviously these 'concerns' did not stop Helena from operating as the Huntress, but they did nevertheless produce plenty of obstacles in her relationship with Harry. After a certain point, for example, he started exhibiting controlling behaviour in the form of withdrawing information from her on cases he knew she would be interested in, and even condescended her like a father to a child when she didn't do things his way. These are, of course, very transparent examples of sexism at work, and these behaviours are especially symptomatic of an abusive relationship--something that Helena herself even acknowledged in narrative. Yet, despite recognising that she was in a toxic relationship with a man who did not actually respect, let alone 'love' her, she was never written by any of her writers as ever exiting this relationship--something that a self-respecting woman who is already financially secure (such as Helena) would have already done. Whether or not the pre-Crisis Helena would have eventually moved on to someone else will never be known because she was axed during the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths before her then-announced miniseries saw publication. Nevertheless, Harry Sims was not the only potential love interest Helena had.

One popular choice of a potential love interest for Helena was her own father's ward, Richard 'Dick' Grayson, who was 25 years her senior pre-Crisis. In addition to the fact that he was raised by her father, Bruce Wayne, from the time he was 8 years old and fought alongside him as Robin, Dick was also around to raise and even take care of Helena when she was born. Not only was he still a part of the Wayne family during this time, but he had also--originally--established a brother-sister relationship with Helena growing up. Yet, despite the familial relationship that already existed between Dick and Helena, that didn't stop writers from considering him as a potential love interest for Helena. We saw the first iteration of this in the 'Together Again For the First Time' story arc of her back-up series in Wonder Woman.

In the narrative, Dick as Robin teamed up with Helena on a case involving a crime boss who would later be known as the Crime Lord, and both had taken down the Joker before that. While working out together in Helena's flat, Dick and Helena discussed her relationship problems with Harry. Dick openly acknowledged that she was in relationship with a guy who didn't fully understand or appreciate her, and therefore couldn't workout in the longterm. He especially drew a parallel to Bruce's relationship with Selina, particularly noting that the reason this relationship worked as well as it did was because Bruce and Selina understood each other in way that most people would not have been able to. He especially made a point of emphasising that if Helena was to have a chance at a successful relationship with anyone, she would have to get together with a man who will understand her, love her, and respect her for the person that she is, and not for who he wants her to be as was the case with Harry. It was also during this conversation that the two noticed each other under a sexual light for the first time and a mutual physical attraction was established.

Of the two parties, only Dick openly acknowledged his sexual attraction to Helena that he decided to depart back to Africa to avoid pursuing those feelings further. Although a relationship between the two never took place in either the pre or post-Crisis continuities (his one night stand with Helena Bertinelli notwithstanding), Dick's attraction to Helena continued to be hinted at most notably in Infinity Inc and America vs The Justice Society. In the post-Crisis continuity, it was explicitly acknowledged in the JSA Annual from 2008 that Dick was in love with Helena and wanted to be there for her when she was going through a very stressful time in her life. It was also within this same narrative that Helena admitted to Power Girl for the first time that she had always been in love with Dick and that she was never really in love with her actual boyfriend, Harry Sims. (Admittedly, I have to give props to Geoff Johns for writing Helena as wanting out of this relationship even if his establishing of Helena as in love with Dick felt rather forced).

The last known potential love interest for Helena Wayne during the pre-Crisis continuity was a character created during Joey Cavalieri's run of her series, an Italian-American police officer named Gary Minelli. Since his initial introduction, it was established that Gary found Helena very attractive and even helped her escape from a psychiatric facility that had been using its patients for illegal experiments for new drugs. Helena herself was shot with a cocktail of psychedelic drugs that left her hallucinating for a lengthy period of time and it was Gary who looked after her while she was high. By the time Helena had regained consciousness and was able to think properly, Gary wasted no time in asking for her phone number, which surprised Helena that he was not remotely intimidated by her.

Whether or not Gary learnt Helena's real identity was never explicitly established, but I always assumed that he did since he had unmasked (and apparently undressed) her while she was unconscious, and was especially assigned by the Gotham Police Department to spy on her. While Gary was in fact following orders from his superiors, he also admitted to himself that he would have still stalked Helena regardless to learn more about her and hopefully ask her out. Needless to say, Helena found Gary's stalking behaviour very off-putting and was particularly disturbed by the revelation that he had been invading her privacy. Whatever became of this encounter remained unresolved because Crisis wiped the slate clean shortly after this story was written.

Within the New 52 continuity, Helena Wayne hasn't had any romantic relationships to make note of, but it is known that she did not actively date on Earth-2 due to a lack of privacy from her father. Whether or not she has hooked up with anyone since arriving to the mainstream Earth is also unknown, but it is known that she does flirt with men as a way of getting information quickly (and possibly outside of 'work' as well since she implied being quite skilled at it), and has even given flirty gazes at women, most notably to an Italian reporter named Christina and her best friend Kara. She was even perfectly comfortable with bringing a female sex worker into her hotel room, and was even wearing sexy lingerie 'for the occasion' even if it was part of her cover. (On that note, who does she wear sexy lingerie for if she actually owns some?)

Admittedly, Helena reads to me as someone who is potentially bisexual in the New 52, and apparently I'm not the only one picking up on this. Quite a few of my followers on Tumblr have picked up on this as well, including a friend of mine who isn't even into femslash. Whether or not Helena's sexuality will ever be explicitly acknowledged one day, I guess that will depend on the next writer who gets a hold of her (assuming Levitz doesn't do it first). One thing that is for certain though, is that she is very much a clean slate to work with. Since there was never a Dick Grayson on the New 52 version of Earth-2 that was a part of the Wayne family, it is quite possible now to pair her up with the mainstream version of Dick (assuming Dan Didio doesn't kill him off) and the incestuous vibes won't be quite as strong this time around. It's also just as equally possible to officially pair her up with Power Girl if a future writer decides to go the LGBTQ route with Helena. Or if a future writer feels like exploring the Huntress/Catman relationship again now that the Huntress is back to being a Wayne with the BatCat genes to actually make this idea more significant, he too is another possibility for a love interest.

Once again, brand new universe, brand new version of the character, endless possibilities for romantic/sexual relationships in the character's future.

Thursday 7 November 2013

I ♥ Huntress, Day Five: Friendship

Throughout Helena Wayne's publication history, friends have come and gone from her life. In one lifetime, she was friends with the members of the Justice Society, the Justice League, and Infinity Inc. She was even friends with the police commissioner in Gotham, her colleagues at her law firm, and even established friendships with Barbara Gordon and Kathy Kane on Earth-1. She was even friends with the Earth-1 version of her father whom she fondly called 'Uncle Bruce,' and was very close to her world's Dick Grayson whom she was also romantically attracted to (more on that tomorrow).

In this lifetime, however, Helena is a lone ranger preferring her own company and that of one other person. An individual who has been by her side since her first appearance in comics in 1977, since even in death during a time when no one remembered her, and even now that she is officially reunited with her best friend in life. Her name is Kara Zor-L, alias Power Girl.

The first time Helena encountered Kara, it was very early on in her Huntress career and during a time when her father, Bruce Wayne, was still mourning the death of his wife, Selina. Within the context of the storyline, Psycho Pirate had brainwashed Bruce (who was by this point, commissioner of the Gotham City Police Department) into legally pursuing the Justice Society for a crime they didn't even commit. Amongst the JSAers to confront Bruce and the Gotham City Police was Power Girl who was subsequently injured by a powerful weapon that was fired at her. This confrontation with the JSA got Helena's attention and investigated the case from afar. The first time she saw Power Girl was lying down in a hospital bed while spying from outside her bedroom window.

Once the issue with her father was resolved and Psycho Pirate was defeated, Helena officially joined the Justice Society shortly after this case, and after she had fought alongside them in another story involving the Star-Spangled Kid. During her meetings with the Justice Society, she befriended Kara and became not only her closest friend, but also her 'guide' to the human world since Kara (by this point in her history) was still very newly arrived on Earth and was still adjusting to life outside of the virtual Krypton she had grown up on in her space ship. When the two women weren't fighting side by side with the Justice Society, they would also team up for independent cases and even hang out in their civilian forms. In one story, Helena even invited Kara to lunch at a very posh restaurant one day and the two made mental notes of one another, mostly Kara noting how very confident and professional Helena is in both of her identities, while Helena found her very fascinating, largely because of how different she was from entire human population. She wasn't just fascinated by the fact that she was an alien from another planet, but she was especially intrigued by her upbringing in a spaceship.

Over the time, the women grew very close to one another, and Helena even provided comfort to Power Girl during the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths when she brooded over not being able to fight alongside her cousin and worried for his safety. When she subsequently lost Helena in the final battle with the Anti-Monitor, it was a loss that affected Power Girl on a very deep and personal level, and mourned her death a bit more strongly than others did. When she regained her memories of Helena and Earth-2 in the post-Crisis universe, Kara wanted more than to get back to her world and the people she knew in it, especially Helena Wayne. When the god Gog granted her wish and sent her to a newly born Earth-2 in the Magog story arc of Justice Society of America, she didn't believe it at first, but when she got reacquainted with the Helena Wayne of that world, she felt like she had gotten a huge part of her life back. Unfortunately for Kara, her reunion with Helena was very short-lived when she turned out to not be the Power Girl of this new Earth-2.

Before returning to the mainstream Earth, Kara expressed her regrets to this other Helena, specifically that she didn't mean to take over her life, but simply wanted to be a part of it again. This left a huge impression on this world's Helena to the point where she kind of didn't want to let her go, which is something that bothered her own Power Girl. When she officially returned to her 'source Earth' (meaning the mainstream Earth), Kara settled for resuming her life as the CEO of Starrware and the newly appointed leader of the Justice Society, but nevertheless continued to miss her best friend. Although she had learnt to move past her desire to return to her Earth-2 that no longer existed, she did nonetheless still longed for the presence of Helena Wayne in her life, and she was never able bond with the version of her (Helena Bertinelli) that did exist on this world because she never had the history with her that she once had with Helena Wayne.

Ironically enough, in the New 52, Kara did eventually get her best friend back, but in a very strange way. She not only finally 'obtained the friendship of Helena Bertinelli' in the New 52, but this version of Helena Bertinelli was revealed to have been Helena Wayne 'living the life of a mafia princess' the whole time. Although this officially meant retconning all of their past history of the last two continuities to rebuild these two characters from scratch, they nevertheless continue to remain close friends just like before, only with very different life experiences and very different personalities from their 'past selves.' Like in the days of old, Kara met Helena shortly after losing her mother, had even comforted her during that time, and has continued to be there for her best friend when things got rough. While admittedly the newer version of Helena Wayne has a lot of growing up to do and needs to work on her attitude problem if she's ever going fill the boots of her far superior pre-Crisis self, she has similarly demonstrated that Kara means as much to her, and has even shown her affection when she wasn't being a complete arsehole to her.

After taking this time to examine Helena's friendship with Kara, I think that if the Huntress and Power Girl friendship endured even in a time when Helena was dead and erased from continuity, I have a very strong feeling they're bound to always be together in every life they see from this point forward, even if none of their past romances with blokes survive the chopping block of continuity. Oh hey, that's tomorrow's topic! Stay tuned.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

I ♥ Huntress, Day Four: Just The Huntress

After roughly three days of talking about how charming Helena Wayne is as a person, we now get to talk about the other side of her personality: the Huntress.

How the Huntress has been depicted on page has depended on the writers who have handled her and the zeitgeist of time period with which she was written. This is true even for the Helena Wayne version of the Huntress. For the most part, Helena Wayne's Huntress personality has been known to range from largely compassionate and optimistic to downright brutal and merciless depending on the circumstances. 

In her original interpretation, the Huntress preferred to maintain an image of hope and embodied much of the idealism that people already associated with costumed superheroes like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Like her father (Batman) before her, the Huntress utilised her various skills and knowledge to fight crime with the best interests of Gotham's citizens in mind. More importantly, she aspired to become the same beacon of inspiration for good that her predecessors represented to the wider human population.

In practise, this often took the form of taking the kinds of risks that no one else was willing to take and often putting her own life on the line to secure the safety of others. When confronted by actual criminals, she would--for the most part--just threaten to throw their arse in the jail and demanded cooperation to minimise the chances of a fatality. In the event of encountering an otherwise law-abiding citizen who happened to commit a crime, the Huntress would then focus on learning the actual circumstances that led this individual to do something they would not have thought of doing otherwise. To these individuals, the Huntress was most compassionate towards and would often try to reason with them if it would prevent them from actually completing the crime.

Despite embodying all that is good about humanity, the Huntress is also not beyond crossing the line herself if she feels the ends justify the means, and the Huntress has also been known to bring out the worst in Helena Wayne. This was especially most notable towards the end of Paul Levitz' initial run of her back-up series, this was especially true in Joey Cavalieri and Geoff Johns' interpretations of her, and it is especially a defining trait of her character in the New 52.

Amongst the character traits that were established early on in her publication history, Helena Wayne as the Huntress has never been known to be sympathetic towards murderers, human traffickers, basically anyone who has committed acts of violence against innocent people. It especially hits her berserk button if the person on the receiving end of that violence happens to be a woman, a child, a person of colour, or any vulnerable member of society. If a violent criminal happened to 'fall to their death' or 'accidentally blow themselves up' during an encounter with her, the Huntress would not shed any tears for their loss and would even admit that to herself. If a criminal especially threatened the lives of the people in her life as a way of exacting their revenge on her (or as a way of destroying Batman's legacy in the case of the Joker), she would then actively contemplate killing in a fit of rage. 

Out of the times she came close to fatally hurting a criminal, only once did she actively plan to murder one, and that was when the Joker attacked and disfigured her boyfriend and was responsible for the deaths of several other people in her life, including Alfred. She also experienced a mental breakdown during this time and was only prevented from completing the murder when Power Girl intervened. When asked about what drove her to kill (something that shocked Power Girl to start with), the Huntress rationalised it was a necessity given how the Joker had systematically been attacking her in both of her identities. She also admitted to not feeling any remorse should she have committed the murder.

Even in times when circumstances didn't actually force the Huntress consider something as extreme as murder, she wasn't exactly soft on criminals either, and as mentioned earlier, this was especially true of Joey Cavalieri's interpretation of the character. Whether it was a high tech bank robber, a creepy-looking baby trafficker who could give the Phantom of the Opera a run for his money, or even a criminal nurse posing as a therapist, the Huntress was often pretty rough in the way she beat up criminals. She would either bust your jaw with her heals, pick you up and throw you into a book case, or simply beat you unconscious depending on the gravity of the crime-committed. It's enough to say, even her pre-Crisis boyfriend commented to her that he thinks she enjoys violence.

Within the context of the New 52, the Huntress' affinity for violence is much worse than before. In addition to being aggressive in her fighting style, the Huntress now kills criminals more casually than before. In fact, she kind of reminds me of the Golden Age version of her father in a way, especially considering how very casually Golden Age Bruce snapped necks, tossed crooks to their deaths from high altitudes, and at one time even gunned down the driver of a truck with a machine gun, only to throw a noose around another passenger's neck and hang him from the Batplane. The main difference of course is that the Huntress prefers blowing up henchmen with explosives and reserves her crossbow for actual crime bosses, in this case, the leader of a sex-trafficking ring.

By the year 2013, the Huntress' proneness for casual killings has died down considerably, though in the hands of another writer, who knows when that susceptibility will rear its ugly head again.

Next up, friendship for tomorrow! (And boy, do I have plenty of material for this day).

Tuesday 5 November 2013

I ♥ Huntress, Day Three: Just Helena Wayne

Ah, Helena Wayne. Fifty per cent Bruce Wayne, fifty per cent Selina Kyle, one hundred per cent unforgettable.

Aside from the fact that this lucky young woman has one of the sexiest genetic make-ups in the entire the DC Universe (yes, Talia, someone else beat Damian to it), she is easily one of the most charming personalities out of the Bat family who's very hard to resist. It's enough to say fuck the idiot who was lucky enough to sleep with her pre-Crisis to expect less from someone so extraordinary. (More on that later).

One of the things I find most appealing about Helena Wayne is how very self-confident she is as a person and does everything with style. Regardless of her level of experience in any field of endeavour, she always puts her best foot forward and never gives up when she does fail at something. She firmly believes that if she sets her mind to it, she can accomplish anything she wants. While she often compares mental notes with her own father on the side of being an effective crime-fighter, she is nevertheless perfectly secure with her own identity and skills.

On that note, another thing that is equally cool about Helena is that she's not afraid to be herself around other people. She is someone who presents her idiosyncratic self as is, she says exactly what's on her mind, and she's blunt and straight to the point. She never beats around the bush and does exactly what she sets out to do even if others think she's weird for it. In fact, plenty of the people she works with think she's a little off her rock, but she's perfectly okay with people thinking that. It's not going to stop her from preparing that soufflé in her Huntress costume or keep her from having that glass of wine with a box of chocolate chip cookies. It similarly won't faze her if you find her sexual choices 'questionable' for bringing a girl into her room, or if you're that person behind the fourth wall savouring every moment that she and her best friend are in each other's arms, or dining and wining each other. (Yes fandom, I do read all your comments on Tumblr :P).

While she's not beyond taking full advantage of her family's money to enjoy the more posh things in life (including taking you out to a nice lunch), she is also one of the most compassionate people in the world (at least pre-Crisis) and often goes out of her way to help any person in need. She cares deeply about protecting the civil rights of others and takes women's issues very seriously. She's always there for her friends and family when they need her, and she's even willing to lend an ear to someone who commits a crime if they are an otherwise law-abiding citizen. Even when she herself is experiencing problems in her own personal life, she prefers to talk things through like an adult and work something out in a mature way. This doesn't mean, however, that she will put up with misogynistic behaviour or sexist attitudes from an intimate partner.

On the flip-side to all of those wonderful things about Helena Wayne, however, she does have something of a 'dark side' as well. For example, she has been known to push the most important people in her life away and withdraw herself from her normal every day activities when she's in a dark place in her life. When she especially puts on her Huntress mask, things can especially get ugly for those who encounter her. But that is the topic for Day Four tomorrow...

Monday 4 November 2013

I ♥ Huntress, Day Two: The Past and Present Helena Wayne

It’s always a fun exercise comparing and contrasting the pre-Crisis Helena Wayne with the New 52 incarnation. There are some similarities between the two versions, but many more differences.

The first time I compiled a list of things that changed and remained the same between the pre-Crisis and New 52 versions was in January of 2012, back when the character was still very much new. Obviously that previous post is completely outdated now since we know a bit more about her past on Earth-2 and what kind of 'personality' she has now, but nevertheless, it's always good compare notes.

I will admit the more I learn about the New 52 version of Helena Wayne, the more I miss the pre-Crisis incarnation on so many fronts. For one, I really do miss the fact that Helena was once a college graduate and actually had a career outside of being the Huntress. I especially loved the fact that she was a lawyer and was just as committed to this profession, even if she enjoyed her work as the Huntress a lot more.

The current version hasn't even graduated from secondary school, let alone attended college, which feels like a huge waste of someone who could actually ace most people in United Kingdom on their A-levels given her upbringing. On the front of actually having a career, Kara Zor-L has at least acquired a career as an entrepreneur. Helena by contrast has committed solely to a life of crime-fighting and doesn't have much of a life outside of that, which also feels like a step backwards for the character. She doesn't even appear to have a sex life these days (she did have one pre-Crisis), and while that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, it is also one more way that she is less layered as a character, especially given her past characterisation.

Another thing that I miss about the pre-Crisis Helena Wayne is that she had the entire city of Gotham to herself following her father's retirement and Dick Grayson's relocation to Africa. Not only was it really cool to read about a female lawyer who was also Gotham's sole protector at night, but her exploits as the Huntress earned her quite a reputation amongst Gothamites.  People graffitied her name on street walls, her shadow caused crooks to look over their shoulders, and she was even the envy of an ambitious female reporter who succeeded in gathering a group of people together to protest against her vigilantism.

Despite having the whole world to herself in the New 52 and having been responsible for numerous high profile exploits throughout the world (she even has an INTERPOL profile), her presence on Earth-1 seems to go largely unnoticed as no one else from the superhero community has confronted her for her activities as the Huntress, not even Batman. Whether or not that will change in the future is left to be determined by the current DCU Gods, but if Helena does need a more permanent home to call her own, she's always welcome to return to the island of her ancestry. It's not as big as America, but America is also not in short supply of superheroes right now, especially not in Gotham. Also, Britain's most iconic superhero tends to spend more time travelling in a blue box through time and space, so she would--for the most part--have the entire UK to herself. I for one, would not complain if the UK reclaimed a fellow Wayne. :P

While much of what was cool and original about Helena Wayne was sadly lost with the New 52, some things did, however, remain the same. Though writer Paul Levitz does struggle to *accurately* represent feminism in writing, he did preserve her feminist values which have been a huge part of her characterisation since the pre-Crisis days. Not only does Helena remain intolerant of sexual exploitation and violence towards women, but she's also been shown to actively support and even partake in rallies that seek to bring social awareness to issues that specifically affect women.

In addition to preserving Helena's feminist traits, she similarly retained many of her quirkier ones as well. For example, the pre-Crisis Wayne was often noted for her idiosyncrasy, often taking the form of always being late for work every morning (a consequence of her leading a double life), making soufflés in her Huntress costume (yes, this really did happen), to even drinking a glass of wine with a box of chocolate chip cookies while investigating her cases. She was even perfectly fine with letting her colleagues at work think she was a little bit crazy with her tendency to do inexplicable things at random.

The New 52 version of her is similarly easily drawn to sweets like a moth to a lightbulb. She'll literally eat any left over sweets while 'working' (recall the time she ate a sfogliatella while hacking a police computer at a police station) and loves to consume every unhealthy food item you can think of. (In all fairness to her, she can get away with that since she leads a very active lifestyle). She'll even take a catnap aboard an enemy ship before making her attack, and as an added bonus, she's also perfectly fine with letting bellhops think she's gay when bringing female sex workers into her hotel room. (She even had a nighty on for that occassion!)

One final thing that has remained consistent between the pre-Crisis Wayne and the New 52 version of her is her sheer confidence in her own abilities and aggressive fighting style. Admittedly Helena Wayne as an aggressive and angry crime-fighter was more characteristic of Joey Cavalieri's depiction of her, but it was explored quite a bit with Paul Levitz' initial characterisation of her as well, most notably in the Crime Lord story arc where she threatened to seriously take a life for the first time. While Levitz did originally establish Helena as possessing some degree of moral ambiguity with regards criminal deaths, she was also not shown to be directly responsible for any deaths. In the New 52, this moral ambiguity is much more explicit and is perfectly fine with killing if she feels the ends justifies the means. She's a bit like the original Golden Age version of her father in that regard.

Sunday 3 November 2013

I ♥ Huntress, Day One: The Origin of Helena Wayne

Between the pre-Crisis and the New 52 continuities, there have been two different versions of Helena Wayne's origin, both established by Huntress co-creator, Paul Levitz.

In the first version of her origin, both Batman and Catwoman hung up their capes and cowls for good in 1955 and settled for a normal life as a newly married couple. In 1957 they welcomed a fortunate baby girl into the world who would later become the Huntress as an adult.

For the next twenty years, Bruce and Selina Wayne enjoyed the full perks of a normal family life without any of the hazards that came with their costumed lives. Their daughter, Helena Wayne, similarly enjoyed the full benefits of growing up in a wealthy household alongside two badass superhero parents. In addition to being trained mentally and physically to her utmost peak, she also attended the best schools in Gotham and even graduated top of her class from Harvard University with a law degree.

Just when Helena was beginning her career as an attorney, tragedy struck the Wayne family for the first time in decades when a former henchman of Selina's blackmailed her into committing one last crime as Catwoman--a final crime that resulted in Selina's death. Both Bruce and Helena were distraught by the loss of Selina, though Bruce did not feel inspired this time to pick up the cape and cowl again, leaving his daughter Helena to pick up the pieces.

Standing in front of her mother's grave in her newly designed Huntress costume, Helena made a similar promise to her mother that the ten-year-old Bruce Wayne made to his parents decades prior: a commitment to avenge her death and to spend the rest of her days fighting crime in Gotham. With that, Helena spent her first case as the Huntress tracking down Silky Cernak (the man responsible for her mother's death) and sabotaging 'a business deal' he was scheduled to finalise that same night. Upon his capture, Helena did in fact commit to fighting crime both as a lawyer and as the Huntress from that point forward.

In the New 52 version of her origin, she lived a very different life from the one she had previously, though some of the essential kernels remained the same.

In the newer Earth-2 continuity, neither Bruce nor Selina gave up being Batman and Catwoman upon marrying and raised their young daughter to become a skilled crime-fighter like themselves.

In huge contrast with the pre-Crisis Helena Wayne who had a social life growing up, the New 52 version of her appears to have been socially isolated with very little opportunities for interaction with other kids her age outside of Superman and Wonder Woman's families. She was trained from the moment she was old enough to walk to her physical and mental peak and confirmed to a college student at a 'Take Back the Night' rally that she had been home schooled.

She made her debut as Robin in her early teens and successfully stopped a mugging from taking place under her mother's supervision. Sometime shortly after this first outing, Helena lost her mother during an Apokoliptian attack that wounded her father and killed her mother, traumatising the young Helena in the process. In a fit of rage, Helena assaulted her mother's killers only to discover she was up against an entire army with very powerful weapons. She is rescued by Kara Zor-L (Supergirl) after answering a distress call from Batman, leading to the first meeting between Robin and Supergirl. Together, the two teenage heroines wiped out the soldiers that took the life of Helena's mother and discovered the existence of boom tubes and other Apokoliptian technology in the process.

The two heroines spent the rest of their years on Earth-2 fighting off the forces of Apokolips until a plan from Batman ended the war on Earth-2, but resulted in the deaths of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Following the loss of the Earth-2 Trinity, Robin and Supergirl were then transported to the mainstream DC Earth via a boom tube where they started their lives over as Huntress and Power Girl. Kara Zor-L became Karen Starr, a successful entrepreneur and CEO of Starr Industries, and Helena Wayne took on the identity of Helena Bertinelli, the deceased daughter of a crime family.

The exact details and reasons that factored into Helena Wayne's decision to become the Huntress in this continuity are currently unknown beyond the fact that she could no longer live the life that she had on Earth-2. What is known is that just like before, Helena designed her Huntress costume as an amalgamation of both her mother and father's costumes and added a cross as part of her costume's design this time around. Whether or not the cross is a part of her Helena Bertinelli identity or her way of staying close to her parents in spirit is yet to be explored.

Saturday 2 November 2013

I ♥ Huntress, Day Zero: Why I Love Helena Wayne

If there is one character I wish I had growing up in the 1990s, it is definitely the Helena Wayne version of the Huntress.

Aside from the fact that Helena Wayne is the canonical daughter of my unsinkable DC ship, she is, to me, more than just the daughter of Batman and Catwoman taking on a rich legacy. She is also an empowered heroine who brings attitude to her work, is highly intelligent, athletic, quirky, and very passionate about the what she does. She could hold her own in a fight without needing to be rescued and she was a very prolific lawyer in her civilian identity.

While I definitely didn't practise law as a little kid, these were, nonetheless, traits I could easily identify with. They were also traits I wish I could have seen more of from female characters in the various franchises I grew up with. The fact that DC Comics did away with such a phenomenal character within the first decade of her publication history while she was still developing into an interesting heroine (and at the peak of her popularity at that) felt like a great disservice to her character. I did in fact feel the pain of her loss two decades after she was initially erased from continuity. I also felt that I had been cheated out of getting to know a character that I know would have empowered me growing up.