Sunday 14 February 2016

Past and Present: Pre-Crisis Wayne vs New 52 Wayne: Inception

When Helena Wayne was first conceived in 1977, the idea was to originally have an Earth-2 Batgirl as a member of the Justice Society to relieve Power Girl of her status of being the only female member of the team. According to Huntress co-creator Paul Levitz, the original Batgirl (presumably Bette Kane) didn't prove to be too interesting as a character, and a soft rebooting of her character would not have resulted in stronger story potential. The idea was ultimately scrapped until artist Joe Staton insisted on adding another woman to the team. After much conceptualising between Paul Levitz, Joe Staton, and Bob Layton, the idea of adding a Batwoman to the team evolved into the idea of the Huntress as the daughter of the Golden Age Batman and Catwoman.

The decision to allow Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle to marry was in itself a progressive idea. It allowed the characters to age and be in a different place in their lives, which made them more life-like. The decision to give this couple a daughter to raise was also progressive because it both increased female visibility and established DC as a publisher that equally valued women. On the front of character development, Levitz made it clear in 1977 that there was more to her character than just a woman who happened to be the daughter of one of DC's iconic couples. She also had her own personality and quirks, as well as a career and supporting cast of her own. Surely enough, Levitz delivered on his promise when he developed the character as an incredibly talented and athletic young woman who graduated from Harvard University and pursued a successful career in law.

Levitz also established that in contrast with her father who lost his parents at a young age resulting in a violent start as Batman, Helena grew up with both of her parents by her side and enjoyed a happy childhood alongside them. Bruce and Selina retired their costumed identities to give Helena a normal childhood, but still taught her all of their skills thinking they would still be useful to her in a city as dangerous as Gotham. It wasn't until Helena reached adulthood that she lost both of her parents to criminals from their past, which resulted in her becoming the Huntress. Despite being originally inspired by tragedy, Helena was ultimately not driven by it, and was instead driven by a strong desire to protect people and seek justice for those who have less power.

Given all of the original ideas and progressive concepts that led to her creation, the pre-Crisis Helena Wayne gets +2 points for this section.

In the New 52 reboot, Helena Wayne was once again reinstated as the daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle of Earth-2, but still retained the identity of her post-Crisis incarnation, Helena Bertinelli. While the 'Helena Bertinelli' Huntress was no longer the last surviving member of an assassinated crime family, a Helena Bertinelli still existed on Earth-0, but was apparently killed at some point prior to Helena Wayne's arrival to this Earth from Earth-2. In the five years that Wayne was stranded on Earth-0, she assumed various identities, including that of the deceased Helena Bertinelli, which she used the longest until she was no longer able to use it. It was eventually revealed in another series (Grayson) that the real Helena Bertinelli is alive and well, but whether or not she was ever aware of the identity theft was never revealed. It was similarly never revealed if Helena Wayne knew the real Helena Bertinelli or if she was aware of her real status and just told Kara she was dead.

When her past on Earth-2 was revealed, it was established that Helena's parents married at a much younger age than the pre-Crisis versions, and during a time when her father had discovered her grandfather survived his shooting on crime alley, causing him to disown him. During her childhood, neither Bruce nor Selina gave up their costumed identities, and taught her all of their skills with the goal of having her succeed them as Gotham's protector when she was older. While Helena's childhood was relatively happy like that of her pre-Crisis counterpart, it was also shown that Bruce was abusive towards her during her training, never comforting her whenever she injured herself. He left the comforting of his young daughter to Selina, with whom she had a closer relationship. Whereas Selina rewarded Helena for her progress and built her self-esteem and confidence, Bruce often demonstrated a lack of confidence in Helena's abilities and did not like having her work alongside him, thinking it would get her killed one day. As such, Helena always felt confident fighting alongside her mother as Robin, but always felt like she had to prove herself to her father. Unfortunately for Helena, her time with her parents would be cut short as both were killed at the start of the Apokolips war on Earth-2--the same one that caused her to be stranded on Earth-0 as a 16-year old girl.

As an adult stranded on a parallel Earth, Helena destroyed her Robin costume and developed her new identity as the Huntress. As the Huntress, she decided to use the skills that were taught to her by her parents to pursue justice for sexually abused women. Often times, her cases revolved around tracking down and disbanding sex trafficking rings, and helping the victimised women acquire the resources needed to pursue a new life. Whenever she needed money, she exploited her knowledge of her father to steal from the Earth-0 Bruce Wayne's bank accounts. She never pursued a college education like her pre-Crisis counterpart did and never bothered pursuing a career for that matter. She operated as the Huntress full-time and lived a carefree life for the most part.

Despite some progressive changes to Helena's character (such as having her start out as the original Robin to her parents' Batman and Catwoman before becoming the Huntress, and further fleshing out her relationship to her mother), unfortunately, the New 52 Helena Wayne fails to reach the full potential of her pre-Crisis counterpart. Whereas the pre-Crisis Helena Wayne was characterised as an emotionally well-adjusted adult who respected and had compassion for other people, the New 52 Helena Wayne is a conceptually angrier and darker character.

Unlike her pre-Crisis counterpart who would never think of stealing the identity of a deceased individual (even if that person happened to be a member of a crime family), the New 52 Helena Wayne does not appear to have much respect for the dead, and has no problem stealing other people's identities. I consider this a regressive change to her character. I additionally don't consider it a progressive change to establish the Earth-2 Bruce as an emotionally abusive father towards his young daughter, especially during an age when the child is still emotionally vulnerable and dependent on her parents for protection. The change also makes this version of the Earth-2 Bruce a weaker character to his pre-Crisis counterpart, who was originally developed as a man who moved on from his need of Batman to have a family of his own.

Given hit-and-miss nature of the New 52 Helena Wayne conceptually, this version of the character, only gets +1 for this section.

Final Scores:

Pre-Crisis Helena Wayne: 2
New 52 Helena Wayne: 1

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