Saturday 20 February 2016

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

Throughout the Bronze Age, there was a sense of family amongst the Justice League and Justice Society heroes, creating strong unity between them. Staying true to form, the pre-Crisis Helena Wayne valued nothing more than family, which comprised not only of her immediate family, but also of her friends in the Justice Society, and even the Earth-1 counterpart of her father.

Beginning with her immediate family, the pre-Crisis Helena was known to love both of her parents equally, and even loved Dick Grayson as a brother. Despite the love and respect she had for each, however, she also had complicated feelings for them as well. With her mother, Selina Kyle, she loved the fact that she reformed and was a good mum to her, but never understood why she indulged a life of crime earlier on in her life. Her father knew the reason for Selina's rogue life was consequential of an abusive previous marriage, but Helena may or may not have known those details. Another concern Helena struggled with pre-Crisis was the notion that she could one day go rogue as well if she so much as began to understand the thrills her mother experienced from this lifestyle.

Helena's feelings for her father, Bruce Wayne, pre-Crisis were equally complicated, but for completely different reasons from her mother. While she admired the work he did as both Batman and as police commissioner, she took significant issue with his inability to trust others and his seeming willingness to betray his own friends in pursuit of justice. There were two occasions where she clashed with her father, one of those posthumously. The first time her father betrayed the Justice Society was when he was being controlled by the Psycho-Pirate--an incident for which he later apologised for despite not being at fault. The second time he betrayed the Justice Society was when he wrote a false diary that got published in the Daily Star, accusing the team of being complicit in Hitler's tyranny during World War II. The latter in particular caused Helena to temporarily lose respect for her father until she learnt the real reason for his apparent betrayal was to capture Per Degaton. Her relationship with her father's Earth-1 counterpart was less complicated as he was closer to her own age and did not possess the same troubling behaviours she witnessed in her own father. In addition to being her frequent partner during Justice League/Justice Society crossovers, the Earth-1 Bruce was also someone she visited on her own time either for the holidays for when she needed advice from him.

The pre-Crisis Helena admittedly had less conflicted feelings for her world's Dick Grayson, though they were certainly complicated for two different reasons. The first is that she primarily thought of him as a brother since he was raised by her father like a son. Though Dick felt the same way about her at first, he soon found himself romantically attracted to her as an adult, which complicated their existing relationship. Despite Helena briefly returning his feelings, he decided it was best not to pursue that kind of relationship with her and decided to put some distance between them, much to her dismay. The two would--for the most part--not see each other again until the events of America vs the Justice Society, which caused them to take different sides on Bruce's accusation of the Justice Society as traitors during World War II. This led to the second complication they faced, which was the fact that Dick had an unwavering loyalty to Bruce that Helena didn't necessarily possess. As much as she loved her father, she was also not going to allow him to destroy the reputations of the Justice Society (who are also her friends) because of his trust issues, whereas Dick was unwilling to challenge the contents of his accusation. Despite that very troubling period for both, eventually the two did reconcile, but with Dick left feeling more vulnerable around Helena. Seeing as she was his last remaining link to Bruce, he feared losing her respect more than he worried about losing his Justice Society membership.

When it came to fellow superheroes like herself, Helena maintained an amicable relationship with everyone that she worked with from the Justice Society, the Justice League, and Infinity Inc. Of the three groups, she was most sympathetic towards the Infinitors who were closer to her age and felt they deserved a place as Justice Society members. She was very put off by the hypocritical behaviour of the senior Justice Society heroes in rejecting their admission, especially considering that they all started out young and inexperienced as well. Out of the individual heroes themselves, the Justice Society member she was most close to was Kara Zor-L, who went by the name of Power Girl. The exact details of their first meeting were never fully explored, but Helena felt a stronger connection with Kara than with any other member of the team, and became her most cherished friendship. She loved that she could tell Kara anything and enjoyed working alongside her on both Justice Society and solo missions. Out of costume, Helena still enjoyed spending time with her, often taking her out for a drink or lunch. Around Helena, Kara was noticeably more vulnerable and reserved, but was also not afraid to challenge her thoughts and ideas when she disagreed with them. Still, out of all of Helena's relationships, her relationship to Kara was the least conflicted or complicated.

Outside of her immediate family and other superheroes, the pre-Crisis Helena Wayne had one more significant relationship, which was her boyfriend and fellow attorney Harry Sims. Though Harry knew of her double life as the Huntress, he was not particularly happy about it, and took significant issue with her 'risking her life' in pursuit  of 'justice.' Rather than see her vigilantism as an unconventional way of preserving law and order in Gotham, Harry thought of the Huntress as Helena's way of thrill-seeking. He even--at one point--expressed concern that she enjoyed violence, and did not respond too well to the thought of her accidentally killing a petty bank robber when that story went viral in the news media. Though he 'loved' Helena, he also made it clear that he couldn't accept her as she was and often tried to control Helena's access to high-profile criminal cases. Whatever Helena's attraction to Harry was, it was known that she did care for him and still tried to work thinks out with him, even if she knew that--realistically--a relationship with him wouldn't work out in the end. Of all the complicated relationships Helena Wayne had pre-Crisis, her relationship to Harry was by far the most aversive.

Throughout her pre-Crisis publication, Helena Wayne established various relationships with different groups of people ranging from her immediate friends and family to other superheroes to across the multiverse, each one contributing to her growth in a meaningful way. Given that the pre-Crisis Helena's relationships allowed her to exist as a more well-rounded individual, she gets +2 for this section.

Despite all the relationships Helena Wayne had pre-Crisis, it was nothing short of disappointing current DC editors decided to limit her relationships significantly in the current continuity. Whereas the pre-Crisis Helena enjoyed the company of others and actually had more than one friend, the New 52 Helena is the polar opposite of her pre-Crisis counterpart on this front. Outside of her immediate family and Kara Zor-L, the New 52 Helena has shown a lack of interest in connecting with others. Even when she returned to Earth-2, none of the relationships she established then felt natural, and felt overwhelmingly forced.

Once again beginning with her immediate family, Helena lived a considerably more sheltered life than her pre-Crisis counter part did. Her access to a public school was limited to when she was a bit older and had some friends then, but for the most part only interacted with her parents and the Superman family. Between her two parents, Helena was closest to her mother, Selina Kyle. Unlike her pre-Crisis counterpart who felt conflicted about her mother's past as a criminal, the New 52 Helena thought nothing of it and related to her mother almost like a best friend.

As far as her father Bruce was concerned, she had a more complicated relationship with him as he did not want Helena partaking in his crimefighting activities before he felt she was ready to take on that responsibility. A lot of times, the New 52 Helena felt like she had to prove herself to him and often gave him attitude when she worked alongside him as the Robin to his Batman. When she lost both of her parents in the first Apokolips war, Helena demonstrated a lack of interest in connecting with other people, including the Earth-0 versions of her parents. She was even hostile to her paternal grandfather, Thomas Wayne, when she learnt that he survived his attempted murder nearly forty years ago, and made it clear to him on their first meeting that she had no desire to connect with him. It wasn't until Earth-2 got destroyed by Darkseid that Helena started to warm up to her grandfather, but it didn't last as he was killed shortly after during the events of Convergence.

Outside of her immediate family, the only significant relationship the New 52 Helena had was Kara Zor-L (Power Girl), whom she knew since childhood. Despite her established lack of interest in other people, Kara was the only person she was moderately affectionate towards, even when she was rude and disrespectful towards her. She always offered her assistance to Kara when she needed it, and in her own way always reminded Kara that she valued having her in her life. If not for the fact that the character's co-creator, Paul Levitz, kept reminding us that Kara and Helena were just 'gals being pals,' the New 52 Helena's love of Kara could easily be interpreted as romantic in nature.

Any other relationships the New 52 Helena had outside of her family and Kara were alarmingly casual and brief. The two journalists that she met during her bust of a sex trafficking ring in Italy--Alessandro and Christina (yes, with an 'h')--only lasted as long as that mission did. The one time that she met Damian Wayne (the Earth-0 Bruce's son), that only lasted as long as the mission they embarked on together. The one time that she met the Earth-0 Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, that too only lasted as long as their mission together, and she did not have a particularly good opinion of this world's version of her father. She never even met the Earth-0 Selina Kyle or Lois Lane, two people who were important to her growing up.

When she returned to Earth-2 with Kara, she struck up a platonic friendship with that world's Oliver Queen and Jimmy Olsen, until the latter was imprisoned by Alan Scott. It is also implied she has something of an existing relationship with the Earth-2 Dick Grayson who usurped her father's mantle following the death of her grandfather, but the exact nature of this relationship is not known. At best, we do know that it is not the same as the one her pre-Crisis counterpart had with the pre-Crisis Dick Grayson, whom she considered family and was even briefly romantically attracted to. On the subject of romantic relationships? None have been established for her so far.

Despite a slightly more fleshed out relationship with Kara in the current continuity, the New 52 Helena Wayne is sorely lacking in any other meaningful relationships, which has led to a lack of any meaningful character development for her. Everyone else that she managed to interact with only lasted as long as the story did, and any other relationships that were later established simply accomplished that with no explanation as to why she connects with these individuals. Given all the deficiencies in this area, the New 52 Helena Wayne only gets +1 for this section.

Final Score

Pre-Crisis Helena Wayne: 7+2 = 9
New 52 Helena Wayne: 5+1 = 6

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