Saturday, 26 May 2018

Rebirth Second Year Anniversary and Helena Wayne's Future

Yesterday was the anniversary of DC Universe Rebirth #1, which marked the second year anniversary of the Rebirth initiative. Admittedly, I'm feeling a bit underwhelmed by the lack of progress on anything Justice Society related apart from certain members like Michael Holt, Kent Nelson, Carter Hall, and Kendra Saunders resurfacing within the last year.

The Earth-2 Power Girl was also recently reunited with her Prime Earth protégé, Tanya Spears, in the Deathstroke Annual, but there has been no follow-up to that reunion since it happened. As such, we're no closer to knowing the status of the Justice Society characters outside of Doomsday Clock, or if the current Earth-2 versions we saw last year will turn out to be the original characters trapped in another dimension by Dr. Manhattan.

After all, we already saw the classic Jay Garrick make a run for it (literally) to escape the dimension he is trapped in last year. Power Girl also revealed that she too was trapped in another dimension, effectively putting into question whether the Earth-2 she and Helena Wayne returned to a few years back is in fact a real place or a dimensional prison. (That retcon would actually make sense if you ask me.)

On the subject of Helena Wayne, the future of this character is the one I am most concerned about, mainly due to DC's past history with the character. In particular, DC does not have a good track record with respecting Helena Wayne as a character, her core mythology, and her rightful place in the DC Universe despite having always been a popular character with fans, especially Justice Society fans who have been asking for her reinstatement for decades.

To recap what Helena Wayne's "journey" has been like since DC's fateful rebooting of their universe with Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985, let's start from the beginning.

Post-Crisis saw Helena Wayne's erasure and subsequent rebooting into Helena Bertinelli, and this was the status quo for two decades. While Infinite Crisis re-acknowledged the original pre-Crisis multiverse, and with it, the existence of original Helena Wayne Huntress, they also never used that opportunity to bring the original character back, even though it would've benefited Power Girl significantly. Instead, a new version of the character was created for DC's new multiverse, and especially their newer iteration of Earth-2 that appeared in Geoff Johns' 2007 Justice Society of America run.

Post-Flashpoint saw the post-Crisis Helena Bertinelli retconned as having been the Earth-2 Helena Wayne Huntress the whole time, but she was once again not the original pre-Crisis character. (Note: this was before a newer version of Helena Bertinelli surfaced in Grayson in 2014.) Instead of seeing a reinstatement of her pre-Crisis history like what was done with Power Girl during the events of Infinite Crisis, she and Power Girl were given new histories. On that note, the new Earth-2 that appeared in the post-Flashpoint continuity ended up having nothing in common with its predecessor, which was one of the many reasons the newer iteration failed to be a long-term success.

In addition to that, DC also wasted every opportunity to capitalise on Huntress and Power Girl as the legacies of Batman and Superman on Earth-2 because they incorrectly assumed that a new Batman and Superman would be more profitable than Bruce and Clark's immediate female successors. They failed to acknowledge that the primary audience for a Justice Society book are Justice Society fans, who are also the built-in audience for the Earth-2 Huntress and Power Girl.

More than Justice Society fans wanted a pseudo Flashpoint Thomas Wayne as Batman followed by some random bloke in a bat suit who wasn't Dick Grayson in concept, we definitely wanted Helena Wayne to be written as the legacy character she was always meant to exist as. While Earth-2: Society writer Dan Abnett ended his run by reinstating Helena to her rightful place, he also waited until the last issue of the series to do so, and only as Batman instead of the Huntress, which was still missing the point.

This gets us to Rebirth. Two years in, the only hint we've had of Helena Wayne's return in this era has been as the daughter of the Prime Earth Bruce and Selina who are set to marry on 04 July this year. This could result in yet a third rebooting of the character, which would still continue the problem of erasing the character's history.

Since the start of Rebirth, I have consistently said that DC needs to repair all the different ways that they hurt Helena Wayne as a character through harmful retooling of their universe. They also need to repair their relationship with Huntress fans in general. More than Helena Wayne needs to be "reborn" into a universe that has for three decades been written to exclude her while keeping all her friends and family, DC actually needs to reinstate the original character Paul Levitz created with Joe Staton and Bob Layton. I stand by those words.

To be more specific, DC needs to address the fact that Helena Wayne was unceremoniously removed during the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths to keep her parents young and active despite being a popular character with fans. They also need to address their decision to retool her as Helena Bertinelli post-Crisis as a condition for her return, which is something we never saw happen with Damian Wayne when he experienced his first reboot in 2011. They especially need to answer for their marginalisation of Helena Wayne post-Flashpoint to accommodate two male usurpers who had no legitimate stake in her family legacy. To me, this entails doing the following things:

  1. Bringing back the Earth-2 Helena Wayne Huntress we saw post-Flashpoint and work on reinstating her pre-Crisis history.
  2. Addressing the Crisis reboot and the reasons Helena Wayne became "Helena Bertinelli" to alleviate both Wayne and the current version of Helena Bertinelli from that problematic past so that their stories can move forward.
  3. Reinstating the core mythologies, histories, personalities, and relationships that endeared fans to both Helena Wayne and Helena Bertinelli without jettisoning any of the progress that has been made with these characters.
  4. Keeping Batman and Catwoman's Golden Age history separate from that of the Prime Earth characters as their story already came a natural conclusion that shouldn't get erased to promote the new couple.
  5. Keeping the Earth-2 Helena Wayne a separate character from her future Prime Earth counterpart to preserve the identity, relationships, and history that are significant to the original character.

It may seem strange to fans that I can't "just be happy" Helena Wayne will be returning, but as fans can also sympathise, there is also more to a character than just their name. As Helena Wayne's own co-creator Paul Levitz once stated in 1977 "She is more than just the daughter of Batman. She's an individual in her own right." That is exactly how he developed her during the Bronze Age and that is exactly what endeared Justice Society fans like myself to her.

While Helena being the daughter of Batman and Catwoman has always been a major selling point of her character for me, I also liked that she didn't exist for her parents' character development. I loved that she was developed as the hero of her own story complete with her own supporting cast, and originated the Huntress identity while still honouring her heritage. I also loved that she had her own relationships with characters like Kara Zor-L as Power Girl, and even had her own teams with the Justice Society and Infinity Inc. ALL of that is important to her character.

More than anything, I would like to see a glorious return of the pre-Crisis Helena Wayne Huntress. It's obviously going to entail taking us Justice Society fans on yet another journey to address the reboots that have caused long-term damage to her character, but that is a journey I am more than happy to embark on if it means getting back the original character Paul Levitz actually created. That is the version of the character all of us in the Justice Society corner of fandom are invested in.

Believe me when I say I would like for DC surprise me in a good way this year. I would like to forever swallow every concern I have about DC as a company and get back to this point next year with a new tune to sing instead of sounding like a broken record.

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