Monday, 20 January 2020

Top 5 Reasons The Huntress: Origins Is A Must Have For Every Helena Wayne Huntress Fan

The Huntress: Origins is now two days away from being sold at comic shops everywhere in the English-speaking countries, and eight days away from being sold in the mainstream retail market. Originally sold as The Huntress: Darknight Daughter in 2006, The Huntress: Origins revisits Helena Wayne's classic backstory from 1977, as well as the first four years of her solo adventures as the Huntress.

In a year that's quickly unfolding to be a major one for Helena Wayne Huntress fans—from her upcoming appearance in the Catwoman: 80th Anniversary Special in April to DC Super-Stars #17 being reprinted as a facsimile comic that same month, to her teased future appearance in the upcoming Batman/Catwoman maxiseries, and a possible future appearance in the Stargirl show—now is a good time for fans new and old to get reacquainted with the original Darknight Daughter herself.

If you didn't get the chance to buy The Huntress: Darknight Daughter in 2006 when that first came out, or need to replace your current copy, or just need a quintessential Helena Wayne Huntress book to give to a friend interested in the character, here are the 'Top 5' reasons The Huntress: Origins should be added to your bookshelf this year! And, of course, if you are not already familiar with Helena Wayne's pre-Crisis history, spoilers ahead!


01. Original BatCat wedding and Helena Wayne's classic Huntress origin

Perhaps the first thing that's going to appeal to a lot of DC fans is the first canonical marriage between Batman and Catwoman in DC history, and not just any versions of the characters either. Oh no! We're talking about the Golden Age originals that first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in 1939 and Batman #1 in 1940 respectively!

As detailed in DC Super-Stars #17 (the first story in this book), Earth-2 was no ordinary alternate reality. Instead, it was the parallel world that retroactively contained DC's original stories and characters from their Golden Age that were published from 1938 to 1955. As such, this world contained the original version of Superman that appeared in Action Comics #1 in 1938, as well as the original versions of the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Doctor Fate, and various other heroes that would come to form the Justice Society of America in 1940. And, of course, we cannot fail to mention the original version of Wonder Woman that appeared in Sensation Comics #1 in 1941.

With Earth-1 functioning as the modern DC Universe that started in 1956 with Barry Allen debuting as the Flash (effectively starting DC's Silver Age), this took the burden off the original Golden Age heroes from needing to stay 'young and relevant' to a modern DC audience. By no longer being 'the primary DC heroes,' DC was able to tell the kinds of stories with their Golden Age heroes that they couldn't tell with their younger counterparts now functioning as the Justice League on Earth-1. These included stories that explored ageing superheroes in a rapidly changing world, and how these older generations inspired a newer generation of heroes.

As part of that ongoing narrative, DC decided to explore how an ageing Batman and Catwoman would live out their lives if they aged in real time. For the first time in DC history, DC Super-Stars #17 depicted an ageing Selina Kyle who was no longer interested in a life of crime and a Bruce Wayne who wanted to continue being a part of her life in some capacity. Sometime after Selina paid her debt to society, Bruce pursued a romantic relationship with her, resulting in their getting married in the summer of 1955. Their daughter, Helena, was born two years later.

The rest of DC Super-Stars #17 depicts the happy family life of the Waynes over the course of two decades, leading to the event that led a 19-year-old Helena Wayne to become the Huntress.


02. Helena Wayne commits to honouring her family legacy as the Huntress

In the following story originally printed in Batman Family #18-20, we get a glimpse of the life Helena Wayne has been living since becoming the Huntress a little over a year ago. Working as a talented but bored public interest lawyer, we're met with a Helena Wayne who is questioning her life's purpose and where she feels she makes a better fit.

Deciding she didn't really stand out as another talented lawyer in a sea of other equally talented lawyers, 21-year-old Helena Wayne decided she would make a better contribution to society utilising all her unique talents as the daughter of Batman and Catwoman to prevent crime rather than wait for one to happen and get a 50/50 chance of winning a court case. As the Huntress, Helena Wayne got to stretch her wings as a meticulous detective and got strong satisfaction at being able to stop dangerous (and often powerful) criminals from hurting the lives of vulnerable people in Gotham.

Despite Helena Wayne being passionate about upholding the law and pursuing justice for people with less power in Gotham, she was also not without her flaws. Though she strongly believed in maintaining a higher standard and not kill her enemies, Helena was also not the type to necessarily feel bad about criminal deaths, especially if those aforementioned criminals were themselves responsible for murdering people. At best, she wouldn't actively kill a criminal believing she needed to do right by her family legacy and be the better person in every situation. How well she could maintain this position, however, was a challenge she faced repeatedly, especially when the lives of her loved ones were threatened and couldn't keep her cool in those situations.


03. Huntress teams up with Robin and Power Girl and fights various DCU villains

Despite the challenges Helena Wayne faced in her earlier years as the Huntress learning the ups and downs of the superhero lifestyle her father maintained for nearly two decades, she also didn't go at it alone. In addition to joining the Justice Society of America around this same timeframe (which allowed her to learn from the older, more experienced heroes of the 1940s), she also had opportunities to team up with other heroes closer to her age such as Power Girl and Robin.

At the time Helena Wayne joined the Justice Society of America in 1978, Kara Zor-L was still a newly arrived Kryptonian to Earth having spent six Earth decades in space travelling from the newly destroyed Krypton to her new home. As such, she was still learning Earth-based norms and was still getting used to life on a new planet where she was profoundly different from the rest of the population. The biggest struggle for her was keeping her Power Girl life separate from her life as Karen Starr, especially since she had to pass for a human in her latter identity. Enter Helena Wayne to help smooth out those edges!

Prior to Helena joining the JSA, Kara was burdened by being the only woman on an all white male superhero team. She therefore had to put up with a lot of her teammates outdated views on women, microaggressions, and other forms of benevolent sexism on her own without any form of support. As you can imagine, Kara found Helena's presence on the team a much welcome change of pace and struck up a friendship with her right away.

On her first solo case with Power Girl, Helena Wayne encountered one of the JSA's most dangerous villains, the Thinker, who was manipulating the actions of Gotham's district attorney, Harry Sims. The fact that Helena had struck up a romantic relationship with the young district attorney by this timeframe made the Thinker's attack on Harry that much more personal to her. While Power Girl didn't exactly approve of Helena's relationship with Harry feeling she could do better than him (can't disagree with Power Girl there), the adventure with Huntress and Power Girl fighting the Thinker is still one of the more enjoyable stories featured in The Huntress: Origins.

As for what became of Harry himself and where his romance with Helena got him especially after that episode with the Thinker...actually let's save this for point #4!


04. Helena Wayne struggles to balance her superhero lifestyle with a normal life

During the altercation with the Thinker, Harry became aware of Helena Wayne's double life as the Huntress, which immediately put the two people in a dangerous position. On Helena's end, she wasn't sure she could trust Harry to keep her Huntress life a secret, especially when met with a dangerous opposition. On Harry's end, Helena's enemies becoming aware of his 'relationship with the Huntress' equally put him at risk for danger.

One of Helena Wayne's major sources of conflict apart from the ones she already encounters as the Huntress is her inability to maintain a good work-life balance between her activities as the Huntress, her responsibilities as a lawyer, and especially keeping her civilian life separate from all of that. In fact, I would go as far as to argue this conflict is at the heart and centre of Helena Wayne's pre-Crisis narrative. So much of what tends to go wrong in both of her identities is stemmed from the fact Helena had not mastered maintaining two separate identities—a problem she ironically shares with Power Girl despite being the latter's primary advisor on the subject.

If being the daughter of Batman and Catwoman alone was bound to create problems for Helena in that she would become easy prey for her parents' enemies, Helena deciding to live up to her family legacy and actually participate in that lifestyle most definitely compounded the very problems she was already vulnerable too.

Not long after Huntress and Power Girl put a stop to the Thinker's criminal activities, Harry (for reasons unknown) decided to visit the Blackgate penitentiary to rethink his relationship with Helena now knowing she's the Huntress. Helena goes herself to talk about her relationship with Harry, only to get interrupted by a planned breakout by Lionmane, one of Catwoman's former henchmen. Helena put a stop to her mother's former henchman as the Huntress, of course, but even shortly after that, Harry fell victim to the Joker—her father's archenemy—who used an old concoction of his Joker venom on him, further validating his desire to split from Helena.

The confrontation with the Joker brought Dick Grayson back to Gotham to assist Helena in capturing him. The two then later had a heart-to-heart over Helena's inability to keep her Huntress life separate from her life as Helena Wayne, leading Dick to conclude that a relationship with a man who does not share her lifestyle would be difficult to maintain. This then prompted Helena to reconsider her priorities, causing her to realise she wants all of the simple joys of a normal life (love, relationships, social gatherings), but at the same time does not want to give up her Huntress lifestyle, going back to the central conflict of her story.

Because Helena struggles to keep both of her lives separate, so many of her life events collected in The Huntress: Origins tend to be consequential of this symbiotic relationship between 'Helena Wayne, the civilian' and 'Helena Wayne as the Huntress.' While Helena is certainly no amateur at the superhero lifestyle itself, this inability to keep her lives separate often presents dangerous opportunities for both herself and the most important people in her life. The way those unexpected events pan out in turn affect the way she responds as the Huntress, going back to another theme we touched upon earlier about how well she can keep herself from giving in to her darkest thoughts without going too far.


05. Bonus insightful material on the creation and subsequent rebooting of the Huntress

Last, but not least, one more major reason to add The Huntress: Origins to your DC trades collection is the bonus material that will accompany this book, including a new Introduction page by Huntress co-creator Paul Levitz that will surely differ from the one he wrote in 2006 for The Huntress: Darknight Daughter.

This is especially true when we consider that Helena Wayne has had more DC Comics appearances since then, and it'll be interesting to see what new insights Levitz can shed on the way the character has been used in the last decade. He would definitely know because he was involved in rebooting his own character for the post-Flashpoint continuity!

While it's possible we'll probably get Helena Wayne's 'Who's Who' page collected again in this new edition as well, I'm also hoping the original Joe Staton concept art that was featured in DC Super-Stars #17 in 1977 will be added to this volume as well, as it was not featured in the original version. It would honestly be odd not to see this featured since concept art has become a normal feature in DC trades in the past decade.

Beyond that, I don't know what other bonus features to expect, but I do hope to be pleasantly surprised!

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