Tuesday, 22 September 2020

How I Became A Helena Wayne Huntress Fan Part 4

Nine years ago today, I created this blog to talk about Helena Wayne as the Huntress, as well as review her comics and her other media appearances. What I haven't done until recently was talk about why I became a Helena Wayne Huntress fan and how I even got here in the first place. In the last three entries, I talked about how I missed my first opportunity to invest in the Huntress in 2002 due to losing interest in the WB TV shows I was invested in at the time, and because I had gotten invested in anime and manga during that time. 

Despite having missed the Huntress that first time, I still came across my first manga character that started my comic book collecting hobby at age 15: Kikyou. Not only was Kikyou the reason I started buying manga and fell in love with comics as a medium, but she also set many of the standards that facilitated my later investment in Helena Wayne. In fact, being a Kikyou fan has even taught me how NOT to get too frustrated as a Helena Wayne Huntress fan, especially as a character that is repeatedly done dirty by DC. (After all, Kikyou was repeatedly done dirty by her own creator, Rumiko Takahashi.)

Now that we're past the midway point of my origin story as a Huntress fan, we finally get to the part you care more about: the years in which I finally became aware of the Helena Wayne's existence. But just like last time, my investment in her didn't happen right away. 

Welcome to Part 4 of my origin story as a Helena Wayne Huntress fan!

2005

The year 2005 was a transformative year for me. I was 18 years old, fresh out of school, and at the time, I had no damn clue what I wanted to do for a career. I just knew the first four things I was good at: writing, drawing, graphic design, and web development. I therefore tried pursuing a multimedia design degree.

When it came to drawing (which was my favourite thing to do at the time), my art style was heavily influenced by manga. In fact, a lot of the one-page comics I used to draw as a teenager where drawn in the style of manga—complete with the right-to-left format—because that was what I was used to. In college, I quickly learnt in my art classes that I needed to 'evolve' my drawing style if I wanted to compete in the western market. 

In just about all of my drawing classes, I noticed that there was strong preference for a more 'arthouse' style of drawing, especially in the western comic book industry. I didn't just have to get used to laying out comic book pages in a left-to-right format, but it also meant having to learn to draw muscles and much more detailed backgrounds. I realised I had to start learning from western artists, which also meant needing to buy western comics. This ended up bringing me back to my first love as a kid: DC Comics.

The year 2005 also proved to be a transformative year for DC Comics. The publisher was at the time setting up for their upcoming event, Infinite Crisis, which was also intended to be a sequel to the Crisis on Infinite Earths event that rebooted the DC Universe 20 years prior. It was also the year Batman Begins made its cinematic debut to a smashing box office success, effectively revitalising the Batman film franchise for Warner Bros. That same year, Batman Begins was competing against Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, the final instalment of the Star Wars prequel trilogy that would see Anakin Skywalker's final transformation into his more iconic identity of Darth Vader. 

I saw both films at the cinema that summer, and between the two, I was admittedly more obsessed with Star Wars because seeing Anakin's transformation into Darth Vader was, for me, the most exciting thing to see that summer. As flawed as the story was, Hayden Christensen sold me on his take on the Dark Lord of the Sith. You also can't deny that lightsaber duel on Mustafar between Vader and Obi-Wan (played by Ewan McGregor) was the best part of the film, along with seeing Vader get put inside the suit for the first time. 

That being said, Batman Begins was a genuinely good film and even helped revive my childhood interest in Batman, which meant it was time for me to buy my first DC comic. Enter 2006!

2006

Picking a starting point at DC Comics in 2006 was no easy task. By this point, DC was in the middle of their newest event, Infinite Crisis, which was seeking to recanonise the first 50 years of DC history the original Crisis event retconned, along with a restoration of the DC Multiverse. Infinite Crisis was also the event that reinstated Power Girl's original Earth-2 origin, and even re-acknowledged the existence of the original Helena Wayne Huntress for the first time in 20 years. 

What an exciting time for me to start getting invested in DC Comics at the age of 19. If Helena Wayne was taken off the board the year I was born, it's almost as if the stars aligned for me to start getting into the mainline DC Comics literally the same year DC chose to bring her back. Or at least admit the fact that she actually existed because her actual comeback didn't happen until a year later. (But we'll get to that.)

In any case, it seemed as though Infinite Crisis revived interest in the original Helena Wayne Huntress as well, because that same year, in 2006, DC reprinted the first four years of Helena Wayne's pre-Crisis stories in a new trade called The Huntress: Darknight Daughter. It was a very popular trade amongst the generation that originally read those stories back in the 1970s and early 1980s. It must have piqued the interest of some members of my generation as well because the trade made the Top 20 list for the month of December, selling over 3000 copies.

Now, one would think that with me getting into DC Comics the same year DC recanonised Helena Wayne as the Huntress that The Huntress: Darknight Daughter would be my first DC comic ever. But alas, just like in the year 2002, I once again missed the Helena Wayne Huntress train. Not because I left the DC train station, but because I boarded a very different train for my first DC comic. In this case, I was all aboard the Harley Quinn train, starting with the Karl Kesel and Terry Dodson run from the year 2000!

HUH? WHAT? WHY HARLEY QUINN OF ALL CHARACTERS AND NOT, SAY, CATWOMAN AS YOUR ORIGINAL FAVOURITE DC HEROINE??!!?!?! THAT MAKES NO BLOODY SENSE!!!!!

Hear me out: I was totally aware that Infinite Crisis was being published at the time to course-correct the main DC timeline. It was also an event that meant absolutely nothing to me as someone who was new to DC Comics at the time and was not as steeped into DC lore like I am now. As such, I didn't want to start with a continuity-shifting event as my first comic and not be able to follow along. 

It's also worth remembering what originally enticed me to buy my first DC comic in the first place: the need to evolve my drawing style and to learn how to draw western comic layouts. As such, my priority at the time was in finding a good American comic book artist to learn from. In this case, I happened to like Terry Dodson's art style, so I bought the Harley Quinn comic from 2000 to specifically study Terry Dodson's art. Since Harley Quinn was already a familiar character from when I watched her in Batman: The Animated Series as a kid, it was a win for me. This now gets us to 2007!

2007

For the entirety of 2007, I was completely obsessed with Harley Quinn. In my opinion, Karl Kesel and Terry Dodson (along with his wife Rachel who inked his pencils) did a great job at transitioning Harley from a character in a kid's cartoon to a mainline DC Comics character. Kesel had the character's voice and sense of humour down, and the Dodsons successfully captured Harley's body language. On the whole, the entire comic run was bonkers fun. I especially loved the Metropolis story arc with Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. 

By the time I got the the A.J. Lieberman and Mike Huddleston run, I admit, I was not a fan. Not because I thought taking Harley in a bold, new direction was a bad thing, but because I didn't feel a dark, neo-noir tone actually fit the character. Still, I looked for other comics featuring Harley, and even other appearances the character has had outside the comics. I revisited her episodes in Batman: The Animated Series, of course, but it wasn't until I actually researched Harley's other TV appearances that I became aware of her first live action appearance in the 2002 Birds of Prey television show.

It was through researching the Birds of Prey television show that I first became aware of Birds of Prey as a concept, and especially of the character of the Huntress as the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. I admit, I found the character of the Huntress intriguing when I first became aware of her. I specifically remember reading Helena Wayne's Wikipedia page and learning a little more about her. I especially remember learning she was the daughter of the Batman and Catwoman of Earth-2, but it didn't register to me at the time that the character had been retconned out of DC continuity. In fact, 'retconning' was not even a term I was familiar with at the time, so I just rolled with the fact that the Huntress was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman from a parallel Earth. 

The first time I watched the Birds of Prey television show, I remember liking Oracle and the Huntress, but was rather underwhelmed by the way Harley was written in the show at the time. While actresses Sherilyn Fenn and Mia Sara did their best to adapt the character in a way that fit the tone of the show, I also felt that without the more gimmicky aspect of Harley's villainy, the character just wasn't Harley. She really does work better as a gimmicky-style villain that is more fun and games than an actual dangerous crime boss.

In any case, despite finding the character of the Huntress compelling in the Birds of Prey television show, it would be another year before I actually read my first Helena Wayne Huntress story in the comics, which gets us to 2008!

Be back here on the 9th anniversary of Helena Wayne's New 52 debut on 05 October for the fifth and final instalment of my origin story as a Huntress fan! We now get to talk about the first Helena Wayne Huntress comic I read that got me to buy The Huntress: Darknight Daughter. In Part 5, I'll also discuss what got me to start my Huntress blog at (literally) the same time Helena Wayne made her serendipitous return in the Huntress: Crossbow at the Crossroads miniseries!

Be here!

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