Monday, 5 October 2020

How I Became A Helena Wayne Huntress Fan Part 5

Here it is! The moment you've all been waiting for. The moment I finally discovered Helena Wayne in the comics that set me off on this trajectory of devoting an entire blog to her in the first place. I suppose it was quite serendipitous that I did because unbeknownst to me at the time, I created this blog just weeks before Helena Wayne made her New 52 debut in the 2011 miniseries Huntress: Crossbow at the Crossroads. Today is the ninth anniversary of the first issue of that miniseries, so it makes sense to bring this entire origin story full circle on this very day!

In the previous post, I finally got introduced to Ashley Scott's version of the Huntress in 2007 when I finally watched the Birds of Prey television series for the first time. I was obviously four years too late to support the show, but it did nonetheless make me aware of the character's existence and she did at least pique my interest. While I didn't invest in the Huntress right away because I was still invested in Harley Quinn at the time, being aware of her was at least a start, especially once I started reading the Catwoman comics. We now get to the moment leading up to the first Helena Wayne Huntress story I bought that changed the landscape of my DC fandom forever!

Welcome to the fifth and final part of my origin story as a Helena Wayne Huntress fan!

2008

The year 2008 was another transitional year for me. By this point, I started to question multimedia design as a stable career choice, and I especially learnt the hard way that despite my love of comics, I would never cut it as a comic book artist. At best, I had a stronger future as a comic book writer since I was at least better about meeting deadlines as a writer, but I easily burnt myself out drawing actual comic book pages. 

I didn't realise how much work actually went into drawing one page alone, especially when you have to consider things like panel layout, 'camera placement', perspective, lighting, plus being able to successfully create the illusion of motion and getting the characters to 'act'. After drawing three pages for a school project alone, it killed my passion for drawing. I used to love drawing people in scenes all the time, but after the stress of meeting deadlines and having to redraw things to a 'client's' satisfaction in particular, I just couldn't do it anymore. 

This was the moment I chose to change my major from multimedia design to something else I was good at: science. Specifically, psychology. With a change in major also came a change in schools, so this began the process of transitioning from one college to another, and eventually applying to attend a bigger state university that actually specialised in the areas of psychology research I was interested in. 

Maybe I've got Harley Quinn to thank for this decision as well since she too studied psychology and went on to become a psychologist in her respective narrative. Ironically, I did not enjoy clinical psychology the way she did and my experience with counselling young kids made me question the practise. I quickly found I enjoyed scientific research a lot more, which is where I ended up focusing my undergraduate studies.

As far as comics went, I still enjoyed reading Harley Quinn in whatever DC comic she appeared in. I even started reading Catwoman's solo series (both the 1990s and 2000s series) around this time as well, which once again exposed me to the concept of Catwoman having a daughter named Helena. While I enjoyed reading about both of these ladies in their solo adventures leading up to them being in a new series called Gotham City Sirens in 2009, I was largely unengaged with the rest of the DC Multiverse. This was once again due to how event-heavy this particular era was at DC.

As mentioned in the previous post, Infinite Crisis recanonised pre-Crisis history in 2006. This event was then followed up with the weekly 52 series, which fully reinstated the DC Multiverse in 2007. This series was then followed up with the highly controversial Countdown to Final Crisis, which setup Final Crisis in 2008. Once again, I had zero interest in Multiverse-shaking events, so I avoided them like the plague. I didn't, however, avoid picking up new comics that at least looked interesting to me, which now gets us to the serendipitous moment that changed my investment in DC forever.

Before a childhood friend of mine moved to Germany, there was a shopping centre we used to frequent, namely for the arcade. Like me, she is also a talented artist, but I daresay, she's always been better at it than me. She too was into anime and manga when we were growing up, so comics was not outside of her realm. One day in late 2008 that we went to this shopping centre, we saw that our favourite place there—the arcade—was replaced with a comic shop. Seeing that we were both manga fans, we went inside and checked the place out. 

Naturally, I went to the DC trade section and saw various trades there that I would later own like the 2006 Power Girl trade, all three volumes of JSA: Thy Kingdom Come, and even paperbacks of the Harley Quinn solo series from 2000-2004. But the comic I ended up bringing home that day wasn't a single trade, but a single annual that was published earlier that year: Justice Society of America Annual #1.

What was it about this comic that spoke to me? It was literally the Alex Ross cover. While I was going through the store's DC back issues, that cover just spoke to me. I had no clue who any of the characters on the cover were, but I loved how they were all posed on the cover. The composition itself was another thing that stood out to me because the cover was hand-painted and not digitally made. I only had one thing in mind: I had to buy this comic if for no other reason than the cover itself. So I did.

When I got home and read the JSA Annual later that day, I did not expect to actually care for the story. But when I opened to Helena Wayne introducing herself as the Huntress and the daughter of Batman on that first page, she immediately had my attention. This was a character I was already familiar with thanks to the Birds of Prey television show a year earlier. As such, she was my immediate hook to the story. When I got done reading the story, I realised something else: I needed to know more about this Helena Wayne Huntress, Power Girl, Justice Society, and Earth-2!

2009

In the year 2009, I researched Helena Wayne, Power Girl, the Justice Society, and Earth-2.  It took a while for me to hunt down the various trades and comic appearances, but amongst the first trades and comics I bought included Huntress: Darknight Daughter (which I was lucky enough to find in a comic shop), Justice Society Vol. 2, and the Wonder Woman issues that Joey Cavalieri did.

Like any good lass who wanted to get to know Helena Wayne, I started with Huntress: Darknight Daughter by Huntress co-creators Paul Levitz and Joe Staton. I was once again reintroduced to the world of Earth-2. I quickly learnt from the first story alone (DC Super-Stars #17) that Earth-2 wasn't any parallel Earth in the DC Multiverse, but the parallel Earth that contained DC's original Golden Age history that ran from 1935 to 1955. As such, Helena Wayne wasn't the daughter of any alternate versions of Batman and Catwoman. Nope, nope! She was in fact the daughter of the original versions of these characters that appeared in 1939 and 1940 respectively!

In addition to Helena being the daughter of the Golden Age versions of Batman and Catwoman, the main thing that really stood out to me about her is that despite having a similar origin to her father, she chose to develop her own identity instead of choosing to become another Batwoman or Catwoman. That really spoke to me! The expectation when it came to legacy characters at DC was that they would simply take up the mantles of their predecessors and continue the legacies of their predecessors. Even if those characters managed to make those mantles 'their own' somehow, at the same time, taking up the identity and mantle of the hero who originated it ended up placing those characters in their shadow. This was especially true whenever DC decided to bring back the originators of those mantles, effectively throwing out the legacy characters like yesterday's trash!

Helena, however, wasn't like every legacy hero. She wasn't taking up the mantle of either her mother or father to start her superhero lifestyle.  She was creating her own identity, her own mantle, and she was especially creating her own legacy! While her original costume was still inspired by those of her mother and father, the design of the costume was still different enough for Helena to standout on her own as the Huntress! What's more was that Helena Wayne as the Huntress also used different weaponry from her parents. Whereas Catwoman carried a whip and Batman had batarangs along with various other bat-themed gadgets, Helena had knives and a crossbow, which added to her Huntress motif! I knew I was going to love this character on her Huntress identity alone.

As I read the remainder of Helena Wayne's solo adventures in Huntress: Darknight Daughter, I immediately noticed parallels between her and my first comfort character, Kikyou, from when I was a teenager. Like Kikyou, Helena Wayne also struggled to strike a balance between being a superhero and an ordinary woman, quickly learning she couldn't be both. In the same way Kikyou made a lot of dangerous enemies as a powerful miko to the point where her lover was targeted and was herself murdered, Helena Wayne also made dangerous enemies that endangered both her own life and the lives of the people around her.

One character that was nearly a casualty of a dangerous enemy of the Huntress (in this case the Crime Lord) was Alfred Beagle, her father's butler. The Crime Lord nearly succeeding in murdering Alfred caused Helena Wayne to seriously contemplate killing her enemy for the first time in her career as the Huntress. This story immediately reminded me of JSA Annual #1 from a year earlier where a similar thing happened. In that story, the Joker (her father's iconic archenemy) targeted Helena's boyfriend, Harry Sims, and disfigured his face as a way of both recreating Two-Face and as a way of tormenting Helena, whom he knew was the Huntress. The attack on Harry prompted Helena Wayne to carry out her first murder, but was prevented from doing so by her best friend Power Girl.

On the subject of Harry Sims, that was another thing Helena Wayne had in common with Kikyou: she couldn't have a romantic relationship with anyone as long as she was the Huntress. While in Kikyou's case, her being unable to have a romantic relationship was tied to her occupation as a miko prohibiting it, in Helena's case, it was entirely due to her not wanting to give up her Huntress lifestyle. This then put a strain on her relationship with her boyfriend, causing him to distance himself from her, and even at times abuse her like what we saw in Joey Cavalieri's run.

When I got to the Joey Cavalieri run of the Huntress solo stories, his narrative for Helena Wayne picked up right after the Crime Lord storyline Paul Levitz and Joe Staton did. Having been transformed by that experience, Joey Cavalieri decided to explore darker themes with Helena. As such, we were dealing with a much darker Huntress that in some ways reminded me of how Kikyou was depicted post-resurrection. While Helena herself was never briefly characterised as an anti-villain like Kikyou was immediately after her resurrection, like resurrected Kikyou, Helena Wayne was no longer above and beyond using lethal force on her enemies. As far as she was concerned, her use of violence was a means to an end, and no manner of 'roughhousing' was ever too much for Helena if it got her what she needed.

By the time I got done reading Helena Wayne's solo stories, I was very much in love with the character, and I couldn't wait to read her team-ups with other superheroes!

2010

The year 2010 was basically the year I devoted to reading Helena Wayne's stories with other superheroes or in superhero teams. In the year 2010, I read everything from Justice Society Vol. 2 to her appearances in Justice League of America, Batman Family #17, Brave and the Bold #184, Infinity Inc, and America vs the Justice Society. I even read her appearances in Justice Society of America #20 from 2008, and in Superman/Batman #27 from 2007.

When it came to reading Helena's stories with the Justice Society, my hook was her friendship with Power Girl, which I was already familiar with from JSA Annual #1 and later JSA #20. There's a lot I loved about the Huntress and Power Girl friendship that made them standout as something more than Earth-2's second generation Worlds' Finest team. They were best friends in a way Batman and Superman weren't best friends. 

Whereas you'd never catch Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent going out for tea together or going out to an expensive lunch together, this was something I got to see with Helena Wayne and Kara Zor-L when they weren't stopping crises with the Justice Society, or on their own as Huntress and Power Girl. This did a lot to contextualise their friendship as depicted in JSA Annual #1 and JSA #20 from 2008, and solidified why this friendship was important to them both. Even when they were fighting alongside the Justice Society or the Earth-1 Justice League, they were often each other's partners and even looked out for one another when there was danger. Power Girl even covered for Helena Wayne when the latter served as the Justice Society's legal counsel in a congressional hearing and couldn't account for the Huntress being absent during the JSA testimonies.

In addition to Power Girl, another dynamic I enjoyed reading was the one between Helena Wayne and the Earth-1 Batman, who was surprised to learn the Huntress was his daughter in another dimension, but also happy to know her. While I loved reading the Justice League Apokolips story where they both worked together to stop Darkseid, my favourite story with them was the Brave and the Bold #184 holiday story. In that story, Helena decided to visit Earth-1 to spend the holidays with the Earth-1 version of her father, only to end up helping her Earth-1 dad resolve a mystery surrounding his own father, Thomas Wayne. It was a heartfelt story that explored the meaning of family, especially after discovering a disturbing secret about a deceased family member.

As I finished reading the last Helena Wayne Huntress stories I had left to read from the pre-Crisis era, it was, of course, inevitable that I would learn about her death and her subsequent erasure from DC continuity in the Crisis on Infinite Earths event that reshaped the DC Multiverse into a single-shared universe in 1985. It was also inevitable that I would learn about her character being rebooted into a new character called Helena Bertinelli, whom I also found out was the Huntress that appeared in the Birds of Prey comics. 

As you can imagine, I was pretty livid to find out DC made the decision to get rid of the original Helena Wayne Huntress in a reboot that, in my opinion, did not need to happen. I did not find the DC Multiverse confusing despite being a relative newcomer to DC Comics at the time. I considered it an insult to my intelligence for DC to use that as the rationale for getting rid of that concept that actually facilitated different types of storytelling. While DC eventually brought the DC Multiverse back with Infinite Crisis, and even brought back a version of Helena Wayne in the 52 weekly series, to me, this wasn't enough. We still missed out on two more decades of Helena Wayne Huntress stories out of sheer DC stupidity.

When I first read Helena Bertinelli as the Huntress in the Birds of Prey comic Gail Simone was writing during this time, I admit, I was not initially impressed with her character. At the time, Helena Bertinelli was the Kagome Higurashi situation for me all over again: a wholly different character based on a pre-existing character, but lacking all of the developments I found interesting about the original character. As such, like Kagome, Helena Bertinelli came off to me as a less interesting version of a character I loved, usurping an identity, place, narrative, and relationships that belonged to the original character. However, unlike with Kagome Higurashi, I eventually did warm up to Helena Bertinelli a year later, which gets us to 2011.

2011

As a year, 2011 was largely unremarkable comics-wise. I suppose DC felt the same way because their sales were down the toilet by this point and they were already talking about doing another hard reboot by the summer. As someone who already hated the original Crisis reboot from 1985 for all the things that reboot did wrong, I was less than excited for another reboot. I was honestly planning on making my exit around this time to spare myself another Kikyou-styled heartache. But then something else happened that made me change my mind.

Around this same timeframe, it was announced that Paul Levitz would be returning to writing the Huntress for the New 52 era, but it would be the Helena Bertinelli Huntress. While I would've preferred reading a new Helena Wayne Huntress story from Paul Levitz, at the same time I was a bit curious to see how he would write Helena Bertinelli as the Huntress. I suppose part of me also felt that if Paul Levitz was going to be writing a new Huntress story, there was a very good chance he would somehow bring back his original creation as well. It was really just a gut feeling, but that gut feeling was what prompted me to create this Helena Wayne Huntress blog in the first place.

Since I couldn't do anything back in 1986 to persuade DC Comics to bring back the original Helena Wayne Huntress post-Crisis cause I was a baby at the time, my 24-year-old self in 2011 figured 'maybe I could use this new reboot as an opportunity to raise awareness of the original Helena Wayne Huntress.' So on 22 September 2011, I created this blog. Literally weeks before Huntress: Crossbow at the Crossroads #1 hit the shelves, unbeknownst of the surprise that actually awaited me.

For no reason (or perhaps a reason), I bought Huntress: Crossbow at the Crossroads #1 on a whim on 05 October 2011. I reviewed it, of course, but the bigger surprise for me came at the end of the first issue where DC hinted at the possibility that the Huntress Paul Levitz was writing was not Helena Bertinelli, but his original creation: Helena Wayne! I wrote about that too. Needless to say I was excited by the teaser because it meant I had created my blog just in time to start getting other DC fans excited for Helena Wayne's return!

Of course, as I've written about in the past, the New 52 didn't turn out to be what I and many DC fans wanted it to be. While it was eventually revealed that the 'Helena Bertinelli' appearing in the New 52 was in fact Helena Wayne, at the same time, the way the revelation happened didn't work in favour of the character. But I'll save that story for another day. The point of this story (and all the ones prior to it) was to share the journey that led me to this blog's creation in 2011, and my blogging in the years since. 

Whether or not I've been doing a good job at raising awareness of Helena Wayne's existence to the world at large is a matter of opinion. What I do take comfort in knowing is that there are a lot more people interested in Helena Wayne today than on this day nine years ago. That in itself is worth acknowledging!

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