With the Huntress set to make her debut in the next episode of the CW series “Arrow,” many fans are champing at the bit in anticipation for her appearance, while those who are discovering these characters for the first time may be left scratching their heads and wondering who she is, having just gotten their heads around this guy with the arrows.
Given that, we’ve decided to tackle those questions head on, and take a look back at the Huntress’ comic book origins in this week’s edition of Hollywood Justice.
When the Huntress first appeared in 1977’s “DC Super Stars” #17, it was obvious that she was both integrally tied into the DC Universe and yet strangely removed from it. She was the daughter of two of DC’s most iconic characters, Batman and Catwoman — but not the Batman and Catwoman most readers are familiar with.
These were residents of Earth-2, DC’s parallel-dimensional Earth which chronicled the adventures of their heroes and villains as though they had begun in the 1940s, making this Batman and Catwoman the only ones old enough to have an adult daughter in 1977. Created by future DC Publisher Paul Levitz and artist Joe Staton, the Huntress, whose secret identity was Helena Wayne, possessed both the formidable detective and combat skills of her father, as well as the craftiness and agility of her mother. To avenge the death of her mother at the hands of a notorious gangster, Helena assembled a new costume and an array of equipment, including what would become known as her signature weapon, the crossbow, and put it all to good use in tracking down the killer and bringing him to justice.
Helena chose to pick up the mantle her parents passed on to her, and went on to a crime-fighting career of her own. Her adventures continued until 1985’s “Crisis On Infinite Earths”, a mega-event which sought to eliminate DC’s alternate earths with the goal of creating a single, unified history for the DC Universe. With Earth-2 wiped from the universe, as though it had never existed at all, Helena Wayne had no place in this new world where Batman and Catwoman had never married, much less raised a child to adulthood. Given that disturbing prospect, when her death came in battle during the Crisis, it seemed to fulfill the inevitable.
However, Paul Levitz still had a fondness for his creation, and with his blessing, writer Joey Cavalieri and Huntress co-creator Joe Staton created a new Huntress for this new universe, in the 1989 “Huntress” ongoing series. No longer Helena Wayne, this new Huntress was Helena Bertinelli, daughter of one of the major crime families of Gotham City. She turns away from her family roots after seeing horror and bloodshed they cause, and devotes her life to taking down organized crime, becoming an ally of Batman in the process. This incarnation of the Huntress lasted until DC’s 2011 reboot of the DC Universe, in which Helena Wayne reclaimed both her title and her roots in a reborn Earth-2. As chronicled in the pages of “Worlds’ Finest”, by Paul Levitz and artist Kevin Maguire, Huntress and fellow Earth-2 denizen Power Girl are now stranded on the main DC Earth, and struggle to assimilate into this new reality while also seeking a way home.
Despite Helena Wayne’s return in the comics, the team behind “Arrow” has opted to go with the Helena Bertinelli incarnation of the character, perhaps to give her some distance from Batman, a property Warner Brothers is notoriously selective about using when it comes to TV. Additionally, Bertinelli’s ties to organized crime can certainly provide grist for the mill when it comes to her interactions with Oliver Queen. Regardless of her incarnation however, certain aspects of the Huntress remain consistent; she’s always someone you’d much rather have watching your back, than having to watch your back for. Oliver Queen, beware.
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