In the early 1960’s DC Comics decided to differentiate the characters they were currently publishing from the characters of the same names that appeared in the Golden Age. The Golden Age versions of popular characters such as Superman and Batman were relegated to an alternate earth called “Earth-2”. On this earth it was shown that after World War II Batman (Bruce Wayne) had fallen in love with the Gotham cat-burglar known as Catwoman (Selina Kyle) and they ended up having a child who they named Helena Wayne who would one day grow up to become the Gotham crime fighter known as “The Huntress”! Created by Paul Levitz and Joe Staton in All-Star Comics #69 (1977) she was originally envisioned as the Earth-2 version of the popular character Batgirl, although the characters are virtually nothing alike besides being young female crime fighters based in Gotham. Even though the character did not appear in comics until 1977, she was born in 1957 and throughout her life was trained by her parents to become a superb athlete. At first she decided to live a normal life instead of pursuing her parent’s legacy and became a lawyer alongside former Robin, Dick Grayson, but soon her mother was blackmailed into pulling one last heist as Catwoman where she ends up being killed in action. Bruce is devastated from the loss and retires as Batman and (In An origin very reminiscent of Batman’s) Helena decides to bring her mother’s killer to justice as the costumed super heroine the Huntress brandishing what would soon become her trademark crossbow!
After her initial appearance in All-Star Comics, she went on to star in a back up feature in Wonder Woman throughout the late seventies and early eighties. She became so popular in fact that in 1979 when NBC shot two live action specials based on several of DC’s characters called “Legend of the Super-Heroes” the Huntress (played by actress Barbara Joyce) appeared alongside such legendary DC heroes as The Flash and Batman. There was even talk of her moving from a backup feature in Wonder Woman and moving her into her own solo title, until the events of DC’s mega event “Crisis on Infinite Earths” rendered that impossible. In the 1985 event Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC decided to streamline its continuity by getting rid of all their alternate Earths, including Earth-2, and focusing on only one main Earth. During Crisis on Infinite Earths the Huntress was killed and, like all of the inhabitants of Earth-2, was forgotten by all remaining characters.
However, the Huntress proved too popular a character to remain dormant for long and in 1989 the Huntress finally stared in her own solo series. Helena Wayne became Helena Bertinelli and, like most late 80’s/early 90’s comics, was much darker than her previous incarnation. Instead of the daughter of two heroes she was born into a prominent mob family and when her whole family was killed by a rival crime cartel she became the Huntress and vowed to dismantle organized crime. This new incarnation did not catch on with readers however as her series was cancelled after nineteen issues. She did not stay away long however as she made several appearances throughout the nineties in various comics such as JLA and several of the Bat family titles; even going as far to appear in a crossover with Darkhorse Comics fighting the popular movie character The Predator!
The New Huntress finally got her big break in the series Birds of Prey, appearing in over one hundred issues as part of an all female crime fighting team based in Gotham alongside characters such as the original Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) now known as “Oracle” and the Black Canary. This team proved popular enough that in 2002 the WB launched a TV series called “Birds of Prey” with Ashley Scott as the Huntress although the series was sadly cancelled after only one season. The Huntress also made several appearances in the cartoon “Justice League Unlimited” as a love interest of fellow Vigilante “The Question”. While Helena Bertinelli was busy with the Birds of Prey, however, other events in the DCU allow for a familiar face to return. In 2005 DC launched a sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths called “Infinite Crisis”; it was in this series that DC returned to the concept of having alternate Earths including a very familiar Earth-2 and a very familiar Helena Wayne. Sadly, the Birds of Prey series has been cancelled but with both Helena Wayne and Helena Bertinelli around the Huntress certainly isn’t going anywhere soon.