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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Superhero Sunday: Daughter of Darkness

Holy Bat-Cleavage!
During the 1960s, DC Comics created an alternate universe in which their Golden Age versions of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and others aged in - more or less - real time. Batman eventually married his nemesis/paramour Catwoman and the two had a daughter: Helena Wayne. Helena took up her father's mantle of crimefighting as the (mostly) costumed Huntress.
Villains cower when
faced with a bare mid-riff.
Eventually, the character's popularity led to the creation of a similar character - with no genetic connection to Batman - in the main DC universe. This time, Helena Bertinelli is born into a Mafia family centered in the fictional city of Gotham (Batman's city, for the uninitiated among you.) After a rather tragic upbringing, Helena turns vigilante, aiming to bring down the Mafia. Her more violent approach does, however, put her at odds with the Batman from time to time.
Eventually, she finds herself teamed with former Batgirl Barbara Gordon - now the wheelchair-bound Oracle - and the Black Canary as the Birds of Prey, a female crime-fighting trio.
The show designers stayed true to the
 important "cleavage" theme. (Yay!)
Looking to capitalize on the success of their Superman-themed series Smallville, the WB commissioned a Birds of Prey TV series in 2003 combining the origin of Helena Wayne with the persona of Helena Bertinelli. They also borrowed from Tim Burton's Batman Returns in which Catwoman has superhuman powers. These powers are passed on to her daughter before Mom is killed and Dad retires from crimefighting and disappears.
The show had potential in the three strong lead actresses, but suffered from some effects done on the cheap and some cheesy dialogue that worked much better in the small Kansas town of Smallville than in the big city of New Gotham. Birds of Prey was canceled after 11 episodes, but was mercifully permitted to wrap up the series in a two-episode finale. All thirteen episodes are available on DVD, and, despite the inexplicable altering of much of the series' music - including the opening theme song - it's worth a look.
Actually, I just changed my mind. This is the best series ever. Ev-er.
Whether as Helena Bertinelli or Helena Wayne, the Huntress is an intriguing superheroine: troubled, born into a world of violence, and tough as nails.
Also, her existence makes the cosplay at comic book conventions decidedly more interesting.
I really need to start going to these things.

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