Secret Origins Redux 4: The Huntress

Secret Origins Month continues at the Fire and Water Podcast Network,with the Super Mates, Cindy and Chris Franklin! Return to that parallel world of Earth-Two, and learn the startling secret origin of Helena Wayne, daughter of Batman and Catwoman, and the tragedy that forged her into…the Huntress!

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“Premonition” (Theme for Secret Origins Podcast) written and performed by Neil Daly.

“September When It Comes” by Rosanne Cash with Johnny Cash

39 responses to “Secret Origins Redux 4: The Huntress

  1. Great episode, Chris and Cindy! I’ve always enjoyed this origin story, despite the fact that–as you pointed out–the story really sells out Batman in order to elevate the Huntress.

    I read all of the Huntress’ Earth 2 stories in the trade paperback with the Brian Bolland cover and then gifted the book to another fan, but listening to you to discuss the story was the first time I ever really put much thought into Helena and her costume. Two things occurred to me for the first time just now. First, I LOVE this original costume. It’s one of my Top 5 favorite female costumes at DC; I like it better than any Batgirl costume I’ve ever seen. (Note: I didn’t say I prefer Helena to Barbara.)

    Second, the reason I like this costume so much perhaps is because it reminds me of Marvel’s Hawkeye, who has one of my favorite costumes too. Seriously, if you take the scallops off her cape and maybe gave her a tunic with some chainmail effect thing, she could look like a female version of the classic Hawkeye. In another universe, Kate Bishop could’ve worn a costume like this.

    Great job, once again. Thanks for spotlighting this overlooked secret origin.

    Also, how did I not predict you’d play Johnny Cash for this one?!

    1. Wow, I had never made the Hawkeye connection, but now that you say it…I can’t UNsee it! They even have the same mask!

      The Cash(es) song popped in my head as soon as I re-read this one. Johnny’s lines fit perfectly with the broken, ready-to-die Bruce Wayne.

  2. Great episode! Big fan of the original Huntress. I first encountered her in during the JLA/JSA crossovers but became a fan during the classic Generations Saga during the first year of Infinity Inc.
    I’d been searching for a copy of this book for decades, seeing it occasionally online for huge $$$$$! A few months back I just happened to visit my local comic shop and saw it hanging on the wall. In great condition and at a great price. I snapped it up immediately. Turns out the owner had only put it up that morning after going through a collection he’d just purchased. It was perfect timing.

  3. Great show, and it reminds me of how much I miss the free-form Supermates shows (House of Franklinstein is a nice fix, but it only comes once a year).
    But anyway, I really like the Huntress, and by that I mean the original Helena Wayne version. The post-Crisis version may have been good as well, but honestly I was never really very interested in reading any of those stories because she wasn’t Bruce and Selina’s daughter.
    I have to agree totally with Cindy about Earth-2 Dick Grayson having an intimate relationship or even just flirting with Helena: it’s not “a little” or “kind of” creepy, it is full-on creepy and wrong, wrong, wrong.

    1. I kind of miss those free-form shows too, Edo. Maybe one day we’ll have enough time to go back to a more regular Super Mates schedule. Here’s hoping.

      I kind of regret putting the bit about the weird Dick/Helena semi-relationship in there, but I guess it’s the 800 lb gorilla in the room with those two. I hate to throw shade at the Earth-Two Robin, because he’s a personal favorite of mine, co-star of my favorite comic of all-time, B&B #182. But the whole situation is weird and icky. Not quite Hal and Arisia icky, but still…icky.

  4. Great episode, Franklins.

    But a few notes:

    My feelings on Earth-2 have been made known. I’m a Crisis apologist who would have preferred a complete restart with a clean slate. That said, I’ve always been a fan of the idea of the Earth-2 Huntress. I wouldn’t say I read any stories spotlighting her that were very good or memorable, though. I probably just dug her look.

    I think I preferred the Helena B version before she became Bat-ified. I can’t stand that Rucka made her “Batman’s daughter” in the spiritual sense. Such a dick, lame move. She operated better as her own entity divorced from the already bloated Bat-Family (the family formed by the guy who repeatedly claims he doesn’t need family).

    I felt like you guys were struggling to find the silver linings in this story. But it was full of logical missteps and bad characterization. Levitz sacrificed Bruce and Selina’s common sense to bring Helena to the fore – and he failed. But the art was pretty damn good!

    1. I think Helena B Huntress being pulled into the Bat-Family is a double-edged sword. Yes, it definitely increased her profile and popularity, but she became the punching bag for the entire Bat-Clan.

      The origin story was typical of many comics in the late 70s. Moments of brilliance and character development in amongst some rather contrived and sometimes illogical plot developments. It was the form struggling with breaking away from the plot-based stories of the past, and embracing the character-driven stories of the future.

  5. I had both the All-Star Comics appearance, and this DC Superstars edition, and bought them on the same day.

    This origin was a marvel to me. (No, not that marvel). Because DC, over the past year or two were finally admitting that Earth 2 and its Golden Age history mattered, and was capable of sustaining a world of dynamic characters – and make that history count for something.

    The JSA now was suddenly more than an annual novelty.

    Until DC Implosion, when suddenly it didn’t matter – at least to DC. Earth-2 would wax and wane here and there, often in team-up books, until Roy Thomas came to DC and lovingly crafted a world with both a past (All-Star Squadron) a present (the continuing JSA) and a future (Infinity Inc.). Earth-2 was finally out of the box and occupying a significant corner.

    But then someone had to overthink it all, Crisis finally closed the lid on the E-2 box (coffin, actually) and rolled that history into that creative cloud called “New Earth” where things were pounded into place, and whatever didn’t fit – was sent to the curb.

    In MY boxes of comics, Earth-2 always had that special place in my heart. It’s own box. Other comics could come and go, be sold given away or discarded, but the half-century of legacy remained in my head canon.

    The Secret Origin of Helena Wayne (no blasted Bertinelli, no blasted Enterprise D…, sorry, mind wandered) was an important structural component of the creation of the Earth-2 box, that era of the 70s and 80s that remains a special place in my alternate universe. I like it here, go away New 52 Earth-Two — you’re not!)

    Wonderful episode, Chris and Cindy, and I wouldn’t imagine you two could do a bad one.

    Gord.

    1. And may I add the sheer perfection of the musical choice of “September When It Comes”. with Johnny and daughter Rosanne. The perfect soundtrack to my memory of buying and reading this comic in the harvest September of 1977. Very special rendition.

      1. Well said, Gord. I was (and still am in some circles) known as “Earth 2 Chris” for a reason. I love the entire notion of Earth-Two, and any story specifically set there will always be special to me in some way, shape or form. I have often said writers like Levitz, Conway, Thomas and Brennert were just starting to really tap into the storytelling potential of an ongoing, parallel world when the plug was pulled. It died too young. And DC has been scrambling to get it back ever since.

        I’m no Ryan Daly, but thanks for the kind words on the needle drop.

  6. Another great episode Franklins! I can’t add much to what’s been said already other than I’m looking forward to you discussing the Huntress in the JLU cartoon. She worked really well alongside The Question.

    1. Good point, rob. How many times per month does Batman kick a gun out of a punk’s hand without anyone getting killed?

      And I agree, it’s so weird that DC gave up parallel worlds, and Marvel has gone nuts with them.

      Chris

  7. I still remember buying this comic off the stands at a Woolworth’s in the Neshaminy Mall in PA. Why does this memory still linger when a thousand other comic purchases have not?

    Fun show, guys. I agree–the Huntress should not have been a casualty of the Crisis, it was a genuine loss. I know that was part of the point, but still.

  8. I still feel like they should force Ryan to talk over “Premonition” to introduce the characters to be covered. He doesn’t have to do the full Rod Serling– just a little James Earl Jones “This… Is… Secret Origins…insertcharacterhere.”

    I was probably introduced to the Huntress from her Wonder Woman back-ups. I definitely remember the first strip in that series from 1980, where she balanced her little-used dagger on her fingertip, but not exactly when I was exposed to it in my personal chronology. DC Comics’ newsstand distribution was very spotty in Houston, especially on such a low selling title, but I know I’d read something of her at least before the 1983 DC Sampler since she was already known to me there.

    I always dug the mask, the weaponry, the cape, and more generally, nighttime vigilantes & take charge ladies. She was clearly Batman-adjacent, but not just a gender-swap with tweaks like Batgirl. I was never a Joe Staton fan, but the sex appeal and the darker mood made me more amenable to him on Huntress. There was good early work from preferable artists as the strip progressed. Batman was already retired, so he didn’t figure too heavily in Huntress stories, and she was his successor rather than just another Family member. Given my oft-noted and culturally contrarian dislike of Batman, I really prefer the Huntress as a contrast or fully extant rather than a close member. The whole point of her existence is to progress past Batman, not to shiver in his shadow. I have to agree with everything D.A.G. said, while adding that Greg Rucka is the E.L. James of comics, but with Stephenie Meyer’s chastity.

    Like most of her Pre-Crisis solo stories, I read the secret origin in the Darknight Daughter trade from the late aughts, and had forgotten that I summarized several of them for my DC Bloodlines blog until I checked to see if I’d “commentaried” this already. Present company considered, I won’t drone on about my disinterest in there being more than the one Earth. It’s definitely a turn-off-your-brain proto-grimdark What If deal, but I do find there’s something inherently compelling about exploring the product of a union between Catwoman and Batman (that order.) I think one of the things I really like about the post-Gail Simone sarcastic and libidinous Huntress is that she reflects more of her “mother” than the once-canonical offspring ever did. In temperament and modus operandi, Helena Wayne felt more like the daughter of Bruce & Dick than a Kyle-Wayne combo. The Huntress works more in spite of her origin than as a result of it. The 1970s occasionally demonstrated how brilliant comics could be without an editor looking on, but most often made clear how necessary they were to the craft. Comic writers need someone to point out the plot holes and under-cooked motivations.

    I love the Huntress, full stop. Minimum top ten, probably more like top 5 favorites in the DCU, and one of the few characters that can get me to buy something on her own merits. Whether she’s a Wayne or a Bertinelli, the basics and the iconography are still there. Obviously Bertinelli has had many more years and much more modern storytelling by actual female writers in her favor, but I think that she ceases to exist once the costume comes off. Wayne had an actual dual identity and a personal life that could fuel stories, where Bertinelli is sort of like the Punisher in simply moving from mission to mission. I haven’t read any of the New 52 Bertinelli stories, but I’m glad that they made her a POC and offered the Spyral association to better differentiate her from the revived Earth-2 version. Given how much mourning for E-2 occurred in these comments, I’m surprised that I’m the only one who picked up Levitz’s New 52 series. For Siskoid’s Who’s Editing project, I made Bertinelli the Tigress because I wanted to play with her as soon as possible, and try to offer her further distinction. Until I got turned on to/by Jurnee Smollett in Lovecraft Country, the only reason I had to regret (still) not watching the Birds of Prey movie was because I hear Huntress is the most (only?) faithful adaptation in that thing.

    One more point in Wayne’s favor is that I didn’t have to copy-and-paste her name after a Google search throughout the last paragraph, unlike Helena CTRL+V. I’m still enough of a Post-Cultist that I don’t care about quasi-kissin’ cousins with Robin because all that Earth-Two stuff is just one big Imaginary Story to me. Babs is Nightwing’s One True Ship, but I thought the bad romance hook-up written by Devin Grayson on Earth-Only in the early ’00s was hot.

    You can tell Ryan isn’t DJing when the Cashes turn up in an episode, but I favor Patti Page, as evidenced by the only super-hero “tribute” music videos that I ever made…

    https://youtu.be/4o_04EKYzYI

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4o_04EKYzYI&w=560&h=315

    1. Levitz definitely set up Helena’s job well in the strip, right from the first Batman Family appearance. Comic writers used to consider that, and a decent supporting cast, part and parcel of the feature, but somewhere along the lines, that got lost, along with much of the secret identity trope. But it’s a trope with reason, as it allows us to actually identify with these fantastic characters on a human level.

  9. Impressive podcast. Most impressive. I always liked the huntress. I remember reading these back ups in study hall. Since I did all my home work at home. Right as I got home. Our ready teacher realized she could get people to read if she had comics etc. And it worked. The first story is fun. If a bit Silver age. But, look at the stuff heroes do all the time. Cap can lift 800 ibs. But, yet in the movies he can stop a helicopter with one hand as he’s hanging off a ledge.

    Bat Man can take on Apocalypses. So yeah A dude throwing a ancor not as crazy. Yeah the cop getting killed would have been front page news. Or at lest shown up on tv. So yeah Cat Woman should have known it was BS. And if she’d have gone to Bruce he’d have known it was a lie right off. Em, I’m guessing this was plot convenience. And hey it got us Huntress. Glad they created her instead of Fire Bird back ups. Betty Kane was the first choice till Paul created Huntress instead. Thank goodness.

    I like Betty Kane, but till Geof She wasn’t given the right personality. And Helanea was a better choice. And she became a great character. And she was able to fight Silver age heros well. I say silver, cause well DC didn’t really do Bronze age till after Crisis. Oh not only do I have a U-tube page, but so does my friend living karasu . She mostly talks anomie , cos playing stuff etc.

    1. Liz Anne, I will disagree just a little. I think there were ways to do what Paul was trying to do in the origin without leaving such obvious contrivances. And while I agree with your overall point about DC and the Bronze Age, there were some writers (Denny O’Neil was only one example) who embraced the complexity all the way back in the seventies. Maybe DC had an imperfectly mixed Alloy Age — some bits were silver, some were bronze, and many were a bit of each.

      All that said, you’re right. At least we got the Huntress!

  10. I, for one, DID discover her in the Wonder Woman back-ups (the Earthworm didn’t know what hit him). I see the debate rages on, Wayne v Bertinelli. I know it’s proper to defend the Wayne version, but I like to be a realist on this point and say there’s no way she would have gotten as much play if she’d remained an Earth-2 character EVEN IF Earth-2 had stuck around after Crisis. I’m amazed she had a back-up in an Earth-1 book!

      1. People in my circles habitually do. And this is a comments section for a show made by “Earth-2 Chris” so I imagine that’s where his heart lies. When I visit someone’s house, I don’t crap on the furniture.

        1. Conan the Contrarian doesn’t disagree with his hosts? HAHAHAHAHA!

          Also, I thought this was a public forum. Are you spelling “America” with a “K”?

          1. I (I wish I could emphasize the “I”) said I preferred the Helena Wayne version. I don’t assume anyone else does. I just do. My opinions are my own, and I encourage others to have theirs as well. So if you like Helena B better, more power to you.

            Chris

          2. If anyone listened to the FW Team-Up with Diane from the Huntress Podcast, you’ll find a like-minded reader. She’s more than a little obsessive about it.

  11. Okay, fun episode, and great coverage of a great character in a mediocre origin story (for reasons you covered). Also, maybe Joe Station’s best art ever. (Hold on; let me go look at that character sketch one more time.)

    (Okay, I’m back. [sigh]). But that isn’t why I’m writing. I’m writing because I can hear it! I’ve tried to listen to several JLUcasts and one or two Houses of Franklinstein and stopped in the middle because I couldn’t hear enough to follow it. Chris-and-Cindy dialogue was spotty, but clip dialogue was often worse. And I mean, I tried it with the hearing aid in. I tried it both with Bluetooth piping it through my truck speakers and with my phone just sitting on my shoulder (the one next to my good ear). I even tried using Bluetooth to pipe it through the hearing aid itself.

    Eventually, I gave up. It was never a problem with Superman Movie Minute, so I figured Rob produced those and did something different. Since no one else had a problem, and even my wife says I need to give you more Patreon money for what I get out of this network, I figured it wasn’t worth mentioning.

    But today, I started playing the latest SOR without looking to see who was hosting. There’s Chris and Cindy, clear as a bell! I mean, it wasn’t Action Film Face-off loud, but that’s only necessary if you work in a train station or on an airfield.

    Did you do something different? Or is it because I was in my wife’s car, with less road noise? I guess I’ll figure it out if my truck ever gets out of the shop. Well, whatever it is, thanks!

    1. Nothing different, Captain. This episode was recorded and produced just like JLUCast and SMP/HOF. I am sorry you have had trouble hearing us in the past, but hopefully you can now hear us better moving forward.

  12. I need to listen to the episode where you talk Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier. That’s such a wonderful series that I need to reread!

  13. Oh boy, I’m enjoying this mini-series of podcasts. Nice job, Franklins! This issue never showed up in my UK newsagents, so the first time I read it was in The SuperHeroes Monthly you mentioned (such a great series, editor Vanessa Morgan – who died far too young – printed my first ever LoCs there). I do have it in colour now, in the trade paperback, so was able to follow along properly.

    Do we know why Paul Levitz chose the name “Helena”? It’s not a million miles from “Selina” but knowing that he named Gigi Cusimano from the Legion of Super-Heroes after his missus, I wonder if Helena was his mother, or someone.

    ‘Silky Cernak’ is another name that surely has a secret origin. It’s so specific. If DC Collectibles hadn’t been dumped, they could have made a pair of bookends, with Joe Chill at the start and Silky Cernak at the finish, given their importance in Batman’s career.

    Oh Chris, I liked the Wonder Woman series under Gerry Conway and José Delbo, it was a good Bronze Age read. I enjoyed the Huntress strip but didn’t like it being in WW, it belonged in a Bat-book. If a back-up strip was needed they should have done more Donna Troy ones (though Mr Jupiter could stay well away, the creepy git).

    Was Batman indeed the first hero known to have married a villain? I had the idea Alan Scott was known to have wed Molly Mayne long before Infinity Inc, but that could be my retroactive continuity brain.

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