Comic Book: Huntress

Batman's little girl (art by Guillem March)

There have been two main versions of the Huntress character: Helena Wayne and Helena Bertinelli.

Helena Wayne version

The original Huntress was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman, Helena Wayne. Part of the Earth-Two continuity, Helena donned the cape to avenge the death of her mother. She first appeared in "DC Super-Stars" #17 (December, 1977), created by Paul Levitz and Joe Staton. She got several solo stories in The '70s and The '80s and a back up feature in Wonder Woman, as well as having regular appearances alongside the Justice Society of America and Infinity, Inc..

In her civilian identity, Helena was a prominent lawyer and partner in a law firm, with her surrogate brother Robin/Richard "Dick" Grayson as a coworker. Occasionally, the two partnered up, both in and outside the courts. Her other frequent partner was her best friend Power Girl. Opponents included villains from both Earth-One and Earth-Two.

The character participated with others in the Crisis on Infinite Earths. She was killed in issue #12. Like most Earth-Two characters, her existence was then erased from history, though Power Girl has had flashbacks of Helena in a few of the mid-2000s storylines.

Following DC's New 52 reboot, Helena Wayne was returned to the Huntress identity. Co-creator Paul Levitz wrote the return/retcon, beginning with a six issue miniseries titled Huntress. Helena Wayne's adventures continued in the similarly Levitz-penned Worlds' Finest. A conversation in Worlds' Finest #1 revealed the fate of Helena Bertinelli, establishing that Bertinelli was killed years earlier, with her identity stolen by Wayne. Though Wayne had previously served as her father's sidekick using the identity of Robin, she took on the Huntress identity when her father, Wonder Woman, and Superman were killed, and she and Power Girl were stranded on Earth-One after an explosion.

Helena Bertinelli version

Hunting the hunters (art by Rick Burchett)

Like other old DC characters, Huntress was eventually reworked Post-Crisis, wearing a version of her original costume, but with an entirely new backstory. The new version first appeared in "Huntress" vol. 1 #1 (April, 1989), created by Joey Cavalieri and Joe Staten.

Helena Bertinelli, the Huntress: what Bruce Wayne might have been if Bruce's father had been a Mafia capo in Gotham. Her father was one of the most powerful mob bosses in "The Five Families" until the other capos decided the Bertinellis were in their way and massacred every single member of the family - except for Helena, age eight, who watched as her family was murdered in front of her.

Kept safe in Sicily, she trained for years, then returned to Gotham and began pursuing the systematic destruction of the mob. Though she often pursued the same cases as Batman, Gotham's self-appointed protector held her at a significant distance due to several factors, the most apparent being Huntress's willingness to use lethal force. However, other stories have hinted that Batman feared for her safety, comparing her to Barbara Gordon. Batman sponsored her membership in the Justice League for a time, but her continued willingness to kill led to her expulsion. She continued to try to strengthen her ties with the Bat-family, even having a fling with Nightwing while working on a case, but to no avail.

During the late 1990s-early 2000s, things took a turn for the worse. During the year-long isolation of Gotham known as the No Man's Land, Huntress initially took up the cowl of Batgirl, unfilled since Barbara Gordon stepped down several years prior. She did so to inspire hope in the inhabitants of the city being attacked on all sides by crime lords and abandoned by the rest of America - and seemingly by Batman himself, who had been gone for many months. When Batman returned, however, he set her an impossible task in order to keep the Batgirl mantle. When she failed, he manipulated her into joining one of the most violent groups in the city, to act as a check on the unhinged leader. The crisis came to a head when she held off an assault by the Joker, felling 17 goons before the Clown Prince shot her three times in the stomach. Though Batman and Nightwing saved her life, her outlook had hardened as a result of Batman's willingness to use her as cannon fodder. In spite the attempted help of Vic Sage (The Question) and Richard Dragon in the Greg Rucka miniseries Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood, she continued in a downward spiral of isolation and violence. By 2003 (around the time of Hush) she seemed to have hit rock bottom: kicked out of the JLA, pursued by Checkmate, no friends or support group, and wrapped up in the machinations of the villain Hush, Huntress seemingly had no way out.

All that changed when Black Canary was captured by the villain Savant, and her desperate partner in the Birds of Prey, Barbara Gordon (Oracle) begged Huntress for assistance at the beginning of the first Gail Simone run on the Birds of Prey title. From that point on, Huntress had a firm place in Gotham's premier female vigilante team, and a growing sense of belonging. Though she temporarily left the team when Oracle attempted to manipulate her into rejecting lethal methods, she returned to ask for help in concluding her massive plan to infiltrate the Gotham mob, a plan which initially causes Batman to flip out, then look extremely foolish (and surprisingly grateful) when she turns over a complete map of the Mafia to him.

The Birds underwent several blows, starting with the departure of Black Canary, leaving Huntress as senior field agent alongside Zinda Blake (Lady Blackhawk). Eventually, Oracle disbanded the Birds, leading to a return to Huntress's more unstable days when she was willing to use lethal force. During this period, she formed ties to Renee Montoya, the second Question (another Greg Rucka miniseries, Question: Pipeline, which also contains a Shout-Out or two to Cry for Blood). When Oracle is forced to reunite the Birds during the events of Brightest Day, Huntress rejoins, and nearly loses her life to save Black Canary's in a fight against Lady Shiva. In doing so, she finally returns to the realization that she's no longer alone. Through the next several missions, Huntress impresses Oracle so much that she is promoted to field leader, a position once held by Black Canary.

Huntress's preferred methods usually include her unerring accuracy with crossbows and other bolt-firing weapons, though she also possesses considerable hand-to-hand combat skills, only enhanced by her height (5'11") and conditioning. Her outfit has gone through a large number of changes, generally retaining a black-and-purple (with occasional white) scheme, often incorporating a cross motif to reflect her Catholicism, and some kind of mask which has mimicked Batman's outline with pointed ears many times. In 2003, artist Jim Lee redesigned her costume for the miniseries Hush, and incorporated a large belly-window into her costume. When asked by Black Canary about the change, Huntress replied "700 sit ups a day."

In her civilian life, Helena has always wanted to be a teacher. When she initially started in Gotham, she managed to maintain her dual lifestyle, but after No Man's Land and her training with Richard Dragon, she was fired. She retained access to her family's three-billion dollar account for a while, but when Checkmate recruited her, they froze her accounts (which was reversed by Spy Smasher in return for successfully rescuing Ice, shortly after Black Canary left the team). Oracle both got her a stable job as a teacher and gave her considerable pay as a field agent when Helena joined the Birds of Prey, which greatly contributed to her gradual process of accepting love and trust. This process has also influenced her relationship with her faith - in Cry for Blood and the early days of Simone's Birds of Prey run, Helena seemed to regard herself as damned, and was antagonistic to God and the church as a result. As Dinah and eventually Barbara gained her trust and love, she also opened back up to her childhood faith. By the time of her duel with Lady Shiva, though still suffering from feelings of abandonment and self-hatred, she prays, knowing that God is "always there," and thanks Him for giving her life meaning.

In 2014, Helena Bertinelli returned, though not as the Huntress, in Grayson.

Creators who have significantly contributed to Helena Bertinelli's development:

Titles which star or significantly feature Helena Bertinelli:

  • Huntress ongoing series by Joey Cavalieri
  • Huntress miniseries by Chuck Dixon
  • Huntress Year One by Ivory Madison
  • Nightwing/Huntress by Devin Grayson
  • Batman No Mans Land by multiple writers, including Chuck Dixon and Greg Rucka
  • Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood by Greg Rucka
  • Hush by Jeph Loeb
  • Birds of Prey by Gail Simone
  • Robin III: Cry of the Huntress by Chuck Dixon
  • Huntress/Spoiler: Blunt Trauma by Chuck Dixon
  • The Question: Pipeline by Greg Rucka

Appearances in other media:

Not to be confused with the YA book.

Tropes seen involving this character include:

  • Action Girl: Natch.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In Justice League Unlimited. While she does start off with her more anti-heroic traits (ie. willingness to use lethal force), she pretty much moves past this after her first appearance. After that she's pretty much purely heroic (if snarky).
  • Adaptational Villainy: In Arrow, Helena Bertinelli is a recurring villain. Of course, this required only small changes to her basic character.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Perhaps best demonstrated in the first issue of her 2011 mini, when she kicks ass while wearing lingerie and is drawn with very prominent leg muscles.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Nu52 Helena Bertinelli is significantly darker-skinned than in the old DCU, probably to render her more visually distinct from Helena Wayne. They haven't yet revealed her nu52 origin, although her last name suggests that she is still Sicilian.
  • Antihero: Batman thinks she's too dark, and her methods too extreme. Batman thinks that. Let that sink in for a moment.
  • Archnemesis Dad: In Cry for Blood, it is revealed that the man who arranged with Stephen Mandragora the murder of the Bertinellis, driving Helena Bertinelli to become the Huntress, was Santo Cassamento, her biological father.
  • Badass
    • Badass Biker: Her preferred method of transportation. Even tells Misfit that damaging her ride comes with severe consequences. In her civilian identity she seems to prefer bombing about town in a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder.
    • Badass Normal: So far, has not received any supernatural or even technological upgrades.
  • Bait and Switch: On a meta-level, while her 2011 mini has been well-received, many fans weren't happy at The Reveal that the Helena we've been following was actually Wayne instead of Bertinelli. Levitz has said in at least one interview that he's sorry about the Bait and Switch.
  • Bare Your Midriff: The Jim Lee 2003 costume redesign. Gail Simone disliked the costume, but instead of merely retconning it away, came up with the in-universe "700 sit-ups a day" reasoning, which is both hilarious and rational.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: A little bit with Question during "Cry for Blood"
  • Bound and Gagged: In one of her first important missions as senior field agent with Lady Blackhawk, one of Zinda's old enemies brainwashes her, leading her to tie up Huntress. Being a good member of the Birds of Prey, though, Huntress breaks the brainwashing through The Power of Friendship. An earlier issue of The Batman Chronicles had her getting tied up and gagged after being ambushed by a group of street children.
  • Brainy Brunette: Actually fits this trope, though more often has the image of a bruiser. Black Canary points out that she and Oracle have a lot in common, both being extremely intelligent.
  • Break Her Heart To Save Her: Catman, who knows that unless she believes him to be unredeemable, Huntress will become involved in his rather problematic life.
  • Byronic Hero: Brilliant, capable of pulling off daring and convoluted schemes, but also prone to brutal, unthinking violence; loves opera and fine cuisine, but will torture suspects for information; a devout Catholic and an unrepentant multiple murderess; can kill a teenager and crack jokes about it, but G-d help you if you threaten a child under her protection; driven to become a vigilante by the murder of her family when she was a small child, but later killed her own father.
  • Carnival of Killers: In World's Finest #8, a mob boss puts an open contract on Huntress's life, causing a large number of assassins to start targeting Helena in an attempt to collect.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Much more so than most of her colleagues - and mostly by necessity, since good as she is, she often has to face threat levels far above street level.
  • Cultured Badass: Loves opera and fine cuisine.
  • Dating Catman: Starting with a surprise meeting/fight/teamup in Russia, she's flirted/warned/fought with Catman fairly consistently. Unfortunately, since she's still clearly a hero and he's a heroic-wannabe-killer, there are problems.
  • Death by Origin Story: In the continuity of the New 52, it has been established via retcon that Helena Bertinelli, was killed as a young woman and had her identity usurped by Helena Wayne, her pre-Crisis counterpart. Then this was retconned when it was revealed that Bertinelli was actually still alive and had faked her own death, though she no longer goes by the name Huntress.
  • Determinator: Is made of this trope. In No Man's Land, she takes three bullets to the stomach from the Joker and keeps going. After being rejected by Batman.
    • Later, when she fights Lady Shiva, even though she knows she will die painfully, she manages to do something almost no one has done: knock her down.
  • Dropped A Bridge On Her: In the New 52 continuity, it was established via retcon that the real Helena Bertinelli was killed years ago, only to have her identity stolen by the newly reintroduced Helena Wayne. Helena B's fate was also relegated to an offhanded shout-out, with the real details unexplained...until recently when it was revealed that not only was she still alive, but she is now a member of the spy organization, Spyral.
  • Evil Counterpart: Well, eviler. Tabby Brennan was set up to be this, in that both were the daughters of powerful crime bosses, and both schemed to murder their fathers under the noses of several superheroes. The difference is that Santo Cassamento hated Huntress, and was trying to force her into the mob as his personal enforcer and assassin, while Tabby's father loved her and was trying to quit his life of crime for her sake; Huntress killed Cassamento to get out of the mob (and for revenge), while Tabby killed her father to take over his gang. Lampshaded when Huntress thinks of Tabby as "Just like me." Of course, then Tabby got killed off in a really stupid manner, but the less said of that, the better.
  • Friendless Background: She had relatives who genuinely loved and cared for her (although they were all evil), and she even had lovers, but until she met Black Canary, she never had a single friend. Helps to explain her devotion to the Canary.
  • Good Is Not Nice: She can be remarkably bitter and rude to even her closest friends and allies but when it counts, her heart is always in the right place, Depending on the Writer.
  • A Handful for an Eye: When dueling Shiva to the death to prevent Black Canary from doing the same, Huntress blinds Shiva with her own blood in a surprise (to Shiva) employment of gutter tactics.
  • Harmful to Minors: Helena Bertinelli's backstory. Both versions.
    • Rape as Backstory: In her original backstory, she was raped when she was 6 by a rival crime lord to torture her father.
    • In Cry for Blood, it's retconned that her family died when she was 8.
  • Hero Antagonist: Batman in Cry for Blood. He's just trying to stop Huntress from murdering people, and is willing to take seriously the possibility that she's not responsible for the initial murders. In the end, he gives her the benefit of the doubt, letting her resolve the problem while trusting her to do it without further bloodshed.
  • Antiheroic Bastard: It is revealed in Cry for Blood that her real father was Santo Cassamento.
  • She Who Fights Monsters: On and off during the 90s and called out on it by other heroes.
  • Honor Before Reason: Though occasionally she's expressed disdain for this trope, when it's really important, she's there. She has faced down the Joker, Lady Shiva, and countless other world-class threats simply because she cares more than she lets on.
  • Hypocritical Humor: A very dark example in Huntress: Year One: Barbara Gordon and two colleagues from the justice department are attending a conference on organized crime in Italy when the news comes out of the murder of notorious crime boss, Capo di Tutti Capi Stephen Mandragora, and they toast his death at a local bar. A woman at the bar berates them for this, saying "Never toast someone's death," and that "it's naive to think death solves anything." All of which sounds quite reasonable, except that the woman at the bar, Helena Bertinelli, the Huntress, is the one who killed him!
  • I Work Alone: In Cry for Blood, she explains that she feels honor-bound to work alone because of the code of omerta. It's an interesting look into the duality of the character, because the same mafia she is determined to destroy is the source of her peculiar code of honor.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him:
    • In Birds of Prey, Vixen begs her not to kill evil cult-leader Sovereign Brusaw, which she doesn't. Later, when Vixen thanks her for not crossing the line, Huntress tells that the only reason she didn't kill him is that her crossbow jammed.
    • In Cry for Blood, at the end Question begs her not to kill Santo Cassamento. She kills him anyway.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: In the pages of Grant Morrison's JLA, she once shot a bullet with a crossbow bolt in mid-flight.
  • Improvised Weapon: In close quarters combat she often uses objects like frying pans, car windows, chairs or even television antennas - whatever happens to be close at hand - to inflict damage.
  • The Infiltration: After leaving the Birds because of Oracle's manipulation, Helena uses her family heritage of Mafia Princess to rise to the rank of capo. She does so in order to give Batman the most detailed picture of the Gotham Mob's organization he's ever had.
  • In-Series Nickname: With Renee Montoya, the current Question - they call each other "Q" and "H," possibly as a reference to their Justice League counterparts.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: With Tim Drake, with him often being one of the few members of the Batman Family (if not the only one) who she is consistently on good terms with.
  • Iron Weight: So much so, Lady Shiva, one of the DCU's deadliest assassins, nicknames her "Iron Owl."
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Huntress does this a lot. At one point, she interrupts an interrogation Nightwing was conducting of the Tattooed Man and just starts beating the information out of him. Nightwing is shocked by how far she's willing to go. Considering who trained Nightwing, that's saying something.
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: In Huntress #5 (the 2012 mini-series), Helena disguises herself as a cleaning woman to sneak into the Lion's fortress.
  • Kinda Busy Here: Often takes calls (or even makes them) while delivering some justice to villains, such as the beginning of Simone's run on Birds of Prey, when Oracle calls her in the middle of a job to save Black Canary's life.
  • Knife Nut: Has been known to stab people.
  • The Lancer: Her usual role in any book but her own. However, Simone attempted to change that in her last issue of Birds of Prey by promoting her to field leader.
  • Last of Her Kind: Helena Bertinelli is the last of the Bertinellis, who were once the dominant of Gotham's Five Families. The Bertinelli name is still highly respected in Gotham's underworld, however, and Huntress uses that to her advantage. Subverted in that she is revealed in Cry for Blood not to be a Bertinelli after all, but a Cassamento.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Finds out in Cry for Blood that the man who ordered the hit on her family, Santo Cassamento, is actually her biological father.
    Huntress: Sit down, Don Cassamento. You raise an alarm, I'll kill you. Look at the photograph, please. Take a good look...and then tell me what you and Maria Bertinelli were doing in that hotel room together.
    Santo Cassamento: F.B.I. took this?
    Huntress: Answer the question.
    Santo Cassamento: Must've been the feds. Franco would've killed me if he'd known about it.
    Huntress: I said, answer
    Santo Cassamento: Isn't it obvious? Your mother and I were conceiving you, Helena Rosa. Now put that crossbow down before you accidentally murder your father.
  • The Mafia: Born to it, rejected it, continually drawn to it, eventually infiltrated it and became a capo. Her mission in life: take it down.
  • Mafia Princess: What she was initially, and what Batman thought she was trying to do when she infiltrated it.
  • Mama Bear: Threatening her students brings this out. With a free order of dangling-from-rooftops!
  • Manipulative Bastard: Normally, her methodology consists of straightforward lethal violence, but in Cry for Blood, she was able to manipulate pretty much everyone, including Oracle, Batman, Robin, and the especially Question, so that she could kill, or rather arrange the murder of, mob-boss Santo Cassamento (her biological father) without facing any legal repercussions.
  • Molotov Truck: In the 2012 mini-series, the Huntress sends a speedboat packed with explosives into a harbour as a distraction.
  • More Expendable Than You: What Huntress usually feels about herself compared to other heroes, especially Dinah. Explicitly dealt with when she takes on Shiva for Canary.
  • Not So Different: Exactly what Huntress thinks about Tabby Brennan. See the Evil Counterpart entry, supra.
    Huntress: Can't help it...that young woman grew up the daughter of a KILLER. Just like I did. Just like me.
  • Official Couple: In Justice League Unlimited only (the comicbook Helena has a much more troubled romantic history) with the Question. Though she did have a fling with him during the Cry for Blood miniseries, which is referenced a few times afterwards, indicating it had some meaning to her.
  • Poisonous Friend: To Black Canary in Birds of Prey. She was extremely loyal to the Canary, to the point of being willing to fight Lady Shiva (a form of suicide) in Canary's place, and she eventually came to be friends with Oracle as well, but one or another of the Birds would periodically have to stop Huntress from murdering somebody or doing something else horrible. She would, however, generally let herself be stopped, presumably so that her friends would be willing to continue working with her.
  • Race Lift: Bertinelli, in the New 52, has considerably darker skin than in the old DCU. Whether that is meant to suggest that she is not entirely of Sicilian ancestry is not clear, since very little has been revealed about her character or background so far.
  • Raised Catholic: Since she was born a Mafia Princess, naturally. However, according to her Year One miniseries, she has some unorthodox theology, and she's gone back and forth on where she stands with God. During Rucka and Burchett's Cry for Blood miniseries, she feels she's damned regardless of what she does, which seems to carry over into the beginning of Simone's Birds of Prey run, saying that the church repels her. However, through that run, she comes to have a better view of herself and her faith, and even thinks about attending church again. In the 2010 relaunch, just before she believes she's about to die at Shiva's hands, she takes a moment to thank God for giving her life meaning, and thinks that "He's always listening."
  • Really Gets Around: Her reputation. However, the actual number of her partners is surprisingly low (well, surprising if you don't remember the Raised Catholic part...)
  • Retcon: When Helena Bertinelli's parents died, or rather more specifically, how old she was when they did: originally she was 19, but Cry for Blood changed it to when she was 8. Similarly, their names were changed from Guido and Carmela to Franco and Maria.
  • Secret Identity: Helena Bertinelli, former Mafia Princess and current substitute teacher.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Arranges the murder of Santo Cassamento, her biological father.
  • Shipper on Deck: Helena thought it was cute that Nightwing and Oracle were trying to keep a professional relationship, both claiming to have gotten over each other years ago. For added points, after she'd slept with Nightwing.
  • Sociopathic Hero: At least a borderline sociopath. By DC superhero standards (also by normal-person standards), she has killed a lot of people, and never seems to feel bad about it.
    Oracle: She's not altogether sane, Tim.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Official DC sources put her at 5'11". Though she's often drawn short...such as in the last few issues of Birds of Prey, in which she appears shorter than Black Canary, who is very short.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Pulls this off a lot, including on Batman, more than once. As he says the first time, "Now I know how Jim Gordon feels."
  • Stripperiffic: The Jim Lee costume redesign of 2003. His co-redesign for the New 52 with Cully Hamner, however, is a bit more conservative
  • Sudden Name Change: The Post-Crisis Huntress had a case of her middle name changing. In her first origin and early appearances, her full name was "Helena Janice Bertinelli". In her revised origin and later profiles, her name became "Helena Rosa Bertinelli".
    • Huntress' parents were named Guido and Carmela in her original 1989 origin, but their names were later changed to Franco and Maria by the time of Greg Rucka's retelling in the Cry For Blood miniseries.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Consistently averts this; while she doesn't exactly go around offing people left and right, she also has absolutely no problem with using lethal force. It's part of the reason why she and Batman generally don't get along overly well.
  • Tranquil Fury: Helena Bertinelli is usually a hot-tempered, passionate person, but it's when she gets very calm that you should really be afraid. Whenever she gets ready to murder someone in cold blood, she's invariably totally calm. When she killed Stephen Mandragora in Year One, she was almost totally dispassionate about it. In Cry for Blood, when she gives Santo Cassamento the kiss of death, you can tell by her facial expression that she hates him, but she is totally in control. One of the clearest cases, though, was when she was about to drop Yasemin off a roof. When she was beating Yasemin with an aerial antenna, she was screaming, but when she was dangling her off the ledge, ready to drop her, she was completely calm.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: She's morally good at heart, but she's also horribly brutal and incredibly vicious even on her good days.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Cry for Blood makes clear that she was an adorable, innocent little girl before her messed-up upbringing turned her into a borderline-sociopathic killer vigilante.
  • Vigilante Woman: Her character, in a nutshell. Her goal in life is to kill mafiusi in revenge for the killing of her parents and brother.
  • Weapon of Choice: Her crossbow, of course.
  • Wham Line: See the Luke, I am your father entry, supra.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Happens rather frequently as a result of Huntress's well known willingness to cross the line (both in beatings and in killing). She is also no stranger to inflicting this trope on others, most notably Batman and Oracle.
  • Wicked Cultured: She loves opera and gourmet cuisine, and she kills people.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Generally children are her soft spot, but once executed a teenager and cracked a joke about it. Especially cold since she did it right in front of Mr. Miracle, who had been trying desperately to save the kid.
  • X Meets Y: Batman crossed with Michael Corleone. This characterization is especially prominent in Cry for Blood.
  • You Are Worth Hell: Inverted in Huntress: Year One, when Huntress (Bertinelli) kills Stephen Mandragora (her first murder), she declares that killing him is worth going to hell.