Gail Simone wrote Helena Bertinelli in two volumes of Birds of Prey.
I know a lot of people have hardcore love for the Helena Wayne version of the Huntress, but I’d never really read any of her stories, so for me, Huntress was always Helena Bertinelli. To my dying day, whether she appears in current continuity or not, she will remain one of my favorite characters, not just in comics, but in all fiction.
To be blunt, Helena is the shit. I adore her.
The charge was often leveled us, when I took over Birds of Prey, that we had added the Huntress to the book to tie in with the television series that had spun off from the book’s previous incarnation. The truth is, it was my idea to bring her in. The show had already flopped, and DC was in no hurry to be more closely affiliated with the series. So they were not thrilled with the idea of bringing Helena aboard. I made a stern case, aided by a great editor, the fierce Lysa Hawkins, for what Helena would bring to the book; her unpredictability, her untamed nature, her unmatchable will. All of that stuff was true, but had nothing to do with why I wanted her in the book. The truth is a lot simpler.
She was badass.
Completely, unendingly badass.
My first run on Birds of Prey, there’s no question I spent more time on Black Canary’s character. It wasn’t that I loved Dinah more, it’s that I felt Helena hadn’t needed so much rehabilitation. Dinah had been a hostage many times, a wet blanket…it seemed a lot of great writers had no idea what to do with her. Helena was different, writers seemed to know that her value was her uncompromising nature. Nearly every story she appeared in, she kicked someone’s physical or metaphorical ass, even Batman seemed to take a cautious step back in her presence. I loved that, that was a woman I wanted to read about.
In my second run, we planned to focus much more on Huntress, starting with her taking over leadership of the Birds…she earned it, and it felt a natural progression. I was also lucky enough to write the character for some animated shows, and her natural shine made that leap look easy. It wasn’t me, it was all her.
If my career ended tomorrow, I wouldn’t have a lot of regrets, because I know this one little miracle, this little thing I still am somewhat amazed at—I got to write Wonder Woman. I got to write Black Canary. I got to write Homer Simpson. I got to write the Spirit. I got to write Superman.
And I got to write Helena Bertinelli.
You can’t do better than that in superhero comics. I seriously felt writing Birds of Prey was simply the best gig in comics. I had no envy for the Spider- and X- writers, because I got to write the Huntress every month. Huntress, who made Batman smile and Shiva pause. You can’t do better.
I have my favorite Huntress writers, people like Cavalieri, Rucka, and Grayson, but almost all writers seemed to step up to the plate a bit more when Helena was on panel. She had that kind of star power charisma.
It makes me very sad to be writing about her in the past tense. I have no idea what DC’s plans are for her, hopefully her time on the bench will be short.
Love you, Helena, come back soon!