Recently, DC has announced that Helena Bertinelli will return as Dick Grayon’s partner in the Grayson series and will be reinvented as a spy. The writer has tweeted that they have found a way to maintain the soul of the character while still doing something news. Perhaps not coincidentally, the promo pics for Futures End shows a dead Helena Wayne in Earth 2 Batman’s arms while Kara is stricken with grief while Val holds her close to comfort her.
Now much of the debate about Helena Bertinelli has centered on what constitutes a character. DC has established this trend of rewriting established characters to the point where they are completely unrecognizable. Looking at what they have done with characters like Tim Drake, Bart Allen (or Bar-Tor?), Superboy and various other characters, Bertinelli fans of course have a right to be paranoid.
However, with all this discussion about what makes a character and dark and edgier reboots, I can’t help but think back to the late 80’s after the Crisis on Infinite Earths had thoroughly destroyed the Multiverse and the Earth 2 characters were moved to one singular earth with their histories completely re-written. Previously, there were two Huntresses: one was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman who lived on Earth 2 and succeeded them as protectors of Gotham and there was the villainess Huntress who was married to Sportsmaster and dressed in a tiger outfit. The latter is irrelevant to this discussion.
Once upon a time there was Huntress, Helena Wayne, daughter of Batman and Catwoman who is a crime fighter and had a good relationship with her parents before they died. She fought with a crossbow, was a detective and had a strong friendship with Powergirl. Then came the Crisis which wiped away that Huntress and in her place stood the daughter of a dead mafia boss who had a bad temper, had no problem killing people if necessary, was self-destructive before meeting Oracle, had a bad relationship with Batman (much of it being manufactured for the sake of drama) and virtually no relationship with Catwoman. Gone was the friendship with Powergirl and the new Huntress was firmly established as the red headed step child of the Bat Family. The Huntress was now renamed as Helena Bertinelli. As it turns out that Helena Bertinelli is also a gritty reboot of an existing superhero.
DUN DUN DUN
Furthermore, much like how the Crisis would unceremoniously dump Helena Wayne in favor of Bertinelli, the New 52 would also kill off Bertinelli off screen in order to bring back Wayne. That is until now where it looks like Helena Wayne is going to be killed off to make way for Bertinelli…..again.
I freely admit that I prefer Helena Wayne, the 70’s Wayne not the New 52 version, over Bertinelli. However, this constant need to sacrifice one version of the character for the other to exist is tiring. I want people to like Helena Wayne and to give her chance and maybe get some good writing under her belt but how can I expect to get people to like her when DC has to dump on one set of fans in order to placate to the other?
Why can’t we have two Huntresses? After all, Bertinelli and Wayne have worn vastly different costumes and have very different histories. It’s not like DC has had multiple characters using the same code names: we have had two Flashes, two pairs of Hawks, more Starman’s than you can count with two hands and multiple Sandman’s. So really? What is the excuse? You can’t say that the fans would be confused, that’s an insult to their intelligence and it’s not like they don’t have access to a network of free flowing information to help clear up any doubts or anything, or that good writers and editors will make sure not to have new readers confused or that DC for a long time has been catering more towards people who are already familiar with comics and buying them for decades instead of branching out to new readers.
Basically, DC, this is not Highlander starring the Huntress where ‘there can be only one’. There doesn’t have to be one ‘true Huntress’, you can make way for both of them. What happened to the days when we had two Flashes, 3 Hourmen and when Ollie Queen and Connor Hawke were both Green Arrow’s who can operate side by side?
As for reboots: they are almost always messy. DC was cleaning up the mess from the original 1985 COIE all the way till 2005’s Infinite Crisis. I have no problem with altering a character so long as it makes for a good story and makes sense for their character. Helena Bertinelli spent a few years working with Oracle so there is a precedent for her working as a spy. As I said in one discussion, Bertinelli might end up being the ‘Black Widow’ to Dick Grayons’s ‘Steve Rogers’.
Moreover, sometimes rewriting characters tend to work out for the best; the JLU version of John Stewart, Hawkgirl and Wally West were very different from their comic book versions. Their histories and personalities were re-written for the show but more than few people have said that they prefer those versions of the characters over the comic book ones. After the Crisis, Black Canary (Dinah Laurel Lance) had her origin rewritten and Secret Origins #50 from 1986 stands as one of the best and most powerful superhero origins I’ve read.
Other times, rewrites just don’t work out. For example, see the JLU version of Wonder Woman and Cheetah as well as the New 52 and YJ versions of Zatanna. Also, the aforementioned ‘Bar-Tor’ and Tim Drake.
It’s unknown which side the new Helena Bertinelli will fall under and there is bound to be many schools of thought regarding this. I just thought that I would throw in my two cents.