Hmm..well. The first obvious answer to this question is the fact that she is the adult daughter of my unsinkable DC ship (one of them anyway), Bruce and Selina. That alone was enough to entice me to at least check her out, see if I like her. Needless to say she didn’t disappoint!
The other thing that appealed to me about her is the fact that she is a woman who is the biological child of a very iconic DC couple and part of a very rich legacy. Considering how much of a ‘boys club’ the Batman family tends to be in nearly every case, it was very refreshing to see a woman and not a man continue a legacy that was started by a character viewed by many as the ‘ultimate male power fantasy.’
The rest of the love I came to have for the character was acquired after I familiarised myself with her.
The first story I read with her was the Justice Society Annual #1 from 2008 written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Jerry Ordway. Right away one of the first things that stood out to me was that she was best friends with Power Girl, whom I learnt in that same issue was the Earth-2 version of Kara Zor-El, or the more iconic Supergirl. That to me was pretty cool! But then, as I read on, I really loved the depth with which Geoff Johns had written both characters, and I really loved the way Jerry Ordway brought out the emotional aspects of both characters to life on page. I was immediately drawn the chemistry these two women shared, and specifically the very strong bond that they shared. That to me was a pretty big deal.
From there, I just I wanted to read more about these two characters. So I started collecting every trade and comic I could get ahold of with these two characters (namely from the pre-Crisis era) and started learning more about them. With Helena Wayne in particular, I loved the fact that she was the #1 ranking Harvard Graduate with a law degree, and I really loved seeing her as a lawyer who excelled at her job. I also loved that in addition to being a badass lawyer, she was also a pretty badass heroine as well.
What really stood out to me about that last part is that despite being Batman and Catwoman’s daughter, she didn’t choose to become either Batwoman or Catwoman II, she actually chose a different name for herself. She created a costume that honoured her heritage, but also allowed her to standout as a heroine of her own standing. She continued a legacy that was started by her parents, but also started one of her own as the Huntress. That too was a big deal to me.
On the development side, I loved the fact that she had her own narrative, along with her own love interest (even if I didn’t like him), and she was in fact given her own unique personality that was different from that of her parents. Sure, she was very smart like both of them, she inherited her father’s detective skills, her mum’s ability to pick locks, and even inherited her mum’s attitude, as well as her dad’s staunch commitment to justice. But she also had quirks that were unique to herself. What other DCU heroine can you name that would bake a soufflé in her superhero costume? What other heroine can you name that would drink wine with chocolate chip cookies while investigating a case? What other DCU heroine can you name that would actually eat a stale sfogliatella that was left sitting on a desk while hacking a police computer?
In addition to being a quirky, optimistic young woman who was very self-confident, she also had weaknesses of her own. Despite feeling fortunate to have such cool parents like Bruce and Selina, she also often worried about how knowing their secrets would negatively affect her. Knowing the tremendous power that she had possessing the kinds of skills that she had, she did at one point start worry that she would one day take it too far. And indeed, she did start taking her crime-fighting too far.
Following her last encounter with her villain, Edgar Stenville (later known as the Crime Lord), who really pushed her limits to the point of her contemplating killing, she never really came back from that. Following that encounter with the Crime Lord (which was also Paul Levitz’ last story before Joey Cavalieri took over), she became really brusque in the way that she fought. She became more aggressive in her fighting style, less tolerant with criminals, and got angrier and more withdrawn as she got older. When she thought she beat a bank robber to death, she started thinking about the kinds of choices she was making as a heroine, and even started seeing a therapist when she started feeling her darker side emerge. Contrary to popular fan opinion, the pre-Crisis Helena Wayne was a pretty nuanced and well-developed character.
Lastly, I loved the fact that she was a feminist character in every sense of the word. Not only was she explicitly aware of women’s issues in narrative to the point where it would at times be a major motivation factor in the kinds of cases she would take, but she was even developed in ways that were feminist. For example, she was written as a very capable heroine who could go toe-to-toe with Batman, and was often seen single-handedly rescuing men and women from danger. Occasional cheesecake aside, she was actually presented in a way that treated her with respect and was drawn with a natural-looking body.
All of that taken into account, the thing that sets Helena Wayne apart from other DC Universe heroines is the fact that she best represents my power fantasies as a woman. While I still love the fact that she is the daughter of one of my favourite DC ships and has an awesome friendship with Power Girl, she is definitely so much more than that. I do strongly feel that the character deserves way better than what she’s gotten from her own publisher in the last two, nearly three decades. She does, in my opinion, deserve to be treated with more respect than she currently gets.