DC Super-Stars #17 (Nov.-Dec. 1977)
"Secret Origins of the Super-Heroes"
Huntress Story --
"From Each Ending... A Beginning!"
Paul Levitz-Joe Staton/Bob Layton
Doug: Back on February 13 I told you that this cover made me buy this book. As many of you agreed, and since I have the trade paperback Huntress: Darknight Daughter (J.A. Morris reviewed the entire trade on his Bronze Age Reprints blog on March 14) we'll take a look at the cover story, a 13-page visit to Earth-2 and the Golden Age Batman and Catwoman. DC Super-Stars #17 landed right in the thick of my love affair with the revival of the Justice Society of America within the pages of All-Star Comics (All-Star Comics #69 [Dec 1977] gets equal billing as the debut of the Huntress). Like many here, the concept of legacy heroes was fascinating to me -- that the Invaders had preceded the modern Marvel Universe was as enticing as the notion at DC that Earth-2 had a heroic history that pre-dated "our" Earth's by close to 20 years. And the Super Squad of Power Girl, the Star-Spangled Kid, and Robin gave a kid like me an opportunity to further appreciate the classic heroes of DC's WWII era. Now the Huntress would be a part of that -- yes, the offspring of the Golden Age Batman and Catwoman. Gives me pause...
100-Word Review: On Earth-2 in 1955, Bruce Wayne married a reformed Catwoman – Selina Kyle. Two years later their daughter Helena was born. Helena grew to be as smart and skilled as her famous parents. But one day in 1976 Selina answered a call that would change all their lives. A former henchman blackmailed Selina into becoming Catwoman for one more job. But a stray bullet and the appearance of the Batman destroyed the Wayne family’s world as Selina plunged to her death. Shortly, a new bat-like figure exacted revenge for her death – the Huntress would protect Gotham from its criminal element!
The Good: About a gazillion things, really. Where to start? Joe Staton's art - go! Staton's art is perfect for these stories that have a "yesterday" feel to them. I've always felt that on the All-Star material. Sure, he was a nice fit on Green Lantern, but for some reason I like him better on the Earth-2 stuff. There's a certain quirky charm to his figures, and his facial expressions are top shelf. Staton made good use of montage panels/pages for effect. His camera angles constantly shift, keeping the reader on alert - no easy way out in his panel work. Paul Levitz's story is a somewhat typical "Got it all/Lose it all/Exact revenge" tragedy. However, because I felt already fully-invested in the character due to her relationship to the Batman, Levitz was able to tug at my heartstrings. Of course, also being a fan of Batgirl, it was exciting to immediately see those possibilities for Earth-2, as well as a a potential set-up of a "next generation World's Finest" team of Power Girl and the Huntress. What's more, I'm really feeling many of these thoughts now as I did when I was 11 and read this for the first time. While it's not an original concept, it's execution and subsequent roll-out (until the Crisis, that is) made for some fun.
The Bad: I really only have one complaint with the story, and it involves a general complaint many of us have had with the way the Batman has been depicted on film since the Burton/Keaton film back in 1989 -- I am speaking of the voice. The gravelly voice. In the climax of this story, as Helena Wayne has adopted the Huntress identity, she sets off after Silky Cernak. Cernak had been a member of the Catwoman's gang who went to the Big House when Selina Kyle went straight. Now out, Cernak was the one who contacted Selina Wayne about doing one more job -- or he'd make it known that she had indeed killed a man, something she'd sworn to the parole board and to Bruce Wayne. Obviously, the blackmail worked, as it got Selina back into the Catwoman costume, where she eventually met her tragic end -- from a ricocheted bullet fired by what appeared to be Cernak's gun.
Later, after tracking Cernak to the Gotham docks, the Huntress appeared to him from the shadows. Cernak sits, waiting for a meeting he won't have -- of course he's talking to himself. He says, "I was just mindin' my own business, tryin' to make a buck!" From the shadows, a gravel-voiced shadow says, "Crime is no man's business, Cernak!" Cernak is ensnared in a rope, and turning sees a silhouette of the Batman. In fact, he even calls to the shadow, "Batman -- you again!" Now I have to wonder why Levitz went this route? Sure, the Huntress costume with its pointed mask and scalloped cape resembles the look of the Batman. But even given that, I'm drawn instead to what young Bruce Wayne said to himself many years earlier: "Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot, so my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible..." Well, if criminals are indeed superstitious wouldn't it have been better to have addressed Cernak in her own voice? Wouldn't there have been a chance that Cernak would have heard the voice of the now-dead Catwoman? Talk about instilling terror! But that's a very minor flaw in the overall story. It's just one of those "I'd have done it this way" sorts of things.
The Ugly: You get a big, fat N/A here, kids.
The trade I've used for reading and scanning retails for $20. Of course, we living here in the golden age of reprints know we can find discounted or used copies on the cheap. While this volume does not contain any of the All-Star Comics material (those are available in two trades and are also highly recommended), it does feature the Huntress's appearances from Batman Family and as a back-up feature in Wonder Woman. So feel confident that you'd be investing in some nostalgic time well spent! I would give one caution, however: Joe Staton's pencils can look very different when under the influence of various inkers. The first four stories were all inked by Bob Layton (as here); after that the art ebbs and flows, and is directly related to the embellishment. Ah, the Bronze Age and its inconsistencies...