|“Huntress: Year One” on sale in May|
Over the years, the Huntress – first introduced in “Sensation Comics” #68 in 1947 by Golden Age creator Mort Meskin – has undergone more reboots and re-imaginings than almost any other heroine in the DC Universe.
The Huntress name was first used for a Golden Age supervillain before being repurposed by then-writer, now-DC President Paul Levitz in 1977, as the name the Silver Age lovechild of Batman and Catwoman.
In her current incarnation, the post-“Crisis” or Modern Age version of Huntress is Helena Bertinelli, a woman who turned to a life of vigilantism after becoming the last survivor of a crime family eliminated in a Gotham City mob war. Known for her liberal use of ultra-violence and consequently strained relationship with the Batman, Bertinelli once operated as Batgirl, joined the JLA, and currently operates as the field commander of Birds of Prey. She also teaches school.
Don’t worry, because beginning this May, breakout writer Ivory Madison is going to tell you everything you need to know about the current continuity origins of the Huntress in the six-issue miniseries “Huntress: Year One.”
Madison, the founder and CEO of www.redroom.com (hailed as ‘MySpace for writers’), told CBR News she is a long-time fan of the Huntress and an even bigger fan of Gotham’s leading man, the Dark Knight. “By the time I was eight-years-old, I was sure that I would write Batman someday and also that I would be Batman. Or marry Batman. When you’re eight, you don’t really have it all figured out but you know that Batman has something to do with you,” quipped Madison. “And now in my mature adult state, I realize that being Batman would be tough, marrying Batman isn’t appealing, so I am left with writing Batman.”
“A few years ago, Greg Rucka’s ‘Batman’ was a great inspiration to me,” Madison said. “I figured it was time to finally pursue it. I wrote a spec Batman one-shot. DC bought it and asked me to write something for Huntress. I pitched a Huntress miniseries, and there was some hesitation on their part, which made me nervous, but the end result was more than I would have hoped for. They decided we needed to go back and do a Year One to fully establish her origins before we could move forward.”
As for Madison’s feelings towards the Huntress, it’s more of the same. “I can only write characters I love and know well,” offered Madison. “I’ve read everything there is on Huntress, going back to the Paul Levitz Silver Age Earth-2 Huntress, the Joey Cavalieri series (‘The Huntress’), Gail Simone’s ‘Birds of Prey’ and everything Greg Rucka ever wrote about Huntress vis-à-vis Batman, including the ‘No Man’s Land’ era.
“By the way, when I told Paul I had read all of his Huntress, he said, ‘I’m sorry.’ When I told Joey I’d read all of his Huntress, he said, ‘I’m sorry.’ When I told Greg I’d read all of his Huntress, he said, ‘Good, good, and I still have all the genealogical charts for all the families if you need to reference them….”
Madison said that she always finds it hard to put a finger on why she loves a particular character, and the Huntress is no different. “I think her origins are very interesting, even though this is [an] Earth where she’s the daughter of a mob family, the reader still gets a hint of the founding mythology of Earth-2 Huntress, who was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman,” offered Madison.
“She is a dark hero, always brooding, a loner, very tough, principled; conflicted but always takes action; characteristics of Batman and Catwoman. She could have ruled the mob, but instead she wants to take down the mob. Her sincere Catholic faith is interesting, her problems with Batman and with male authority figures is interesting.”
“And I love that she thinks Gotham is her town. Bruce thinks it’s his, that’s an exciting tension to have. I know it’s unlikely, but I’d love to see her elevated in people’s awareness as more of a peer to Batman, but that’s never going to happen.
“Also, I prefer [Huntress] as a lawyer rather than a school teacher, so that’s something I’d like to steal from Earth-2. If I get to write Helena later in life than I am in ‘Huntress: Year One,'” teased Madison, who herself trained as an attorney, interned at the California Supreme Court and served as a Law Fellow at Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Speaking specifically to the story that will unfold in the pages of “Huntress: Year One,” Madison revealed that she would be building upon the foundation set by Rucka in the 2002 miniseries “Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood,” which is available in trade paperback. “I go deeper into some of those storylines and characters,” the writer said. “And I’m revisiting the parts of her childhood we didn’t see, and showing how she got from there to her first year as the Huntress in Gotham. That includes how Helena got the name Huntress, where she got her costume, how she returned to Gotham from Siciliy, how she decided to be a good guy or a bad guy, and her first introductions to several major Gotham characters.”
And by major, Madison isn’t talking the shortstop for the Gotham Goliaths. “We have allowed ourselves to tinker with the story established in ‘Cry for Blood,'” Madison explained. “Helena has her first meeting with Batman differently. I did not want her being inspired by Batman, I don’t like those ‘Adam’s Rib’ origin stories. She also meets the original Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl and Catwoman. It’s pretty fun. I tried to establish some roots for why all of these characters relate to each other now the way they do.”
Madison hopes by establishing these important roots in “Huntress: Year One,” she will be laying the groundwork for more Huntress comics to follow. “This series takes place in the old days, that hazy timeless timeline that makes sense and doesn’t make sense,” said Madison. “And it certainly sets her up for her own series if ‘Year One’ does well and there’s a demand for it.”
|“Huntress: Year One” builds on Greg Rucka and Rick Burchett’s “Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood,” available in trade paperback|
A fan of the Big Payoff, Madison said while Helena will definitely be donning the cape and cowl in the series, readers may have to wait a while to see Huntress in all her glory. “We’re telling so much of her back story it was hard to get her in costume right away, although I had concerns that readers would want her in costume fast,” explained Madison. “We needed to establish her need for the costume, and how she gets the costume, and have her first appearance be a powerful one. It’s not in the first issue, but please buy them all anyway.”
One reason to buy, says Madison, is the work of artist Cliff Richards (“Birds of Prey,” “Wonder Woman”). “Cliff is a pleasure to work with, and my favorite thing is how he really nails some of the mobsters’ faces, especially Tomaso Panessa, who is Helena’s uncle Tommy, her only living blood relative after all the Bertinellis are murdered. Cliff makes him look like a real person with incredible expressions and physical mannerisms. It makes you feel like you’re watching a great mafia movie. And he understood the feel that I was going for in the book, a film noir look, a mafia noir look. It’s a bleak Italian post-war novel-turned-into-a-film look.”
Madison feels Huntress deserves her own monthly title and would like nothing more to be the one writing it. “Sales will determine if there is more Huntress,” said Madison. “In the meantime, I have a full-length literary graphic novel project I’m talking to Vertigo about. Also, success with Huntress will probably mean DC will want to dig up that Batman spec script I wrote and publish it, too. I wish they would. It’s got all kinds of questionable science about bats in it, and Poison Ivy as more feminist eco-terrorist than sex symbol.”
Madison, an admitted huge fan of comics in general, continued that she loves “splashy top-tier superhero stuff, as well as more intellectual graphic novels, campy vintage comics, and edgy underground stuff. “I love the medium,” she stated. “I go to [Comic-Con International in] San Diego every year, and I have a feeling that this year I’ll be at a few more conventions than usual.”
Asked how a successful lawyer, entrepreneur and writing coach has time to write “Huntress: Year One,” Madison responded, “I had to stop coaching other people with their writing to focus on my own, and I don’t practice law either. You teach what you need to learn, and I did that.
“I love editing and encouraging other people to write what they’ve always dreamed of writing, and I love fighting for what’s right, which is why I went to law school. But I just started up a more ambitious company than I ever have before, and am working 80 hours a week as a CEO. I run my company, redroom.com, and write, and I barely have time for that.”
Madison hopes everyone who writes or loves comics is heading to redroom.com. “We just launched at the beginning of 2008, and the traffic is going crazy,” she said. “It’s being called ‘the MySpace for writers’ by major media outlets. If you have written published comics or books, you can apply for an ‘Author Page,’ which is like MySpace or Facebook, but was designed by writers to be easy to update and nice to look at. And the best part is it’s free.
|Huntress’ first appearances are available in “The Huntress: Dark Knight Daughter”|
“We need more graphic novelists and comic writers on the site. We have literary talent from the traditional publishers, such as Amy Tan -who blogs regularly-and Salman Rushdie, but very little comic book industry talent so far-my friend G. Willow Wilson, who wrote ‘Cairo’ for Vertigo, is on there, and a few others so far including Troy Hickman, Trina Robbins, Gerard Jones and Clive Barker.
“Josh Dysart and Judd Winick have joined too but haven’t set up their pages yet. It’s a great alternative to building your own website, or a great way to manage your life online even if you have another website.
“If you’re a reader, you can join as a member, that’s free too, and comment on authors’ blogs and videos and books, and within weeks we’re rolling out features so members can have their own pages, too.
“Nothing would make me happier than to have a thriving comic book culture with authors and readers on redroom.com, because I can read and comment and it’s considered part of my job.”
And while writing “Huntress: Year one” has been a wonderful experience for the writer, Madison has her sights set on Gotham’s darkest knight. “My goal is to write Batman. I’m getting to write him as a supporting character in half the issues of ‘Huntress: Year One,’ and it’s very exciting,” said Madison. “But whether I scored a Batman miniseries or regular comic, that’s would be the pinnacle for me. I also want to write Batwoman, and I have some original characters I’d like to introduce too.”
“Huntress: Year One” #1 is on sale May 14 with #2 scheduled for two weeks later on May 28.
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