Following the reboot of the DC universe into the new 52, The character has been shelved for the time being as the Helena Wayne character has been reintroduced. It has been suggested that Helena Wayne was using Bertinelli as an alias on Earth 1 during her travels across the multiverse.
The origins of the character are not entirely coherent. Not including the golden age version of the character (a villain by the name of Paula Brooks to which the modern character has no relation) the modern incarnation can trace her origin to the silver age version of the character, Helena Wayne. Following the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the entire DC multiverse was reduced to a single world, where only the contemporary versions of most heroes existed. Thus Helena Wayne could have never existed because of her link to the golden age Batman and Catwoman.
She was thus re-imagined as a character named Helena Bertinelli, an orphaned daughter of a family of Italian gangsters. As she set out on her career, this incarnation of the character was much more violent, and sought to avenge her family and kill Steven Mandragora, the man responsible for the hit. It was later revealed that she was not killed because she was the result of her mother having an affair (and that her mother was not meant to be killed either.) Slight variations to this background have been made over the years, but this is now considered to be her canonical origin.
The first appearance of Helena Bertinelli was in Huntress #1 in 1989 and her creators were Joey Cavalieri and Joe Staton, whom had worked on the Helena Wayne version previously.
The Modern Age / New Earth
The modern version of the character has a much darker tone, and among the costumed heroes of Gotham is considered as the most ruthless, to the point of almost being an anti-hero (though her earliest stories are based in New York City.). In the beginning of her career, murder was considered not only an option, but often the best one. In this iteration of the character she was kidnapped as a child (aged 6) and raped by a rival mafia head just as psychological torture to her father (though this is not a constant in all the depictions of her background.) She is later taken to Italy where she learns all forms of combat from her bodyguard Tony Angelo.
The character eventually began to return to her roots, more closely being associated with Gotham (at this point her background was changed so that she had been born there and not New York City.) She was generally poorly regarded by Batman as she was willing to kill to meet her objectives, but he generally allowed her to operate albeit with some hesitation. Other members of the Batman family of characters also had negative opinions of her, most notably Barbara Gordon (though this would later change.) Conversely she maintained good relations with Tim Drake and Dick Grayson, even entering into a brief relationship with the latter. Throughout her development Batman and others have continually tried to incorporate her more closely into their group of heroes, in the hopes of maybe turning her away from her violent methods. This meant for instance that at one point she was inducted into the Justice League of America as it was hoped that her presence there would calm her down. She was also left in charge of Gotham as its primary vigilante during the events of the Legacy crossover. Later still after changing her methods somewhat she was accepted more closely with the other heroes. Appearing as an operative of Oracle (Barbara Gordon) during the events of Hush and later joining the Birds of Prey. Helena has a complicated back story and for a short time served as Batgirl. Characters better known for performing in that role are Barbara Gordon, Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown.
Post-Flashpoint / Earth 2
Following the events of Flashpoint and the reboot of the DC Comics universe, It's revealed that Helena is deceased in this world and Helena Wayne from Earth 2 adapts her identity.
Major Story Arcs
The Modern Age / New Earth
Omerta the Silencer
Her first major story arc after Crisis on Infinite Earths involved her tracking down and killing the people that had killed her parents. Her first lead was through the gunman, an assassin by the name of Omerta the Silencer. She also knew that her father’s eyes and hands had been removed from his body and kept in a separate place. Eventually she came across a street gang known as the Jade Phantoms. She discovered that they had stolen the box holding the relics of her father. She would also often meet with Omerta but was unable to apprehend, nor was he able to kill her. She eventually discovered that Donald Campbell, her family’s consiglieri was in fact Omerta. It is soon revealed to her by Angelo, her former bodyguard,that he was working with another family against the Bertinellis. Helena thus ordered him out of her life forever. Soon after while on the trail of Omerta, she is captured by him and taken to Mandragora. It is revealed he needed the eyes and hand to gain access to a vault in addition to some of Helena’s blood. Soon after Mandragora asks Helena to join him and even kills Omerta as a sign of his intent, but she does not escape and in the ensuing fight she eventually lets him fall to his death (though she also tried to save him at one point.)
After her revenge against Mandragora, there were still things about her father’s past that she needed to clear up. One such thing was a ledger, which was written in code. She was unable to decipher it and so gave half each to a detective and a reporter named Jessica Sharp. The detective enlisted the help of a mass serial killer who would later be known as the Bookworm. The killer soon escaped confinement though and killed Jessica to get her half of the ledger as well. Soon she apprehended him and killed him.
Cry For Blood
The slightly retold version of her origin has her as still a member of the Bertinelli crime family except that they are based in Gotham and not in New York City. After her family is murdered she is taken to Sicily where she learns a variety of forms of combat. At age 16 she returns to Gotham to discover the assassin that killed her family and at a family function she is surprised that Batman interrupts the event by crashing through a skylight. She is thus inspired to become a superhero by him (in part paying homage to the silver age version where he was also her inspiration for deciding to become a hero.) Much of this origin is told in the Batman / Huntress: Cry for Blood miniseries as a retrospective to Richard Dragon and Vic Sage. After killing Mandragora and the killer she would later find out the truth of who her biological parents really were and thus it finally made sense why she had been spared. Finally with retribution for her family she throws away her costume and begins her life anew.
Nightwing x Huntress
However, this was only a temporary development. She would once again become an agent against organized crime, this time not for any specific revenge but just as she knew the danger they posed to others. At the same time in her secret identity she was a teacher. During the Nightwing / Huntress miniseries she seduces Dick because she thought it would bring her closer into the fray with the other Gotham crimefighters. Her plan somewhat backfired though as she developed strong feelings for him. This romantic tension became a recurring theme between the two, for instance when she journeyed to Bludhaven to stop a union associated with the mob. Their romantic tension also occasionally served as a source of friction during the romantic relationship between Dick and Barbara. For instance at the end of No Man’s Land when Dick was already somewhat attached to Barbara, he visited Helena in the hospital where he kissed her passionately at the strike of the new year. She also develops a close relationship with Tim Drake at this time when he helps clear her of murder. In the early part of this time frame Helena is also a member of the Justice League of America. She is eventually forced to resign when she attempts to murder Prometheus.
Helena as Batgirl
In the early 1990s most of the Gotham related titles began to have their own crossovers separate from the rest of the DC universe. This started with Knightfall, then proceeded to Knight Quest and Knight’s End. Following this was Prodigal and then from Contagion onwards Helena played a role either prominent or secondary in all of the crossovers. In Contagion she is shown trying to save a child that has caught the Clench. She later helps in the defense of Babylon Towers. In Legacy she is left in charge of Gotham while the other heroes depart to find the source of the virus. Her most meaningful contribution was during the events of No Man’s Land when she decides that the city needs a Bat themed hero in the absence of Batman and so she takes on the persona of Batgirl. She uses a full mask for her face for protection but it later becomes useful as a means to cover her identity when Bruce returns. She is told she can keep the identity provided she does not fail him, but soon afterwards she does by allowing Two-Face to gain territory in the area controlled by Batman. She returns to her Huntress persona and joins forces with Bill Pettit who has himself broken away from the main group of the police.
She continues to work with him despite his extreme methods and hatred of “roof crawlers.” Finally in a showdown with the Joker she and Pettit stand alone against the Joker and his army. Helena has to stop the Pettit from killing his own men which the Joker has dressed up in Joker costumes. Pettit is soon after killed by one of the Joker’s men. It is the Joker’s plan to kill hope in Gotham by killing all the babies born in the city during the year of No Man’s Land. With only Helena standing between him and the group of people she has been protecting she refuses to back down despite being outnumbered thirty to one. Although she is severely beaten and almost killed Batman and Nightwing arrive at the last moment to save her. This serves as the first step on her road to retribution in Bruce’s and Dick’s eyes. She later takes part in other story arcs such as Hush and is temporarily recruited into Checkmate.
Birds of Prey
Helena is soon after asked to join the Birds of Prey, not willingly by Barbara (who is partially motivated in her dislike of her because of her past with Dick), but she is forced to when Black Canary requires the backup. She forms a strong partnership with Dinah and the two even become friends, though she is not on the team for long period of time. She quit because she figured out why Barbara was distant from her but she is forced to rejoin soon enough as she needed the backup and she stays on as a member for a longer period of time, even lasting through Infinite Crisis and One Year Later. She later plays a part in the story arc Battle of the Cowl where Dick Grayson becomes Batman.
During the events of Brightest Day the team is reformed once again as Oracle battles a new nemesis, the Calculator. They also soon come into conflict with the villain known as the White Canary.
Powers and Abilities
Helena is a regular human with no superpowers. She is an above average athlete and is an exceptional hand to hand combatant possessing the skills to defeat large groups of men. Helena was trained at an early age age by her cousin and later by Richard Dragon for a short period. She is also an expert in many forms of weaponry, including some firearms.
She is generally depicted as relying on a crossbow for ranged attacks and her own fighting ability for closer fighting. At times in the past she has used a carbon dioxide fed crossbow as opposed to a manually cocked one. Despite the reliance on the crossbow she has also been shown to keep knives on her body, some of which are spring loaded. She also employs many of the same devices as the rest of the Gotham heroes including grappling hooks and climbing lines.
Helena Wayne is Earth-2 version of Huntress. Helena is the daughter of the golden age Batman and Catwoman. After the death of her mother, she sought to avenge her mother death by become the Huntress II.
JLA: Created Equal
A space born virus wipes out all of the Earth's males, leaving the future of the Earth depends on the world's super-women and among them is Huntress.
Birds Of Prey (2002)
A superhuman version of the character also appeared in the short lived live action Birds of Prey television show.
Justice League Unlimited
She was a relatively common character in the Justice League Unlimited animated series, often pairing up with the Question. She appeared in the episodes: Initiation, Double Date, Question Authority and Grudge Match. She was voiced by Amy Acker.
Arrow TV Series (2012)
Helena Bertinelli will be appearing in episode 6 of the all new TV series, Arrow on The CW and she will be played by Jessica De Gouw, an Australian actress.
Justice League Heroes
She appears as an unlockable character in Justice League Heroes.
She appears as an unlockable character in Lego Batman.
DC Universe Online
Huntress appears in DC Universe Online.
Since her re-establishment in Gotham City, the character has been consistently portrayed in a more realistic costume. During the events of the Hush story arc she was partially redesigned by Jim Lee to have a more revealing costume, but in general she was still much more reserved than her silver age version.