The Huntress: Darknight Daughter

The Huntress: Darknight Daughter collects over four years’ worth of stories from the late 70s and early 80s featuring the fan-favorite character. She was written by a much younger Paul Levitz (now DC President and Publisher) and drawn by Joe Staton, with inks by Bob Layton, Steve Mitchell, and others.

The Huntress is well-remembered because of her parentage: she was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. That’s a dynamite concept, that that hero and villain finally got together and produced a child with the best qualities of both. (This was long ago, before the DC universe was streamlined and most family relationships removed. Those kinds of connections tend to imply that characters age, you see, and that’s not a good thing if you want to keep telling stories with the same characters for decades.)

The Huntress: Darknight Daughter cover
The Huntress:
Darknight Daughter
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The book opens with her secret origin. Major events fly fast — wedding, birth, blackmail, death — until the Huntress stands by a parent’s grave and vows to fight for justice. She’s inherited her mother’s style and charm and her father’s deductive abilities, making her an impressive hero.

Bear in mind that these stories come from a different era, where characterization was heavy-handed, jammed in around the fights, and the pictures were turned out on schedule instead of aiming for art. The drawings can be a little stiff or slightly misshapen, the captions adjective-heavy, and the dialogue perfunctory… but it’s all well-meaning and all the more entertaining for being a little off-kilter.

It’s the character that does it, a young woman living up to her parents’ legacies while finding her own place in the world. She’s a lawyer in her day job, facing sexism in the workplace, and a crusader by night, trying to prevent the poor from being burned out of their homes. (She also has the astounding superhuman ability of being able to somehow hide a full-skirted, long-sleeved turtleneck dress under her action outfit of a swimsuit, thigh-high boots, gloves, and cape.)

Additional stories feature Solomon Grundy putting the Huntress in a gilded cage, one guest-starring Power Girl where the city government tries to register and regulate superheroes, the Huntress stopping a prison break led by one of her mother’s old henchmen, and the return of Robin and the Joker.

These tales were originally published as backup features. They’re short, and they can be repetitive, as readers are reintroduced to characters and plot points in each chapter. That’s part of the flavor of the era. If you insist your characters be taken seriously and can’t stand to hear them talking to themselves so the reader knows what’s going on, this isn’t the book for you… but for others, this is an enjoyable reminder of a classic character.

A personal note: when I began reading comics, the Huntress was my favorite character. She got her smarts from her dad, which made her an amazing detective, and her style from her mother. She also seemed to be the only second-generation hero whose mother was as important to her development as her father. Most of the child characters only seemed to inherit from Dad… even to the point of the reader sometimes not even knowing who the mother was (which is an odd reversal of the real world). I miss the version I grew up knowing.

25 Responses to “The Huntress: Darknight Daughter”

  1. Andrew Wickliffe Says:

    I keep trying to get my comics-reading (I don’t think there’s anything there for the non-comic reader, except maybe from some social literary historian angle) friends to read this trade and they refuse to believe me.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Believe you how? That it’s a good read?

  3. John Says:

    Wow, I have to pick this up for my kids to prove to them I didn’t just make it up . . . I’ve never checked out any of her later incarnation. It was my line in the sand, so to speak.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Scott: Like many stories of that era, it’s a lot better to hear about it than read it. It was in some of the Adventure Dollar Comics issues… GCD says 461-463 (the actual death is 462).

    Rob: Yep, DC says it’s in Justice Society: Volume 2.

  5. Scott Says:

    It’s a very good book, I just wish they had thrown in the “Death of Batman” story since they alluded to it so much — or at least tell us where to track it down.

  6. Rob S. Says:

    I’m pretty sure the death of Batman will be in the second 70s JSA collection (coming out in a month or two, I think).

  7. Bruce Meyer Says:

    What would anyone think of retconning the Superman Jr + Batman Jr stories of the 70s? I mean acknowledging them. Along with Huntress etc.

  8. Chad Anderson Says:

    That second JSA trade is out now, and it does indeed contain the Death of Batman story, which got my elementary-school self a little choked up.

  9. Johanna Says:

    Bruce: I loved those stories! They’re by Bob Haney, though, so they’re very wacky and very much of their time. It would make a terrific collection, though, all the Super-Sons stories plus their eventual writing-out (by Denny O’Neil).

  10. Chris G. Says:

    A Super-Sons collection could also include the story Haney wrote for the pulped Elseworlds 80-page Giant a few years back — I think that would be a better coda than the O’Neil story, too.

  11. Andrew Wickliffe Says:

    Yes, that it’s a good read (sorry, I left the comment when I was half out of bed). I’m not sure why they won’t, since it’s a great superhero collection.

  12. James Schee Says:

    I really liked this volume, and I hadn’t really seen anything with the character before. (just some old ASS issues) Were these all of the solo stories she was in? Or is there a possibility for a second collection?

  13. Johanna Says:

    This isn’t all of them, no. I don’t know if they’d consider a second collection; depends on how this sells, I’m sure.

  14. James Schee Says:

    I hope it sold well then, as I’d like to see more stories. Could be really interesting to see if the relationship with Dick Grayson ever went any further.

  15. Jim Perreault Says:

    I picked up this trade as soon as it came out. As much as I love the Huntress character, I was not expecting much … and was pleasantly suprised. Sure it is dated in the ways you mention, but the stories were all interesting and the character certianly has style!

    I was also suprised at how well they were able to structure stories into 8 page segments. That’s probably a dying art.

    I’m curious as how you read it. I read it (at most) one chapter per day. So I did not find it repetitive at all.

  16. Johanna Says:

    I did read it in bigger chunks, and I did wind up skimming at times, but since I’d read all of the original issues, some of it for me was just a reminder.

    Books are much more convenient than back issues, though.

  17. Seam Says:

    The cover to the Secret Origins special with Helena, the LSH and Green Arrow is my Proust’s madeleine. I dearly love the JSA from that era, and Helena and Earth-2 Kara were the first characters I knew and loved from their debuts.

    I’m surprised that they collected her stories, (disappointed that none of my Borders stock it)
    but delighted. I can’t express how relieved I was to see Helena survive in CRISIS/INFINITE EARTH, only to have the rug pulled out at the end.

    Helena Bertinelli has nothing to do with Helena Wayne; the live-action TV version was closer, but not in her league.

    While I’m glad to see a Huntress in JLU etc, I still wish the company hadn’t brushed so many of its unique characters, like Helena, aside.

    I’m only grateful that they didn’t get rif of her in the present vivisection/cannibalism/ Devouring Crocodiles DC.

    I’ve an Helena toy I have no use for, this collection, and FAMILY on DVD, and a nostalgia for the late Seventies that I would never have believed possible while I was living them.

    Thanks for writing about Helena!

  18. Sean Says:

    Said cover being that of DC Super Stars 17, Nov 1977 – which simply cannot be thirty years ago.
    Impossoble. Waaaa….

  19. Ali T. Kokmen Says:

    Helena Bertinelli has nothing to do with Helena Wayne; the live-action TV version was closer, but not in her league.

    Dating myself here, but how sad is in that the first thing to pop into my mind when thinking of a live-action TV Huntress is the camp classic “Challenge of the Superfriends” from 1979 and not the far-more-recent “Birds of Prey” series, which I imagine is what was being referenced.

    Eep. I is old!

  20. Johanna Says:

    You and me both. I’d forgotten Birds of Prey already. Although I’d probably buy a DVD set if they put it out.

  21. Kiki Says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for highlighting this book. If you hadn’t, I’d never have known about it. As it was, my copy arrived yesterday afternoon and I spent a happy evening reading some entertaining stories.

    I really LIKE this version of the Huntress. I only knew her from the reboot and while that one’s ok, I enjoy the personality of this one much better. And I too am wondering where things went with Dick. :)

    Thanks again.

  22. Johanna Says:

    Aw, just what a critic likes to hear. I’m so glad I could point you to something new you enjoyed!

  23. Sean Says:

    Indeed, “Birds Of Prey”it is, where Helena was the daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. Haven’t
    had the pleasure of seeing the “Challenge Of The Superfriends” roast.

    I did see the Live Action Archie! w/ David Caruso, as it turns out.

    I think “BoP” had some potential, which it lost the minute the annoying guy from Felicity and the mutant shtick showed up. Pity. Dina Meyer was very good, I thought.

    IAE, thanks for the reminder.

  24. Justice Society Volume 2 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] into comics as an adult, these were key books for me to find, because my favorite character was the Huntress, and she made her debut in issue #69 of this All-Star run (circa 1977). After that title was […]

  25. Helena Fan Says:

    “She got her smarts from her dad, which made her an amazing detective, and her style from her mother. She also seemed to be the only second-generation hero whose mother was as important to her development as her father. Most of the child characters only seemed to inherit from Dad… even to the point of the reader sometimes not even knowing who the mother was (which is an odd reversal of the real world).”

    I love this fact too. Back then, both father and mother were roughly equals that produced a competent, well-adjusted daughter.

    Nowadays, DC seems more interested in giving us smart-mouth brats and blonde ditzes as role models for young kids.




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