In this week Arrow episode Muse of Fire we finally met another masked vigilante, the Huntress, secret identity of Helena Rosa Bertinelli, portrayed on screen by Jessica De Gouw. Being the daughter of a famous crime boss, who tries to destroy her father’s empire thus redeeming her name, her portrayal in the show is very similar to her comics’ original appearance. Some details, anyway, are quite different, especially the ones regardind the deep connection of the Huntress with another famous superhero, Batman. Let’s see wher her television origin story differs from her comic book one.
Similar to many other heroes, also the Huntress has got more than one origin story. In the first one, she was the daughter of Guido and Carmela Bertinelli, members of one of the most powerful Mafia families of Gotham City. When she was six years old, Helena was kidnapped and raped by a rival crime boss, who wanted to take revenge on her father. Freed from his captor, young Helena was sent in Italy, where her bodyguard, Tony Angelo, taught her how to fight and how to protect herself. She then came back to Gotham to start a personal vendetta against the city’s Mafia families. Her origin story, however, was retold, changing some details. In the new version of the story, Helena was the daughter of Franco Bertinelli, the most powerful Mafia head in Gotham City. He was a cruel man, who often beat his wife, Maria Panessa Bertinelli. The woman couldn’t stand her abusive husband anymore, and started an affair with a rival crime boss, Santo Cassamento. Her daughter, Helena Rosa, was, in fact, Santo’s daughter, and not Franco’s. Bertinelli knew this, and he kept beating his wife during all her pregnancy. When Helena was born, Franco decided to take care of his “daughter”, still despising his wife, anyway. The girl grew up serenely in Bertinelli’s house, without knowing anything of the real activities that is father was involved with. When she was eight years old, anyway, Bertinelli’s life of criminality came knocking to his door: an assassin, Mandragora, broke into his house while the whole family was at dinner, and he shot Franco, Maria and Pino, Bertinelli’s trueborn son. He only spared Helena, without the girl knowing why. Mandragora was sent by Cassamento, who wanted him to kill everyone in the family but Maria, calling her under the nickname “the sister“: clearly, the hitman confused Maria with Helena, and sparred the girl instead of the woman. After the massacre, Helena was placed under the care of her uncle, Tomasso. He decided that Gotham City wasn’t a safe place for the girl, and ordered his nephew, Salvatore Asaro, to take the girl back to Sicily, the historical Bertinelli family’s home.
Helena was clearly terrified, and she kept having nightmares about what happened back in Gotham. Her cousin, Salvatore, told her that only she could stop her nightmares, by taking the lives of her parents’ killers. He taught her the family motto, blood cries for blood, and took her to his barn, offering himself as a combat teacher. Helena chose a crossbow from a wall, and began a tough training, which would have made her a great fighter. During her years in Sicily, she was taught that Mafia was a honorable activity, a force for good that protected innocents and punished evil men without pity. Helena believed it. When she was fifteen, anyway, her uncle and cousin chose to send her to a boarding school in Switzerland, thus protecting her from the Italian authorities, who were close to arrest the entire family. Seeing what was happening, Helena realized that everything she was told about Mafia was a lie, and started hating everyone in her family because of the world she was dragged in when she was just an innocent child. For Christmas, she unwillingly joined her uncle Tomasso in Gotham to celebrate with everyone; Helena knew that Mafia was an evil organization that built its power on fear, but she also found out that, in Gotham, also Mafia was afraid, and by a single man: Batman. She decided what to do and, back to Italy, she enrolled in the Palermo University. She learnt everything about Mafia and its hiostory, and, back to her cousin’s villa in the countryside, deserted after the arrest of her family, she started plotting her revenge. She collected her old crossbow and other weapons from the barn, and came back to Gotham, where, emulating the Batman, she created the masked identity of the Huntress, a cruel and pitiless vigilante, who repaid the criminals with their own coin. Blood cries for blood.
Helena Rosa Bertinelli is a strong and hardened woman, who buried her fears and personal traumas under her hate and her determination. As the Huntress, she’s a violent and implacable crime fighter, who believes that only death can cure the evil inside human heart, and systematically hunts down and kills the members of the Mafia families in Gotham. This policy brought her to divergences with her inspiration, Batman, and his sidekicks Robin and Nightwing, but, having a common cause to pursue, they sometimes get along long enough to bring down some criminals (she also had a brief romantic relationship with Nightwing). A devoted Catholic, the Huntress thinks of herself as some sort of nun with a holy mission: to eradicate Mafia from the world, and she’s ready to do anything to accomplish her goal.