Huntress Costume History
*This article is about the Huntress heroines and not the supevillianness of the same name. Paula Brooks, from the golden ages, would evolve into Tigress and not the hero we know in the Batman Universe as Huntress.
No other mainstream superheroine has received as much ridicule over her costumes as Huntress. Sure, every now and then a costume is universally mocked by fans; Wonder Woman had her biker shorts, Invisible Woman had a 4 cut out of her uniform’s bust, and Supergirl got caught up in the 80’s with a headband. However, Huntress is the only woman who continually fails to impress her fans with each new costume upgrade. Even characters within the stories find ways to mock her clothing choices.
The first Huntress to appear in the Batman family was Helena Wayne. Unlike Batgirl, Robin, and many more, this bronze age heroine really was related to Batman. She was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman in the Earth 2 Universe. Her first appearances were in All Star Comics #69 and DC Super Stars #17. These comics were released the same day in December of 1977. I guess her first appearance depends on which comic you read first. Helena Wayne was trained by her parents to be a super athlete but she did not become a superhero until her mother, Catwoman, was killed after being blackmailed to return to crime. After avenging her mother, Helena continued her career as a superhero. She would continue to fight crime until she died saving children’s lives during the 1985 DC Crisis storyline. Helena Wayne was one of the many characters who were erased from the DC Universe after Crisis on Infinite Earths ended.
Helena Wayne assembled her Huntress attire from parts of her parents old costumes and equipment. She also added some of her own elements, like the now famous crossbow. This is probably where the problems with her design began. Attempting to blend a cat and bat together was never meant to be. It’s not natural! This costume would last for Wayne’s entire career in Earth 2 and inspire the look for Bertinelli’s future Huntress costume. Much like the original Catwoman ensemble, most of her outfit would be shades of purple except for the cape, which resembled Batman’s older blue coloring. Helena’s Huntress costume was more practical in a fight, since she went with the tight fitting bathing suit style as opposed to her mother’s long dress. Although, while Catwoman liked to show off her legs in a high slit dress, Helena preferred revealing her chest with a low V cut. To add a bit of modesty, her cape would attach to the opening at the front. She had on dark purple thigh high boots and long gloves for added protection. To conceal her identity she wore a mask, that would have been a simple domino design, except for the huge triangles at the ends. The triangles could have been to an attempt to imitate Batman’s ears. Helena also had a minimized utility belt, with only a couple pouches and a fancy H that closely resembled a bat symbol on the buckle.
In the new DC Universe created after Crisis on Infinite Earths, Helena Bertinelli became the Huntress and would be very similar to the original. She would not only share the same first name but they looked alike both physically and in their choice of clothing. However, Helena Bertinelli was no longer related to Batman and Catwoman. Instead, she was the daughter of a mafia boss. Helena became the Huntress after her entire family was murdered in front of her. Being brought up with a rougher background, this new Helena is more ruthless and at times has not had a problem with killing for the “greater” good. Her first appearance would be in her own title, Huntress #1. Despite her violent tendencies, the Batman family has continually tried to incorporate her into their ranks, while attempting to calm her brutal instincts. She has been a member of the Justice League of America, Birds of Prey, and even dated Dick Grayson for a short period of time.
Helena Bertinelli was wearing almost the exact same purple costume as her Earth 2 predecessor. Basically, they just shrunk everything. The mask had the same shape but now fit completely on her face, rather than sticking out like a pair of bat ears. The gloves now only covered her forearms and her boots only went up to her calves. Since she was exposing more skin on her arms and legs, they brought up the neckline to cover up more of her chest. To make up for the utility belt having even less pockets, she was given a pouch to wear on her right thigh.
In 1993 Huntress would get another small upgrade to her costume. However, there would still be no drastic changes to the overall appearance. For the first time her costume would have long sleeves, fully covering her arms and shoulders. Not wanting to seem too prim and proper, her shirt would once again have a long V cut in the front. This time it would be even larger. The cape would be attached to her neck instead of her costume. The belt buckle would finally have a symbol more closely resembling an H than a bat. This outfit would have a lot more storage capacity for weapons and gadgets. The utility belt would have significantly more pouches and her right thigh would get a second strap. The most significant addition would be Helena’s gold crucifix necklace. The cross would play a big part in her future wardrobes.
The Rubber Nun
This suit, that fans would refer to as The Rubber Nun costume, came about in 1996 and would stick around in one form or another until 2002. In the story “Cry for Blood”, Helena talks about how she felt like a nun who was totally devoted to her quest. The name stuck. Like a nun, she would be fully clothed but unlike a nun people could tell what she looked like underneath her uniform. Black would be added to her purple color pattern. Now the purple coloring forms a V over her black bodysuit, this retains the appearance of the old design without having to expose her flesh. Although she is not wearing armor, there does appear to be more padding in her costume than previous versions. With more utility straps on her legs, arms, boots, and waist, Huntress looks like she is ready to go into battle. Finally, no rubber nun outfit would be complete without the crucifix necklace. Sometimes she took to wearing cross earrings as well.
Jim Lee, who did an amazing job in designing some of the most memorable X-Men comics and their uniforms, would leave to form Image Comics with several other successful comic book writers and artists. He would eventually leave Image and sell his Wildstorm Production company to DC Comics. While working for DC he did the art for the popular Batman Hush storyline in 2002. Within Hush, Jim Lee would make one of the most dramatic changes to the Huntress costume. Even though his design would continue the streak of having her clothing choices ridiculed, it would also inspire future art concepts.
This would be the first time the Huntress looked like she was actually wearing armor. The mask still did not cover much of her face but the huge triangle ears were back and the sides came down to cover part of her head. It almost looks like shielding. Her gloves were not just for hiding fingerprints, but gauntlets and shielding for protection or knocking someone's teeth out. She was no longer wearing sexy thigh high boots, she was now wearing sexy thing high combat boots. Like any good hero in the Caped Crusader’s world, the huntress still had her purple cape strapped to her shoulders. Since this Huntress uniform was designed for battle, the belt now split into two, creating an x pattern that was jammed with pockets. Actually she had pouches strapped to her legs, arms, hips and any other spots she could find. Her belt buckle finally got rid of the H/bat symbol and was now a simple circle.
Despite having her limbs protected like a tank, Helena's body was covered in a skintight bodysuit that would tear easily if she ever rubbed against anything. Weird? The other odd thing was the choice to put a window in the fabric, fully exposing her abs. Considering she was recently shot in the stomach, you would think she would've been more aware of protecting this area of her body. When Black Canary questioned her about the naked stomach, Helena responded by flaunting her 700 sit-ups a day. I personally think Huntress does not want to ruin another costume if she gets shot in the gut again, blood is almost impossible to get out.
On Second Thought
After spending some time with the Birds of Prey, Huntress decided to cover up her stomach. There was not a lot else that changed in the overall design. Now that the fabric covered her completely, the white cross was able be enlarged and run down to her belt. The trim of her cape was also white. This way when the cape was closed it would form the top of the cross and the effect would not be lost.
The Huntress is not the type of character you go to when you’re looking for a shoulder to cry on. So why with all of her armor upgrades was she never given shoulder pads? In this costume upgrade, they did just that. To make up for them being absent for so long, they were huge. These things could fit on a medieval knight’s suit of armor. With such big shoulder pads the rest of her costume was toned down. The mask is not as big, the arm guards look more like Batman’s, gloves are simple fabric, and her legs are protected with really long shin guards. The belt was also streamlined with a few utility pouches and a couple larger gun holsters.
Do you remember at the beginning of the article when I said Helena Wayne from Earth 2 died while saving children in Crisis on Infinite Earths? Fooled you! Sometime before the new series began, Helena Wayne took the identity of the deceased Helena Bertinelli. I didn’t so much trick you as get caught up in the joys and complications of comic book deaths and reboots. She has been wearing versions of her old costumes for this new reboot.
Yes, Helena Bertinelli took on the role of Batgirl during No Man’s Land. However, that outfit is in the article Batgirl Costume History.
Barbara Joyce: The first live action Huntress would be played by Barbara Joyce in Legends of the Superheroes. These two 1979 television specials, that aired on NBC, were based on the The Super Friends cartoon series. Because the Wonder Woman television show with Lynda Carter was on a rival network, her character was dropped. This made the Huntress and Black Canary the only superheroines in the superhero group.
Ashley Scott: In the short lived 2002 Birds of Prey television series, the Huntress was unique from her comic book character. Named Helena Kyle, she was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman like the original Helena Wayne. That is where the similarities end. In the show she had superpowers. Helena had enhanced strength, agility and her eyes could turn cat-like. She also did not wear a mask or costume. Rather she would wear all black clothing. She did tend to wear a lot of long jackets.
Mass market Halloween costumes of the Huntress are not found in your average costume shop. If you decide to Google it, be careful. Many results for Huntress Costumes are far different from our DC heroine. Make sure to put DC in your search.
Fans and models are forced to create their own Huntress Costumes.
If you enjoyed this article, you can find links to my other Costume History Hubs by clicking on the link above. Explore the history of some of the greatest female superheroes in comics through their costumes.
Google Images (Images appeared on several sites and was unsure of original)
And of course: Reading way too many comic books.