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The Comics History of Black Canary, Huntress, and Black Mask in BIRDS OF PREY

The upcoming Birds of Prey film has just cast its two main superhero leads, according to a report via DeadlineMary Elizabeth Winstead has nabbed the role of the Huntress, while Underground actress Jurnee Smollett-Bell will play the sonic powered martial artist Black Canary. Margot Robbie will reprise Harley Quinn, in a story set in a Gotham that is reportedly no longer protected by Batman (so, no Batfleck cameo folks.) Cathy Yan is on board to direct. It’s also now being reported that Ewan McGregor is in talks to play the lead villain, the Black Mask.

Other characters confirmed for this movie are Gotham detective Renee Montoya, played by Rosie Perez, and Cassandra Cain, who has gone by many superhero names, like Batgirl, the Black Bat, and more recently, the Orphan. No one has been cast in the Cassandra Cain role yet. It seem that Barbara Gordon is being saved for her own solo Batgirl film, and is not set to appear.

The Birds of Prey have been a staple of DC Comics since the mid ’90s, ever since the team up mini-series Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey in 1995. They subsequently had several regular ongoing series due to their instant popularity. The original concept had former Batgirl, now confined to a wheelchair and having become computer expert/information broker Oracle, partnering up with vigilante Black Canary.

In 2003, the Huntress joined the group, and has been a mainstay ever since. Although some other heroes have come and gone from the team, Barbara Gordon, Black Canary and Huntress are almost always part of the group. It is said that Barbara Gordon won’t appear as Batgirl or Oracle in the film, which seems a bit wrong headed, but this appears to be the direction they are going in. For those unfamiliar with DC’s leading ladies of crime fighting and their movie nemesis Black Mask, here’s a brief comics history of each of the pair of main characters, along with the terrifying Batman villain.

Black Canary

Black Canary is one of DC’s best fighters, and on of their most iconic woman DC heroes besides Wonder Woman. Dinah Laurel Lance, also called Dinah Drake, first appeared in 1947 as an urban vigilante clad in black leather and fishnets. She kicked bad guy butt and got to be the second woman allowed in the Justice Society after Wonder Woman. Eventually, as the decades rolled on, she joined the Justice League, where she now exhibited a sonic scream power. During this time, she developed a deep love for Green Arrow–their relationship that has been brought to live-action on the television series Arrow. Although she has had multiple solo series over the years, she really found ongoing success starting with Birds of Prey.

Despite her popularity, Black Canary has only had a handful of solo series, and shared a title with Green Arrow when the pair were married. She starred in two mini-series in the ’90s, and her most recent ongoing series in 2015 featured her leading a rock band. Some important stories featuring Dinah are the Justice League of America storyline “The Lightning Saga” a story arc where Black Canary finally becomes the leader of the JLA. Another great story is Bloodspell, an original graphic novel from Paul Dini, which showcases the friendship between Canary and the League’s resident sorceress, Zatanna.

The Huntress.

There have been a couple of heroines named Huntress in the DC Universe, with the original appearing in the ’70s as the daughter of Batman and Catwoman on an alternate Earth. Named Helena Wayne, this version was introduced in live-action on the WB version of Birds of Prey back in 2002. The more popular Huntress is Helena Bertinelli, the daughter of a mafia crime family, who  saw her family killed in a mob hit when she was a child and was later inspired to become a vigilante. She eventually began working with The Birds of Prey, although she was not an original member. But it is through the Birds of Prey she has seen her popularity skyrocket.

The modern Huntress has had two series of her own, one which ran from 1989 to 1990 and lasted eighteen issues, and another limited series in the mid ’90s. The classic Batman crossover event Batman: No Man’s Land, which inspired parts of The Dark Knight Rises, was also a big showcase for Huntress. However, in that series she was going undercover as a new version of Batgirl. Another prominent Huntress story is Batman/Huntress: Cry For Blood, which features Helena being being framed for murder, and teaming up with The Question in order to find the real killer.

Black Mask

Black Mask first appeared in Detective Comics, back in 1985. Born Roman Sionis, the Black Mask is a former businessman and crime lord who actually started out with just a vendetta against Bruce Wayne, and not Batman. After the suspicious death of his rich, socialite parents — a death he almost certainly was behind — Sionis inherited their fortune, but ultimately bankrupted their cosmetics company. The company was saved when his childhood friend Bruce Wayne bought it, but Sionis only resented and hated Wayne for it.

Obsessed with the idea that everyone was a phony who wore a mask, Sionis carved a sinister looking one from his father’s black coffin and became a criminal. But during a battle with Batman, his mask was accidentally burned into his skin, after which he lost what was left of his mind, and renamed himself the Black Mask. Now a feared crime lord, he now hated Batman as much as Wayne. Black Mask came into conflict with the Birds of Prey when he infiltrated their headquarters, the Clocktower, in an effort to expose their operation to the mafia. But the Birds were able to put a stop to him, with Batman’s assistance.

Do you have a favorite Black Canary, Huntress, or Black Mask story? Be sure to let us know down below in the comments.

Images: DC Comics

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