We were super thrilled to have an opportunity to speak with Huntress artist Marcus To, but when we found out that the writer was also making himself available to us, we were frankly shocked. Because the writer of the new DC Relaunch Huntress mini series is none other than the legendary Paul Levitz!
This was truly a rare opportunity to talk to someone with such deep roots in the DC Universe as well as the business side of the industry, but Erica managed to keep the conversation focused and on point. Check it out!
Erica Simon: While new and old fans are excited for the initial 52 first issues of the DC relaunch, Batman fans did notice that the Huntress seemed to be absent. Fortunately she does seem to be part of the second wave of releases. How did you come to be the caretaker of the character again?
Paul Levitz: I don’t think I’m the caretaker of the Huntress, just a writer getting to do an arc of a great character, and happy to be able to give her a “debut moment” in the new DC era.
ES: Are you able to say where Helena Bertinelli is as far as experience level being a vigilante when the relaunch mini begins?
PL: Helena’s a young woman, but her life has given her a lot of experience.
ES: As one of the original creators of the Huntress concept can you remind new fans what the original concept was and talk about a few ways the character has transformed in theme and origin from then to what we are about to see? In terms of personality, what is distinctly different about this Huntress versus the one you wrote 30 years ago?
PL: The original Huntress was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman on Earth-2. A lot has changed in the DCU since then, and the new Huntress has her own backstory.
ES: You've mentioned that the classic British comic strip character Modesty Blaise as an inspiration in writing the upcoming mini. Are you a fan of that character and the kind of storytelling that accompanies her capers? Are there similarities between Modesty Blaise and Huntress and where do the similarities end?
PL: I think Modesty and Helena share being very determined, very physical women who operate in a relatively realistic world, facing perils that are just slightly larger than life but fundamentally possible. Their lives have been very different, and that gives them distinct motivations, but they’re strong personalities with a willingness to go to the mat for what matters to them.
ES: Something I've noticed about the Modesty Blaise character and Helena is that they have a quiet anger that is expressed as an intensity that both drives them and makes them dangerous. Where do such strong emotions come from in Helena and how do you capture that as a writer?
PL: Helena’s faced her share of tragedy that’s toughened her. Hopefully, you capture emotion as a comics writer by showing it on the page—physically and by how the character reacts in situations.
ES: For many years, Huntress has made regular appearances in the Birds of Prey. There’s a difference in the way she’s portrayed in solo books from team books. While not exactly a team player, the Huntress' formidable skill set as far as being able to competently execute major take-down operations single-handed has been somewhat downplayed. Now that she will be re-established in her own mini, can we expect to see Helena take on big criminal targets as opposed to street level small fries?
PL: By the time the mini’s finished, the Huntress has faced the leader of an international sex trafficking ring who has even larger authority in the world than his criminal activities would generate. Not small fry.
ES: During a recent CBR interview for your upcoming Legion: Secret Origin miniseries, you mention being a fan of super hero teams because of the potential for interpersonal drama. The Huntress is a signature loner so what aspects of that type of character are you most looking forward to tackling?
PL: I’m having great fun with the sheer caper excitement—playing the choreography of the adventure.
ES: You also mentioned Helena not coming from privilege and not having tragedy define her. Does that mean a shifting of her origin?
PL: Stay tuned.
ES: With continuity being pretty unclear for the readers, as to what will stick and what won't, will we learn anything new about Helena that we didn’t all ready know?
PL: If you read very carefully.
ES: Unlike Batman and other superheroes, the Huntress has had no problem dispensing final justice against those who victimize others in previous stories. She’s one of the most violent characters, but also displays a compassionate and nurturing side. Is this still an aspect of the Huntress character? If so, how do you explain these two extremes?
PL: I don’t think it’s a contradiction. She’s a decent human being, angry at what’s wrong with the world. If she can fix it with a hug, great…if it takes a crossbow bolt, that’s okay too.
ES: Speaking of Helena's violent nature, I can only imagine how fun it is to unleash her. But knowing that DC has some limits that they set in how far they allow their characters go, how do you keep her violent tendencies in check yet keep her true to her nature?
PL: I don’t think DC has any limits that prevent telling a good story.
ES: What is the overall tone of this particular series? Will it fit the tone of the Batman family titles or have a flavor unique to itself? And can we expect to see any familiar faces over the six issues?
PL: I think this series has its own flavor, which I hope people enjoy. And any familiar faces will be a surprise.
ES: Your artist on The Huntress is Marcus To. Did you request him or was he available to work on whichever DC miniseries suited his talents? What’s your initial impression seeing the pages he’s drawn?
PL: I didn’t know Marcus’ work before, but I’m thrilled by the pages I’ve seen so far. He has great composition, which is a rare gift these days, and is a very solid, exciting storyteller.
ES: Comics are very much a collaborative medium. In terms of posing, angles and action scenes how have you approach the scripts? Do you describe each panel down to the specific or practical detail? Or prefer a looser script that leaves room for his interpretation of details?
PL: My general approach is to call camera distance, action and emotion for each panel; if the artist can improve the storytelling by making adjustments in those instructions, he does so, but it’s my job to set up the movements so they can work.
ES: With 52 other ongoing series to compete with as well as other DC miniseries to essentially compete with what can you say that will lure a fan of Batman or strong female characters in general to support the Huntress mini? We've heard something about a bounty? And for those who do support this series, what do you hope new and old fans will take with them after they've read all six issues?
PL: Every comic “competes” with every other for attention, but I think what we’re doing in the Huntress mini is a style of adventure that there’s not a lot of on the rack from any publisher at any given time. I hope at the end readers will have enjoyed the ride, and want to come back for more.
ES: Currently your Huntress project is going to be a six issue limited series. Has there been discussion of a second miniseries or circumstances under which this mini could extend into an ongoing? And could you see yourself still involved with the character past this six issue mini?
PL: I’m enjoying this so much I’d love to do more, but that’s up to the powers that be.
ES: With all of the different presentations of the Huntress over the decades, is there anything new that you learned about Helena Bertinelli and want to accentuate now that you have taken up writing duties for her again?
PL: Oh yeah.
ES: If the current Huntress had a motto, what do you think it would be?
PL: In justice, hope.As of this writing, our very generous and hopeful order of Huntress #1 has sold out at Acme Comics in less than a business week! We will continue to reorder copies of issue #1 until all interested customers have been serviced or until such time as DC Comics is sold out of copies to reorder. Don't wait though, be sure to add Huntress to your Acme Comics subscription now so that you don't miss out on issue #2! And if you would like to hear more from Paul Levitz directly, take a listen to Acmecast Episode #45 on iTunes! Just search for "Acmecast: and enjoy!