With the approaching release of the Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) , the marketing has made it clear that Margot Robbie's Harley is the star, dominating the first Birds of Prey trailer. In fact, there are going to be several non-comic readers who still don't know exactly who DC's Birds of Prey actually are.
So with that in mind, we're taking a closer look at the DC heroines (and antiheroines) who will be backing Harley up. Even if the movie versions will be breaking from the comic book source material in both minor and major ways, fans will want to know what they can expect from Canary, Huntress, Cassie Cain, and Renee Montoya.
Who Are The 'Birds of Prey' in DC's Universe?
Within the comics continuity, the Birds of Prey is the official name of a superhero team boasting more than twenty total members, including former heroes and its consistent core three members: Batgirl, Black Canary, and Huntress. Technically, all three are somewhat present in the film, as Cassandra Cain (played by Ella Jay Basco, NOT in a Bat costume) is present. Cassie was once Batgirl, but has since evolved into Orphan in current issues. Although the founding Batgirl in the comics is Barbara Gordon, who is apparently being held for a Batgirl film of her own. In addition to the core three, Renee Montoya (also known as The Question in her superhero guise) will also be joining the team... although the comic book Renee rejected membership to the Birds of Prey in Gotham Underground #2.
So who are these women? Well, they're far more than background characters, though the trailer seems to portray them that way compared to Harley Quinn. The Birds had their own television series that ran from 2002-2003 (which is about to be made Arrowverse canon, thanks to Crisis). They also reunited for a new series as part of the DC Rebirth called Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. Since their creation in 1996 with Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey #1, they've been featured in animated series like Justice League Unlimited, video games like Injustice 2, and multiple new Birds of Prey comics coming from DC. So fans ought to know what they can expect from the women, despite their wordless appearances in the first previews.
Dinah Lance, The Black Canary
Black Canary (portrayed by Jurnee Smollett-Bell) is an expert at martial arts and has an ultrasonic scream, which the trailer suggests will be adapted for the movie, judging by the cocktail glasses vibrating in response to her singing. Whether refined or bare-knuckled, she's superbly skilled at hand-to-hand combat, but is also a fantastic leader--and has even been selected to lead DC's Justice League. The character has been around since 1947 when she debuted in Flash Comics #86 and remains consistently showcased in comics, animated series, live-action shows, and video games. As of 1986, her real name is Dinah Laurel Lance, formerly Dinah Drake (seriously, don't ask).
Helena Bertinelli, The Huntress
The next character in the trailer--shown praying--is Huntress (portrayed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead), also known as Helena Bertinelli. The character is historically is born into one of the most powerful mob families in Gotham. As of Cry for Blood in 2000, her origin stems from seeing her family brutally murdered in front of her at the young age of eight. This motivates her into becoming a revenge-seeking vigilante with skills in gymnastics, hand-to-hand combat, and marksmanship--put to use with her signature crossbow. Her arc in the comics typically involves overcoming her rage, and her willingness to do anything for the sake of avenging her family's death. Huntress's prayer-filled intro in marketing so far makes sense, since she is also portrayed as a devout catholic, deeply connected to her Italian heritage.
Detective Renee Montoya
While not traditionally one of the core members, the honorary Bird added for the film is Renee Montoya (portrayed by Rosie Perez). Montoya, like Harley Quinn, was originally created for Batman: The Animated Series. Since DC's New 52 reboot she is typically portrayed as a former detective of the Gotham City Police Department who worked in the Major Crimes Unit. She eventually leaves the force after becoming fed up with the force's corruption. Before the New 52 reboot Montoya assumed the mantle of The Question, an expert detective who uses a 'pseudoderm' mask to conceal her identity. After the reboot, however, the title was returned to Vic Sage. Which means it's not likely that her 'Question' identity has been established when the movie takes place.
Cassie Cain, The Orphan
The last of the Birds of Prey, and perhaps the greatest departure from the comics is Cassandra Cain. Obviously the youngest of the members and the least used to death-defying combat scenarios. The plot of the movie will apparently revolve around the Birds protecting Cassie from Black Mask. Her origin story within the comics is that she is the child of two famous assassins, Lady Shiva and David Cain. They intended to train her to be the best assassin of all time, and she was deprived of human contact and speech throughout her childhood (resulting in her famously stunted social skills and shyness). Cassandra Cain is most commonly associated with the title Batgirl, but she has also been called Kasumi, Black Bat, and most recently and actively, Orphan. Her primary abilities are her amazing hand-to-hand combat and her ability to expertly read opponents' body language. The origin that created the movie version of Cassie is still a mystery, but at least fans will know how the film has changed her story when they see it.
In 2020, fans can hopefully look forward to seeing these abilities and origin stories showcased within the plot of the Birds of Prey film, once they get their chance to share the spotlight with Harley Quinn. But no matter which versions of these characters end up on film, most renditions articulate the same message of pure, female badassery.
- Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020