Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), directed by Cathy Yan, is based on the DC Comics team, but not all of the characters featured in the film were first introduced in the comics. While each member of Harley Quinn’s (Margot Robbie) crew, including Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), each had their origins in DC Comics, not all of the characters connected to them in Birds of Prey existed in the film’s source material.
Birds of Prey acts as a spinoff to David Ayer’s Suicide Squad (2016) and follows Harley Quinn as she recovers from her breakup with the Joker. Once word spreads that Harley is no longer under the Joker’s protection, the various bosses and low-lifes of Gotham, including mob boss Roman Sionis/Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), come to settle their many grievances with Harley, whose bad behavior had reigned unchecked while she was dating the so-called “King of Gotham.” As Harley attempts to finagle her way out of trouble, she teams up with three highly-skilled and dangerous women also on Black Mask’s hit list. While they weren’t present in the DC Comics universe prior to Birds of Prey, many of the original characters written for the film played an important role in the lives of the leading characters.
The original characters created for Birds of Prey mainly have a connection to two members of the female-led superhero team Birds of Prey: the assassin Huntress and the former Gotham City Police Department detective Renee Montoya. According to one of Huntress’s storylines in the DC universe, the assassin’s true identity is Helena Bertinelli, an orphan and daughter of the mob boss Franco Bertinelli. This rendition of Huntress first appeared in DC Comics in the comic issue Huntress #1 by Joey Cavalieri. While Renee Montoya was introduced to the DC universe in Batman: The Animated Series, she first appeared in DC Comics in Alan Grant’s comic Batman #475. While the following DC Extended Universe characters were only introduced in Birds of Prey, these original characters usurped the roles of other DC Comic’s characters originally featured in other Gotham storylines.
Portrayed by actor Steven Williams, Captain Patrick Erickson appears in Birds of Prey, making his debut in the DC universe as Renee Montoya’s former partner and captain of the GCPD. While Erickson has very few scenes in Birds of Prey, thanks to Harley’s narration within the film, fans are alerted to the some of Erickson’s backstory, including that he was once Montoya’s GCPD partner who was promoted over her despite the fact that she did all of the detective work that earned him his promotion. Not only does Erickson pull this conniving trick once, but he does it again by the end of the film, taking credit for the arrest of Black Mask’s criminal outfit and the removal of Black Mask himself from the streets of Gotham even though the Birds of Prey, including Montoya, were responsible for his mafia gang’s demise.
Unlike the other original characters from Birds of Prey, Erickson doesn’t appear to have any DC Comics counterpart that inspired the character’s addition to the DCEU. In the comics featuring Renee Montoya’s origins before becoming the vigilante Question, the detective works under Commissioner Jim Gordon, the loyal supporter of the vigilante Batman. While it may seem like a missed opportunity to include the fan favorite Gotham commissioner within the plot of Birds of Prey, writing Erickson into the script as Montoya’s supervisor instead of Jim Gordon may have been a way to speed up the trajectory of Montoya’s descent into vigilantism. While Montoya originally becomes Question after the death of her mentor Vic Sage in the comics, the presence of Captain Erickson in Birds of Prey acts as the proper motivation Montoya needed to realize she wouldn’t achieve justice through the system but rather as a vigilante.
Stefano Galante (Robert Catrini), one of Gotham City’s former mafia bosses introduced in Birds of Prey, is one of the original characters not present in DC Comics. While his role is relatively short-lived – quite literally since his character is introduced during the scene involving his own murder – Galante plays an important role in the origin story and development of the assassin Huntress. In Birds of Prey, Huntress, or Helena Bertinelli, becomes an orphan after the rivaling mafia don Stefano Galante murders her entire family, including her father and mafia boss Franco Bertinelli. Growing up under the tutelage of an assassin, Helena trains to become a deadly killer that promises to avenge the deaths of her family by hunting down all of the people involved in their deaths, starting with Stefano Galante.
While Stefano Galante doesn’t exist beyond the DC Extended Universe, there are two characters present in DC Comics that appear to be the inspiration for Galante’s character. Within the storyline exploring Huntress’s assassin origins in the DC Comics, among the mafia members responsible for the death’s of Helena’s family are Stefano Mandragora and Jr. Pasquale Galante. In the comics, both characters served a similar function as two of the senior members of the Sicilian mafia in Gotham. It seems Birds of Prey decided to take the liberty of combining these two characters, electing to create a whole new character not beholden to the predetermined route of the comics. Since Stefano Galante’s backstory is virtually identical to Stefano Mandragora’s comic storyline, the only reason for the change might have been a way of setting up a war between Huntress and the remaining Galante mafia family in future Birds of Prey films, if any.
Ellen Yee, the assistant district attorney for Gotham City and Renee Montoya’s ex-girlfriend, is one of the few characters introduced into the DC universe in Birds of Prey. Portrayed by comedian and actress Ali Wong, Ellen Yee first appears in Birds of Prey when Renee Montoya is discussing the case she’s building against the mafia boss Roman Sionis with her captain, Patrick Erickson. While Yee only makes a few short appearances in the film, she’s ultimately responsible for Montoya’s suspension from the GCPD after she turns Montoya in for sending her evidence from an open case through the mail, catalyzing Montoya’s transition into a vigilante and member of the superhero team Birds of Prey. While Yee may not have been featured in the comics alongside Renee Montoya, there are a few DC Comics characters that may have been the inspiration for the new character.
When searching for influences that may have inspired Ellen Yee’s character, one should look no further than DC Comics character Ellen Yindel, the commissioner of the GCPD after Jim Gordon’s retirement who is known to have an anti-Batman agenda. Yindel first appears in the comic Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and stands out as one of the leading influences of Ellen Yee not only because of the similar cadence to their names, but also for Yee’s no-nonsense, by-the-book attitude. While not much is known about the Birds of Prey original character, Yee may have been introduced in the Suicide Squad spinoff to establish the groundwork for any future Birds of Prey films and set up a rivalry between the newfound vigilante Renee Montoya and the GCPD’s future commissioner Ellen Yee who supports an anti-vigilante policy, if the character is truly influenced by Yindel.
The addition of original characters not previously featured in DC Comics allows for Birds of Prey to step out of the shadow of the DC Comic’s juggernaut and be judged by critics and fans based in its own merits, not by how true it is to the comics. By including some similarities to other DC Comic’s characters, Birds of Prey was able to pay homage to its source material while creating fresh new characters made for the DCEU.
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