Birds of Prey’s Renee Montoya: An Origin Story
I don’t know about most of you, but for me growing up you were either “Team Marvel” or “Team DC”. I was always a huge Batman fan, but I definitely leaned more towards the Marvel Universe as I got older. One thing I have vowed to change in 2020 is my limited knowledge of other fandoms. I’ve always been a proud geek, but this is the year I learned about all of the other things to fangirl over the world that I may be missing out on. So I am starting with DC. Myself and Rachel from Pretty In Baby Food are taking on profiling the characters from the new “Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” and diving in to learn more. Today she is profiling the one and only Harleen Quinzel, Ph.D. better known as Harley Quinn (the unreliable narrator of the upcoming movie. As a primer for us all, I will share with you everything that I learned about the origin story of the character Renee Montoya!
Meet Renee Montoya (on TV)
Gotham City police detective Renee Montoya debuted in 1992 with the launch of the Warner Bros. Animation series Batman: The Animated Series and was portrayed by two different actresses (Ingrid Oliu in Season One and Liane Schirmer in Season Two). She was originally partnered with Harvey Bullock and her debut episode (P.O.V.) was an episode styled like the Akira Kurosawa film RASHOMON. I am new to the DC world, but I did religiously watch the recent live action interpretation GOTHAM so I am familiar with the characters from that reimagining. Other TV appearances include: The New Batman Adventures; Batman & Mr. Freeze SubZero; and Batman Bad Blood. The character of Renee Montoya also appears in video games, a webseries, and in radio.
Early Comic Book Life:
Renee Montoya also appeared in her first comic book that year Batman #475 (March 1992). She became a recurring character in the Batman-related comics after that. She was soon promoted to homicide detective by Commissioner James Gordon, and is partnered with Harvey Bullock. After he is promoted to Lieutenant, Crispus Allen becomes Montoya’s new partner (Detective Comics #742 in January 2000). Renee takes a larger role in the comic series after a crossover story arc during the time when Gotham is cut off from the rest of the United States after an earthquake (No Man’s Land arc). Two-Face’s alter persona Harvey Dent falls in love with her, she becomes his hostage when he holds her against her will. Two-Face puts James Gordon on trial, so she uses Dent’s love for her to get him to represent Gordon in the trial and ultimately gets Two-Face to let everyone go free. Lex Luthor gets Gotham City reopened and they return to the GCPD as officers again.
Taking a larger role and coming out publicly:
The characters from the Batman story continue in the Gotham Central series and Renee Montoya takes a more central role. Unfortunately, Two-Face’s obsession with her crosses over into the series and he tries to destroy her by framing her for murder and outing her publicly as a lesbian. He then kidnaps her again and she is ultimately saved by Batman. While Two-Face is taken to Arkham Asylum (a DC prison for the criminally insane) Renee has a hard time returning to her life. Her religious family (for the most part) disowns her. Her and her partner Crispus Allen then find themselves being framed by a corrupt cop who Renee becomes obsessed with exposing. The corruption and lies disgust her and eventually lead to her breaking down and quitting the GCPD.
Renee re-emerges in the 52series as an alcoholic ex-cop whose girlfriend Kate Kane has finally walked away from her (strongly reminding me of the character Harvey Bullock in the GOTHAM TV series). When the character The Question hires her to keep an eye on Intergang (who he believes is preparing an attack on Gotham City). This connection to The Question comes back down the line, but this is the first time the connection is made. Also, while fighting with Intergang, Renee finds an advanced energy pistol she starts using, as well as her police sidearm.
Birds of Prey connection?
Next up is the Countdown series where things start to get interesting (and where I suspect the comics and the upcoming movie “Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” might collide)! Renee works with Batwoman to capture ex-Suicide Squad members Trickster and Pied Piper after Oracle* solicites her help solving a murder. This is when Oracle invites Renee to join the Birds of Prey, but she declines (though she does accompany them in Gotham Underground #2).
*In March 2017, it was announced that Joss Whedon was in talks to write, direct and produce a Batgirl film as part of the DC Extended Universe. The film would center on Barbara Gordon, with The New 52 comics serving as “a starting point” for the film. Whedon was to begin production on the film in 2018, but stepped down in February 2018. In April 2018, after impressing the studio with her work on the forthcoming film “Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” Christina Hodson was hired as screenwriter for Batgirl as well. The studio is actively looking for a female director.
Renee then moves on to star in the 2007 limited comic series, Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood and appear in the Final Crisis: Revelations miniseries where she encounters her former partner Crispus Allen who is the host of the Spectre and wants to pass judgment on her when she is saved by Radiant. She is then crosses over into the DC multiverse to gather help for New Earth.
A Turning Point?
Her next job emerges in the series Batwoman: Detective Comics. Renee takes on a missing person case where she suspects that the young woman has been forced into sexual slavery and human trafficking. During the investigation and rescue Renee is captured and left for dead in a car that is driven into a river. She escapes and saves the day before returning to Gotham City.
It should be noted that this is where Harvey Bullock discovers that she is the new Question. How does he know? He points out that he worked with her long enough to be able to recognize her rear end. Le sigh.
The Question’s “look”
According to the Question: Secret Origin, After the death of Vic Sage, Renee inherited his costume, mask, fedora and trench coat, all of which have been treated to react to the binary gas created by Aristotle Rodor. In addition, he provided Montoya with a shampoo that causes her hair to change color when exposed to the gas and this substance was developed using technology lifted from Dr. No Face and Gingold Extract, a fruit derivative associated with the Elongated Man. Pseudoderm was presented as Rodor’s attempt to build an artificial skin for humanitarian purposes. The mask adheres to her face and renders it as a featureless blank when exposed to the binary gas. The binary gas is expelled from a special belt buckle worn by Renee. The gas also causes her chemically treated costume, fedora, and trench coat to change color, typically to a dark blue.
Black Lanterns and The Mark of Cain
In the “Blackest Night” event in 2009/2010 we saw Renee encounter Lady Shiva (mother of Cassandra Cain) and the Black Lanterns. She then teams up with Huntress and encounters Zeiss while trying to take down the human trafficking network she encountered while saving the young woman previously. They discover Vandal Savage has been running the network and offers to shut it down if one of them takes The Mark of Cain from him in exchange. Renee accepts the Mark of Cain, ending his reign of terror but leaving her face disfigured.
She learns to suppress The Mark of Cain using her mental willpower in Batman Inc. where Batman sends her to Paris and she is brainwashed in order to infiltrate the Golden Portal. Using the metal will powers she has developed and things she has learned along the way she is able to resist the brainwashing and help bring down the Golden Portal.
Renee makes a few appearances here and there after that in different storylines and comics. When Wonder Woman takes on aliens that attack Washington D.C., The Question teams up with Batwoman and a team of superheroines to save everyone. In the 2011 reboot of The New 52, she appears in an image on the GCPD’s Wall of Honor. Then she appeared in Detective Comics #41, as Harvey Bullock’s new partner, and made appearances throughout the series slowly rebuilding her relationship with Kate Kane. The two eventually became a couple again in the final issue of the Rebirth Batwoman series. In July 2019, Montoya debuted as The Question in Lois Lane#1 as a supporting character. As The Question, she also plays a minor role in Event Leviathan, also from 2019.
I have loved learning about the origin story for Renee Montoya and cannot wait to meet her when Rosie Perez portrays her in the new movie “Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” based on the female superhero team Birds of Prey.
Looking for some Harley Quinn DIY fashion? Check out Monica at Popcorner Reviews amazing tutorial to make your own Harley jacket! Click here…
About the movie “Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)”
You ever hear the one about the cop, the songbird, the psycho and the mafia princess? “Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” is a twisted tale told by Harley herself, as only Harley can tell it. When Gotham’s most nefariously narcissistic villain, Roman Sionis, and his zealous right-hand, Zsasz, put a target on a young girl named Cass, the city is turned upside down looking for her. Harley, Huntress, Black Canary and Renee Montoya’s paths collide, and the unlikely foursome have no choice but to team up to take Roman down.
In the Warner Bros. Pictures film, Margot Robbie (“I, Tonya”) returns as Harley Quinn, alongside Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“10 Cloverfield Lane,” TV’s “Fargo”) as Huntress; Jurnee Smollett-Bell (HBO’s “True Blood”) as Black Canary; Rosie Perez (“Fearless,” “Pitch Perfect 2”) as Renee Montoya; Chris Messina (“Argo,” TV’s “Sharp Objects”) as Victor Zsasz; and Ewan McGregor (upcoming “Doctor Sleep,” the “Trainspotting” films) as Roman Sionis. Newcomer Ella Jay Basco also stars as Cassandra “Cass” Cain in her feature film debut.
Directed by Cathy Yan (“Dead Pigs”) from a script by Christina Hodson (“Bumblebee”), the film is based on characters from DC. Robbie also produced, alongside Bryan Unkeless and Sue Kroll. The film’s executive producers are Walter Hamada, Galen Vaisman, Geoff Johns, Hans Ritter and David Ayer.
Joining Yan behind the scenes was a creative team comprised of director of photography Matthew Libatique (“A Star Is Born,” “Venom”); production designer K.K. Barrett (“Her”); editor Jay Cassidy (“American Hustle,” “Silver Linings Playbook”) and editor Evan Schiff (“John Wick Chapters 2 & 3”); and costume designer Erin Benach (“A Star Is Born”). The music is by Daniel Pemberton (“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”).
Warner Bros. Pictures Presents a LuckyChap Entertainment Production, a Clubhouse Pictures Production, a Kroll & Co. Entertainment Production, “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).”.
In theaters February 7, 2020 (Rated R)
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