Secret Origins: Huntress and Sportsmaster: The Games People Play, Chapter 3: Role-Playing

by Martin Maenza, partially adapted from Batman Family #7 by Elliot S! Maggin and Curt Swan

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April, 1981:

Near a group of pyramid-shaped Aztec ruins in an isolated valley in the lush jungles of Mexico, the heroic duo of Batgirl and Robin found themselves as reluctant competitors in a series of challenges. The Huntress had ensnared the dominoed daredoll in an elaborate trap in Washington, D.C., and abducted the woman. The Teen Wonder had followed the clues, only to find airline tickets to Hidalgo, Mexico. He was forced to take that flight if he wanted to see Batgirl again. After stopping a hijacker who was working for the villains, Robin parachuted down to where the plane was going to forced to land. Another trap, and he, too, awoke in a large arena.

The Sportsmaster, dressed in a purple fencing outfit with mask, stood on a large flying platform with his wife by his side. “The bands on your wrists are explosives–” he explained, “–which I will detonate the moment one of you scores thirteen points or more! However — only the winner will be blown up!”

The first of the gladiatorial games was an ancient chariot race, where the winner would be awarded six points.

At the opening gunshot, Robin and Batgirl each charged their team of horses forward. Despite not knowing why the villains had chosen them for their amusement, Robin was bound and determined to protect his occasional partner in crime-fighting. I’d better make sure I reach thirteen points and the lady doesn’t… he thought, …even if I have to cheat — by splintering her spokes with a trick I saw in an old movie! Using this old trick, the sharp axle of his wheel splintered the spokes of those on Batgirl’s wheel. Just as he’d hoped, the heroine leaped to safety before her chariot careened out of control.

Six points for Robin!” the Sportsmaster announced.

The next competition was archery. So far, the pair was evenly matched as they shot arrow for arrow at red and white targets down the field. It was time for their fourth and final shafts. There’s just the glimmer of a chance I’ll be able to hit Robin’s arrow away with my own! Batgirl thought. Indeed, her own arrow collided with his, causing Robin’s to veer off-course.

Batgirl’s arrow, meanwhile, bound right back toward her target. “Six points for Batgirl!” the Huntress said.

“Nice shooting there, red,” Robin said. “You been seeing Speedy on the side?”

“Not likely,” Batgirl said with a smile, trying to cut down the tenseness of the situation.

The next competition was fencing. Both heroes were equally matched in the use of the foil, and the competition proceeded neither scoring a point on the other. The Huntress leaned into her husband and whispered, “I think they’re trying to stall for time.”

“Agreed,” the Sportsmaster said, nodding. Turning to the competitors, he said, “you’ve fenced to a standstill — three points for each of you! You are both tied at nine each, but you can’t tie on the final event… which starts at the apex of this pyramid!” He gestured toward the stone steps, and the heroes complied, heading in that direction and up the steps of the pyramid.

“I, uh — placed a worthless bauble — a shiny red trinket — at the bottom of this tunnel through the pyramid!” the Sportsmaster lied as the heroes looked down the dark square opening in the floor. “The one who uses gymnastic skills to bring it back first, has won — and saved — the other’s life!”

Without another word, the two heroes dived into the darkened, sixty-foot-deep pit.

“See?” the Sportsmaster said. “I knew we could trick those saps into retrieving the ruby for us! You’re always shooting down my ideas without giving them a chance!”

“I hope you’re right,” the Huntress replied. “If you’re not, I’ll personally throw you down that hole myself!”

A few minutes later, a lone batarang with a rope attached to it flew up out of the hole and wrapped around a nearby post. “Now to see how our pawns did!” said the Sportsmaster, and he and his wife watched as Robin emerged from the opening, the large ruby in hand. “Congratulations, Robin!” the Sportsmaster said. “Er — where’s your friend?

Batgirl’s behind me… but not far…” said Robin.

“You won’t be around to greet her, fella!” the villain said threateningly, holding his thumb over the remote detonator. “Now roll the rock down the pyramid and take your medicine!”

“So you can sell this ‘worthless bauble’ and destroy the evidence?” he countered. “Dream on!” He held the rock over the pit. “You blow that wrist-explosive and this rock goes back where it came from!”

The Huntress snarled. “He knows! He figured out we couldn’t get the Camay without their athletic skill!” She leaped off the platform toward the prize. “Now I’ll end this harebrained scheme of yours the right way, you–”

But before the Huntress could reach the ground or even finish her sentence, Batgirl flipped out of the pit and tackled her. “Don’t call your husband names… with Robin around!” the heroine said. “His delicate ears can’t take it!”

Robin, meanwhile, tried to pitch the ruby at the explosive gizmo that the Sportsmaster held in his hands, hoping to eliminate that option. Using a jai-alai scoop, the villain tried to catch the rock instead, but fell short. Batgirl pushed the Huntress aside as they tumbled down the stone steps, did a dive out to catch the falling ruby, and executed a perfect flip to land on her feet. She tossed the ruby to Robin, who dodged as the Sportsmaster whizzed past him on the flying platform. He then tossed the ruby gently to the grassy ground.

Both villains, now on the ground as well, dived after the bouncing bauble. Focusing now only on the priceless red rock ambling across the grass, all they felt was their greed, and all they thought about was their triumph.

At the last second, before either could touch the stone, both were cut short of the prize by well-thrown ropes. With his hands tied, the Sportsmaster quickly fell to Robin’s punch to the jaw. And with her feet already ensnared, the Huntress was easily trussed up like a prize steer at the rodeo by Batgirl. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Thirteen Points to a Dead End,” Batman Family #7 (September-October, 1976).]


“I see,” Dr. Harleen Quinzel said. “Was that when you started in on your costumed crime careers?”

“We’d been active as the Huntress and Sportsmaster for a few years prior to that,” Paula explained. “We tended to travel around quite a bit, committing crimes in various countries. We avoided the costumed heroes when we could help it.”

“Back to your ballgame for a second,” Harleen said. “Since your husband lost the bet, did you give up crime and switch to the side of angels?”

Paula was about to answer when Crusher interjected. “She considered it, but I talked her out of it! If she’d done that, it would’a compromised our marriage entirely. Then I would’a had to kill her!”

“OK,” Harleen said, jotting down some notes. “So, how did you come up with those two particular identities, then?”

Crusher let out a short burst of a laugh. “Hah,” he said. “This might be hard to believe, but we took the names from some comic-books.”

Comic-books?” Harleen asked. “How so?”

“Well, it goes back to when we were kids,” Paula started to explain.


The summer of 1965:

In a small, makeshift fort consisting of three varying sides of plywood nailed to a couple of trees with a partially open roof, a trio of children chatted loudly on this sunny, warm day.

“I got some new baseball cards the other day,” the red-haired youth said as he pulled a pile of colorful cardboard from his back pocket. “I only need a couple more to complete my Metros lineup. Anyone wanna trade?”

The brunette girl dived across the ground, kicking up dirt, as she cupped her hands over something that had moved near the bushes. “Gotcha!” she said as she brought her hands together. “Wanna see?” She opened her hands enough to show the boys the small lizard she’d just caught.

“Eeww,” said the brown-haired boy as he recoiled back. A small key from his front pocket fell into the dirt, thanks to his squirming.

“You and your pets,” the red-haired boy sneered. “What is it with you?”

The girl got a wicked look in her eye. “Here!” she said as she tossed the captive reptile into the air.

It landed in the red-haired boy’s long, wavy hair. “Hey!” he exclaimed. “Watch it!” He started to flail his hands about his head to get the creature off of him.

The girl laughed loudly. “You should see how stupid you look! Ha-ha-ha!” She noticed the key that the other boy had dropped, and scooped it up, pocketing it quickly. Neither boy saw her do it. The brown-haired boy rustled through his worn backpack. “Say, Timmy! What’cha got there?”

“Oh, nothing,” Timmy Thomas said defensively.

“Well, let me see nothing!” the girl said as she snatched the bag. She opened the zipper wide to reveal the contents. “Comic-books? Big whoop!”

“Who wants to spend summer vacation reading?” the red-haired boy said.

“These aren’t just any comics,” Timmy said as he snatched his bag back. He pulled out a couple of the books that were a bit worn, their spines bent from many readings, and the covers slightly dog-eared in the corners. “They’re old ones. Got ’em from my aunt. They belonged to my cousin Roy. She was gonna throw them out, but gave them to me instead. I thought it might be fun to play out some of the stories in these.”

The girl looked at one of the titles — Sensation Comics. “I don’t want to be Wonder Woman,” she stated.

Timmy flipped the book open to one of the secondary stories. “That’s fine,” he said. “We could play out this one here. I could be Wildcat, and you could be his enemy, the Huntress. See?

As she glanced at the pages, the girl let out an interested, “Hmmm…”

“So who do I get to be?” the red-haired boy asked.

“You could be Starman or somebody like that,” Timmy said. “Or maybe a henchman.”

The red-haired boy grabbed one of the other books, one titled All-American Comics. “Nah, I wanna be someone cool!” he said, flipping through the pages of a Green Lantern story. “There!” He pointed to one of the panels. “I wanna be this guy — the Sportsmaster!”

And so, for the rest of the day and the next few, the three older children acted out various scenarios as characters from the comics.


“I see,” Dr. Harleen Quinzel said. She noted to herself that role-playing was a normal activity that children often engaged in, and that sometimes what children envisioned themselves doing as a child later manifested itself in their career choices as grown ups. “I can see that. But tell me, what happened to this Timmy Thomas? Did you all continue to go through school together?”

Crusher turned to his wife, and their facial expressions seemed to carry on a silent conversation all their own. Finally, Crusher nodded to her and turned to the psychologist. “Well, as we grew older, the three of us grew apart,” he said. “By the time we all got to high school, the two of us were hanging in a different crowd than Timmy.”

“I’d like to hear more about that,” Harleen said.

Crusher continued the tale.

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