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Who are DC's Birds of Prey? A look at the team as its movie casts Huntress, Black Canary

The female superteam is due to get a movie in 2020, but the squad's been around since 1996.

Birds of Prey will hit theaters on Feb. 7, 2020, Warner Bros said Monday, bringing another DC superteam to the silver screen. 

Mary Elizabeth Winstead has been cast as Huntress and Jurnee Smollett-Bell will play Black Canary, Deadline reported on Wednesday, while Justina Machado and Roberta Colindrez are among the actors contending for the role of Renee Montoya.

This all-female group isn't quite as famous as the Justice League, so let's take a quick look at its 22-year history and who these characters are.

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Huntress, Black Canary and Batgirl are the trio most associated with Birds of Prey.

DC Comics

Comic book origins

It began as a team-up between then-former Batgirl Barbara Gordon (aka Oracle) and Dinah Lance (aka Black Canary) in Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey, a 1996 one-shot by writer Chuck Dixon and artist Gary Frank. The idea was conceived by Jordan B. Gorfinkel.

Barbara, the daughter of Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon, had been shot and paralyzed by the Joker in the iconic graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke (from writer Alan Moore and artist Brian Bolland), but she took on the Oracle identity to provide intel and other technical backup to Batman and her other allies.

Black Canary is a martial artist with the power to emit a high-powered sonic scream known as a "canary cry."

In 2003, writer Gail Simone brought Helena Bertinelli (aka Huntress) into the team, giving the squad its most iconic trio. (A healed Barbara would later suit up as Batgirl again.) The team's most recent series, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, wrapped up in May.

TV show

The movie won't be this team's first live-action appearance, but it's highly likely you missed its short-lived TV show. It was set in a Gotham City that was abandoned by Batman, forcing the trio to protect it in his place.

Birds of Prey ran for 13 episodes on The WB in 2002 and 2003. Oracle was played by Dina Meyer. Ashley Scott portrayed Huntress (here known as Helena Kyle, the daughter of Batman and Catwoman). Rachel Skarsten played Black Canary.

The show's main villain was Harley Quinn (played by Mia Sara of Ferris Bueller's Day Off), who poses as Helena's psychiatrist and tries to discover her secrets as she works to avenge an incarcerated Joker.

Movie

The movie will reportedly be directed by Cathy Yan and feature Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn (presumably in an antihero or villainous role). Christina Hodson is penning the scripts for Birds of Prey and a solo Batgirl movie.

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Orphan (seen below Batman) once used the Batgirl name.

DC Comics

Rumor has it that it'll include Orphan and Renee Montoya, both of whom have long histories in DC Comics.

Orphan's civilian name is Cassandra Cain, and she first appeared in 1999's Batman No. 567, having been created by writer Kelley Puckett and artist Damion Scott. She's the daughter of two assassins who became an agent of Oracle and later inherited the Batgirl identity. She took the name "Orphan" after the death of her father, who'd used it.

Montoya was created by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and Mitch Brian for Batman: The Animated Series and introduced to the comics in Batman No. 475 in 1992.

She starts out as a detective from the Gotham City Police Department, later inheriting the role of the masked detective known as The Question. Since then, she's been returned to her original role in the GCPD, as the partner of Harvey Bullock.

Black Mask is rumored to be the movie's big bad guy. He was created in 1985 by writer Doug Moench and artist Tom Mandrake for his debut in Batman No. 386 and is among the Dark Knight's most unpleasant villains.

The masked crime boss, whose real name is Roman Sionis, is among Gotham's most powerful, and he just loves to torture people. If the rumors pan out, the movie will be his first live-action appearance.

Wednesday's casting represents a major step for the the project, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead told TheWrap that her training to play Huntress would include learning to use a bow and arrow

"It's really exciting, and even the process of going through getting the role and everything was a very different experience than I've typically been through," she said. "Being with the other actresses and a female director and just the whole energy behind this is so unique, so I'm really happy about that."

That's all we know about Birds of Prey so far, but we'll update as more details become available.

In other DC Extended Universe news, Aquaman director James Wan recently revealed the basics of that movie's plot.

First published on Sept. 25 at 11:19 a.m. PT.
Updated on Sept. 28, 8:01 a.m. PT: Adds casting details, quotes from Winstead.