Prior to her appearance in Justice League Unlimited, the Helena Bertinelli version of the Huntress did actually appear in the Batman: the Animated Series comics. In the story Duty of the Huntress in issue 19 of Batman and Robin Adventures to be exact.
Her story differs here than in her later DCAU or even comicbook appearances, in that while her in her other versions she was orphaned as a child, her Helena’s family was killed when she was a young adult.
Similarly, while the regular comicbook version could be somewhat oblique about what her father would be getting up to in his “day job” (or flat out ignored in the JLU version), this version of the Huntress combined getting revenge for her family’s murder with dismantling her father’s various criminal enterprises one at a time with the information in her father’s journal.
Batman, discovering her rather inefficient crimefighting methods, tells her to just give the journal to the Grand Jury (after giving some of the information he got from skimming the book while Helena slept to Commissioner Gordon)… Which basically means that her entire superhero career is effectively over in one issue, due to Batman taking the choice out of her hands and taking down her father’s syndicate in one night with the GCPD.
…Can’t really argue with the results, though I can’t exactly say that it was a good move from a character perspective. Although I don’t think that they were intending her to be a reoccurring character, so I guess it made sense to wrap up her story in the same issue she appeared in.
I agree with you that it’s a pretty awful story, but you’re painting kind of a weak picture of Helena Bertinelli here, so here are some small notes on what you wrote.
Well the story in here is resembling her very first appearance in Huntress #1 (1989) where she’s from New York and her family gets murdered when she’s 19.
Also, her father’s job was always stated as a mafia capo. Even in JLU, while I forgot if they actually said he was a member of the mafia, it was heavily implied.
Batman is angry that she’s not concerned about using lethal methods and not following his methods like the rest of the superheroes operating in Gotham. It’s not that she was inefficient, it was that he was mad that she wasn’t following his rules. Also, in this issue, they make Tim fight against Helena, rather than to be the first Batfam person who trusted her and respected her. So they destroyed that relationship.
Her career is not over, however, if you read until the end of the issue, you see Helena saying that she now has to make up for her father’s legacy and she has a new duty. Which probably meant continuing as Huntress and protecting Gotham, despite the fact that they might have not intended to bring her back in this specific series.
It’s a very weak origin story for Helena. However it was only based upon her first two origin stories, since this came out before Cry for Blood where her family was murdered when she was 8. Even though her story was never continued in the Batman and Robin Adventures, it was nice to see her included in the DCAU.