Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: Impulse #3 (June 1995)
Helen Claiborne had a nice, normal life in Manchester, Alabama (if you didn’t count the abusive ex-husband who liked to walk through his restraining order, that is). She even had what she thought was a budding romance with her new neighbor Max – until she discovered that her seemingly-age-appropriate crush was her father.
See, Max – better known to the world as Max Mercury – had this habit of skidding through time every so often. Years ago, he’d leapt to 1948, where he’d had an affair with the wife of a man who’d saved his life. Wracked with guilt, he time-jumped again to escape the Awkward. It wasn’t until the 90s that he learned that he had a daughter. In a classic “it seemed like a good idea at the time” move, he settled in Manchester with his protegee, Impulse, and went about getting close to Helen without letting her know their true relationship.
That, uh, didn’t work. Helen was angry at first, but eventually decided to let Max into her life, even moving in with him and Impulse and making a little family. She proved to be the voice of extremely sarcastic reason in the Claiborne-Crandall-Allen house, wrangling the hyperactive Impulse and poking holes in Max’s wiser-than-thou facade. She even got to date someone who wasn’t an abusive asshole or secretly her father: the Hot-Yet-Sensitive Dad of one of Bart’s school chums. Score!
When Max disappeared into the Speed Force, Helen disappeared from comics. But I like to imagine Bart still visits. She’s family, after all.
So What’s So Great About Her?
As perhaps befits the daughter of a speedster, Helen is a lady who knows how to take things in stride. (Ha! No, I’m sorry, that was awful.) Her life was not an easy one before Max came on the scene: her parents divorced when she was very young, she never really knew the man she grew up believing was her father, it’s implied that her mother was sad if not outright depressed throughout Helen’s childhood, and then, oh yeah, there’s the whole abusive ex-husband angle. Still, the Helen we meet when Impulse begins is a cheerful, friendly woman who has her life pretty much completely together. (And who is not shy about making romantic overtures. I mean, Max/Helen is obvious gross-me-out-the-door territory, but Helen is super cute with her later boyfriend Matt, and also, how much do I love that a woman nearing 50 is presented as a confident sexual being? So much.)
When she finds out who Max is, Helen is understandably hurt and angry, and lets him know it. But she rallies, because knowing her father is more important to her than holding on to her anger. She quickly learns to cope with living with two superheroes, acting as a surrogate mother to Bart, and supporting him through Max’s 27 or so brushes with death. (Seriously, this series will wreck you. In the best way!) At the same time, though, she doesn’t put up with nonsense from Bart or Max; she’s able to discipline wild child Bart, and she tells Max where to stick it when he gets all “I am the Zen Master of the Speed Force, you wouldn’t understaaaaaaand.” She’s got a sense of humor and a completely chill ‘tude. I basically want to be her when I grow up.
In a world where freaking Wally West is no longer canon (WALLEEEEEEEEEEE D: D: D:), I don’t have high hopes for Helen’s return. I guess I’ll just have to reread Impulse for the 19th time to enjoy her awesomeness. DARN.
Impulse #4, 9, 24, 26-34, 40, 44-54, 56-60, 62, 63, 65-67, 70-76, 78, 80, 83, 84, 86
Flash v2 #142