Female comic-book characters have taken a beating on screen in recent years — and not just in the course of battling the bad guys. Despite big budgets and big stars, the dreary Elektra and the unintentionally campy Catwoman both failed creatively and at the box office.

Television hasn't done much better (at least not since the '70s when Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman was fighting for our rights in her satin tights). Birds of Prey, WB's mangled 2002 adaptation of a DC Comics series about a group of vigilantes, was plagued by cringe-inducing dialogue — "We ruled Gotham's nights and answered to no one but ourselves" — and cheesy special effects.

But on Saturday, June 4, two Birds of Prey characters, Huntress and Black Canary, get another chance on TV, headlining "Double Date," an exceptional episode of Cartoon Network's superhero cavalcade Justice League Unlimited. The script is by Gail Simone, who writes the popular Birds of Prey comic book, and presents the pair as strong, smart, sexy — and even a bit flawed.

That last bit is the key, according to Simone. Without any imperfections, superheroines can end up "a little bit joyless and dour." (And let's be serious: If you're fighting crime wearing fishnet stockings or with your midriff exposed, you probably have some issues.) Justice League producer Bruce Timm does admit that he and his staff have had to fight this "tendency to want to honor the female characters [too much]." Three-dimensional portrayals — even in a 2-D format — are essential. "You want to be PC, but not too PC," Timm says. "They can have feet of clay just like the guys." And if they choose to slide those feet into high heels, well, that's a woman's prerogative.


Justice League Unlimited airs Saturdays at 9 pm/ET on Cartoon Network.