Are Black Canaries Even a Real Bird?
Turns out, no, they are not, in fact, real birds.
Welcome back folks! This week we’re taking on another suggestion from gangler52! Fun fact, almost all of their suggestions are animal-themed characters with the word “black” in their name, so, uh… do with that what you will.
Black Canary is a fairly popular character, not quite A or B list but somewhere in between. Like, B+ list, the same sort of limbo that characters like Moon Knight or Firestorm are currently in: not quite well-known enough to be mainstream but beloved enough by fans to make appearances in outside media like cartoons or TV series and the like. Side note: if there isn’t a Moon Knight Netflix series in the next two years or so, we riot. We riot hard. Returning to the point at hand, I guess that what I’m saying is that Black Canary is probably the most well-known character outside of comic fans that I’ve written about in a good while, which is kind of refreshing honestly. As much as I love delving deep into obscure nerdom, every now and then you need something a little more accessible and mainstream. Think of it this way: sure, eating exotic food and caviar and the like is fantastic, but sometimes you just want a big, sloppy pizza. Shit, the pizza doesn’t even have to be that good, it just needs to be a pizza. I think I might be getting a little off message here.
Well, enough about that, I guess. Let’s fake an education in comics!
I Can’t Tell if it’s Weirder For a White Character to Have “Black” in Their Name or for a Black One to have it.
SCENARIO: Barring a situation where you have to name a single superhero with the word “black” in their name that isn’t a black person (seriously, Black Canary is the only one I can think of right now), this time I’m gonna give you all the information you need on one of the best strong female characters in comics. If you need some sort of mirror to hold her up to in order to make her look even better, using her treatment on Arrow ain’t a half bad idea. As a side note, obviously I’m going to be talking about Dinah “Pretty Bird” Lance, because she’s the most popular version of the character, and unless you guys specify if you want me to do some obscure-ass Golden Age version of the character, I’m just gonna do the most popular one. So, uh, whichever one of you suggested Vigilante, have fun reading about the cowboy one, I guess.
Step One: Come to Think of it, Canaries Really Aren’t That Threatening.
Born Laurel Lance, the Black Canary we all know and love is actually the daughter of the original Black Canary, Dinah Lance. Laurel would go on to take the name Dinah as her own, partly to honor her mother but mostly just because that whole bit of her backstory was erased for several years. Reboots are weird, man. Obviously, growing up under both her father, who was a police officer, and her super heroine mother led to Dinah wanting to go into the family business. Luckily for her, her mother was a member of the JSA, so she had all sorts of connections with other superheroes. At the young age of nineteen, she convinced Wildcat, a colleague of her mother’s, to train her in the art of combat, preparing her for a life spent fighting crime on the streets. Basically, she’s like if Silk Spectre were more well-adjusted. A little later on in her life, she would develop her signature Canary Cry, an ultrasonic scream, which pretty much worked out as a happy coincidence with how well it lines up with her name, thematically speaking. Originally, in the super dumb glory days of the Silver Age, her power was the result of a curse from the Wizard, but later on was retconned to simply being a result of the metagene that all humans with natural superpowers in the DCU have. Basically, it’s like DC’s version of the X-Gene, which is kind of bizarre when you think about how well the collective world in the DCU handles that sort of thing in comparison to the uber-racism (geneticism?) that still runs rampant in Marvel.
Shortly after debuting her crime-fighting career in earnest, Dinah would come to be associated with the founding of the Justice League of America, and in fact was the one who coined the name in the first place, seeking to pay homage to the (at the time, at least) defunct Justice Society of America. This is where most of Dinah’s adventures would play out for now, leading up to what may be argued as the most important event of her life: her meeting Oliver Queen, otherwise known as the Green Arrow.
Step Two: Star City Crossed Lovers
These days, most people with two fingers on the pulse of pop culture are aware of the superhero power couple that is Black Canary and Green Arrow, thanks in no small part to ongoing TV show/dumpster fire that is Arrow. But even before the wider exposure granted by Uncle Guggie’s Wild Ride, it was well known amongst most fans, casual or hardcore, that Oliver and Dinah were one of the best couples in comics. And you know what? They really are. In most cases of relationships forming between two already established heroes, we run into an issue of both characters losing most of their original personality in favor of the new relationship dynamic (just like in real life!). However, with Ollie and Dinah, we get the real deal. Two wildly different people who manage to (mostly) work around their differences because that’s just how much they love each other. That’s not to say that they haven’t had their fair share of hardships, after all, Ollie is a notorious playboy with a bit of a fear of commitment, Dinah has very little respect for anyone who goes against her own moral code, and both of them are stubborn as all hell. Needless to say, they’ve split up more than a couple times. Usually because of something Ollie did. In fact, almost every time they split, it was because of Ollie screwing up in some way.
But over the years, we saw both characters grow and grow, overcoming their own faults and becoming better people, people almost worthy of the godhood that is cast so often upon DC heroes. And after weathering so many disasters together, from Dinah’s loss of her powers and her ability to bear children during the Longbow Hunters, to Oliver’s death and resurrection (oddly, Dinah didn’t even know about Ollie’s death until about a week later when someone called the Birds of Prey to let them know.), they became the sort of couple that could weather anything, finally settling down and getting married in 2008.
Of course, comics can’t stay nice, especially with the latest half-baked crossover around the corner poised to ruin everything for everyone, so Cry for Justice pretty much tanked their marriage, albeit with the full impact of the event only really ruining their marriage after Blackest Night. Because who wants one of the most well-received couples in comics to stay together, right? Divorces for everyone!
Step Three: Further Ruining, Plus the Bounce-Back Begins
Of course, Black Canary is no push over, and one measly crossover event wasn’t going to be enough to ruin her character. She’d been a headlining member of the Birds of Prey (as well as one of the only members actually named after a bird), a legacy member of the JSA, and even led the JLA for a time. It would take a lot more than Cry for Justice to slow her stride.
Now a universal reboot, on the other hand…
I shit on the New 52 quite a bit in these articles, huh? Well, a lot of the reason why I do that is exemplified in the treatment of the lesser known characters, but every now and then a big leaguer was affected, and that’s how we got things like post-Flashpoint Dinah Lance. Oh, I’m sorry, Dinah Drake. Because she only gets her real name after marrying some dirtbag named Kurt Lance, a fellow secret agent. Yes, that’s right, instead of being the daughter of a Golden Age heroine who wanted to follow in her footsteps, Dinah became a clandestine agent who grew up on the streets of Gotham City, because why bother doing anything interesting when you can shit out 87 of the same spy character and pray that a handful stick. Also, she owns a dojo that she got from her adoptive father, just to round out that spy girl cliche bingo card.
Working for an organization known as Team 7, Dinah would travel around the world policing metahuman threats, basically betraying all the values that fans of the original character had come to know her for. Apparently world police focus tests better than anti-establishment punk-esque heroes, I guess. Who knew?
After a while, she would leave the organization and join the New 52’s incarnation of the Birds of Prey, leading to what is hands down one of my most-hated comics. From the already poorly conceived reboots of the cast to the poor creative team behind the title, everything converged into a sort of perfect storm. Except instead of rain and lightning, it’s just shit. Just a whooooooooole bunch of shit, flying at wild angles, but generally towards your eyes and mouth. Seriously, do not read this book, not even ironically. I have no real proof, but I can feel in my heart that reading it has made me sterile.
Of course, this didn’t last too long, and eventually, the sun seemed to begin to shine on poor, lost Dinah. Of course, in this instance, the sunrise was caused by DCYou, so it’s more like the sun started to rise, but no one heard about it, so the sun just kinda went “eh, fuck it” and went back down for a little while. But hey, Dinah was back in her actual outfit! And… and in a punk band! Which, while not the most logical choice for the character, is still pretty cool and seeming pandering directly to me, so I’m pretty okay with it, overall. The title itself didn’t really resonate with me all that much beyond that, suffering from many of the same problems that I feel the Batgirl of Burnside suffered from, but that’s a whole other thing. Basically, it felt like it was made by someone who was cool in the 80s trying very hard to be seen as cool today. Great art though, definitely got my attention when it was first coming out.
Now, I know at least one of you is asking where the hell Ollie is in any of this. Well, to put things short, there were a lot of really dumb, unpopular decisions being made at DC headquarters in regards to storytelling for about five years or so, and because of this, Ollie and Dinah had never met in the current timeline. That is, until DC Rebirth came along and pretty much promised to fix almost every single issue that anyone has ever had with DC comics for a while.
Now, Dinah and Ollie are together at last, thanks to the fact that they may or may not remember each other a little bit from the past timeline, which is literally the best answer to this problem that anyone could have come up with, because they get to pick up almost exactly where they were at the best point in their relationship without any sort of dumb drama beyond, you know, dumb comic book stuff. Of course, I’m not going to spoil anything going on with them beyond that, mostly because a lot of it hasn’t really happened yet, thanks to Rebirth still being relatively young.
As long as they don’t introduce a character named Felicity in the Green Arrow comic, it looks like everything’s going great for Dinah now.
Well, that’ll do it for today. I’d love to rant a little bit about how I feel towards her representation on Arrow, but this article is already pretty late, so that’ll have to wait for another time. But for now, I’ll just see you all next time! Same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel!