Black Canary

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Black Canary is a Legacy Character crime-fighter, most famous for her leather and fishnets costume, who fights evil with her mastery of multiple martial arts and an ultrasonic scream capable of various effects from rendering people unconscious to demolishing robots and buildings.

Black Canary was created by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Carmine Infantino. She first appeared as a supporting character in Flash Comics #86 (August 1947) where she was seemingly a villain plotting against Johnny Thunder. However, it was quickly revealed that she was actually a hero working undercover to expose criminals. Black Canary became something of a sidekick to Johnny Thunder for several stories, using her superior fighting skills to save the well-meaning but bumbling hero from danger.

By the end of the year, Black Canary proved to be more popular than Johnny Thunder, and his back-up feature became hers in Flash Comics #92 (February, 1948). It was here that her Secret Identity was finally revealed, as was the meaning of her Code Name. Dinah Drake was a raven-haired florist, who used a blond wig and flashy costume as a disguise while fighting crime in her native Gotham City. Her path frequently crossed that of her boyfriend, private detective Larry Lance. She also joined the Justice Society of America and continued to be a part of that team even after their adventures ceased publication in 1951, at the end of The Golden Age of Comic Books.

In The Silver Age of Comic Books, Black Canary was revived in 1963 as part of some of the first Crisis Crossover stories in comics history. The Justice League of America and Justice Society of America — two similar groups belonging to two similar Earths — would join forces to face threats to both their realities. It was during one of these adventures that Larry Lance (whom Dinah Drake had married sometime in the 1950s) gave his life to save Dinah's. Desiring a fresh start, Dinah decided to leave her home-dimension behind to start over on Earth-One. She joined the Justice League of America and — for reasons involving her exposure to cosmic radiation — developed a sonic scream super power a.k.a. "The Canary Cry".

In the early days of The Bronze Age of Comic Books, Black Canary began dating fellow JLA member Oliver Queen a.k.a. Green Arrow. She was a regular part of his adventures with Green Lantern and was developed by writer Dennis O'Neil into a more proactive, feminist character — one who ran her own business, had her own solo adventures and chided Green Arrow for his possessive attitude and referring to her as "his girl". Indeed, she was so much a part of Green Arrow's life that she became a foster mother to his sidekick, Roy Harper a.k.a. Speedy, and it was she who got Roy treatment for his heroin addiction during the infamous My ward Speedy is a junkie?!" incident.

Toward the end of The Bronze Age of Comic Books, in an effort to explain why Dinah Drake didn't appear to be a day over 30 despite being well into her 60s, a Retcon in Justice League of America revealed that the Black Canary we'd been seeing since the end of the Silver Age wasn't Dinah Drake but was actually her daughter, Dinah Laurel Lance!

An Earth-Two Super Villain called The Wizard used his powers to curse the infant Dinah with an uncontrollable scream (yes, yes... A Wizard Did It) and Black Canary asked her old friend Johnny Thunder to use his magical genie pal The Thunderbolt to end the curse. The Thunderbolt was unable to break the spell, but was able to place the infant Dinah in a sort of Suspended Animation in his home dimension until such time as a cure could be found. Years later, during the Crisis Crossover that killed her husband, Dinah Drake was critically injured by the radiation and The Thunderbolt then used his magic to put Dinah Drake's memories in the still-sleeping-but-now-adult body of her daughter (which had since then learned how to adapt to the once uncontrollable scream) and erase everyone else's memories so they wouldn't remember what happened.

This confusing and creepy chain of events would be Ret Conned again not too long after Crisis on Infinite Earths. Now, the Lance family had a relatively normal life together, with the elder Dinah still working as a florist in her Secret Identity and Larry still a private eye. Dinah Drake was also given further motivation for having chosen the path of the vigilante, having tried and failed to follow in the footsteps of her cop father, thanks to the then rampant sexism and corruption of the Gotham City Police Department. But the greatest changes were reserved for the Dinah Laurel Lance who was now a founding member of the Justice League of America and whose sonic super powers were now the result a mutation — a third vocal cord.

As The Dark Age of Comic Books opened, Dinah was still a member of the Justice League, now Justice League International. She briefly adopted a new "modern" costume which was quickly abandoned and is widely regard as being an embarrassment — both by the character and by the artist who designed the costume!

She was still dating Green Arrow, though their difference in ages was reversed, with a 30-something Oliver Queen having started dating a college-age Dinah Lance several years earlier. For most of this period, she was a supporting character in Mike Grell's Mature-Readers Green Arrow book, where — in an effort to limit the usual Superhero elements of comic books and create a more grounded, realistic story — Grell removed Dinah's Canary Cry in The Longbow Hunters following an extended torture session. She would later dump Green Arrow and - for a time - disappeared into Comic Book Limbo.

Thankfully, she would return with a vengeance before The Dark Age of Comic Books was over. In 1996, Dinah Lance abandoned her fishnets and wig in favor of shorter hair, a dye job and a Kevlar leotard as one-half of the original Birds of Prey team - the brawn to the brain of Oracle (a.k.a. former Batgirl Barbara Gordon. Conceived by editor Jordan B. Gorfinkel and written by Chuck Dixon, the two would headline a number of mini-series, eventually being given their only monthly title in 1999. At about the same time, a new monthly Justice Society of America title started, simply called JSA, which also featured Black Canary as a member.

Over the next ten years, Black Canary would come to take a more prominent role in The DCU at large. She regained her superpowers after exposure to the alchemical Lazarus Pit (her boyfriend at the time turned out to be the immortal terrorist Ra's Al Ghul) and it healed her injured vocal cords. Shortly after that, she began dating Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) again following his return from the dead. The two would eventually marry and begin to share a title together several years later.

Most agree that it was in 2003 when Gail Simone took over the writing duties on Birds of Prey that Black Canary really began to achieve her full potential as a character. She became the field commander of an expanding Birds of Prey team. She continued her martial arts training, becoming a warrior worthy of the respect of Lady Shiva - one of the greatest martial artists and certainly the deadliest assassin in The DCU. Dinah also acted as a trainer to a number of young heroines and briefly tried to care for Sin - a young girl being trained by the League of Assassins to be their next great warrior. It was also during this period that she rejoined the Justice League of America and become their official team leader.

Things haven taken a dark turn for Black Canary's life recently. Following the events of the Justice League: Cry For Justice mini-series, she seems to have cut ties completely with her adopted family. She is estranged from her husband, having returned her wedding ring. At this time, it is unclear if she has filed for divorce. She has also apparently washed her hands of responsibility for Roy Harper, who recently returned to heroin use following the loss of an arm and the death of his daughter Lian in the Rise of Arsenal mini-series. The one bright side to all of this, from the fan perspective at least, was that Black Canary was now free to star in a new Birds of Prey series written by Gail Simone.

Sadly, this did not last and Birds of Prey was rebooted as part of DC Comics'{New52} line in September 2011, with the team now focusing on Dinah leading a team of anti-heroines while trying to prove herself innocent of a murder charge.

The most familiar version of Black Canary to television viewers is probably the Smallville version, where she was introduced as a conservative radio host in her Secret Identity and a Lex Luthor minion in costume, recruited to stop the "terrorist" activities of Green Arrow. She eventually saw the light and joined the fledgling Justice League.

Alternately, Black Canary was a major, if secondary, character in the Justice League Unlimited animated series, where she was voiced by Morena Baccarin (a.k.a. Inara from Firefly). Appearing without a voice several times in the first season as an object of Green Arrow's attraction, her first speaking role came in the Season Two opener The Cat and the Canary. Black Canary's character in the three episodes she appeared in seemed very close to her portrayal in Birds of Prey, which is not surprising considering that one of these episodes ("Double Date") was written by Gail Simone.

Black Canary has also shown up several times in Batman the Brave And The Bold, where she is voiced by Grey DeLisle. She had starring roles in "Mayhem of the Music Meister!" and "The Golden Age of Justice!", and had a lead role in "The Mask of Matches Malone!", which features an approximation of the Birds of Prey and was written by Gail Simone.

The character also appears regularly in Young Justice, voiced by Vanessa Marshall, as one of three main mentors and chief combat trainer for the Team, and turned up in the last minute or so of the Green Arrow animated short, where she essentially saved the day. Her prominence in both works is unsurprising given the involvement of Greg Weisman, who has readily admitted that Dinah is his favorite comic book character.

In early 2012, it was announced that The CW would be producing a pilot based on several of the Green Arrow characters called Arrow. While Dinah Lance is a character in the script, there is no indication that she has super powers or martial arts training, prompting fears that she will once again be a regular Damsel in Distress for Green Arrow to save.


Tropes seen involving this character include:[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Aborted Arc: Dwayne McDuffie initially had plans of Dinah going through confidence issues during his Justice League of America run, only for her to develop into a determined leader. Unfortunately, McDuffie was pulled from the title and the next writer decided to ignore most of McDuffie's storylines leaving Dinah OOC.
  • Action Girl: When written properly, Dinah is one of the best in The DCU.
  • Animal-Themed Superbeing: A type II "Animal Alias" variation.
  • Badass Abnormal: Dinah Drake, when she was originally given the Canary Cry. Dinah Lance also qualifies, with a lot of attention being paid to her formidable martial arts skills in close combat confrontations where the Canary Cry would do too much damage to be ethical.
  • Badass Biker: Both mother and daughter.
  • Badass Family: The second is the daughter of the first. The second is also considered to be a part of the Arrow family.
  • Badass Normal: Dinah Drake, who earned JSA Membership with no special powers whatsoever.
    • Dinah Lance, when she didn't have powers, also qualified.
  • Balls of Steel: In the Black Canary / Green Arrow wedding issue, Canary manages to land a kick on Deathstroke, but this trope is used as he angrily says that he's wearing over 50 pounds of body armor, so of course he's wearing a cup.
  • Battle Couple: Green Arrow and Black Canary.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: One possible use for The Canary Cry.
  • Bi the Way: Word of Simone is that she considers Dinah bisexual, and the infamous "Heterosexual to the bone" line was supposed to read "75% heterosexual" before placeholder dialog wound up in the final issue and changed the line from what she wanted, and was caused by simple confusion rather than Executive Meddling and Gay Panic.
  • Birds of Prey: Founding Member.
  • Blonde Republican Sex Kitten: Black Canary on Smallville.
  • Bound and Gagged: One of the few ways to effectively deal with Black Canary. She can easily cripple a man with one limb or her mouth free.
  • Brains and Brawn: She's the Brawn when paired with Oracle.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Andrew Kreisberg's above-mentioned Retcon of Dinah Lance's origin and Dinah Drake's feelings about her life as a superheroine had been steadily ignored by every writer to touch the character since.
  • Captain Ersatz: Dinah has inspired quite a few of these.
  • Chickification: Occurred under the pens of Judd Winick and Andrew Kreisberg.
  • Clark Kenting: A blonde wig really isn't that effective of a disguise, and later on she even ditches the wig and just dyes her hair blonde.
  • Color Character
  • Combat Stilettos: Very much a part of the original costume, the modern Black Canary has thankfully stuck to more sensible flat boots for the most part, although she is sometimes still drawn with them.
  • Depending on the Artist: Flats vs heels, cleavage vs no cleavage, jacket vs no jacket vs bolero jacket vs longcoat.
  • Depending on the Writer: Black Canary's level of competence.
  • Did Not Do the Research: Andrew Kreisberg's retelling of Dinah Lance's origin in Green Arrow/Black Canary. It was fairly apparent that Kreisberg hadn't even read even a summary of the character's background, much less the fairly recent Birds of Prey stories which established Dinah as being aware of her mother's double life as the original Black Canary.
    • Most fans were not amused that Dinah Drake was depicted as having quit superheroics to become a housewife or that she was ashamed of having been a superhero and hid that part of herself from her daughter. They were also less than pleased that the elder Dinah - who had worked with numerous superheroes during her time with the Justice Society of America - was horrified at the idea of her daughter being "a freak" (i.e. having super powers) or that she would call in one of the few non-powered members of the JSA (i.e Wildcat) to try and help her daughter get control of her powers.
    • The younger Dinah didn't fare much better in the above story, having been given a tragic background where she accidentally deafened her first love when she lost control of her powers. What is worse, she never took the initiative to start training on her own and take up her mother's name until Wildcat suggested it. Yes, you read that right - it never occurred to one of the most proactive Feminist heroines in The DCU to become a superhero like her mom until a man suggested it.
  • Domino Mask: Dinah Drake's original costume had one, but it was abandoned early on.
  • Dye Hard: Since the start of Birds of Prey, Dinah has dyed her hair blonde rather than use a wig.
  • Expy: Silk Spectre from Watchmen was one for Black Canary. While primarily based on the old Charlton Comics heroine Nightshade, Alan Moore said that he took the idea of a mother/daughter superheroine legacy from Black Canary and based the younger Silk Spectre's name (Laurie) off of the younger Black Canary's middle name (Laurel).
  • Fan Service: The Fishnets. Dear gods, The Fishnets.
  • Faux Action Girl: Black Canary at her lowest points.
  • Fights Like a Normal: She very rarely actually uses her sonic ability.
  • Gail Simone: One of the few writers it is generally agreed can write Dinah well.
  • Girls Need Role Models: Thanks to Birds of Prey and Gail Simone, probably one of the best and most recognized ones in The DCU today.
    • In universe, Dinah acted as a mentor and martial-arts trainer to several other heroines - most notably Barbara Gordon (the first Batgirl), Stephanie Brown (the current Batgirl) and a three-year-old Lian Harper.

Dinah: "Lian, honey. Show Mr. Savage the finger trick Auntie Dinah taught you."
Lian: "Now?"
Dinah: "Now."
* Lian proceeds to snap Vandal Savage's thumb*

  • Groin Attack: One of Black Canary's favorite moves. Cheap, but effective.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: Inverted with her and Green Arrow.
  • Irony as She Is Cast: In an episode of the Brave and the Bold cartoon, Catwoman mockingly says that Black Canary being gagged is a good thing, as she apparently has a lousy singing voice. In real life, her voice-over actress, Grey DeLisle, is a professional singer.
  • It's All Junk: In Action Comics #609, Black Canary burns her (admittedly ugly) Eighties costume. Oddly, the costume had been established previously as fireproof.
  • Judd Winick: Writer on Green Arrow/Black Canary. Widely considered to be a prime example of Did Not Do the Research, regarding Dinah's character and background before he attempted to write her.
  • Kid Sidekick: Sin.
  • Legacy Hero: Golden Age heroine Dinah Drake begets Modern Age heroine Dinah Laurel Lance.
  • Mama Bear: Dinah has a soft spot for children in general and will give extra helpings of pain to anyone responsible for endangering or harming them. But that's nothing compared to what she did and was ready to do for the League of Assassins members responsible for kidnapping her adopted daughter Sin.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: The Canary Cry practically makes her The Trope Namer. As it is, her picture is next to the definition.
  • Master Poisoner: Stinger, who was able to deliver a dose of curare exact enough to paralyse Black Canary's vocal cords without doing any additional harm to her.
  • Mrs. Robinson: When originally dating Green Arrow, she was the older of the two. She was a cougar before they had a word for it!
    • On that note, it was highly implied that she had a one night stand with The Ray.
  • Ms. Fanservice
  • Not Wearing Tights: The Mike Grell run of Green Arrow.
  • Official Couple: Green Arrow and Black Canary.
  • Old Master: In the Young Justice animated TV series, she's the team's official combat trainer. Old only relative to the teenaged heroes, of course; Word of God puts her at 24 in that universe.
  • Retcon: Used to create the two separate Black Canaries.
    • Also used to great effect in Birds of Prey, by Gail Simone, to establish the origin of Dinah Laurel Lance's middle name and to give Dinah Drake a proto-Oracle sidekick in the form of Laurel - a librarian who helped the first Black Canary in a manner similar to how Barbara "Oracle" Gordon helps the new Black Canary.
  • Secret Identity: Despite abandoning any attempt at a disguise years ago and having a very public wedding to another superhero (whose own Secret Identity was a Millionaire Playboy and former mayor of a major city), Dinah has apparently managed to maintain one.
    • Dinah was outed as Black Canary, as of Birds of Prey Volume 2, #2.
  • She's Got Legs: Damn straight.
  • Stocking Filler: Black Canary
  • Straw Feminist: Depending on the writer, Dinah can come off as one.
  • Very Special Episode: Many of the "Hard Traveling Heroes" storylines from The Bronze Age of Comic Books.
  • Walking Techbane: Very few things intimidate her. Computers are one of them. Considering the company she keeps, this is often played for laughs.
  • Wedding Smashers: Naturally, villains attacked the Black Canary-Green Arrow wedding festivities.
  • We Would Have Told You But: Ollie fakes the death of Sin, Black Canary's adoptive daughter, and has her shipped off to a monastery, without telling Dinah so that her reactions will look natural. Never mind that Dinah's been established to be a better actor than he is.
    • It also didn't help that Dinah - granting that she was under a good deal of stress - was portrayed as being irrational to the point of attacking her comrades when they suggested she needed to hold still for a moment and help them come up with a plan of attack. Ollie's plan wasn't a great one but he never got a chance to run it by Dinah before hand.
  • Women in Refrigerators: In The Longbow Hunters, Black Canary is captured, tortured and depowered solely for the purpose of giving Green Arrow a story-arc where he angsts over killing the men who were torturing her.