Comics / Spotlight

From Femme Fatale to Bird of Prey


By Hervé St-Louis
September 6, 2002 - 12:12

'Why should all the surprises be on your side?'

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When asked to give a list of female comic book heroines, non comic book readers rarely refer to Black Canary, one of the comic books' world most enduring character. Black Canary was created in 1947 and published in Flash Comics # 76 by DC Comics.

'You have to be a world-class scumbag to stay here'

Black Canary is a mix of Modesty Blaze, Emma Peel and your neighbourhood florist. She lives in Gotham City, where Batman and Robin like to hang out. Traditionally, she is a blond detective and martial art expert dressed in leather and sporting fishnet stockings. There are actually two black canaries, Diana Drake Lance, the mother, and Dinah Laurel Lance, the daughter.

'I was saving this for a rainy day, but you can have it!'

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Black Canary Sr (BC I) started her career in Johnny Thunder's comic strip as a femme fatale cat burglar where she stole loot from other crooks. Thunder, a clueless but lucky all around American, foiled her schemes and returned the stolen goods, accidentally.

'I want to look into his eyes while I'm kicking his a--'

In the next few adventures of the comic strip, BC I returned to visit Thunder. It was then revealed that she was a heroine who acted as a thief to get closer to villains. The local police force had rejected her application because of her sex. Instead Miss Drake chose to maintained a florist shop during the day and fight crime at night. She would eventually help Thunder in many cases until she expelled him from his own comic strip and took over in Flash Comics # 92.

'I knew this audition wasn't legit'

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Thunder later introduced BC I to the famed super hero team, the Justice Society of America (JSA). Again, being the perfect gentleman, he gave the lady his spot in that feature. Considering the amount of comic book characters then, this was quite a feat. Besides the original Wonder Woman, Black Canary Sr was the only woman fighting with the Flash, the Green Lantern and Superman in the JSA. She continued opposing villains like Solomon Grundy and the Ultra Humanite until her feature and the JSA's were cancelled in 1951.

'You're the kind of guy I love to be with but who's all wrong for me'

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Black Canary Sr later returned along with the Justice Society to meet the new Justice League of America (JLA), the modern counterpart of the old super heroes. Against her mother's will, Black Canary Jr (BC II) followed the former's footsteps and became a super heroine. She even joined the JLA. There, she met the Green Arrow, a modern Robin Hood who became her lover for many years.

'Dinah Lance. Known to all the wrong people as the Black Canary'

At first, Black Canary Jr used her mother's uniform. She exhibited a quirky power known to fans as the "canary cry." It was a sonic scream that could shatter walls and disorient any opponent.

'No one liners guys'

While her mother died tragically of cancer, the modern Black Canary has faced many hardships that mirrored the maturity, evolution, and the uneven treatments of women in many modern comic books. In the late 1980s, BC II was beaten and tortured only to be saved by her long time fiancé, Green Arrow.

'Charity needs it more than I do!'

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After years of recovery from her wounds, the loss of her famed power and her sterility, BC II eventually bounced back within her first individual mini series and then her own ongoing periodical. In that series, she tackled social issues such as poverty, racism, and drugs. Unfortunately, as often happens with ongoing series headed by women, it was cancelled.

'I'm not gonna be like my mom at all. I'm gonna be single for the rest of my life–'

By that time, she had already broken up with her fiancé Green Arrow, quit the JLA, gave up on her mother's flower shop and roamed the American Midwest in a convertible in search of adventure and guidance.

'We'll talk later. First day on my new job'

Black Canary was given a chance to reorganize her life when Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl and celebrated red head sidekick of Batman recruited Ms Lance as her personal James Bond-like operative. BC II and wheelchair-bounded Gordon, have since graced the pages of Birds of Prey, their own comic book series.

'Sorry I didn't stick around for my rescue'

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Along with a new look, the modern Black Canary has now gained a new generation of fans. She has honoured the legacy of her mother by joining the Justice Society of America. She has also become one of the most visible comic book heroines of the 21st Century.

Sources:

The Black canary Archives: Volume 1, DC Comics, 2001.

Black Canary-Oracle: Birds of Prey, DC Comics, 1999.

JLA: Year One
, DC Comics, 1999.

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Last Updated: February 10, 2020 - 10:10

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