Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Black Canary

Black Canary is a fictional character, a DC Comics superheroine. Created by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Carmine Infantino, the character first appeared in Flash Comics #86 (August 1947).

Black Canary is noted for her martial-arts skills and her "Canary Cry" – a high powered, sonic scream with the ability to shatter objects and incapacitate villains. Among the first generation of superheroes, she was a member of the Justice Society of America, the first superhero team to appear in comic books.

In the 1980s, the character's history was rewritten to make her two entities: Dinah Drake, who took part in Golden Age adventures and married Gotham City detective Larry Lance, and their daughter Dinah Laurel Lance, who has appeared in modern stories.

The combination of the Black Canary's courage, fighting prowess, and her sex appeal (accentuated by her costume's characteristic fishnet stockings) has resulted in her being referred to as "The Blonde Bombshell."

Fictional character biography

Golden Age history

Cover to Flash Comics #92. Art by Carmine Infantino.

Black Canary first appeared in Flash Comics #86 in 1947, as a supporting character in the Johnny Thunder feature of the Flash Comics anthology. Initially, she seemed to be a villainess; Johnny Thunder was instantly infatuated with her and was reproached for this by his Thunderbolt. However, she was in fact infiltrating a criminal gang, a modus operandi she would follow throughout her career.

Black Canary proved to be popular enough that in Flash Comics #92, she was given her own anthology feature, Black Canary, replacing the Johnny Thunder feature. The new series fleshed out Black Canary's backstory; in her real identity, Dinah Drake was a black-haired florist whose romantic interest was Larry Lance, a detective on the Gotham City Police Department.

Her costume consisted of a blond wig, fishnet stockings, pirate boots, bustier, and an unbuttoned jacket. Initially, she also wore a domino mask, though this was soon jettisoned. Black Canary soon joined the Justice Society of America, but ceased being published along with the rest of the team by the early 1950

Silver Age history

Dinah just prior to leaving Earth-2 to begin a new life with the Justice League on Earth-1. Art by Dick Dillin.

Black Canary was revived along with the other Golden Age characters during the 1960s, and was shown as existing on the parallel world of Earth-Two (home of DC's Golden Age versions of its characters).

It is also revealed Dinah has married Larry Lance during the 1950s. Dinah also takes part in various annual team-ups between the Justice Society and Earth-One's Justice League of America.

In a 1969 JLA-JSA team-up against the rogue living star-creature Aquarius, Larry Lance is killed trying to save Dinah's life from an attack. Out of grief, Canary decides to move to Earth-One to create a fresh start, where she joins the Justice League. Sometime afterwards, she begins dating her JLA colleague Green Arrow, and discovers she has somehow (possibly due to exposure to radiation) gained the ultrasonic scream later dubbed the Canary Cry.

In Justice League of America #219 and #220, it is revealed this Black Canary is actually the daughter of the original Black Canary and her husband. Born in the 1950s, the infant is cursed by the Justice Society foe the Wizard with the "gift" of a devastating, yet uncontrollable, Canary Cry. Dinah asked her old friend Johnny Thunder to summon his Thunderbolt in hopes of a cure, but it was to no avail.

Instead, the Thunderbolt keeps the child in suspended animation (aging all the while) in his native Thunderbolt dimension, until, the Lances hope, a way to cure or control her power can be found. Seeing his friends in pain, the Thunderbolt decides to erase all memory of the child, letting everyone think she has died.

After the battle with Aquarius, Dinah realizes she is dying from the radiation she was exposed to. She discusses possible solutions with the Thunderbolt and Superman of Earth-1.

The three arrange to transfer Dinah's memories into the body of her now-adult daughter, still held in suspended animation, while not letting Dinah believe anything unusual has happened to her (this retcon was established to deal with the fact The Black Canary had been active since the late 1940s and would therefore have had to been nearly 60 years old by that time. Previous comic writers had apparently overlooked this fact, portraying her as still-youthful.).

Modern Age history

Following the retroactive continuity change in 1983, Black Canary became two distinct characters, mother and daughter, named Dinah Drake Lance and Dinah Laurel Lance. Dinah Lance would become the current Black Canary. Some references, notably those in James Robinson's Starman series, would attempt to distinguish the two Canaries further by referring to the first as 'Diana', but more recent accounts have confirmed 'Dinah' as the elder Canary's given name.

In post-Crisis continuity, Secret Origins #50 revealed the first Dinah had been trained by her father, Detective Richard Drake, and intended to follow in his footsteps on the Gotham City police. She was turned down by the force, however, and her disillusioned father (unable to use his connections to change the decision) died of heart failure shortly thereafter. Dinah was determined to honor his memory and fight crime and corruption by whatever method possible. This led to her debut as a costumed vigilante; she would use her inheritance to open a florist shop as her day job.[1]

The elder Dinah married her beau, private eye Larry Lance (still maintaining her florist business). In a Times Past-style story in Birds of Prey, Lance was an acquaintance of Jim Gordon, father to Barbara Gordon. A few years later, their daughter, named Dinah Laurel Lance, was born. In Birds of Prey #66, which is a flashback to a cold case investigated – but never solved – by the elder Dinah, Laurel was the name of a librarian that Dinah consulted during the case and later befriended.

Growing up, Dinah Lance was surrounded by her mother's friends in the disbanded JSA and looked to them as uncles and aunts. Dinah wished to become a costumed heroine like her mother before her. However, instead of encouraging the younger Dinah, her mother forbade it, thinking the world had grown into a darker, more dangerous place than when she herself fought crime, too dangerous for the younger Dinah to succeed.

However, the younger Dinah had her own "Canary Cry" – in this version, the result of a metagene not present in either parent – which (unlike the Silver Age Black Canary) she is fully able to control.[1]

With this weapon, the younger Dinah next sought out numerous fighters to help her hone her skills, including former JSA member Wildcat. Years of training and intense dedication paid off, and Dinah took on her mother's mantle, even though it was against the elder Dinah's wishes at first. She took an active role in the 'Silver Age' of heroes, operating, like her mother before her, out of Gotham, while maintaining a day job in the family florist business.

In an early issue of Birds of Prey, writer Chuck Dixon established that Dinah had married at a very young age briefly before divorcing. Her ex-husband showed up in a storyli

ne needing her help (Birds of Prey: Wolves), but actually wanted her to rejoin him after he had stolen funds from the mob. This early marriage and ex-husband were not referred to again until the 2007 Black Canary miniseries.

Shortly into the League's history, she met Green Arrow (Oliver Queen). While Dinah couldn't stand him at first, they later became romantically involved despite the difference in their ages (in the Modern Age Oliver is substantially older than Dinah, the reverse of the earlier depiction, although he was de-aged by an unspecified amount when he was resurrected). Dinah remained a member of the League for roughly six years, including a brief stint with Justice League International (JLI), of which she was a founding member. It was during that time her mother died due to radiation poisoning she experienced during a battle with the villain Aquarius. Her mother's death affected Dinah deeply, and led her to accept her time in the JLA was over.

She moved to Seattle with Green Arrow after the breakup of the Justice League, and would open her own florist shop, named "Sherwood Florist" (the name is a play on Sherwood Forest, the domain of Robin Hood, who Green Arrow (in costume) somewhat resembles).

For a brief period in the 1980s coinciding with her membership in the JLI, rather than her traditional skintight black outfit with fishnet stockings she wore a blue and black costume with a bird motif notably looser and less revealing than traditional superheroine garb. Th

is change proved short-lived, and later artists restored her original look.

The Despondent Canary

The move to Seattle with Green Arrow would result in a string of bad luck for the Black Canary.

During this period, she took part in a failed operation to bust a drug ring. Kidnapped, Black Canary was tortured (despite popular belief, she was not raped according to series writer Mike Grell[2]), before being rescued by Green Arrow. The physical and mental effects of this experience were severe: Dinah's vocal cords were mutilated, resulting in the loss of her Canary Cry. She required extensive counseling afterward, as did Oliver Queen.

Simultaneously, she and Green Arrow would have major conflicts in their relationship. Among other things, she would learn Green Arrow fathered a son, Robert, with Shado (albeit unwillingly), as well a

s taking money from the business (Black Canary #1). The relationship would end when Dinah walked in on Green Arrow kissing her florist shop assistant, Marianne.

Even more bad luck would hit when Sherwood Florist was destroyed, leaving Dinah with no means of paying the debt collectors now calling.

The worst blows of all would come when she learned from Connor Hawke that Oliver was killed (Green Arrow #101), and Connor was yet another of his offspring. Although Dinah and Connor later develop a close friendship, the knowledge that Oliver had kept his existence from her was painful.

Though Black Canary would continue to fight crime off and on (at some point Black Canary became a pen pal of the youthful hero known as The Ray, who had a crush on her, and she participated in some of his adventures, and even had a brief romance)[issue # needed], the effects of her misfortunes were taking their toll.

The Wedding

The Wedding Special covers a number of events, including the reactions of the friends who receive wedding invitations, the wedding itself, the attack, and the honeymoon. While the attack on the wedding is a failure, Deathstroke remarks it worked a little, despite no one being hurt. During the honeymoon, a blank look suddenly comes over Green Arrow's face, and he goes berserk, trying to kill Dinah. She stabs him in the neck with an arrow, killing him.

In the first arc of the Green Arrow/Black Canary series, condolences are offered to Dinah, but she refuses to believe it was Oliver she has killed. Batman agrees with her. Following an extensive autopsy by Batman and Dr. Mid-Nite, the two discover the dead man is actually Everyman, the shape-shifter.

Ollie is alive and being held captive on Themyscira by the Amazons. While Dinah does not know his whereabouts, she is greatly relieved, and sheds tears of joy. She enlists the aid of Connor Hawke and Mia Dearden to save him, but, just when they seem to be home free, Connor is shot by an unknown assailant. Once they reach the hospital, the group learn the bullet contained a poison which has turned Connor into a mental vegetable. Soon after, Dinah marries Ollie again, as the first time around she married an impostor. On their return home, they find Connor kidnapped. Following the trail to Britain, Ollie and Dinah are attacked by an armored helicopter. When they it bring it down, they discover the military disguised as aliens within. This is revealed to be a ruse however, and the group later learn that the League of Assassins, under orders by Shado, were the ones who shot Connor.[1]

Recently in Birds of Prey #119/120 Black Canary has fought against the Manhunter (Kate Spencer). During their short skirmish, Manhunter states that she has Black Canary outgunned and outmatched. In response Dinah says that "she is trying real hard not to put Kate in the hospital". As later seen, Dinah drags a beaten Manhunter to Oracle's hideout. Kate comments her skills, saying "your kung-fu's the best". Seemingly Black Canary has defeated Manhunter with relatively little effort and without usage of the Canary Cry. The reason for Manhunter's fight with Dinah is revealed to be due to Oracle. Apparently Oracle was looking to get Speedy involved in a mission, while also wishing to check on Dinah's new family life after the loss of Sin, who Oracle realizes may not in fact be dead. Dinah, hurt and furious at her best friend's actions, stalks out leaving the pair with a possibly damaged relationship.

Paul Dini announced at Comic-Con 06 he is writing a hardcover graphic novel starring Black Canary and Zatanna. On his blog, Dini revealed that Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti will handle the art.

Powers and abilities

Dinah sparring with Rabbit of the Twelve Brothers in Silk. Birds of Prey #82. Art by Joe Bennett.

Black Canary possesses a "Canary Cry" – a high-pitched, sonic scream which she can deploy to shatter objects and incapacitate her opponents.[3] Analyzing her capabilities, Doctor Mid-Nite found that she can reach ultrasonic frequencies outside the audible spectrum which render human beings unconscious. However, the cry has been shown to be completely useless when Dinah's mouth is covered with a gag, piece of tape, or any other means of forcing her mouth closed.

Dinah states that her Canary Cry is able to inflict serious damage to beings even as durable as Wonder Woman (she has used this ability to overpower Giganta or to blow Amazo's head off). Moreover, in JLA/JSA: Vice and Virtue it is shown that Dinah is capable of not only creating sonic blasts, but also could generate ultrasonic attack, which renders everyone within an ear range unconscious, this specific use of Canary Cry requires using full capacity of Dinah's lungs. Black Canary rarely utilizes her metahuman abilities during fight, she prefers engaging in hand-to-hand combat. Lately Dinah uses Canary Cry only against considerably more powerful metahuman opponents. Selective usage of supernatural talents makes Black Canary one of very few characters who choose not to take advantage of their superpowers, placing skills over inborn abilities.

Black Canary lost the Cry during the Green Arrow series. Although she fought crime without it for several years, she regained it after being immersed in a Lazarus Pit during her time with the Birds of Prey. Black Canary is extremely proficient in the various styles of martial arts, and is among the world's best fighters (in Birds of Prey #125 Oracle suggests that Dinah could outfight even Batman). She is also an expert motorcycle rider.

Despite her often heated arguments with Oracle, Dinah served as a peacemaker between the team's sometimes argumentative members. She has worked to instill a sense of humanity within her colleagues, most notably Huntress, who is prone to the use of excessive force.

Dinah is a strong leader and strategic thinker — qualities recognized by the other superheroes, who have selected her as the Chairwoman of the JLA. Having fought crime for many years, she also possesses great detective skills, though not on a par with Batman, The Question or the Elongated Man.

A running gag in the Birds of Prey series is Black Canary's lack of proficiency with computers (and very little interest in them). She is the polar opposite of team leader Oracle (who is a computer genius). The first page of Birds of Prey #1 features Dinah's desire to have a distasteful item removed from her presence – the next page shows the object of her dislike to be a desktop computer.

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