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Women in Fandom: Dinah Lance 
27th-Apr-2008 06:09 pm

I've been tagged for a meme, but I'm not doing it (yet), because the tagger's fiancé* gave me an even more important one.

I couldn't not do this. But on the other hand, I'm sure you're sick of me talking about some of these. But I've been meaning to talk about Dinah for a while now. She's so often ignored by even the 'Strong Women in Comics' crowd, which sucks because she rocks. I think even her origin story is pretty awesome, marking her out as it does as perhaps the most well adjusted superhero ever.

Dinah's mother, Dinah Lance snr. (nee Drake), was the original Black Canary, who saved the Justice Society's superpowered arses enough times that they finally let her join. Dinah jnr then grew up with no shortage of uncles willing to train her in fighting, without her mother's consent or knowledge.

That's Ted Grant, there. Wildcat of the Justice Society and world champion boxer who also taught a young Bruce Wayne. The Sonic Scream Dinah's showing is a metapower that her mother didn't have, in the post-crisis retcon. But it wasn't the possession of the power that motivated her, it was the example of her many many uncles and her mother.

It's not uncommon for 15 year old girl (at least a fictional one) to steal her mum's makeup and heels and sneak out of the house to party. Dinah Lance stole her mother's fishnets and wig and snuck out to fight crime. And like the others, she was caught eventually.

But Dinah snr got over it, and by the time  Dinah was 19, her mother was at least taking an interest. In not just that part of her life.

 - A scene from JLA: Year One. Which I take as canon if only because Dinah's awesome in it. She and four older men - Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Flash and Aquaman, get together to form the Justice League, and together kick ass while learning a lot about themselves. It's very much a coming-of-age story for Dinah, as the teenager learns to let go of her idols and to be true to herself.

Also this:

Dinah's one weakness - and I love her for it, though I suspect it's why she doesn't have as huge a following as I think she should - is her awful taste in men.

No, not him. But yes, she did indeed date and fall in love with an immortal supervillian, and it wasn't just a phase - she likes older me who are jerks.

And yes, not only did she sleep with him after that line, but after her mother died (of cancer - caused by exposure during superheroing, but still nicely mundane for a comic heroine), she left the Justice League, ditched the wig and fishnets - except for wearing during sex, and don't get me started on the ickiness of dressing up as your mother for sex -  and moved with him to his own title, Seattle. Where bad stuff happened.

I was talking to rushin_doll the other day about the Refrigeration of Dinah Lance, and it occurred to me that I don't really think Dinah is truly a victim of Women in Refrigerators: yes, it was in a Green Arrow title; yes, the story focused on how Oliver reacted to her torture; and yes, it depowered her. But the depowering was (apparently) a deliberate move to make the Green Arrow title more grounded in 'reality' than other superhero comics. Dinah is the only metahuman in the title, and by removing that part of her, Grell was able to develop her as a character, and not as a set of lungs on some awesome pins.

And she was developed as a character. The succeeding issues had Oliver having to come to terms with his lover being tortured, but it also dealt with Dinah herself. It dealt with her recovery in a sympathetic and realistic way, and she came through the dark patch on her own - she had to, of course, because Ollie's a jerk who doesn't deal well with other people's problems. Dinah already knew this, because when Ollie's sidekick Speedy was discovered to be addicted to heroine, he and his best mate Hal Jordan done a runner, and left the woman to bring the boy through it.

 So it's hardly surprising that when Dinah was tortured and lost her cry, Ollie was so wrapped up in how it affected him that he forgot to look after her, and she had to bring herself through it. Which she did, by doing that which Canaries do best - helping people.

The first line on that page is telling - and something I wish both fans and the DC PtB would pay attention to in their 'was she/wasn't she' debates - it doesn't matter what happened to Dinah while she was taken by the drug ring. The only thing that matters is what the effects were. So everyone who even indulges in 'actually she wasn't raped' shenanigans clearly miss the point.

That's Dinah's psychiatrist she's talking to there- the woman who's supposed to be helping her, is in fact helping Dinah move through her pain by exercising her sense of compassion. Obviously, that didn't cure Dinah of all her issues, and she still had a lot to work through. It wasn't until she finally kicked some ass that she was able to work through things.

Ollie continues to be a jerk, of course, and Dinah being Dinah sticks out with it way more than she should. Even tries for a kid with him until she discovered the injuries associated with her torture extended to losing her ability to bear children. It takes her walking in on kiss with her shop assistant for her actually to leave him. So she has a couple of her own miniseries and is fanboyed by the Ray. And then, she meets her one true love Oracle.

Uh - 'meets' is an inaccurate term, here. Dinah worked as an operative for former batgirl Barbara Gordon for quite some time before she actually met her, but that's not the point. The point is that in the Birds of Prey, Dinah really did shine, proving herself awesome not just as a fighter

but as a selfless, compassionate person who's in it not for the adrenaline, but because she genuinely cares. She's in civvies in that scene (she dyes her hair during her first adventure with Oracle) because she's rushing to the aid of a domestic violence dispute in the apartment next to hers.

Dinah barely seemed to miss her Canary Cry - she didn't need it, after all, being able to kick ass and take names even without it. It's just not her real power. And neither is the fact that she's right up there with Lady Shiva and Bruce Wayne in terms of hand-to-hand combat. Her real power - excuse my abuse of a cliche - is the strength of her compassion.

Yes, she did just walk out into a circle of guns and pretend to be someone she isn't in order to save the identity of a woman she only just met (albeit a woman who also happens to be her best friend. Distance friendships for the win)

Dinah's sweet to everyone in the business - and has her popularity to show for it. she just likes everyone and is usually liked back. It's almost a shame really, because that greatest  strength leads directly into her one weakness.

Yeah, that. But at least shagging Ra's Al Ghul gave her direct access to one of his Lazerus Pits, which restored her cry. So she got more out of that relationship than with Ollie.

OK, enough Ollie-bashing. I like him as a character, honestly! It's just that he's a jerk.

So Dinah's awesome and everyone loves her. Those heroes who are older than her and remember her mother become a whole generation's worth of father figures, and she passes it on by always being available for the younger generation - from Roy, who she nursed through his addiction, through Spoiler, who had to work so hard for everyone else's respect:

(And then Dinah just strolls into the house, casual as anything, and kicks them all out, because she's that awesome.)

 - to Sin, a little girl who was trianing to replace the assassin lady Shiva, who Dinah just picked up and took home to save her from becoming an Assassin

What they did to Sin in the 2007 Black Canary series 2007 was terrible and crap and very DC. And I hope soon they'll get over themselves and restore Dinah's daughter to her. She's run her credentials through all the teen-mentoring she's done, and she deserves someone of her own.

Apart from Babs, I mean.

See? AWESOME. Compassionate, loving, supportive, joking. There's pretty much nothing Dinah can't do.

Oh, and did I mention how she's now chairman of the JLA? Well, she is, and Vixen explains why:

That last one's important. Dinah doesn't take crap from anyone, least of all Bruce Wayne:

Yeah, you saw that right.

The Black Canary was awesome in the eighties, and she's awesome now. Well, except when Judd Winnick's writing her. But no one's awesome then.

OK the end, I'm done!

*gender specific-form chosen deliberately
(Deleted comment)
27th-Apr-2008 05:40 pm (UTC)
Always OK with it. I was enjoying that thread!
27th-Apr-2008 05:44 pm (UTC)
When she kisses Batman and freaks him out....

Man, that's one of my favorite scenes ever. Dinah's my favorite superhero ever ever ever. (Like, seriously. She's my number one hero, even though I tend to be more of a Marvel girl. She's tough, she's a regular person, and she's an awesome hero.)
27th-Apr-2008 05:56 pm (UTC)
She really is. I ended up having to cut and run because she's pretty much amazing in every scene she's in.
(Deleted comment)
27th-Apr-2008 06:55 pm (UTC)
And damn woman, you look hot as her.

I also love that about her: I like a character to have flaws - which is why I like Ollie as a character rather than a person - and I think the fact that she consistently makes stupid decisions is awesome and charming. ♥
(Deleted comment)
27th-Apr-2008 07:33 pm (UTC)
and is still there. Bit like you y'lazy nutbag ;-)
27th-Apr-2008 06:41 pm (UTC)
Loved this, IB! I'm surprised by how much here I haven't seen before. Great having her back-story filled in like this.

(Where did that scene with Spoiler come from, by the way? I'm especially surprised not to know about that one.)
27th-Apr-2008 06:54 pm (UTC)
Birds of Prey #40. During the Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive arcs, the Batfamily were left on their own and while the Robins/Batgirls were wrapped up with trying to prove Bruce's innocence, and with the absense of any other trainer, Spoiler tagged along with Dinah for a while.

It was a strange strange arc in which no writer seemed to acknowledge that Dinah knew Bruce's identity when Dick and Babs were still Robin and Batgirl. I attribute this sudden forgetfulness to the madness that comes with a swim in a Lazerus pit.

Still, it was awesome and I'm desperately hoping Steph and Dinah will team up again in the future. The Canary was good for the Spoiler.
27th-Apr-2008 06:57 pm (UTC)
Well, there's a facepalm moment, since I have the whole run of BoP. Guess I need to start going back and re-reading stuff, huh? =)

And yeah, of the many stupid things DC ever did to Steph, having her become a Robin instead of Dinah's sidekick (which Dixon seemed to consider there for a while) was one of the worst, IMO.
27th-Apr-2008 09:38 pm (UTC)
Although my knowledge of comics is quite small indeed, this was a great introduction to a very cool-sounding character. ^_^
28th-Apr-2008 05:07 am (UTC)
so, uh...

I'm thinking of apping Ollie to shatter. But taking him from his hippie era, when he had the arrowcar and arrow plane, and faught against the establishment... all while still being a sexist jerk.
28th-Apr-2008 07:35 am (UTC)
I have not read any hippie-era Green Arrow. It sort of scares me now.
28th-Apr-2008 03:07 pm (UTC)
have you read the kevin smith arc? Cause, before ollie gets his soul back, that's him.
28th-Apr-2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
Great, great post.

And, uhm, that's it!
28th-Apr-2008 10:20 pm (UTC)
Dinah is my second fave BoP person so far.

(My first is Zinda.)
(Deleted comment)
29th-Apr-2008 06:57 am (UTC)
I know! It's like - OK where would she be safer than surrounded by the best heroes in the world, and Dinah had the best upbringing out of everyone and suddenly gets the chance to pass it on? Come on, people!
3rd-May-2008 09:04 pm (UTC)
Just thanking you for, & agreeing with, what you said about The Longbow Hunters. Anyone who's read Grell's Green Arrow should recognize that it's intentionally stripped of "metahuman" powers, & better for it. And Dinah was still a very tough lady in that.
3rd-May-2008 09:31 pm (UTC)
For a while I did consider it an example of WIR, and harboured some resentment about it, but having actually had the conversation (rushin_doll himself is a Babs fan, and we were comparing it to The Killing Joke) it occurred to me that - well, what I said and what you've added in this comment.

In fact, while I loved Chuck Dixon giving Dinah an electronic scream, and then giving her her power back, a lot of other writers have used it as an excuse to get lazy with her. The awesome that Grell, Dixon and Simone gave her is all too often reduced down to being a scream on a pair of fishnets. Which sucks, because her true talent is non-meta in origin.

- and I almost replied to this comment in a Dinah RP journal >_>
29th-Oct-2010 10:13 pm (UTC)
30th-Oct-2010 01:26 am (UTC)

Dude, what aare you doing all the way back here in the archives?
30th-Oct-2010 01:27 am (UTC)
DCWomenkickingass linked to this post today on Tumblr.
30th-Oct-2010 10:12 am (UTC) - Volume 060, Issue 24
User lilacsigil referenced to your post from Volume 060, Issue 24 saying: [...] - posted "Women in Fandom: Dinah Lance" [...]
14th-Nov-2012 11:29 pm (UTC)
So I got here via your most recent essay on Dinah Laurel Lance over on DCWKA and I love this essay and that one SO much. I am still in mourning over the retconning of Dinah jr. *sigh*

I'll admit that I actually enjoy Dinah/Ollie, when they're written well. (which sadly, isn't all that often) but I love that Dinah's not defined by who she dates. She breaks up with the 'love of her life' (as some have called him) and she still keeps kicking ass. Which is pretty awesome.

Not sure if you have room for more LJ friends, but I would love to add you as a friend if that's cool?
14th-Nov-2012 11:32 pm (UTC)
Absolutely! Welcome aboard!

I love Dinah/Ollie. Sometimes. A lot of the time. When they're written well. I love it because they are both flawed and they're not always good at relationships, but they work so hard at it, and they recognize each other's flaws and love each other so hard anyway.

And also the sex. The most sexed up couple in comics.
14th-Nov-2012 11:41 pm (UTC)
I also love that Ollie fully recognizes that Dinah is the bruiser of the relationship. I remember a quote once where he said something along the lines of "me worry about her? she's the one with superpowers. If anything, she should be worrying about me!"

And also, thank you very very much for recognizing that the canary cry is just a small part of what makes her kick ass. I love that she doesn't need to use it every single fight, every time.

Added you and I can promise I'll probably fangirl any and all of your posts about Dinah :)
1st-Dec-2016 07:53 am (UTC) - your continuity is out of order
I know this is an old, old post and probably in an abandoned LJ, but I just found it and I need to address several inaccuracies in it.

The "size of that shaft" "jerk" comic panel was printed over 10 years after Dinah was tortured in The Long Bow Hunters. That story was at least the 3rd one where Mike Grell had Dinah/Black Canary, captured and tied up. One of the other times was also for her playing a "honey pot" undercover role. Clearly, he has issues.

At the time, IN the freaking comic, a nurse tells Oliver that Dinah's suffered only "superficial" injuries except for a concussion and a rib injury. Since Dinah was talking to the knife guy right before he became knife guy on a stick -- her voice was apparently okay. It wasn't until after Oliver's own capture and torture -- and rescue by Dinah! -- that they tried to have a baby and suddenly her injuries had been so severe she couldn't have children. I called Mike out on it and I've still got that issue around here where he actually printed my letter and tried to fuzzy science his way out of his bullshit. And it was bullshit, nobody at DC wanted to actually deal with a baby.

You said Oliver didn't help her recover and you are very wrong. He was there in the doctor's office when she was having her hypnosis therapy, and both of them follow the doc when she runs out of her office in a panic after receiving the "memento" of her own past horror. Both of them. Dinah guards and Oliver hunts. He also lets the guy drown in beer, which is NOT in character but fit with the slippery slope Grell was leading him down.

(Personally, I would think that her PTSD might be cumulative from all the times she's been captured and beaten as they all have over the years. What a job.)

Oliver was also shown not pressuring or asking for sex because she was clearly suffering from PTSD where physical contact frightened her. He gave her space and let her heal. Before he proposed to her years later, he'd actually been celibate for an entire year because he wanted to only be with Dinah. Not your typical horny man.

Dinah didn't dress up as her mom for sex. She dressed up as Black Canary for sex. It's clearly a turn on for them both. At this point, DC hasn't really clarified everything that happened from Crisis on Infinite Earths, which ended in '86. Long Bow Hunters came out August of '87. As far as continuity went at that time, Oliver knew she was the daughter of the original Black Canary but there was nothing to indicate that he'd ever met her or followed her career. Again, that was in that "big shaft" comic over 10 years later. And yes, it was a little icky when he admitted crushing on her mother. Bad, bad writing.

Oliver was having a mid-life crisis, that was the point of the Long Bow Hunters and Green Arrow. Am I saying it was a great story line? Yes and no. It was great to see a "super hero" with real life issues such as feeling like he was getting old and useless, and was leaving behind no real legacy. He felt that Dinah getting hurt was his fault -- he's always been that way because he loves her. He broke his own rule about killing when he rescued her, when he could have easily disarmed the guy without killing him. That murder led him to kill other bad guys way too easily.

When he was kidnapped and tortured, he wasn't able to free himself. That Dinah rescued him wasn't an issue, it was that she used guns to do it and that she killed men to save him. Plus, she was ready to kill him and herself if she had to. He felt that he'd made her cross a line she never would have crossed otherwise. Biggest thing tho, they broke him. He had given up and was ready to die. For a man like him, that ego and sense of self, that was much the last straw. Except the last straw was that Dinah couldn't have children because (Grell lied) of the torture that he feels is his fault.

Part of me loves that he spiraled out of control to a point where I think his death was actually a suicide. Superman could have gotten him out of the bomb without cutting his arm off -- but Oliver didn't want to live. That's awesome characterization. The other part hates that Dinah/Black Canary was regulated to a nothing more than a woman who waited at home for him to work out his issues. She didn't put her foot down or fight for him.
1st-Dec-2016 07:55 am (UTC) - your continuity is out of order part 2
Up to The Long Bow Hunters, Oliver and Dinah had a loving, faithful relationship for over 17 years. Partners and lovers. Grell killed that because he wanted GA to be a lone hunter and grittier -- which meant ditching the trick arrows, the rule against killing, and his soulmate. DC was also using Black Canary in the JLA comics in her new jazzercise costume with her Canary Cry and confusing the hell out of casual readers. DC also wanted to put her in the Birds of Prey series, so the decision was made for the pair to call it quits. Stupid decision they've been backtracking on ever since.

Dinah didn't know the rich old guy that was treating her so well was Ra's Al Ghul, and didn't believe Barbara when she told her. Which makes no sense because Bab's knows who he is. It may have been just a plot device to get her tossed into the pit and bring her Cry back. She should also have her childbearing parts back in working order. Of course, that entire line of continuity is dead now, so it doesn't matter.

If you think Dinah got nothing out of her relationship with Oliver, you obviously haven't read their story from the beginning. He was the one that was there for her after she moved to Earth-1 when her husband died. He helped get her new flower shop on the front page of the paper to get her some business, and even had one of his client's pay him by ordering lots of flowers from her. When she was feeling strange -- leading up to the reveal that she wasn't Dinah Drake Lance at all -- he was the one who took her to Earth-2 to try and get closure from her past.

More than once, he's offered his life up to save hers, most recently to Deathstroke. Say what you will about Oliver, he may be a egotistical pain in the butt, but he'd lay down his life in a second for Dinah. She once tossed him out of a deathtrap when he wanted to stay and die with her. He's fiercely protective of anything that will hurt her in any way. Oliver's an alpha male, but he's wrapped around Dinah's little finger.

Try reading the older stuff, the Action and World's Finest stuff, and the GL/GA series -- Oliver isn't a jerk if you start out there. He's more bark than bite. Plus, he loves Dinah enough to leave his self-imposed exile at a remote monastery -- he'd accidentally killed a thug and was horrified to have ended a life -- and come back to save Dinah's life with his blood. Literally, they're the same very rare blood type and yeah, it was a real suspension of disbelief even in the 70's.

I saw that you wrote, and put in strike out, that Oracle was her one true love, so I get where you're coming from. I'm guessing you discovered Dinah/Black Canary in Birds of Prey and you're shipping the two of them. Fine, she and Oliver were apart at the time, and he was dead for over 5 years, so she may have hooked up with Babs. Tho she was dating Doc Midnight when Oliver was resurrected and she dropped him like a hot potato when she heard Oliver was alive again. There's her true love. In several universes.

They did fight and yell and sometimes storm off to cool down, but they didn't cuss each other like in the pre-wedding issues. That made my stomach turn. She also slapped him. She did it again in a recent GA Rebirth comic, too. Dinah has smacked him a few times over the years, while he's never laid a hand on her except to knock her out once to save her life. Nobody ever calls her on physically abusing him. Double standard, really.

Yeah, this is a rant, but Oliver's character has been dragged thru the mud since his resurrection. He let one woman kiss him. That was it. He never cheated on Dinah, ever.

Edited at 2016-12-01 07:55 (UTC)
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