The real Joon (innerbrat) wrote,
The real Joon

Women in Fandom: Dinah Lance

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
Tags: dc, picspam
  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic