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Golden Age Black Canary - Kicking ass from page one. 
12th-Jul-2009 10:11 pm
Babs/Dinah, friend
I have been guilty, of late, of reading Green Arrow/Black Canary, despite knowing that I'll hate it, for no other reason than to indulge that hate.

...well, that and mine the art for icons of teenage!Dinah for raptorcanaria.

But I did feel the need to remind myself why I love the Black Canary so much, so when Lauren and I went comic shopping last week, I succumbed and finally bought myself Black Canary Archive Edition, which includes the first appearances of this character that I had mostly found impossible to source in digital. I have since sourced poor-quality scans of the original comics, but the book is so gorgeous and entertaining that I feel it was worth every penny. I've used these scans in this post because I don't want to subject my gorgeous hardback to Izzy's flatbed scanner.

These stories are in the most part reprints from the 1940s Flash Comics, in which BC first appeared as a supporting character for Johnny Thunder, but quickly ascended to her own story. The character in question is Dinah Drake, who over the next sixty years would evolve into th current Black Canary, although a retcon in the 1980s established the current character, Dinah Lance, as the original Canary's daughter.

And this works; reading the Golden Age stories of Dinah Drake, I can really believe that she's the mother of Dinah Lance; parts of her have been passed on to her daughter, parts are wholly a different character. This is to be expected from stories written 60 years part, but the generation gap in one character translates nicely to a generation gap in a family.

Although I'm trying to avoid in this post the well trodden path of hating on Winick and Kreisbrg and their Canary illiteracy, I will say that reading Golden Age BC does make me extra sad that Dinah Lance is not currently being written by someone with the same love of referencing and incorporating the Golden Age into modern continuity like the recent writers of Batman (by which I mean Grant Morrison, and to a lesser extent Neil Gaiman's Whatever Happened to the Dark Knight?). This is because I think Golden Age Dinah Drake is a much better character than some of the recent ret-conned Dinah Drakes we've seen in Modern Age flashbacks - and yes, I include my beloved Gail Simone in that. Golden Age Dinah is great.

Golden Age Black Canary is a non-powered superhero. The Canary Cry was added in the Silver Age when BC transferred from the Justice Society to the Justice League and met Green Arrow: from a modern canon perspective, this would be the switch from Dinah sr to her daughter. For twenty years, BC was unpowered, and from her first appearances she's already smarter and more competent than Johnny Thunder, whose story she's appearing in - he fights crime by sheer luck and the Thunderbolt, she's already a competent fighter.

Flash Comics #86: OK, she's not using high end Judo (that comes 6 issues later), but she's still upstaging Johnny Thunder.

She doesn't just rely on her Jiu -Jitsu skills (I guess it becomes straight Judo later in canon, but when she makes her own feature) to defeat bad guys. While the least said the better about the bizarre flock of high trained canaries that turn up in a couple of stories (guess what colout they were?), Black Canary 1 not only improvises well (like using stray beams of sunliight to blind her opponents), but she also has a small arsenal of useful tools, something I've seen recent fans complaining that her daughter's lacked since her Dixon days. Lacking the costume convenience of a bat-belt, and having more sense than the handbag wielding Bat-Woman, Canary keeps her toolkit small and handy in a locket on the choker around her neck. 

Flash Comics #92. I wouldn't ask how she gets the tools she wants using just her chin. Just roll with it, OK?

While I'm on the subject of costume, I feel obliged to mention that although she did always have the fishnet-and-leather look, BC1 didn't start off with the uncomfortable-looking wedgy style. Her costume for a long time was long in the leg, in the cut I now think of as the granny-knicker, but when she first appeared and while she co-starred with Johnny Thunder, the Canary very clearly wore culotte-style shorts.

Flash Comics #87. And no, this isn't her typical costume. Hang on to the next bit and I'll explain.

Black Canaries - of either generation - are very occasionally drawn wearing a domino mask. This is nearly always an artist mistake, as it's never actually been a fixed part of the costume. This isn't helped by the fact that the first mistake of this sort was in her second ever appearance, probably as a result of the fact that she did in fact wear a mask in her debut. This was, however, entirely due to plot purposes, and after its mistaken appearance #87, we don't see it again.

Flash Comics #86. Or: the origins of that annoying domino mask.

The blond hair is - as it was for her daughter at the beginning of her career  - a wig, over Dinah's natural brunette. Here again, is a feature I particularly like about Golden Age Canary that I don't get to see in modern flashbacks: her hairstyle under that wigs. In most flashbacks that show mother and daughter together, Dinah snr is often shown as almost indistinguishable from her daughter, often with long hair or a bob, that just falls out of the wig. In the Golden Age, she took the much more sensible route of wearing her black hair in a bun. As someone with long hair myself, I can confirm this is the only way long hair can be easily concealed under a wig, particularly when you need the kind of quick change that happens when your florist shop is frequently the opening scene of many crime adventures.

Flash Comics #93. Dinah owns her own business. In the 1940s. Because she's just that awesome.

One thing I'm absolutely delighted to discover that Dinah Laurel Lance inherited from her mother is her absolutely appalling taste in men. That dreadful combination of fear and hope so many women have that their adult relationships will mirror that of their parents for better or worse is certainly true - perhaps even accidentally - for Dinah jnr, as it turns out the Larry Lance is an absolute arse to the woman he likes. Not only does he constantly talk about that Black Canary woman he's marginally obsessed with, he's also consistently sexist to Dinah against her protests, and appears to delight in annoying her, in the knowledge that the more frustrated she gets with him, the more fond she becomes. Oh, and while she's independent, competent and runs a successful business, Private Investigator Larry Lance does such poor business that he's evicted from his office and moves himself into the flower shop. No, I'm not kidding. He even sleeps there after he can't even make rent on his apartment.

Flash Comics #95 - and you thought Seattle era Oliver Queen was a freeloader.

In conclusion: Black Canary has always been awesome whether Dinah Drake or her daughter; hair goes in wigs better when it's in a bun, and the Lance women are suckers for a cocky jackass who can't take them in a fight.

So there.
15th-Jul-2009 12:39 pm (UTC)
Hey she's got shorts on! That's great, i'm going to a fancy dress party as Black Canary and am gonna wear shorts, so that scan makes me feel more faithful tot he costume. I'm very glad I stumbled upon this! (I got here from When Fangirls Attack)
15th-Jul-2009 12:56 pm (UTC)
Hi :D

Yeah, she doesn't keep the shorts for very long, but she definitely wore them. It's a long time before she adopts any style that looks like it's uncomfortable around the bottom.
30th-Jul-2011 08:10 am (UTC) - Have you noticed her tights?
Has anybody noticed that in the older comics, even though she wears fishnets her legs are frequently shaded blue or violet at least prior to the reboot? I assume it has something to do with the colouring process and methods at the time when it was that difficult to shade legs to indicate transparent tights or something.
30th-Jul-2011 04:57 pm (UTC) - Re: Have you noticed her tights?
Yeah, I've noticed that, and utilised it in cosplay, too :) It could be a colouring thing, definitely, but her legs are often the same colour as her jacket.
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