Black Canary is a Legacy Character crime-fighter, most famous for her leather and fishnets costume, who fights evil with her mastery of multiple martial arts and an ultrasonic scream capable of various effects from rendering people unconscious to demolishing robots and buildings.
Black Canary was created by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Carmine Infantino. She first appeared as a supporting character in Flash Comics #86 (August 1947) where she was seemingly a villain plotting against Johnny Thunder. However, it was quickly revealed that she was actually a hero working undercover to expose criminals. Black Canary became something of a sidekick to Johnny Thunder for several stories, using her superior fighting skills to save the well-meaning but bumbling hero from danger.
By the end of the year, Black Canary proved to be more popular than Johnny Thunder, and his back-up feature became hers in Flash Comics #92 (February, 1948). It was here that her Secret Identity was finally revealed, as was the meaning of her Code Name. Dinah Drake was a raven-haired florist, who used a blond wig and flashy costume as a disguise while fighting crime in her native Gotham City. Her path frequently crossed that of her boyfriend, private detective Larry Lance. She also joined the Justice Society of America and continued to be a part of that team even after their adventures ceased publication in 1951, at the end of The Golden Age of Comic Books.
In The Silver Age of Comic Books, Black Canary was revived in 1963 as part of some of the first Crisis Crossover stories in comics history. The Justice League of America and Justice Society of America — two similar groups belonging to two similar Earths — would join forces to face threats to both their realities. It was during one of these adventures that Larry Lance (whom Dinah Drake had married sometime in the 1950s) gave his life to save Dinah's. Desiring a fresh start, Dinah decided to leave her home-dimension behind to start over on Earth-One. She joined the Justice League of America and — for reasons involving her exposure to cosmic radiation — developed a sonic scream super power a.k.a. "The Canary Cry".
In the early days of The Bronze Age of Comic Books, Black Canary began dating fellow JLA member Oliver Queen a.k.a. Green Arrow. She was a regular part of his adventures with Green Lantern and was developed by writer Dennis O'Neil into a more proactive, feminist character — one who ran her own business, had her own solo adventures and chided Green Arrow for his possessive attitude and referring to her as "his girl". Indeed, she was so much a part of Green Arrow's life that she became a foster mother to his sidekick, Roy Harper a.k.a. Speedy, and it was she who got Roy treatment for his heroin addiction during the infamous "My ward is a junkie?!" incident.
Toward the end of The Bronze Age of Comic Books, in an effort to explain why Dinah Drake didn't appear to be a day over 30 despite being well into her 60s, a Retcon in Justice League of America revealed that the Black Canary we'd been seeing since the end of the Silver Age wasn't Dinah Drake but was actually her daughter, Dinah Laurel Lance!
An Earth-Two Super Villain called The Wizard used his powers to curse the infant Dinah with an uncontrollable scream (yes, yes... A Wizard Did It) and Black Canary asked her old friend Johnny Thunder to use his magical genie pal The Thunderbolt to end the curse. The Thunderbolt was unable to break the spell, but was able to place the infant Dinah as a sort of Human Popsicle in his home dimension until such time as a cure could be found. Years later, during the Crisis Crossover that killed her husband, Dinah Drake was critically injured by the radiation and The Thunderbolt then used his magic to put Dinah Drake's memories in the still-sleeping-but-now-adult body of her daughter (which had since then learned how to adapt to the once uncontrollable scream) and erase everyone else's memories so they wouldn't remember what happened.
This confusing and creepy chain of events would be Ret Conned again not too long after Crisis on Infinite Earths. Now, the Lance family had a relatively normal life together, with the elder Dinah still working as a florist in her Secret Identity and Larry still a private eye. Dinah Drake was also given further motivation for having chosen the path of the vigilante, having tried and failed to follow in the footsteps of her cop father, thanks to the then rampant sexism and corruption of the Gotham City Police Department. But the greatest changes were reserved for the Dinah Laurel Lance who was now a founding member of the Justice League of America and whose sonic super powers were now the result a mutation — a third vocal cord.
As The Dark Age of Comic Books opened, Dinah was still a member of the Justice League, now Justice League International. She briefly adopted a new "modern" costume which was quickly abandoned and is widely regard as being an embarrassment — both by the character and by the artist who designed the costume!
She was still dating Green Arrow, though their difference in ages was reversed, with a 30-something Oliver Queen having started dating a college-age Dinah Lance several years earlier. For most of this period, she was a supporting character in Mike Grell's Mature-Readers Green Arrow book, where — in an effort to limit the usual Super Hero elements of comic books and create a more grounded, realistic story — Grell removed Dinah's Canary Cry in The Longbow Hunters following an extended torture session. She would later dump Green Arrow and — for a time — disappeared into Comic-Book Limbo.
Thankfully, she would return with a vengeance before The Dark Age of Comic Books was over. In 1996, Dinah Lance abandoned her fishnets and wig in favor of shorter hair, a dye job and a Kevlar leotard as one-half of the original Birds of Prey team — the brawn to the brain of Oracle (a.k.a. former Batgirl Barbara Gordon). Conceived by editor Jordan B. Gorfinkel and written by Chuck Dixon, the two would headline a number of mini-series, eventually being given their only monthly title in 1999. At about the same time, a new monthly Justice Society of America title started, simply called JSA, which also featured Black Canary as a member.
Over the next ten years, Black Canary would come to take a more prominent role in The DCU at large. She regained her superpowers after exposure to the alchemical Lazarus Pit (her boyfriend at the time turned out to be the immortal terrorist Ra's Al Ghul) and it healed her injured vocal cords. Shortly after that, she began dating Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) again following his return from the dead. The two would eventually marry and begin to share a title together several years later.
Most agree that it was in 2003 when Gail Simone took over the writing duties on Birds of Prey that Black Canary really began to achieve her full potential as a character. She became the field commander of an expanding Birds of Prey team. She continued her martial arts training, becoming a warrior worthy of the respect of Lady Shiva — one of the greatest martial artists and certainly the deadliest assassin in The DCU. Dinah also acted as a trainer to a number of young heroines and briefly tried to care for Sin — a young girl being trained by the League of Assassins to be their next great warrior. It was also during this period that she rejoined the Justice League of America and become their official team leader.
Things then took a dark turn for Black Canary's life. Following the events of the Justice League: Cry for Justice mini-series, she cut ties completely with her adopted family. She was estranged from her husband, having returned her wedding ring. She also apparently washed her hands of responsibility for Roy Harper, who returned to heroin use following the loss of an arm and the death of his daughter Lian in the Rise of Arsenal mini-series. The one bright side to all of this, from the fan perspective at least, was that Black Canary was now free to star in a new Birds of Prey series written by Gail Simone.
Sadly, this did not last and Birds of Prey was rebooted as part of DC Comics' New 52 line in September 2011, with the team now focusing on Dinah leading a team of anti-heroines while trying to prove herself innocent of a murder charge. The Dinah of the New 52 is Dinah Drake Lance, the original Golden Age character, erasing Dinah Laurel Lance and one of DC's few mother-daughter legacies. She still has the canary cry, though.
After the cancellation of Birds of Prey, Dinah was a guest character in Batgirl until she was spun off into her own self-titled series in June 2015. Now the lead singer of a touring band called Black Canary, Dinah joins them solving mysteries and beating up guys on the road. This series was cast in the same fashion-forward, modernized mold as the "Batgirl of Burnside," and shared a writer in Brenden Fletcher.
Dinah's fortunes truly changed, however, with the start of DC Rebirth in June 2016. As of June 2017, Dinah is a main character in three different titles - Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Justice League of America (Rebirth) and Green Arrow (Rebirth), where she teamed up with The Emerald Archer to investigate a human trafficking ring and the two fell in love, restoring the classic relationship between the two.
The DC Comics character of Black Canary has starred in four self-titled comic books:
Black Canary Vol 1 (1991-1992) was a four-issue mini-series written by Sarah Byam, with art by Dick Giardano von Eeden. Dinah Laurel Lance is having money troubles with her shop, Sherwood Florist, and her boyfriend, Oliver Queen. When she accidentally runs into Gan "Duke" Nguyen, who is having troubles himself with drug dealing gangsters, she finds herself in a spot of trouble.
Black Canary Vol 2 (1993) was a twelve-issue series also written by Sarah Byam, with art by Trevor von Eeden. Continuing from the mini-series, Dinah Laurel Lance remembers her upbringing, being trained by her father Larry Lance and her "uncle" Ted Grant, as she takes on assassins and murderers in Seattle.
Black Canary Vol 3 (2007) was a four-issue mini-series written by Tony Bedard, with art by Paulo Siqueira. Spinning off of Gail Simone's Birds of Prey run, Dinah is now mentoring and living with Sin, a young girl who was being groomed to be the next Lady Shiva. Now, she has to protect Sin from being manipulated by Merlyn the Dark Archer.
Black Canary Vol 4 (2015-2016) was a twelve-issue series written by Brendan Fletcher, with art by Annie Wu. Dinah Drake has restarted her burgeoning musical career and is now the head of a band named called, well, Black Canary. Made up of Lord Byron on drums, Paloma Terrific on keyboard, and Ditto on guitar, with Dinah as the lead singer, everything is looking up. Except for the former lead singer, Bo Maeve, is pissed and willing to do anything to stop them. And someone is after Ditto for mysterious reasons. And, somehow, Dinah's secret agent ex-husband is mixed up in everything, too.
- Black Canary made her big screen debut in Birds of Prey, set in the DC Extended Universe. She is portrayed by Jurnee Smollett. She will return in her solo movie on HBO Max.
- Smallville introduced her as a conservative radio host in her Secret Identity and a Lex Luthor minion in costume, recruited to stop the "terrorist" activities of Green Arrow. She eventually saw the light and joined the fledgling Justice League. She's played by Alaina Huffman in this version.
- Birds of Prey (2002) has Dinah Redmond (née Lance), a teenage runaway from foster care who joins with Helena Wayne and Barbara Gordon in the titular team. Played by Rachel Skarsten, she was reimagined as a metahuman with Touch Telepathy and mild telekinesis, growing in strength during the series' brief run. Her mother Carolyn Lance, played by Lori Loughlin, showed up in one episode, going by the name Black Canary and possessing the Canary Cry.
- The CW-produced Green Arrow series Arrow features the character, given her long association with the character of Oliver Queen. The identity goes through more than two hands, each taking different aspects of the comics' Canaries.
- Dinah Laurel Lance (played by Katie Cassidy) is a lawyer, and mostly goes by the name Laurel. Her mother is a civilian named Dinah Drake Lance (Alex Kingston) and her father is a police detective named Quentin Larry Lance (Paul Blackthorne). In this series Oliver and Laurel are childhood sweethearts, but Oliver cheated on her with...
- ...her younger sister Sara Lance (played by Caity Lotz),note in the shipwreck that factors into his origin. Sara was presumed killed like Oliver, but was instead found and recruited into the League of Assassins, going by the name of "The Canary" and using sonic-based weaponry. By season three, Laurel is inspired by Sara to start training to become a vigilante crimefighter herself and adopted the name Black Canary, using a modified version of her sister's sonic technology on a choker to develop the "Canary Cry" as seen in the comics. After dying (again) and returning, Sara would take on the identity of White Canary, and did not reclaim her sonic technology, becoming a Badass Normal like the earliest depictions of comic Black Canary. As for Laurel, after dying and not returning...
- ...her villainous Alternate Self from Earth-2, who instead goes by Black Siren, is immediately introduced in the Spin-Off series The Flash (2014) before being transplanted to Arrow. Black Siren possesses the Canary Cry due to the particle accelerator explosion in her world, and is a trained and experienced fighter from her introduction. She would later make a better version of herself, eventually becoming the Black Canary of her home universe.
- Dinah Drake (played by Juliana Harkavy; no relation to Dinah Drake Lance) was the "successor" to the original Laurel, as per her Dying Wish that the legacy of the Black Canary not end with her. This Dinah shares Black Siren's backstory, being a police officer from Central City with sonic powers derived from the particle accelerator explosion.
- Finally, another Alternate Self of the original Laurel was introduced in The Flash season 4, this time from the Nazi-dominated Earth-X following the events of the Crisis on Earth-X crossover.
- Justice League Unlimited voiced by Morena BaccarinHer first speaking role came in the Season Two premiere “The Cat and the Canary”. Black Canary's character here seemed very close to her portrayal in Birds of Prey, which is not surprising considering that one of these episodes ("Double Date") was written by Gail Simone.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold voiced by Grey DeLisleBlack Canary had starring roles in "Mayhem of the Music Meister!" and "The Golden Age of Justice!", and had a lead role in "The Mask of Matches Malone!", which features an approximation of the Birds of Prey and was written by Gail Simone. She later appeared in Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold, a direct-to-video crossover with the Scooby-Doo franchise.
- Young Justice (2010) voiced by Vanessa MarshallThe character acts as one of three main mentors and chief combat trainer for the Team. Her prominence is unsurprising given the involvement of Greg Weisman, who has readily admitted that Dinah is his favorite comic book character.
- DC Nation: Green Arrow voiced by Kari Wahlgren
- DC Showcase: Green Arrow voiced again by Grey DeLisleShe turned up in the last minute or so of the animated short, where she essentially saved the day.
Black Canary provides examples of:
- Adaptational Modesty: Adaptations vary between given her a leotard or fishnets, but rarely both at the same time due to the needs of being able to perform action scenes. Arrow simply replaces it with a Spy Catsuit, "The Canary" uses a corset with a jacket to still bare some cleavage while "Black Canary" includes a turtleneck. In animation, Canary generally wears gray tights or stockings instead of fishnets, due to the difficulty of animating fishnets.
- Badass Normal
- Dinah Drake, who earned JSA Membership with no special powers whatsoever.
- Dinah Lance, when she didn't have powers, also qualified.
- Blood Knight: Dinah definitely loves a good brawl and is all to willing to use violence when it suits her needs or even if she annoyed enough. She'll invoke her affection for combat when she starts boasting about how well she can cripple someone.
- Clark Kenting: You wouldn't think a blonde wig would really be that effective of a disguise. Later on she ditches the wig and just dyes her hair blonde, and all-but abandons any notion of a secret identity.
- Color Animal Codename: A black canary, whose canary theme comes from her signature Canary Cry.
- Color Character: Black Canary.
- Combat Stilettos: Very much a part of the original costume. The modern Black Canary has stuck to flat boots for the most part, although she is sometimes still drawn with heels.
- Depending on the Artist: Flats vs. heels, cleavage vs. no cleavage, jacket vs. no jacket vs. bolero jacket vs. longcoat.
- Depending on the Writer: Black Canary's level of competence. Primarily, she's written as being one of the best fighters on the planet, though there's plenty of writers who depict her as "relying too much on her Canary Cry" and depict her skills lacking next to other veterans.
- Her relationship with Green Arrow. Either they are one of the most loving, passionate couples in DC who have had a few bumps but worked through it, or they are a toxic and mutually abusive mess who treat each other horribly. It happens frequently enough shippers have to ignore significant portions of their history together.
- Domino Mask
- Dinah Drake's original costume had one, but it was abandoned early on.
- Post-Crisis, pre-New 52 comics will use the domino mask as a quick way to distinguish between Dinah Drake and Dinah Laurel Lance. In the Birds of Prey issue where Dinah Laurel closes one of Dinah Drake's unsolved cases, she wears her mother's costume to bring the crook in, and it includes the mask. (As well as a regular leotard and stiletto-heeled boots, as opposed to her usual leather and flat-soled boots.)
- Groin Attack: One of Black Canary's favorite moves. Cheap, but effective.
- Hartman Hips: One of the most frequent examples in comics, which is generally complimented by her usual outfit choices. Especially notable in Ed Benes artwork, though Green Arrow: Rebirth often used Dinah's larger hips and backside to contrast with the tiny and flat Emiko.
- Kick Chick: Canary's fighting style uses a lot of kicks and sweeps, which highlight her shapely fishnet clad legs. This was even more obvious during the period when she did not have her Canary Cry.
- Legacy Hero
- Golden Age heroine Dinah Drake begets Modern Age heroine Dinah Laurel Lance.
- Additionally, an African-American Black Canary appears as part of an alternate-future Justice League in Judd Winick's Justice League: Generation Lost series.
- Interestingly, there's an African-American Black Canary in Supergirl & Batgirl: Elseworlds' Finest.
- Leotard of Power: Her main costume.
- Male Gaze: Frequently. As strongly written as she was in Birds of Prey, she also spent the entirety of the run pretty much constantly with a wedgie so that her ass popped out of her leotard better.
- Most Common Super Power: Dinah is one of the bustiest females in comics.
- Mrs. Robinson:
- Dinah Drake; when originally dating Green Arrow in the Silver Age, she was the older of the two. She was a cougar before they had a word for it!
- Dinah Lance, in the Bronze Age onward, is typically depicted as being only in her twenties, so she's usually the opposite. She did express interest in Nightwing (who isn't that much younger than her, roughly no more than five years), and probably slept with The Ray who was roughly the same age as Nightwing, but besides that isn't shown dating anyone notably younger than her.
- Ms. Fanservice: The Fishnets. Dear gods, The Fishnets. As noted in Depending on the Artist, some artists have her outfit showing plenty of cleavage. Occasionally the bottom of her uniform will be drawn as either being a thong at the back, or at the least be shown to be riding up quite a bit to emphasis her behind.
- Retcon: Used to create the two separate Black Canaries. Also used to great effect in Birds of Prey, by Gail Simone, to establish the origin of Dinah Laurel Lance's middle name and to give Dinah Drake a proto-Oracle sidekick in the form of Laurel — a librarian who helped the first Black Canary in a manner similar to how Barbara "Oracle" Gordon helps the new Black Canary.
- Stocking Filler: Black Canary wears fishnets.
- Straw Feminist: Depending on the writer, Dinah can come off as one. This was her entire gimmick during her time in Justice League International. When written properly, she tends to be more realistic in her views and how she acts on them. During Kevin Smith's run, her feminism is contrasted with Oliver's social liberal views to paint them as Birds of a Feather.
- Archnemesis Dad: Chad Brennan eventually grows disgusted with his father's actions and helps Dinah and Gan.
- Cold Sniper: Sgt. Brennan, who is given the assignment to kill Gan Nguyen.
- Distracted by the Sexy: In the fourth issue, Dinah deliberately readjusts her costume to make it more appealing in order to attrack the attention of the drug dealers.
- Money Dumb: Oliver Queen apparently spends way outside his means, especially since he is unemployed. After all, he did used to be a millionaire, so perhaps habits are hard to shake.
- Sex for Services: Lampshaded after Oliver tries to make up almost hitting Dinah with an arrow with the offer of "hot sex":You're not listening, Oliver — The bank won't take hot sex as collateral. This time, you figure out how to pay the rent — and I'll go up to the mountains!
- The Syndicate: A multi-million dollar cocain syndicate run by a Senator's son who uses an army of white supremacists as enforcers.
- Accidental Murder: During issue 7, Dinah fights the supervillain Capoeira, who has an electrified glove. Dinah ends up dumping a drainpipe full of water on the glove to short it and it electrocutes Capoeira. Dinah only wanted to stun him, but it turned out that the shock killed him instead.
- Assassin Outclassin': Subverted: Dinah is trying to stop the assassination of Sally and throws a knife into the back of the assassin just as he prepares to kill her. However, the knife doesn't kill the assassin, only wound him, and he kills Sally before Dinah can stop him.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Jakob Whorrsman, who hires supervillains and assassins to do his dirty work.
- Continuity Nod: Since Green Arrow and Black Canary were a couple and the books were coming out at the same time, there are often nods to Mike Grell's Green Arrow. If you weren't reading both books, you could still understand the story, but if you read both, you got a deeper understanding of the characters.
- The Grovel: Ollie tries giving Dinah chocolates to help smooth things over between them. It doesn't work. Giving her a tip for her case? That does.
- Last Episode, New Character: The twelfth and very last issue of the book introduces Jack Lynch, Larry Lance's former partner who was secretly in love with Dinah Drake, Larry's wife, Dinah's mother, and the original Black Canary. He is fighting a one-man war against the gene-spliced New Sparta and ends up recruiting Dinah to his side.
- The Masochism Tango: Dinah is having problems with her relationship with Oliver. Oliver, despite wanting to make things right, keeps doing and saying the wrong things. At times, you wonder why they are even still together.
- Mistaken for Cheating: At one point, when Dinah is teaming up with Ray Terrill (The Ray), Oliver gets jealous and accuses her of cradle robbing, especially since Ray seems to have a crush on her. Dinah responds by kissing Ollie...and then when Ray leaves, punching him.
- Badass Boast: After Merlyn kidnaps Sin, Dinah goes to Craig, her ex-husband who set up the whole thing and tells him, "Tell me exactly where my daughter is and I won't cripple you for life."
- Faking the Dead: Oliver ends up having to fake Sin's death in order to get the League of Assassins to stop from kidnapping her. He doesn't even tell Dinah, so that her reaction can look genuine, but she finds out afterwards.
- Blob Monster: A race of black goo creatures that want Ditto.
- Child Popstar: Ditto is a child.
- Dangerous Forbidden Technique: The Five Heavens Palm, a dangerous technique that Dinah was taught by her mother.
- Evil Diva: Bo Maeve. Angry that they kicked her out of the band and jealous of Dinah, she ends up kidnapping Ditto and exchanging her for a sonic scream like Dinah's. She ends up with a band of her own called Bo M and they go up against Black Canary.
- Fight Clubbing: Greyeyes runs a German fight club that Rena used as a place to force Black Canary and Vixen to fight.
- Make Some Noise: This turns out to be Ditto's power.
- Mythology Gag: The band that Bo Maeve puts together has members named Auntie Gravity, Bonfire, and Harpy, who were all Black Canary villains pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths.
- An interview with Dinah is published under the title "Musical Marvel or Menace?"
- Dinah's speech to the crowd at the concert in the final issue is almost word for word that of David Bowie at the end of Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture
- Working with the Ex: Dinah has to work with her ex-husband Kurt in order to save Ditto's life.