As one of the earliest super-heroines, initially published in August 1947; the Black Canary has had a number of interesting incarnations. In addition to her life in comics, Black Canary was a major part of the gone too soon Young Justice cartoon. She was also a team player on Smallville and has a current presence on both the Arrow and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow CW television shows. Pretty impressive for someone who most people would consider a B-level character.
Created by the writer-artist team of Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino, Black Canary is a DC Comics character who first appeared in Flash Comics #86 as a blond headed martial artist named Dinah Drake. In her early stories she assisted and eventually married a Gotham City detective named Larry Lance. Over on Earth-2, Black Canary also joined the Justice Society of America but after Lance’s death she moved to Earth-1 and joined the Justice League. There she discovers she now has a super-sonic “Canary Cry”. This was eventually retconned making her part of a mother and daughter pair with the later having the cry and both existing on a single Earth.
The daughter of this pair, Dinah Laurel Lance, grew up learning to fight from her “aunts” and “uncles” in the Justice Society and, after one additional retcon, became the founding female in the Justice League of America. Not to be stopped, one reorganization later she even became the team’s leader. Later, she would become a member of the newly reorganized JSA and eventually fight crime as part of the female-centric Birds of Prey. She also met, fell in love with and married the hero Green Arrow. Somewhat inexplicably, Black Canary is now the leader of a punk band in the most recent comic series.
Black Canary has flown through quite a few hoops over her near 70 years of existence. Not the least of which being the number of costume changes that circle back around to a modernized version of the original.
1. DC Direct Hard Traveling Heroes Black Canary
The longest worn of any of the costumes, this version (released as an action figure in 2000) shows Canary in the outfit that she would wear from her beginning all the way up to her time with the new Justice League (after the Legends miniseries). This outfit features the corseted bodysuit covered by a short bolero jacket with sleeves that stop above the wrist. She wears black fishnet stockings and black pirate boots. The outfit is finished with a black choker, earrings and shoulder length blond hair. Her mouth is open and preparing to scream. What makes this figure unusual is that the legs beneath the fishnets are colored blue. This is also true in the comics but to see it in a real world situation seems odd. Is it a kind of censorship or a case of just following too close to the source material?
2. The Justice League International Series 1 Black Canary
This figure comes directly from relaunch of the Justice League into the Justice League International in the late 80s. Quirky humor was the mainstay of this series so it is often referred to as the “Bwa-ha-ha” era. This costume (released as an action figure in January of 2009) sees Black Canary completely covered except for her face. She wears a blue and black skintight body suit from neck to boots except for a wide collar and puffy sleeves that end at white trim of her black gloves. She wears a tight white belt at her waist and white pirate boots. On her head is a thin black headband and she sports very feathered blond hair. The unusual feature of this costume is a small set of black wings that run from her neck to her chest on the front. This is a very unusual and confining suit for a martial artist who needs a full range of motion but it was, after all, the 80s.
3. Birds of Prey Deluxe Figure Set
This costume (reduced to action figure form here in March of 2003) comes from the much beloved series The Birds of Prey. This incarnation of that team features Oracle, the wheelchair bound former Batgirl Barbara Gordon, Batman family black sheep The Huntress and of course, Black Canary. The costume is another full body costume but this one makes a lot more sense than its 80s counterpart. The suit has a color scheme of dark blue and light blue and is skin-tight with no puffy areas or protruding extensions. The simple dark blue boots, the forearms and ribs have gold accents and she wears a gold utility belt, reminiscent of Batman. Lastly, a golden Canary hangs from the zipper at her neck, which in the comics doubles as a communication device. This outfit goes a long way toward showing functionality over style.
4. Justice League Series 1 Black Canary
This was the signature costume of the 2000s leading up to the New 52 reboot. She would wear this outfit (depicted here in August 2007) as she chaired the newly rebooted Justice league of America, during her return to Birds of Prey and in the fan favorite Young Justice animated series. This costume takes elements of earlier costumes and puts them back together for a much better effect. The costume is a full black corseted bodysuit with fully closed neck. A yellow strip runs down the center of the body from the neck to the crotch. Her long blond hair now runs down to the center of her back. She sometimes wears the black bolero jacket of old but not always. Her black gloves and black boots have the yellow accents of the Birds of Prey costume and she is once again in fishnets, but this time you can see her true skin color underneath.
5. Arrow TV Series Black Canary
CW’s Arrow has had two women embodying Black Canary throughout its ongoing series run. The first was Sara Lance, an assassin trained and eventually killed by the League of Assassins. She has since been revived and is now the White Canary on the spinoff series DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. The role of Black Canary has fallen to her older sister Laurel who fights as the character in the current season. Her costume, both tactical and fashionable, is reminiscent of her comic counterpart. The entire costume is black with a short ribbed coat covers a turtleneck which hides her electronic Canary Cry. It is accentuated by two belts over tight pants that are tucked into a pair of knee-high tactical black boots. She has a small packet attached to her leg and she uses her father’s police nightstick. Her long blond hair frames her face and she wears one thing none of her counterparts do: a black domino mask to hide that Black Canary is also ADA Laurel Lance. A beautiful figure which was just released this month.
After nearly 70 years in action, Black Canary isn’t just a “Pretty Bird”, as Green Arrow always called her, but rather one of the original strong, no nonsense, butt-kicking women of the DC Universe! Ahead of her time and at the peak of her game, no matter how she is portrayed; the Black Canary will always be a character whose song everyone will gladly listen to.