Black Canary is the name of two superheroines appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics: Dinah Drake and Dinah Laurel Lance along with rebooted amalgam version within The New 52. The original version was created by the writer-artist team of Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino, the character debuted in Flash Comics #86 (August 1947). One of DC's earliest super-heroines, the title Black Canary has appeared in many of the company's flagship team-up titles including Justice Society of America and Justice League of America. Since the late 1960s, the character has been paired with archer superhero Green Arrow, professionally and romantically.
The New 52 iteration of Black Canary, Dinah Drake Lance. Derived character art from the cover of Black Canary vol. 4 #4 (September 2015)
Art by Evan Shaner
|First appearance||Flash Comics #86 (August 1947)|
|Created by||Robert Kanigher (writer)|
Carmine Infantino (artist)
|Alter ego||Dinah Drake|
Dinah Laurel Lance
|Team affiliations||Dinah Drake:|
Justice Society of America
Dinah Laurel Lance:
Justice League International
Justice League Task Force
Birds of Prey
Justice League of America II
Birds of Prey
|Notable aliases||Siu Jerk Jai, Operative Canary, D.D., Dangerous Diva, Canary, Laurel, Pretty Bird|
Black Canary has been adapted into various media. In Birds of Prey she was played by Rachel Skarsten, and in Smallville she was played by Alaina Huffman. In Arrow and the Arrowverse shows the characters Dinah Laurel Lance, Sara Lance and Dinah Drake are portrayed by Katie Cassidy, Caity Lotz and Juliana Harkavy. Dinah Lance made her cinematic debut in the DC Extended Universe film Birds of Prey, portrayed by Jurnee Smollett-Bell.
Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino created the character in 1947 to be featured in Flash Comics as a supporting character. Appearing first as a clandestine crime-fighter who infiltrates criminal organizations to break them from the inside, Black Canary was drawn with fishnet stockings and a black leather jacket to connote images of a sexualized yet strong female character. She appeared as a character in a back-up story featuring "Johnny Thunder":
I was drawing Johnny Thunder, which was not much of a character. I suppose he could have been better because his 'Thunderbolt' was interesting, but the situations they were in were pretty juvenile. Bob Kanigher wrote those stories, and he had no respect for the characters. These stories were nowhere near as good as 'The Flash' stories. DC knew it—they knew 'Johnny Thunder' was a loser, so Kanigher and I brought the Black Canary into the series. Immediately she got a good response, and it was, 'Bye, bye, Johnny Thunder.' Nobody missed him."— Carmine Infantino
According to Amash & Nolen-Weathington (2010), Black Canary is "really" Carmine Infantino's "first character." According to the artist: "When Kanigher gave me the script, I said, 'How do you want me to draw her?' He said, 'What's your fantasy of a good-looking girl? That's what I want.' Isn't that a great line? So that's what I did. I made her strong in character and sexy in form. The funny part is that years later, while in Korea on a National Cartoonists trip, I met a dancer who was the exact image of the Black Canary. And I went out with her for three years.
Bob didn't ask me for a character sketch [for the Black Canary]. He had a lot of respect for me, I must say that. He always trusted my work... Bob loved my Black Canary design."
At her Golden Age debut, Black Canary was the alter ego of Dinah Drake and participated in crime-fighting adventures with her love interest (and eventual husband), Gotham City detective Larry Lance. Initially, the character was a hand-to-hand fighter without superpowers who often posed as a criminal to infiltrate criminal gangs. Later stories depicted her as a world-class martial artist with a superpower: the "canary cry", a high-powered sonic scream which could shatter objects and incapacitate and even kill powerful foes. When DC Comics adjusted it's continuity, Black Canary was established as two separate entities: mother and daughter, Dinah Drake-Lance and Dinah Laurel Lance. Stories since the Silver Age focused on the younger Black Canary, ascribing her superhuman abilities to a genetic mutation. However, since the launch of the New 52, the two identities have been merged, with Dinah Drake possessing a metahuman cry.
Dinah Laurel LanceEdit
Following the universe-altering events of Crisis on Infinite Earths (concluding in March 1986), Black Canary's history was revised again. The mind-transplant story of 1983 was discarded; in this version of the story, the present-day Black Canary is Dinah Laurel Lance, who inherits the identity from her mother, Dinah Drake Lance. Although some references (for example, those in James Robinson's Starman series) tried to distinguish the two Canaries by calling the first "Diana", recent accounts have confirmed Dinah as the mother's given name.
The two Canaries' origin stories were told in full in Secret Origins #50 (August 1990). In this story, Dinah Drake is trained by her father, detective Richard Drake, intending to follow him on the Gotham City police force. When she is turned down, her disillusioned father dies shortly afterwards. Determined to honor his memory, Dinah fights crime and corruption by any possible means. She becomes a costumed vigilante, using her inheritance to open a flower shop as her day job. Dinah marries her lover, private eye Larry Lance, and several years later their daughter, Dinah Laurel Lance, is born (Birds of Prey #66 (June 2004) would establish that they took the name "Laurel" from a librarian Dinah befriended during a case).
The New 52 amalgam versionEdit
In September 2011, The New 52 rebooted DC's continuity. In this new timeline, Dinah Drake is Black Canary (she later marries Kurt Lance). Dinah founds the Birds of Prey and recruits the team, beginning with her friend Ev Crawford, known as Starling. Eventually Katana and Poison Ivy join the team. Initially reluctant to join, Batgirl becomes a regular addition to the cast by the fourth issue of the series. Dinah joins Team 7 in a flashback  and is drafted into the Justice League to assist in the "Throne of Atlantis" crossover, after which she remains a reserve member.
Post-Flashpoint, Dinah Drake was born the child of a teenaged single mother, handed into foster care at the age of four. Considered a troublemaker, she moved from foster home to foster home and finally ran away at the age of ten. Taking to the streets of Gotham, she was caught dumpster-diving by Desmond Lamar, an ex-Special Forces agent and martial arts sensei, who took her in and offered her a job to clean his dojo after classes. In return, he would provide her with food and a safe place to sleep. At her request, Lamar took to teaching her the same skills he provided his students, and she became his regular. When Lamar contracted fatal brain cancer, he left her his dojo. Unfortunately, he was the only one who could keep the local gangs from getting protection money out of them. Dinah's martial arts prowess could only keep them at bay for so long. Eventually, she began losing students who feared the possibility of their retaliation. Flashbacks show that during Zero Year, Dinah's dojo was destroyed in a fire. It was at this point, John Lynch, impressed by her martial arts prowess in taking down several ninjas during an attack, recruited her into Team 7.
During her tenure with Team 7, Dinah works as a covert ops agent in charge of infiltration. She is given the codename Operative Canary. It is during this time that Dinah secretly marries her longtime partner, Kurt Lance. Her powers are subsequently awakened after being tested metagene-positive. Toward the end of the Team 7 run, during a mission to retrieve Pandora's Box, Dinah's sonic scream surfaces and are amplified by Kurt's, the after-effect of which ultimately destroyed the island of Gamorra. In the aftermath, Kurt is presumed dead, and Team 7 is mothballed, leaving Dinah a fugitive on the run from authorities and an outlaw codenaming herself Black Canary.
After Team 7, Black Canary continues freelance covert operations, hunting the terrorist network known as Basilisk, and later attempts to form a team recruiting Starling, Katana, Poison Ivy, and later Batgirl. The team is ambushed by treachery from Poison Ivy and eventually Starling, pressuring Dinah to question her leadership. As the team roster progresses and evolves following the departure of Katana to include Strix and Condor, Dinah's questioning reaches its peak to erupt trust issues and notably with Batgirl when she discovers her powers are being manipulated by an apparently alive Kurt Lance.
Throughout her missions with the Birds, Dinah encounters and protects an elderly woman, Miss Ettie, later revealed to be known as Mother Eve, a centuries-old woman hunted by Ra's al Ghul for her immortality which takes place in the form of her metamorphosis into her youth after every life. She claims that in nearly every life, she was a mother and outlived her children, some of whom have developed unique abilities genetically, and believes that Dinah might have gained her abilities through a genetic link to her.
When Dinah's husband Kurt is found to have no memory of his past life with her, and she realizes Amanda Waller is involved, she summons Waller to find answers during a mission against the Suicide Squad. Confronting Waller, she is informed that Kurt was revived by a Samsara Serum, and the resurrection process damaged his memory. With the truth of Dinah's past and her setting up of this meeting with Waller shared with the Birds, Batgirl confronts Dinah on her leadership and angrily disapproves of Dinah's actions in keeping it from the team. As a result, the Birds of Prey part ways.
After a long rift, Dinah returns to apologize to Barbara and is forced to move in with her when her dojo is burned down (which was partially Barbara's fault). It is later revealed that Dinah has become the lead singer of a band called Ashes on Sunday. Black Canary's appearances on Batgirl lead to the spin-off Black Canary, which focuses on Dinah's attempts to balance a musical career with the frenzied life she leads as a vigilante. After her stint with Ashes on Sunday, Dinah received an offer from A&B Records for an album and go on tour  and joins a rock band she named Black Canary. As the lead singer of Black Canary, Dinah attempts to leave her past life behind and takes to the stage name D.D., joining the likes of drummer Lord Byron, keyboardist Paloma Terrific and mute guitarist Ditto, all of whom are accompanied by the band's tour manager, Heathcliff Ray. However, when her friends' lives are threatened, Dinah dedicates herself to training them in battle. Over the course of the title, Dinah learns more about her powers, which derive from an alien girl named Ditto, and finds that the frontwoman she replaced, Maeve, has been given identical powers by a criminal syndicate. The series ends with issue 12.
Powers, abilities and equipmentEdit
Although depictions of Black Canary have varied over the years, the characters are often portrayed as a prodigious hand-to-hand combatant, having mastered styles such as Aikido, Boxing, Capoeira, Hapkido, Judo, Jujutsu, Kung Fu, Krav Maga, Muay Thai, Shuri-te, and Wing Chun. She has been trained by other top-tier fighters, such as Wildcat, Lady Shiva, Cassandra Cain, and Wonder Woman, as well as having bested Batman, from time to time, in hand-to-hand combat. In addition to her martial arts skills, Black Canary has been depicted as an expert motorcyclist, gymnast, covert operative and investigator. She is also an excellent leader and tactician, having served as the field commander of the Birds of Prey and the leader of the Justice League and League of Assassins for a time.
Her superpower, the canary cry, allows her to create ultrasonic vibrations whenever she screams, allowing her to severely damage both organic and inorganic objects. Her canary cry has been depicted as having ten-fold the capabilities of most sonic weapons and has even been depicted as breaking metals and having the resonance to affect and shatter the Earth. In the New 52, her canary cry now grants her the ability to glide and propel herself across long distances by screaming downwards. Due to this reliance on speech, she is often bound and gagged by villains as a means of incapacitation. Despite her power, Black Canary often relies on her martial arts skills instead, preferring to use her canary cry only during urgent situations, such as against superpowered opponents.
The origin of Black Canary's canary cry has been retconned over the course of her character history, with it being originally depicted as magical in origin due to being cursed by the Wizard. Later, the cry is depicted as an inborn metahuman ability. As of the New 52, her ability is result of human experimentation by the executive leaders of Team 7, involving her being treated with genes from an alien girl named Ditto.
Black Canary is ranked the 71st-greatest comic book character of all time by Wizard, and IGN rated her its 81st-greatest all-time comic book hero. She was number 26 on Comics Buyer's Guide's "100 Sexiest Women in Comics" list.
In other mediaEdit
Black Canary has appeared in live-action and animated adaptations of DC properties and in video games based on the comic books.
The character appeared in the short-lived 2002 television series Birds of Prey, an adaptation of the comic book. Dinah Lance became Dinah Redmond (played by Rachel Skarsten) a teenage runaway with psychic powers. Her mother Caroline Lance (played by Lori Loughlin) was Black Canary with a supersonic canary cry.
In 2008, Smallville introduced Black Canary (played by Alaina Huffman) as an assassin who is recruited for Green Arrow's team of superheroes. She appears in a number of episodes, including several season premieres and finales.
In the 2012 television series Arrow and other series set in its fictional universe, Dinah Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) is an attorney, and commonly goes by the name Laurel. Her younger sister, Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) returns in season two after a six-year absence as a trained assassin for the League of Assassins, working alongside the Arrow (Stephen Amell) to protect Starling City as a masked vigilante, The Canary. When she is murdered in season three, Laurel takes up her sister's identity, operating as the Black Canary until her own murder in season four. In the spin-off show Legends of Tomorrow, a resurrected Sara Lance resumes heroism under the moniker White Canary as prompted by Laurel prior to her death. Cassidy later portrays Laurel's villainous Earth-Two metahuman doppelgänger, Black Siren, on The Flash, and also in the fifth season of Arrow. Cassidy reprises her role as Black Siren on season six of Arrow as a series regular, who gradually redeems herself after working alongside Green Arrow, eventually becoming the Black Canary of Earth-2 before that universe is destroyed. Cassidy also appears in The Flash episode "Fury Rogue" as Siren-X, a Nazi-affiliated Earth-X version of Laurel Lance. In its fifth season, Arrow introduces Dinah Drake (Juliana Harkavy) as the third vigilante to use the Black Canary name. Unrelated to the Lances, she is a former Central City Police Department officer who possesses a metahuman hypersonic cry similar to Black Siren's. Harkavy was promoted to series regular for season six. In September 2019, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that The CW was developing a female-led spin-off series, with Katherine McNamara (who played Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak's daughter, Mia Smoak), Katie Cassidy, and Juliana Harkavy as the leads, reprising their roles from Arrow.  The episode, titled "Green Arrow & the Canaries", aired as the penultimate episode of Arrow's eight and final season on January 21, 2020.
The Dinah Laurel Lance version (voiced by Morena Baccarin) appears in the sequel series Justice League Unlimited (2004–2006), where she is a member of the Justice League, develops a romantic relationship with Green Arrow and a partnership with Huntress during the series.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008–2011) featured Black Canary (voiced by Grey DeLisle) in a number of episodes. In one, she forms the Birds of Prey with Catwoman and Huntress. In another, her canary cry is used to break a spell done by the Music Meister. Grey DeLisle reprises her role in Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
Young Justice (2010–2013, 2019) features Black Canary (voiced by Vanessa Marshall) as a member of the Justice League and combat trainer for the show's team of teenage superheroes. Her relationship with Green Arrow links her to his family of superheroes.
The Dinah Drake version of Black Canary makes a cameo in DC Super Hero Girls, graduating from Super Hero High.
The Dinah Lance version of Black Canary appears in Birds of Prey portrayed by Jurnee Smollett-Bell. This version is a singer in Roman Sionis' nightclub and also neighbors with pickpocket Cassandra Cain. After Harley breaks the legs of a man employed as Sionis' personal driver, he appoints Dinah as the man's replacement, impressed after witnessing her fighting skills. Due to her knowing Cassandra Cain, she is convinced by detective Renee Montoya to be her informant on Sionis' operations, after the detective mentions that her mother, a hero who trained Dinah to be her successor, died in the line of duty. Dinah is determined to do what she can to bring down Sionis and not allow any harm to befall Cassandra, but she becomes a target once Sionis' right-hand man, Victor Zsasz, discovers her dealings with the police. She agrees to help Harley safeguard Cassandra, and uses her Canary Cry to incapacitate several of Sionis' men at once, allowing Harley to chase after him as he abducts Cassandra. After Sionis' defeat, she joins Renee and Helena Bertinelli to form the titular Birds of Prey, funded by Helena's recovered fortune.
Jennifer Hale and Grey DeLisle reprise the character in video games, appearing in Justice League Heroes for PlayStation Portable and Batman: The Brave and the Bold – The Videogame respectively. In DC Universe Online, Black Canary is a non-playable character voiced by Kelley Huston. The character appears in Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes and in Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham voiced by Kari Wahlgren. She's also included in Young Justice: Legacy. Black Canary made her debut as a playable character in the 2017 game Injustice 2, with Vanessa Marshall having reprised her role from Young Justice.
In 2016, DC Comics released a three-track musical album called EP 1 to promote the comic book, in which Black Canary becomes the lead singer of a band that shares her name. Caveboy lead singer, Michelle Bensimon provided Dinah's singing voice. A follow-up three-track album called EP 2 followed in August 2017.
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DC Entertainment's current Black Canary comic book series takes the superhero out of the Justice League and sends her on a tour of the U.S. as the lead singer of a band that shares her name — and to promote the release of the series' first collected edition, DC has bent reality to release a 3-track EP recorded by the band.
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