CCI: Comic Character Investigation #3

1 novembre 2010 Non Par Comic Box

[ENGLISH] This month: Black Canary. Since the inception of The Golden Age of comics in 1938, many heroes, and many villains, have splashed their battles across artistic pages, have endured their struggles in those same pages and have intrigued a readership which has loved their adventures for 72 years. This column celebrates such characters by taking a look each month at one of them. Some you will know and some are more obscure, but all hold a significant place in comics, for the world of stories in any medium is about the characters who populate it. The spectacular citizens of the universe who inhabit the comic book nation might be brave or sinister, bold or fearful, but all are characters who we can never forget. So, The Golden Age becomes the Silver Age, The Silver becomes The Bronze and so on, until today and until tomorrow. . . in The Endless Age of comics, and the beings who live inside them.

The Cry of the Black Canary

Black tights and black mesh formed around a “blonde” superhero vixen. The skills of a martial artist. And a sonic cry to be feared by enemies. She’s The Black Canary and she’s a classic superheroine who has been around since The Golden Age. Black Canary first appeared in Flash Comics #86 in 1947. An anthology comic, she was merely a supporting character in a Johnny Thunder story. It was Johnny Thunder who later nominated her for membership in the Justice Society of America. Upon acceptance into that famed group, she had the distinct honor of being a part of the very first superhero team.

The original character was created by great comic scribe Robert Kanigher and legendary DC costume re-designing artist (The Flash and Green Lantern) Carmine Infantino. The new Flash costume design Infantino fashioned is often credited with being the “official” marker of the start of The Silver Age of comics.

The Black Canary decided to fight crime at the end of the second world war and went undercover to learn about illegal activities so that she could fight against the ugly underbelly of crime. Her alter ego Dinah Drake Lance learned mostly from her father who wished to keep law enforcement a tradition in the family. Without any sons, he did not let up on his dream even though women were highly unlikely to be accepted as police officers, which unfortunately was the case. Regardless, and as a consequence of her father’s fine instruction, she learned new skills and soon knew more than most professional officers about fighting crime.

The character is also a uniquely generational heroine for the original Black Canary had a daughter who grew up around the many heroes of the JSA who her mother fought alongside. It should have been expected that when she grew up she would want to take up the mantle of the disguise and the mission herself.

Despite her mother’s original resistance to the idea, eventually she had to accept her daughter’s choice, especially since her daughter possessed the meta-gene that gave her the same sonic cry ability. At least she would be armed for any battle. The next generation superheroine learned all of her martial arts skills from Ted Grant, a.k.a. Wildcat, a superhero from the Golden Age, just as the original Black Canary had learned police skills from her father. And it seems that she inherited not only a genetic ability from her mother to fight the evils of the world, but also the lineage to be part of a legendary superhero team. As her mother had the honor of joining the JSA, the new black canary became one of the founders of the Justice League of America (if one of the lesser legends among that number).

Since that fateful first comic appearance the character became increasingly more present in the world’s greatest pop cultural presence (comics for those who have not realized it yet. . .), fighting alongside many, in teams and in team-ups, such as with Green Arrow and Batman and most notably with Batgirl-turned-Oracle in their own series, Birds of Prey. A series definitely worth an afternoon’s reading indulgence for any comic fan with a soft spot for girl team-ups, and isn’t that everyone? Maybe the coolest thing about the Black Canary is that she is a subtle heroine. Never quite flashy or showing off, she has been serious about her mission in every generation. The more intelligent her enemy, the more they realize they would be better off being left for dead and circled by vultures than to feel the skilled combat maneuvers of Dinah Lance and worse, the part of her that is not so subtle, the startling and powerful cry of The Black Canary.

[James Parducci]

James Parducci is the creator of the comic series Nighthunter. He has been published in multiple periodicals and runs his own freelance writing business in San Diego.