I vividly remember my first encounter with Dinah Lance a.k.a. The Black Canary; I was thumbing through my shiny new copy of The Comic Book Price Guide and stumbled upon a captivating Action Comics cover featuring a beautiful blonde taking out two thugs in an alley. She wore black and blue leather, fishnets, and high-heeled boots, but instead of smacking me in the face with overt sexuality it was her elegance at Alan Davis’ hands that initially attracted me to the cover and the character. I’d spend some time tracking down the issue down in the years to come and while I couldn’t tell you much about the story inside, the cover alone was worth the purchase price and to this day it is one of my most prized issues. In the years that followed I began tracking down her numerous appearances in the Justice League of America, her several mini-series, Green Lantern back-issues, etc. and was extremely gratified to be there when she got her big break (alongside Barbara Gordon) in Chuck Dixon’s excellent Birds of Prey. I followed that series for over one-hundred issues, and it was only when Dinah left (followed by Gail Simone) that I regrettably let the title go.
With Dinah, I have to go back to what I feel best describes a “strong woman” to me and certainly she fits the bill not only because she can kick tail and take names, but because of her stinging wit, sense of humor, kind heart, adventurous spirit, and among other things, her matriarchal/familial nature (until recently, one might have protested that last one, but dang if I didn’t have a pulse on her love of family considering her actions upon finding Sin, a child in desperate need of a parental figure). Of course, as an avid martial arts fan one of the things that most attracted me to the character was that she was one of the DCU’s most feared hand-to-hand combatants. Pre-Crisis, even Batman was hesitant to test his fists against her own and I was happy to see that Gail Simone was adimant on making sure that she was just as feared and respected in the modern DCU following her training with Lady Shiva, and others, bringing her to another level entirely. And now that she’s regained her Canary Cry, not only is she able to hang with the best hand-to-hand combat masters that the DCU can offer, but she can deal out serious damage to some of the most powerful metahumans as well.
As for her history, I’ll avoid going into too much detail about her origins as that’ll only serve to confuse folks that aren’t as familiar with the character (and other sources handle it much better) but suffice it to say she’s one of the more well-adjusted heroes in the DCU despite a great deal of grief in her life and, really, the only aspect of Dinah’s backstory that I don’t much care for is her connection to Ollie a.k.a The Green Arrow. Thanks intially to his tiresome political/social naivety (in my view, of course) in the pages of Dennis O’Nel’s Green Lantern – a theme that became even more prominent in the years that followed – I wasn’t particularly keen on the character from the get-go and seeing him take advantage of Dinah’s faithfulness over the years in extremely dispicable ways naturally didn’t sit all that well with me either. Yet, despite all that, they were married recently and I have to admit that the prospect of reading about that guy dampens my my enthusiasm to pick up the Green Arrow/Black Canary series despite the fact that I’d certainly like to be collecting her adventures, and that I love Cliff Chiang’s fantastic art. Still, I think I’ll take a gander and try the title and see if some talented creators can take this in a direction that I’ll be able to enjoy, but whatever the case, Dinah’s my favorite DC heroine and I hope they’ll take her in directions that bring out the best in the character, and makes her happiest.