Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Black Canary: Siren of the Superheroes

It was 1947. In postwar comic books, superheroes were on the way out and women were on the way in.
Romance comics had just arrived, and even titles like Action Comics and Detective Comics now had women displayed on their covers as prominently as the resident superheroes.
Over at Harvey Comics, the popular super heroine Black Cat had been awarded her own title in 1946. At Timely, in Captain America Comics 66 (Dec. 1947), Bucky got the boot, replaced as Cap’s sidekick by Golden Girl. In Marvel Mystery Comics 82 (May, 1947), the Sub-Mariner met his crime-fighting super-cousin Namora. The Human Torch would team up with Sun Girl.
And, with impeccable timing, the Black Canary arrived in Flash Comics 86 (Aug. 1947).
The creation of writer Robert Kanigher and artist Carmine Infantino, Dinah Drake was originally a masked Robin Hood criminal, a sexy foil for the dunderhead superhero Johnny Thunder.
As she became more law-abiding, the jiu jitsu expert also deftly tossed Johnny out of his own feature and the Justice Society of America. She appeared in Flash Comics until publication ceased in 1949 and with the JSA in All Star Comics until their run ended in 1951.
The Black Canary was back a little more than a decade later in dimension-hopping adventures with the Justice League of America. In 1965, she teamed up with Starman for two issues of Brave and the Bold, apparently as a tryout for a revival (DC did the same thing with an Hourman and Dr. Fate team-up). As comics became more adult in later decades, her relationship with Starman was revealed to be adulterous.
In 1969, when her husband, private eye Larry Lance, was killed, Black Canary joined the JLA and coincidentally got tricked out with a super power — a destructive voice — presumably to make her more useful. Really, she was there to replace Wonder Woman, who had lost her powers the year before and become an Emma Peel-style mod crime fighter.
The Black Canary has been around, in form or another, ever since, appearing more than once on television (in the 2002 WB series Birds of Prey, in the 2012 CW series Arrow, and elsewhere).

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