Black Canary: Who is the Original Bird of Prey?

Move over, Tweety

Black Canary: “Black Canary.
Green Arrow: “Green Arrow. [They shake hands] I’ve noticed you around.
Black Canary: “I know. You happy punching the bag or you wanna go a few rounds with me? [beat] I am talking about sparring.”
Green Arrow: “That’d be nice too.

Justice League: Unlimited, “The Cat and the Canary” (Season 2, Episode 1)

A robbery has gone bad in Gotham City. Gunmen stormed a bank and took civilians hostage when the police arrived. As SWAT prepares to enter the building, one of the robbers puts a gun to a little girl’s head. The child hears the gun cock and cries for help.

Her cry is joined by a piercing scream that hits the hostage takers like a wall of sound. Most of them are hurled into a wall and knocked unconscious. The remaining gunman aims at the shadowy corner the attack came from. A blonde woman rushes out and dodges his panicked shots. She disarms him, frees the girl, and knocks him out faster than a blink. Black Canary offers the girl her hand and leads her back to her mother.

Black Canary is one of DC’s oldest female superheroes. She’s been a member of the Justice Society of America, leader of the Justice League, and a founding member of the Birds of Prey. So who is she? How did she become a hero? How is she still active despite fighting crime since the 1940’s? Let’s find out.

Taking Flight: Black Canary’s Backstory

Oliver Queen: “When other girls were applying to college, she was mastering the ancient arts of judo and jiu-jitsu — which means she doesn’t even need to use her superpowers to kick your butt.

Green Arrow #50

Black Canary debuted in Flash Comics #86 in 1947. She was created by Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino. Originally an ally of bumbling hero Johnny Thunder, she erupted in popularity and replaced him as the main character.

Dinah Drake wanted nothing more than to become a police officer like her father. Rampant sexism barred her from joining the force. Blocked from her dream, she opened a flower store and began training to become a vigilante. Dinah soon disguised herself with biker gear and a blonde wig, taking the name Black Canary.

Black Canary’s first mission involved her pretending to be a villain to infiltrate a gang. She quickly brought down the gang with aid from Johnny Thunder and his genie Thunderbolt. Johnny was impressed and invited her to join the Justice Society of America. She was the first female superhero to join the JSA, since Wonder Woman was only allowed to join as their secretary.

Dinah fell in love with detective Larry Lance. They eventually married and had a daughter named Dinah Lance. The JSA was forced to disband by Senator McCarthy, and Black Canary retired to take care of her family.

Leaving the Nest: Black Canary’s History

Oracle: “Well, I hear things. Hope I’m not out of line if I say your life lacks direction right now.
Black Canary: “A real understatement.”

Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey

Dinah Lance grew up hearing stories of her heroic parents and swore to become a hero like them. The retired members of the JSA took her under their wing, with boxer Wildcat as her primary mentor. In addition to her combat skills, Dinah learned she had a Metagene that gave her a superpowered scream called the Canary Cry.

Dinah took up the mantle of Black Canary, using her mother’s costume while working in the family flower shop. She was quickly asked to join the Justice League and served with distinction. On a few occasions she has even been the de facto leader of the League.

While working with the League, she fell in love with Green Arrow. The inseparable pair eventually married. Unfortunately, Black Canary left Green Arrow after he murdered the villain Prometheus in cold blood.

Black Canary soon met Oracle, the paralyzed former Batgirl. Oracle believed that Black Canary had yet to scratch the surface of her potential and offered a partnership: Oracle’s hacking and computer savvy matched with Canary’s fighting skills and strength. Canary agreed and the two formed a team called The Birds of Prey.

Cry Havoc: Black Canary’s Powers and Personality

Black Canary:M’gann, you’re a Martian. Not using your natural abilities is like me refusing to speak. Which, by the way, I tried for a while after my very first Canary Cry. Nearly deafened my entire first grade class. So I get how you feel. But not being yourself is never the answer. And it won’t make your feelings of guilt go away.

Young Justice, “Disordered” (Season 1, Episode 16)

Black Canary is one of the DC Universe’s best fighters. She has mastered dozens of disciplines, beaten Batman in a fair fight, and once defeated an entire army by herself without using superpowers. On top of her combat skills, Canary is a skilled acrobat, infiltrator, archer, and tactician.

When Black Canary speaks, people listen. When she uses her Canary Cry, the concussive force sends them flying. The Canary Cry is a focused scream loud enough to shatter steel. At full strength, the Canary Cry was able to destroy Amazo, an android with the powers of the entire Justice League. Black Canary avoids using the Cry unless she’s fighting superpowered opponents.

She is prideful, assertive, and refuses to take crap from anyone. She can easily connect with others and has even befriended several of her enemies. Some versions of Canary are even shown working as the Justice League’s therapist. Unfortunately, her better traits are usually downplayed when she is paired with Green Arrow, turning her into a damsel in distress.

The Actors Who Play Black Canary

Danuta Wesley – Legends of the Superheroes
Rachel Skarsten – Birds of Prey.
Salaina Huffman – Smallville
Morena Baccarin – Justice League Unlimited
Grey DeLisle – Batman: the Brave and the Bold
Katie Cassidy Caity Lotz, Juliana Harkavy – Arrow
Jurnee Smollet-Bell – Birds of Prey

Didya Get All That?

One bird you don’t want singing to you. 

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