Friday, November 13, 2009

1984 Black Canary Postcard by George Pérez


I believe I first encountered Dinah Lance while thumbing through my visiting uncle's copy of Green Lantern/Green Arrow #84. That would have been around 1983, when he paid us a visit after having left the states to live in Hawaii. I remember our visiting a friend of his with a comic collection that filled bookshelves, and being quite envious, even if a lot of it was head comix and Howard the Duck.

This particular issue stuck with me because of the gorgeous Neal Adams/Bernie Wrightson art. Up to that point, I don't recall having seen drawings that were so lifelike, especially the lovely ladies and little details like Ollie's beard and turtleneck. I also wasn't familiar with super-heroes that came across as helpless as Green Lantern after a disguised Black Hand had slipped him a mickey. I haven't even seen a reprint of that story in over a decade, but my mind readily conjures images from the book as I recall them nearly thirty years past.

Of course, this all has little to do with the Black Canary. Like Clea in the stack of Dr. Strange comics my uncle left me, Dinah was just the girlfriend, sometimes in a costume, but rarely more than a few steps above damsel in distress. I didn't much regard Dinah before Justice League International, and even then she was just a straight for the goofier characters to bounce off of. Dinah was gone inside a year, so that she could be victimized and de-powered in Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters. If I had to guess, I'd say her serial in Action Comics Weekly was the first time she registered as worthy of notice, in part because she'd burnt the terrible replacement costume that reared its truly ugly head in the early-to-mid '80s. I gave her points for sheer audacity, plus the serial was drawn by Randy DuBurke, whose long forgotten style merged Paul Gulacy with Bill Sienkiewicz. This led to my buying her four-issue mini-series, and even a few issues of the ongoing that followed, but the scripts by Sarah Byam left me cold.

As I became more invested in the DC Universe after ditching Marvel in the speculator years, I learned the history of Black Canary. I respected that she was one of the longest active comic book heroines, with membership to major super-teams, and had even been retconned into a JLA founder. Still, I struggled with my respect for what Black Canary represented and the character's shoddy treatment as a hanger-on for decades.

Finally, Chuck Dixon and Gary Frank crafted the first Birds of Prey special, and even though it was Oracle who had brought me to that party, it served as a vehicle for elevating Dinah's regard. Over a hundred issues of the estrocentric team book were fueled by Black Canary, and the premise ran out of gas once she was removed. All in all, I still vastly prefer the original Batgirl and her Earth-2 counterpart the Huntress, but I've always wished Dinah the best, though she rarely gets it.


mathematicscore said...

Heck yeah to Black Canary. Those eighties/90's mini's and back ups were pretty tight. Birds of Prey never caught my attention until it was about to be canceled, so I've yet to really get into most of it. but what I've read, I've liked.

Diabolu Frank said...

For me, the sweet spot during Birds of Prey was the first couple years of Gail Simone's run (#56-80.) That's when the book was at its most vital as a super-heroic exploitation movie with a strong feminist streak. Dixon's run was too disposable and episodic for my taste. You could tell Black Canary was Simone's favorite, and she was built up to A-list status while Huntress arrived as a sarcastic foil. Sadly, once the book got sucked into one crossover after another, then lost BC to the Justice League, it came off the rails.

mathematicscore said...

Simone has earned a high stature in my eyes of late, between Secret Six and Wonder Woman (which I wasn't sold on her run at first) I think she should be DC's go to writer second only to John's and maybe Morrison.

That's right, I just said Gail Simone is probably better than Grant Morrison.

Diabolu Frank said...

I'd agree with you. I can rely on a certain level of quality from Simone, and when she falls short, she's still enjoyable. Morrison's reach consistently outstrips his grasp, so that his lows are quite so. Simone can't touch Morrison at his best, but too often, neither can he.


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