THE BLACK CANARYMedium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1947
Creators: Robert Kanigher (writer) and Carmine Infantino (artist)
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Plastic Man, she's a superhero who started out on the wrong side of the law. And like The Trigger Twins and The Knights of the Galaxy, she was first seen in a story written by Robert Kanigher (The Bouncer) and drawn by Carmine Infantino (Dial H for Hero).
Dinah Drake was a police detective's daughter, and knew from an early age that she, too, would be a crime fighter when she grew up. But she was rejected by the police academy. Undaunted, she adopted the guise of The Black Canary, and fought crime in the style of Robin Hood — stealing the loot from criminals. According to later revisions, or retcons, this took place in Gotham City, and was inspired by Gotham's resident costumed heroes, Batman and Green Lantern.
Wherever and whyever she did it, it happened not in a series of her own, but in that of Johnny Thunder, which ran in the back pages of DC's Flash Comics. She first appeared as a supporting character in #86 (August, 1947). After a half-dozen issues, however, Johnny finally got it through his thick head that she wasn't romantically interested in him — she loved policeman (later private detective) Larry Lance. Johnny then faded from the scene, and Black Canary became the main character. By this time, she'd taken to aiding the law in less ambiguous ways than stealing from crooks. She remained in what had been Johnny's space until the demise of Flash Comics in 1949.
As in Flash Comics, the Canary ousted Johnny from his membership in The Justice Society of America. A couple of issues after he stopped appearing there, she started; and she continued as a JSA member until the end of the group's run, in 1951.
When, in 1963, the Justice Society members started re-appearing in comics (by making regular trips across the dimensional barriers that separated them from the current crop of superheroes), The Black Canary was among them. But unlike most, she was used in more than just an occasional guest shot. In 1969, Larry Lance, whom she'd married during the intervening years, was killed off. Wanting to make a fresh start, she settled in the world of the latter-day characters, and joined The Justice League of America.
(Later, in another retcon, the difference between her age and that of the other JLA members was erased by claiming the Canary appearing in current comics was actually the daughter of the original — but since she looked the same, acted the same, and was also named Dinah Drake, we'll let that pass. She was also brought into synch with the others by acquiring a genuine super power, the ability to shatter eardrums with a sonic scream.)
The Black Canary continued as a JLA member until well into the 1980s. By then, she'd become the significant other of another long-running costumed hero, Green Arrow. She has since appeared in various mini-series and specials, like most minor characters. At the moment, she's appearing regularly, along with a couple of later characters named Oracle and The Huntress, in DC's ongoing series Birds of Prey. The latter became her ticket into prime-time television, when the WB TV network turned Birds of Prey into a weekly series in 2002, but the TV version lasted only a couple of months.
Back in comics, however, she remains exactly what she's been for years — a well-established, if not absolutely stellar, member of the DC superhero universe.