Black Canary

[Cover of FLASH COMICS #92]

Character Data

Dinah Drake Lance. Daughter of Richard Drake. Wife of Larry Lance. Mother of Dinah Laurel Lance (Black Canary II).

Residence: Originally an unnamed American city; later Gotham City
Occupation: Florist
First Appearance (Golden Age): Flash Comics #86 (August 1947)
First Appearance (Silver Age): Justice League of America #21 (August 1963)
Joined JSA: All-Star Comics #41
Pre-Crisis Fate: Active until Justice League of America #74; died of radiation exposure between Justice League of America #74-75, as revealed in Justice League of America #220
Post-Crisis Fate: Active until the 1970s; died of cancer some years later as a result of the exposure to the radiation that killed her husband; passed on name and heritage to her daughter, Dinah (Secret Origins vol. 2 #50). 

Character History

Dinah Drake was born in the 1920s to police officer Richard Drake and his wife. From early childhood, Dinah received intensive physical training from her father, who also taught her basic police skills and instilled in her the desire to join the Gotham City police force. When she reached the appropriate age, Dinah began to join her father on certain cases and became acquainted with detective Larry Lance. The two fell in love and Dinah became something of sidekick for Lance. She later applied to Police Academy, only to be rejected due to the limited space allotted for female applicants. Her rejection came as a personal defeat for Richard Drake, who suffered a heart attack and died after reading her rejection letter (Secret Origins vol. 2 #50).

Embittered by her rejection, Dinah opened a flower shop and settled into a routine lifestyle. Nevertheless, the training her father had provided was a profound influence in her life. In late 1947, inspired by the mystery-men that had been prominent in America during World War II, she adopted the identity of Black Canary. Her costume was simple: black leotards, black stockings, black jacket, and a blonde wig. Likely due to her father's connections and her own rejection by the Gotham police, she chose a method of operation in which she committed petty thefts to win the confidence of larger criminals. In turn, she secretly arranged for capture of those criminals. In an early case, she crossed paths with Johnny Thunder and his Thunderbolt. Black Canary easily outwitted the hapless Thunder, who was instantly smitten with her (Flash Comics #86). Through Johnny, she learned of the Justice Society of America and craved the recognition of the stellar group of heroes. She tagged along with Johnny to JSA meetings (All-Star Comics #38-40) until he left the group in 1947 (All-Star Comics #39) because he was losing control of his Thunderbolt (due to magical interference from Badhnesia, as revealed in Justice League of America #219-220). When the Injustice Society of the World captured the JSA, Black Canary joined forces with the Harlequin to free them. At the completion of the case and the capture of the Injustice Society, Black Canary was made a full member of the JSA (All-Star Comics #41). She remained with the JSA through the remainder of its first incarnation and was an active member of the Justice Society during its final case and its appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951. Black Canary joined her fellow JSA members in declining to reveal her identity to HUAC and thus entered retirement (Adventure Comics #466).

At some point after abandoning her costumed identity, Dinah Drake married Larry Lance. The two had a daughter, but the Wizard, after escaping from prison, invaded the Lance home and used his powers to imbue the child with an uncontrollable sonic cry. Unable to control the destructive child, they parents sent their daughter into suspended animation in the dimension of Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt. The Thunderbolt then caused the parents and Johnny to forget the daughter had ever existed (revealed in Justice League of America #219-220).

When Green Lantern was injured by the Reaper, she was among the first to demand a return to active duty (Secret Origins vol. 2 #50). She later coaxed Starman out of retirement (revealed in Green Lantern Corps Quarterly #3) and joined him against both the Mist (Brave and the Bold #61) and the now-married Sportsmaster and Huntress (Brave and the Bold #62). During these adventures, she and Starman became lovers, but the affair was brief. Starman never mentioned it to his children (revealed in Starman vol. 2 #21). Black Canary also participated in a number of cases with the JSA and the group's Earth-1 counterpart, the Justice League of America (Justice League of America #21-22, 29-30, 46-47, 64-65).

In the late 1960s, the mad-star Aquarius enjoined the combined might of the JLA and JSA. In the ensuing struggle, Larry Lance was killed attempting to protect a helpless Black Canary (Justice League of America #73-74).

At this point, the history of the Black Canary becomes particularly tortuous. Pre-Crisis, Black Canary decided to move to Earth-1 to overcome her grief over her lost husband. En route, she was revealed to be dying of radiation poisoning and transferred her memories to her comatose recently recalled daughter. The daughter then spent many years under the assumption that she was her mother and moved onto Earth-1 (revealed in Justice League of America #219-220).

Post-Crisis, Black Canary did not die shortly after her exposure to the radiation that killed her husband, and her daughter was neither comatose nor unrevealed. At some point in the past, both Black Canaries had active crime-fighting careers simultaneously. After the death of Larry Lance, Black Canary became less active and eventually retired altogether. She developed cancer as a result of her exposure to Aquarius's radiation in later years and died while her JSA comrades were in limbo (revealed in Secret Origins vol. 2 #50 and Green Lantern Corps Quarterly #3).

Post-Zero Hour, the history of the Black Canary is uncertain. The JLA was formed in 1986, nearly 40 years after the Black Canary joined the JSA; therefore, the tale of Larry Lance's death must be greatly altered. Also, since Black Canary was not among those who received the long-prolonging effects of Ian Karkull's radiation, there is some question as to the relation of ages between mother and daughter Black Canary; the original must have been in her 40s or 50s when the second was born. These and other questions will need to be answered before Black Canary's revised history can be fully understood.

Powers/Skills

Black Canary's abilities were the result of extensive training in police skills and in the martial arts by her father (a police officer). She also carried small weapons and chemical pellets in compartments of her uniform.

Weaknesses/Limitations

Black Canary's limitations, like many of her JSA comrades, stemmed from her own humanity. While highly trained, she was mortal and could be injured and slain by normally mortal forces.

Related Links

List of Appearances for the Golden Age Black Canary (Alphabetical 1939-2003

List of Golden Age Appearances (Detailed, 1939-1955)

Golden Age Black Canary Merchandise/Memorabilia (Pics and Links)

 

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