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Superheroine of the Week: Black Canary (Dinah Lance), the Champion of Loud Girls Everywhere

Black-Canary saying "Next" after painting the walls red with the blood of her enemies

There are two Black Canaries. One is Dinah Drake, and the other is her daughter, Dinah Lance. While both are badass ladies, the one I’m going to focus on today is Dinah Lance, the legacy character, Justice League member, and superpowered heroine best known for her impeccable sense of style, legs, and the Canary Cry.

Black Canary kicking someone, i'm gonna assume a racist, in the face

There are superheroines more powerful for sure, but I remember quite clearly when I fell in love with Dinah Lance as the Black Canary. It was the episode “The Cat and the Canary” from Justice League: Unlimited and the opening sequence of Dinah completely destroying a bunch of thieves in fishnets, a bustier, and heels, not to mention that blonde hair.

Black Canary represented, at that moment, the mixture of sexy and badass that I have always desired in myself. When I think about my love of Starfire, Ivy Valentine, Barb Wire (I said it), and others, it steamed from this early attraction I felt to Dinah.

As someone who got sexualized very early in life due to puberty hitting me at around 12, I often felt powerless, vulnerable, and shamed for being busty, and that there were just things that were going to be my lot in life. So, Black Canary was this larger than life character for me because she was sexy, she was an amazing fighter, and her special power was being so loud she could explode your brain.

Like many girls, I was often told that I was “too loud,” and I am. I’m a New Yorker, so I’m a loud-talker, a fast-talker, and a hand-talker—a huge-ass excitable mess, and my father was always telling me to speak softer. Would my brother get told that? Nope, and that’s what pissed me off. So, it seems fitting that my heroine would be the woman with the Canary Cry.

Let’s discuss that Canary Cry, because in some adaptations, its power is really played down or ignored wholesale, and we need to make it very clear that it’s not just a cute attack; it’s a kill shot if used correctly. The Canary Cry is a manipulation of ultrasonic vibrations that emit when Dinah screams, capable of damaging organic and inorganic objects—i.e. exploding your brain—and shattering metals.

She’s been known to do some serious damage to foes physically stronger than her with a well-timed scream. Even without her powers, she’s one of the deadliest fighters, trained by some of the best the DC universe has to offer, and has been a leader of the Justice League and the League of Assassins—one of the most important members of whatever group she’s part of.

Sadly, a lot of onscreen live-action adaptations downplay her importance and skill.

The Black Canaries Laurel Lance and Sara Lance on 'Arrow'

Sara Lance and Laurel Lance. (image: The CW)

As some of you may know, I was a huge fan of Laurel Lance on Arrow, and part of the reason I even watched the show was the promise of seeing the Black Canary. The result was … a mixed bag, but overall, I loved Laurel. I loved her because she was messy and flawed in ways that were intentional. I appreciated that she wasn’t always looking to be adored in-universe, that she spoke up for herself, even when the writers clearly didn’t fully believe the words they were putting her mouth.

However, one of the things I resented was her not having the Canary Cry from the very beginning, and downgrading her self-defense abilities from season one to season two in favor of … Sara Lance.

I love that Sara Lance is a bisexual superhero (which reflects Gail Simone’s writing of the character) and that she’s a team leader. I have much respect for her. As a character, I’m not a fan, and part of that has to do with the way she was introduced to be this fun, cool foil for Laurel, which ignored all the trauma that Laurel went through because it was automatically paired with “well Sara’s been through this and she’s here laughing.”

That always had me sitting here like, “So?” There was this “cool girl” element to the writing for her that was frustrating because it was meant, at every corner, to tell Laurel that she was not good enough and not strong enough, and I hated that.

In the comics, Dinah is a legacy character, inspired by her mother, Dinah Drake, and that’s something we don’t get a lot in comics. She was like Chibi-Usa before Chibi-Usa (from Sailor Moon, in case I lost anyone)She was a member of an all-female superhero team. Why was her character on Arrow always in competition with another woman, especially over a guy?

Dinah and Huntress frenemies in tights

Dinah Lance (Black Canary) and Helena Bertinelli (Huntress). (image: Warner Bros.)

One of the relationships I loved in the show Justice League was the frenemy rivalry between Dinah and Helena (Huntress) over who was the better fighter. It was fun to see them try to beat each other, but also that the rivalry gave them a really great understanding of each other. The two episodes that highlighted their relationships were some of my favorites.

In Arrow, they turned Huntress into … whatever the hell that was, and the “Birds of Prey” episode we got was about Helena and Sara/Canary fighting each other. Not a fan.

Then, Laurel was killed off for bullshit reasons, a new Black Canary was chosen in Dinah Drake, and then Black Siren was brought in from Earth-2, where that version of Laurel was evil. She’s awesome, but only serves to highlight their inability to do right by the character when it counted.

That’s why my hope for the future lies in the hands of the upcoming Birds of Prey movie, where Jurnee Smollett-Bell will play the character.

Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary

Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary. (image: Warner Bros.)

Not only will Dinah be played by an actress of color, but it seems like they will pull from her New 52 storyline when she’s a singer (and also Dinah Drake). While it has not been confirmed which version of Dinah she will be, it’s exciting just to know we’ll get another shot at the character.

Throughout the years, Dinah has come to mean so much to me. Yes, there are more powerful superheroines, and when it came down to picking just one, even though I thought, “Maybe I should do Vixen or Storm or Rogue,” my heart said Black Canary. I love her because she’s this sexy, beautiful, strong woman who can kick anyone’s ass in fishnets and heels, with a scream that can shatter the brains of Superman.

She’s everything I wish I was.

Black Canary Cry

Favorite comic runs:

Green Arrow Rebirth by Benjamin Percy

Bloodspell by Paul Dini

Black Canary Vol. 1 by Brenden Fletcher (Dinah Drake-Lance)

Birds of Prey by Gail Simone

(image: DC Comics)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.