The Birds of Prey

Black Canary

The Black CanaryThe Black Canary

Dinah Laurel Lance
Larry & Diana* Drake Lance (deceased)
Significant Other(s):
none at the moment; married at 18 to fellow college student Craig Windrow (they divorced after 9 months); long-term relationship with Oliver Queen, the original Green Arrow, which broke up a few months before his death the two have made some attempts at reuniting now that Ollie's back from the dead, but the course of true love never did run smooth...
Gotham City
First Appearance:
Black Canary I: Flash Comics #86, August 1947
Black Canary II: Justice League of America #219-20, Oct/Nov 1983
(Justice League of America #75, November 1969, is generally accepted as Canary II's first appearance, but the "fact" that the character was two people wasn't introduced into continuity until the 1983 story arc and it was then retroactively applied to almost fifteen years of the character's history. Until 1983, there was only one Black Canary.)
Character Created By:
Bob Kanigher and Carmine Infantino
(Infantino also co-created Batgirl some twenty years later) pre-Crisis Canary II incarnation: Roy Thomas & Chuck Patton
Vital Statistics:
blue-grey eyes, blonde hair, 5'4" tall, 115 lbs
(until she joined up with Oracle, she wore a blonde wig to disguise her naturally black hair while in her Black Canary guise; however, she has since abandoned the wig altogether and now bleaches her hair)
Base of Operations:
Gotham City; International; formerly based in Star City & Seattle
"Real-Life" Occupation(s):
florist, judo instructor, currently "employed" as the Black Canary (Oracle has set up an generous expense account for her making her one of the few full-time professional crimefighters in the DCU)
Special Skills:
Sonic "Canary" Cry, Martial Arts master, excellent general athletic abilities (her meta-human sonic cry was destroyed when she was tortured by a sadistic criminal (see Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters), a trauma from which she has otherwise [mostly] recovered but a recent dip in one of Ra's Al Ghul's Lazarus Pits has restored her to perfect physical condition). Per Chuck Dixon, Dinah is one of the top seven martial artists in the DCU along with (in no particular order) Lady Shiva, Batman, Connor Hawke, Richard Dragon, Bronze Tiger, and Nightwing ... of course that list must now stand at eight with Cassandra "Batgirl" Cain definitely being somewhere amongst these "very bests".
Current Affiliations:
(with Oracle) half of the crime-fighting team "Birds of Prey"
Past Affiliations:
a former & original founding member of the JLA; recently took herself off of the active duty roster for the current JSA which she'd helped found


The Biography

A Canary is Born!

At the tender age of nineteen, Dinah Laurel Lance donned her mother's long-retired costume and became the second Black Canary. Her very first adversary led her to a fateful meeting with four other rookie crime fighters and together they founded the Justice League of America (hereafter JLA).

When DC decided to replace Wonder Woman (who, due to her own post-Crisis retconning, could not have been a founder of the JLA) with Black Canary, it might have been a whim, but it turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to the character, and though it took quite awhile for the repercussions to be felt, the past few years (which have seen her take center stage in the Birds of Prey, the Arsenal miniseries, the JSA, and JLA: Year One as well as making many appearances around the DCU) have been the most active and high-profile in the Canary's entire history and this trend has continued into the 2000's with her very high-profile guest-starring appearances in the rebooted Green Arrow series and the Birds' participation in the Bruce Wayne: Fugitive storyline.

The events which took place during the Crisis on Infinite Earths über-crossover were geared to drastically alter the DCU, but most of the characters inhabiting the revised DCU took some time to shift into their new modes, and only a few of them actually got the royal "Year One" treatment that the Batman, for instance, received — and even his "Year One" didn't follow hard on the heels of the Crisis. It wasn't until 1998 — twelve years after the Crisis — that the JLA received their own "Year One" series.

The Justice League of America

Black Canary's backstory seems to have been pretty well worked out after all these post-Crisis years. Having her origin so drastically changed also changed much of what was known about her prior to the Crisis. Her years in Mike Grell & Co.'s excellent Green Arrow comic series redefined her character and her identity quite a bit, even spawning an unimpressive eponymous miniseries and a monthly which lasted one year. Both performed so poorly and were badly received by those who did read them that they are no longer considered in continuity. She also starred in a solo feature in Action Comics for a time in the 1980s — two stories which are likely in continuity since they were more closely related to the character's Green Arrow-era portrayal, but the years she and Oliver spent together in the JLA have not been rewritten or addressed, only referred to. It is to be assumed, then, that most of those stories still stand except where they clash with current continuity.

A major post-Crisis revelation of note is that the original Black Canary had an affair with her fellow-JSAer (and married man) Ted "Starman" Knight. This fact (introduced into continuity by Starman scribe James Robinson) places the affair during the adventures the two shared together and which were chronicled during the Silver Age in The Brave & the Bold #61 & #62. Both Ted Knight and Diana Drake Lance were married at the time (though it is fuzzy whether or not Dinah had been born yet since, during the three separate times the story's been told, one telling seems to indicate she has been born while another seems to indicate she hasn't yet).

The JLA meets Superman

This shocker (which Dinah found out about during her first few weeks in the the JLA) rocked the foundations of her lifelong belief in her Justice Society heroes' superior virtue. Finding out that her mother and one of her heroes were subject to all-too-human failings introduced doubts and affected her friendship with Barry Allen especially during her early months with the JLA.

The current official history is that Dinah joined the JLA as a founding member at age nineteen and spent the next few years adventuring with them pretty much full-time. During this time, she met and became romantically involved with Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow. When he decided to leave the JLA she stayed behind, but only for a short time. Soon, she joined him in Star City and was also a fellow adventurer when Oliver teamed up with Hal "Green Lantern" Jordan as the "Hard-Traveling Heroes". Quite some time later, apparently during an "off" period in their relationship, Dinah donned a new costume and helped found a new incarnation of the Justice League (whose other founding members included Batman, J'onn J'onzz, Captain Marvel, Blue Beetle, Mr. Miracle, Dr. Fate, and Guy "Green Lantern" Gardner).

JLA:  Mouse Hunt

She didn't stay with the new organization (or the new costume) for very long, though, and was soon back with Oliver, this time in Seattle where they both became much more grass-roots, of-the-people heroes and let their secret identities slip through their fingers. Ostensibly they co-owned and ran a flower shop called "Sherwood Florist" (the latest incarnation of the shop Dinah inherited from her mother and ran during her early years with the JLA), but the work of it usually fell on Dinah's shoulders.

Green Arrow #59

They'd faced aliens and supervillains together with the JLA and Green Lantern, but Seattle was a tougher, grittier city where they were faced with more common, everyday evils. They were on their own, too, in a way neither had been for years. No superpowered heroes would sweep in at the last moment to save them. In many ways, it was exactly what they wanted, but there were consequences. They both, during the course of separate investigations, suffered at the hands of torturers, and each ended up taking the lives of the other's torturers. As a result of her ordeal, Dinah lost her meta-human "canary" cry and the ability to have children.

Dinah and Oliver's relationship was a troubled one, but for several years they stuck it out. Even when Oliver left her and Seattle for over a year, Dinah hung on to the belief that he would come back. He did, but, perhaps during that period, Dinah's passion for justice and her determination to fight for it herself were reborn. She soon went back to her old costume (she'd been wearing a black jumpsuit and no wig for sometime whenever she was at work on a case and only occasionally wore her classic costume during most of her Seattle years) and both with and without Oliver, she went back to her first love of crimefighting.

The Breakup, Green Arrow #75 :: 'I love you, Oliver . . . Good-bye.'

Being back in the superhero game felt right, and Dinah found a renewed sense of purpose. But while that aspect of her life was going well, everything else fell apart. After all the strains and frustrations and heartbreaks of their relationship (which included Oliver's having a child with his mysterious sometime ally Lady Shado and a final straw of Dinah catching him kissing her friend and flower shop assistant Marianne), Dinah realized she could no longer stand to be with a man she loved so much but was forced to share with so many.

The next several months were even rockier, and not long after their breakup, the beautiful, castle-like "Sherwood Florist" building in which Black Canary and Green Arrow had lived and worked together for so long burned to the ground (as this was also portrayed as happening in the Green Arrow series, this is apparently still in continuity even though it took place in the Black Canary monthly)..

Dinah lost her focus then, and while she still hunted Seattle's streets, fighting crime where she found it, her life was in pieces. Through a series of rather accidental meetings and associations, she ended up traveling through time and space for a time with the Ray (son of her mother's old ally, the Golden Age Ray) and even had a very brief, instantly-regretted fling with him. The worst blow came when the new Green Arrow Connor Hawke (whom she immediately guessed was Oliver's son) came to her with the horrible news that Oliver Queen had died while attempting to save Metropolis from destruction at the hands of high-tech ecoterrorists. The love of her life was dead, her personal life was a shambles, she could barely meet her bills, and she'd developed a cynical veneer to stave off emotional attachments. She had never been so low before.

BC Rides Again!

And then Oracle called — just in time — and helped pull Dinah out of the malaise into which she'd fallen. Back in action and this time with an equal partner who happened also to have suffered some major traumas and fought her way back from them and who was able help channel Dinah's efforts in positive directions, she quickly rejoined the superhero community, playing an active rôle in the events of The Final Night and participating in adventures with Connor and with various members of the Gotham home team.

In the first couple of years of the monthly Birds of Prey series, Dinah was portrayed as a more and more confident heroine, rescuing herself from a prison camp, taking down the supervillainess team The Ravens single-handedly, and rescuing herself & many others from Apokolips (with a little help from Catwoman). Oracle was her constant support and backup, but Canary could save herself.

Starting early in Year Three, however, Dinah's need to be rescued seemed to become epidemic while her seeming inability to really finish whatever job she'd been sent to do began to become quite apparent. By the time Dinah met and fell for Ra's Al Ghul, one began to hope she was suffering from some sort of personality-altering brain tumor.

Regardless of the explanation, the life-saving dip Dinah took in Ra's's Lazarus Pit completely healed all her prior injuries and illnesses. The Canary Cry is back with a vengeance (and if Dinah ever decides to have kids, she once more is able to), and she's also physically younger now than her 31 chronological years. (Dinah is one of the only comic characters whose age we readers absolutely know since it has been plainly and repeatedly stated that she was 19 during the DCU's Year One [which was also the JLA's Year One]. Now that it is officially DCU Year 12, a simple arithmetic equation gives us Canary's "real" age.)

Return of the Canary Cry!

Since the nadir of the al Ghul romance, Dinah seems to be recovering her heroing equilibrium as well as her health. She played a major role in The Last Laugh, conveying vital information on the Joker's plans from inside the Slab where she also had to outsmart and outlast a whole roomful of crazed supervillains. She also became a bit more involved in the Bat-related goings-on in Gotham by helping Oracle with the investigation into Vesper Fairchild's murder, and she has — very reluctantly — acquired the Spoiler as her wannabe sidekick.

Oliver Queen's dramatic return from the dead has also had a major impact on Canary's life, interrupting the tentative new romance she'd begun with fellow JSA-member Doctor MidNite and leading her to break off that relationship. Olile's return also played a part in her decision to resign from the JSA's active duty roster. Her post-Lazarus Pit life is in a transitional phase where she's rediscovering and reasserting herself as a confident, powerful heroine. As she has been before, the Canary is — once again and better than ever — a Bird of Prey.

*=Dinah Drake Lance, the original Black Canary, has, post-Crisis, sometimes been referred to as Diana Drake Lance — most notably in the character biographies in the back of the premier issue of the Birds of Prey title, in the Elseworld's miniseries, The Golden Age, and in Starman. According to Chuck Dixon, BC I's post-Crisis "real" name is now, offically, Diana. This is an apparent attempt by DC Comics to draw more of a distinction between the two Canaries; however, since the two are still called "Dinah" & "Dinah Jr." in JLA: Year One, it doesn't seem to have caught on very well yet.