A hero who can kick your butt and shatter your eardrums with equal ease. A legacy character who’s become THE ideal of the character, Black Canary! From a complex set of origins trimmed down to a fairly easy one, Black Canary has been around since the Golden Age of comics, but many probably think of the Post-Crisis version more so than even the Silver Age version. Let’s dive in to try and figure out all this stuff. It gets easy after a point, I swear.
Originally there was Dinah Drake, a vigilante who used her fighting skills to take down crime syndicates. She was a florist by day, hero by night type. She fell for Gotham detective Larry Lance, and the two would be married and she’d become Dinah Drake Lance. When existence made it clear that this was all Earth 2 as Dinah grew older, her daughter Dinah Laurel Lance would take over her mother’s career in crime-fighting. Cursed by a villain of the Justice Society of America with an uncontrollable screaming power, she is put into suspended animation by Johnny Thunder and his Thunderbolt. Everyone is made to forget her existence until a cure can be found so they do not feel the sadness of having lost her. When her mother is nearly killed, her mind is put into the body of her daughter to continue fighting crime. This is weird, but thankfully is around the time of the Crisis of Infinite Earths, so all of DC history is rewritten while merging multiple Earths into one.
Post-Crisis, Dinah Drake would be a great crime fighter and fight with the JSA during World War 2 and beyond. She’d go on and marry her detective boyfriend, Larry Lance, and they’d have a daughter who was given the middle name of one of Dinah’s best allies, thus Dinah Laurel Lance was born and named. It would turn out that young Dinah was a meta-human, born with a superpower, the ability to make a sonic scream. She’d learn to control it and learn how to fight from the greatest of the JSA. Effectively raised by the JSA, it was no surprise when Dinah would go on to become the next Black Canary.
Able to boost her impressive combat skills (likely in the top 10 best fighters of the DC universe) with her “Canary Cry” capable of breaking sturdy materials and knocking back multiple opponents, Black Canary was a formidable superhero. It was not a surprise that she’d end up aiding in the foundation of the Justice League of America. Alongside Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, Aquaman, and The Flash, Dinah would create one of the most important superhero teams on the planet, following in her mother’s footsteps. While she got along with most of the team, she and Green Arrow had a rough start and were mostly antagonistic to one another. This was, of course, only the beginning of what would become a whirlwind romance.
Dinah’s mother would end up dying during Dinah’s time with the JLA. Eventually getting romantically involved with Green Arrow, Oliver Queen, she’d leave the JLA with him to aid in protecting his hometown of Star City. Green Arrow and Green Lantern got it into their heads to travel across America to “rediscover” it, and Dinah thought it best to join them since a road trip around the country fighting crime sounded pretty cool. When they returned, Dinah helped found another Justice League, this time an International branch that was backed by the United Nations. Dinah is a real team player.
Carrying on her mother’s legacy, yet again, Dinah would open a florist shop. Together with Ollie, Sherwood Florist would become a successful Seattle business. Sadly, during their time in Seattle Dinah would be kidnapped and tortured on a mission that would have her lose her Canary Cry. This event also led to Green Arrow killing her captor and messing with his own views on life. While Ollie aided her in recovery, he’d end up kissing another woman at some point, thus breaking off their relationship. Ollie would end up dead soon after this, dying in an exploding airplane, leaving Dinah understandably shocked.
Contacted by Oracle, Barbara Gordon, Dinah would help found the Birds of Prey. Using electronic devices to allow her to use her Canary Cry again, she’d take the fight to their enemies’ doors with Oracle guiding her. They’d gain such team members as Huntress and Lady Blackhawk as time went on. One mission would have her dealing with Ra’s al Ghul and Lazarus Pits. The use of a Lazarus Pit granted her back her original Canary Cry.
When her mother’s old team, the JSA, is thinking of reuniting to aid in training the next generation of legacy superheroes, Dinah has to be there to help found the new team. She is part of this team and the Birds of Prey at the same time since she doesn’t need to lead the JSA, and can help the next generation who see her as the success story of what a legacy superhero can be. Shock enters her life again as Oliver Queen returns with his resurrection, and with only memories from right around the time they had just finished their travels across America. Bewildered by it, she is sure it truly is Ollie, if only not completely due to his lack of memories or any of the injuries he’d experienced between then and his death.
During the time that Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were gone for a year, Dinah had taken up switching roles with Lady Shiva, arguably the greatest fighter/assassin in the world. Realizing she cannot go through with Shiva’s lifestyle, and furthermore finding a young girl named Sin she wishes to keep from becoming the next Lady Shiva, Dinah heads back to the U.S. to raise the child and work with the Birds of Prey.
When the Justice League of America reforms for the billionth or so time, Dinah is made the Chairwoman of the group and leads the team on several missions. Ollie, having his old memories returned, had been dating Dinah and proposed to her. She finally agreed to him, realizing that their lifestyle was never going to change, so they might as well embrace it. Their married life was filled with many adventures.
Dinah eventually stepped down as Chairwoman of the Justice League for personal reasons. When the villain Prometheus plans to bring devastation to as many superheroes as possible, the Arrow family is hit hardest. Red Arrow, Ollie’s former sidekick, loses his arm and his daughter in the ensuing chaos. Star City was destroyed in the process.
Blackest Night didn’t give Dinah and her family any time to recover. Not only that, but due to Ollie having been resurrected, he could be possessed and made a Black Lantern like any other dead person. Though taunted by her husband’s desiccated corpse, she was able to freeze Ollie with the help of his son, Connor Hawke. When the Black Lanterns are returned to normal, it is learned that Ollie had killed Prometheus for what he’d done to his family and Star City. Ollie goes on the run with Dinah in hot pursuit. When Ollie turns himself in Dinah breaks off their marriage and goes back to work with the Birds of Prey.
In the New 52, Dinah Drake starts the Birds of Prey with team members Starling, Poison Ivy, Katana, and eventually Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) to fight crime.
There you have it. The story of Dinah Laurel Lance, who is now currently Dinah Drake, who was the original Black Canary, but then her daughter became the fan favorite and thus we had Laurel instead of Drake. Even stranger? In the television series Arrow where there is Dinah Lance and her sister Sara Lance, Sara is Black Canary in that universe. Comics and comics-related media are a weird place that can get confusing, so I hope this has been helpful. See you next time!
Flash Comics #86
Justice League of America
Green Arrow and Black Canary
Birds of Prey
Dr. Alexander Bustos