Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why I Like....Black Canary

"First of all, let's talk about NOT leaving the seat up, OK?"
When I first began reading super hero comics when I was a wee lad not that many years ago (coughcough1970scoughcough), I was drawn to the big two at DC, Superman and Batman. (And the story of how I chose DC over Marvel and the struggle it has been to remain loyal to DC....is another story.)

Perhaps I was more drawn to Clark Kent than Superman himself as this was the ultimate secret wish of a lonely child: despite being looked down on (or worse, ignored), that underneath that wimpy exterior was a being of immense power and beloved by all.



Batman was another type of wish fulfillment. The idea that one does not need super powers to make be a super hero.  Just be as strong and as smart and as clever as you can be. 

 In between were characters of varying interest to me. I read Green Lantern but I never understood the appeal. His power: he wears a ring that does cool stuff. So yeah, the ring is awesome but the guy wearing it could be anybody...and sometimes was. On the other hand, all the Flash could do was run fast but he did some cool tricky things with that.

But there are characters off the beaten path that got my attention and none more so than the one I want to talk about today:


Black Canary interested me in the way that only a budding male adolescent mind could be interested. She exuded sex appeal in a way that other super heroines did not. And it was the outfit.
The original premise was of a woman named Dinah Drake who fought crime under the guise of being a criminal herself, The Black Canary. But in addition to the subterfuge of playing at being "naughty" while nabbing bad guys, it was clear from her design that sex appeal was part of her weaponry.  
Even before I ever heard or learned the word "fetish", Canary was appealing to what scientists call "the pervy part of the brain". Oh, Wonder Woman in all her exposed flesh and Batgirl in her head to toe hip-hugging costume had their appeal. And Marv Marvel (especially as drawn by Bob Oskner) and her little skirt? Cute. Sexy cute.


("How long do I have to hold this pose, Mr. Bolland?")
                                                                                                                      ("Bring back our Bat-keys!" "Tee-hee!")

But Black Canary wore an outfit that was just a bit short of being an actual costume, the typical normal super heroic uniform. Everything could be bought off the rack. Granted, that rack may be at Frederick's of Hollywood but still...the bolero jacket, the body suit/leotard, the blue fishnet tights, the high heeled pirate boots, and the black choker. Heck, even the blonde hair was a wig, adding to the concept of sexual role play in the service of kicking bad guy butt.
Of course, this was never spelled out. In those innocent days of the comic book world, any such subtext was not going to be addressed. But that's why Black Canary worked her magic on me.
As comics "matured" and sexuality has become more explicit, images of super heroines as hot babes do absolutely nothing for me. These hyper sexualized women are trying too hard. Maybe I'm just old but I don't think, "Look at the tits on Power Girl! Yeow!" I'm thing, "How can Power Girl fly with those enormous breasts?" 
(Seriously, how DOES she fly with those?)                                                                                                       (I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine, deal?)

But Black Canary, back in the day, was just...cool with it. I remember an issue of Wonder Woman she guest starred in. She had to go down a street in Greenwich Village in broad daylight. She remarks to herself that compared to everyone else on the street, she doesn't stand out. Black Canary may have dressed sexy but the real appeal was she was comfortable with it, she was confident in it. She didn't need to try to be sexy. She just was.
       ("Don't send me back to the Carnival Cruise ship!")                           ("Wow! Who knew polyester would burn so fast!")
And beyond the visual appeal was the idea of a character who stood shoulder to shoulder with Superman & Batman and the rest of the JLA and held her own. She had a super power, her super sonic "Canary Cry", but more often not, she relied on her fighting and athletic skills more than anything to take out the bad guys. She was a breath of fresh normal air amongst the ranks of the super heroes.
Unfortunately, there was a effort to make Black Canary more of a super hero type with a misbegotten run in the 80's with her wearing a bulky full bodied, gaudily stylized costume she seemed uncomfortable in. Later she went back back to variations of the classic design. But it was too different. Maybe it's because nude fishnets somehow do not appeal the same to the "pervy part of the brain" as the blue ones.  Still, under writers like Chuck Dixon and Gail Simone, Black Canary became even more confident and effective. She was still the normal yet sexy light amongst the super powered set.
And this is why I like Black Canary.

                                               ("See ya later, boys!")
At a later date, I'll explain why I liked Red Tornado. Really! Stop laughing! Oh fine, go ahead and mock me. I'm so glad my suffering amuses you*. 
*Hey, I worked the title of my blog into a post.
Art credits from top to bottom:
Justice League of America by Carmine Infantino & Murphy Anderson
Superman and Batman by Christopher Jones & Terry Beatty
Green Lantern by Gil Kane & Murphy Anderson
Flash by Carmine Infantino & Joe Kubert
Black Canary by Dick Giordano (1) and Carmine Infantino (2)
Wonder Woman AND Batgirl by Brian Bolland
Power Girl by Amanda Conner
Mary Marvel by Bob Oskner
Black Canary by Nick Cardy (3), Brian Bolland (4) and Bruce Timm (5)
Kudos to
The Grand Comics Database  http://www.comics.org/
Best Art Ever (This Week) at Comics Alliance  http://www.comicsalliance.com/
Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @ https://twitter.com/DayWayLo

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