This article was originally written for Modern Myths, INC. and was posted on January 21, 2013. This is a reproduction for portfolio purposes.
The Black Canary was one of the first major superheroines in DC Comics. Following Wonder Woman’s debut by 6 short years, Black Canary was the only other female member in the Justice Society of America, as well sometimes being depicted as one of the founding members of the Justice League (but, as with all DC continuity, it’s abstruse at best). Of course, this Black Canary is not the one we all know and love today. The Black Canary who helped found the DC Universe was actually her mother.
Dinah Drake Lance was the first Black Canary, Dinah Laurel Lance was the current Black Canary (and the one who is probably best known from Birds of Prey and the Green Arrow/Black Canary comics). That was one of the most interesting thing about pre-reboot Black Canary: the fact that she was a female-based legacy character. Sure, you have your Batgirls and Supergirls, but they are simply adding a feminine suffix to a well-known male hero. Black Canary, on the other hand, has no prefix or suffix defining her gender, instead her name simply is an expression of her attitude and (at least for Laurel) power set.
The original Black Canary was a street-level hero, a lot like Batman; she researched crimes, infiltrated gangs, and stopped villains with sheer force of will and expert karate knowledge. She was a tough “broad” who was no nonsense, but she was also shown as being insecure outside of her superhero identity. Dinah Drake Lance was a well-rounded and interesting character who had flaws and wasn’t the best at everything.
Dinah Laurel Lance was her daughter. Originally, the first Black Canary didn’t want her daughter to take on a superhero identity, fearing that fighting crime had become more dangerous than it used to be, so, despite the fact that Laurel was raised surrounded by the JSA, trained by Wildcat, her mother forbid her from becoming a superhero.
Of course, as we all know, Laurel still took up her mother’s old name and costume. Initially, it was an act of rebellion, but it quickly turned into a way to memorialize her mother.
All throughout the changing and retconning of the DCU, the mother-daughter hero story remained fairly consistent. In some iterations, the first Dinah died of radiation, in others, she traveled from one Earth to another, and in others still, she retired and eventually reconnected with her daughter; but, throughout it all, the name of the hero Black Canary represented a legacy by and for women only. It stood out among the ranks of Batmen and Green Lanterns as an example that women, too, could retain a superhero identity through different generations. (And one can’t help but think that maybe little Sin or Misfit could have become the next Canary.)
But the New 52′s Team 7 has, in a way, completely annihilated the all-woman legacy. The Black Canary that exists now is officially Dinah Drake, with Lance as her married name. Much like Helena Bertinelli’s fiery erasure from the DCnU, this feels like another abrupt change within the reboot. Gone are the literal decades of character establishing stories that Dinah Laurel Lance had (her great friendship with Babs, her marriage to Ollie Queen, her attempts to raise Sin right). Now she is replaced with her mother, which skews the non-existent timeline even more. And while the decision to replace DLL with DDL is ultimately an unsurprising one (even if the decision to give Dinah Drake her former daughter’s metahuman power feels a bit odd based on how she had been previously established), the biggest loss in this whole decision is the loss of a female-based legacy character.
While there are still earthly Green Lanterns up the wazoo (all of whom are men), a league of Batmen, a few Flash, and some Super-dudes, there is not a single female character in the New 52 that comes from a line of female characters (I am excluding “Wonder Girl” because she has no actual connection to Wonder Woman–if only Donna Troy were around). While DC is doing great at giving female characters their own titles (I am interested to see the upcoming Katana solo series), I feel as though female characters are still being denigrated in a lot of ways. From Lois Lane to the loss of Oracle, women are being un-empowered, infantilized, and diminished.
While the loss of the Black Canary legacy may not be the harshest blow, it is still one that hurts.