Black Canary Costume History
The Black Canary was created by Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino. She would make her first appearance in the 1947 issue of Flash Comics #86 and be one of the earliest female superheroes to ever grace the pages of a comic book.
The Golden Age Black Canary had no superpowers. Dinah Drake was the only child in a long line of police officers. She was unable to join the force, because in 1947 women were not allowed to be police officers. She took a job as a florist, but created a costume to fight crime as the Black Canary. As the Black Canary, she had no problems facing off against criminals alone. However, she often teamed up with Johnny Thunder and her love interest/future husband Gotham City Detective Larry Lance. There were many times Dinah would have to go undercover to infiltrate a criminal organizations and bring them to justice. Black Canary later replaced Johnny Thunder’s membership with the Justice Society of America, when his powers became unreliable
During the Silver Age of Comics, Dick Dillin and Dennis O’Neil would revive the Black Canary. It was at this time that she was granted a superpower. Along with being an expert martial artist, she also possessed a sonic scream. The Canary Cry was capable of shattering objects and stunning opponents.
These two versions of the Black Canary created a huge continuity issue in the DC Universe and there were a couple attempts at explain the inconsistencies. First, they made these characters exist in parallel universes. (DC uses this approach often to reboot their storylines for a new generation of readers or clean up their history. Read more about the different revamps in DC Comic Reboots). The second attempt at explaining the differences was to make Dinah Drake the the mother of Dinah Laurel Lance. The New 52 Universe once again combined them into one character, but with superpowers.
When Dinah’s husband, Larry Lance, was killed trying to save her, she traveled from Earth-Two to Earth-Prim with many other heroes in the hope of starting a new life. During this journey she acquired the sonic powers that she calls the Canary Cry. While on Earth-Prime she joined the Justice League of America. This made her the only Golden/Silver Age hero to have served on both the JSA and JLA.
The writers felt that Black Canary was too old to be working with the Justice League of America and be in a relationship with the Green Arrow, so they decided to turn the current Black Canary into the daughter of the Golden Age Dinah Drake. How do you do this and not have Dinah know about it? Simple... The Wizard cursed the child of Dinah and Larry with an uncontrollable sonic scream. To protect their daughter from herself and others, they put her in suspended animation. When the original Black Canary discovered she was dying of radiation poisoning from fighting Aquarius, she did the logical thing and implanted her memories into her adult daughter. See... Simple.
This origin was changed once again after the Crisis On Infinite Earths storyline. Now, Dinah Drake Lance quit the superhero business after her husband died. She stayed home to raise their daughter, Dinah Laurel Lance. She still associated with all of her old Justice Society teammates and her daughter became amazed by her mother’s past adventures. A young Dinah Lance now desired to be a superhero like her mother, but Dinah Drake knew the perils of crime fighting and wanted to keep her daughter out of the family business. Dinah Laurel Lance was not going to let her mother stand in the way of her dreams, so she ignored her mother’s demands and secretly trained to be a superhero. Between the fighting skills learned from Wildcat and the Canary Cry she possesses through a metagene (Mutants are Marvel) Black Canary would become one of the great superheroes of the DC Universe. She would even help reform the Justice League of America.
In the New 52 Universe, Black Canary would get another origin overhaul. Black Canary is now Dinah Lance, whose Canary Cry and expert martial arts skills make her a deadly opponent. She was a member of the U.S special forces unit known as Team 7 along with her husband Kurt Lance. The team has since been disbanded and Dinah is wanted for murdering her husband. The Black Canary then helped form the Birds of Prey, which she is the leader.
The first time audiences were introduced to the Black Canary, she was working undercover and they assumed she was a villain. This is why her first costume looks more like clothing worn by a member of the criminal underworld (some might say streetwalker) than a crimefighter. Her bustier on top came down into mildly baggy shorts. To make sure she didn’t freeze at night, she wore an open jacket. The fishnet stockings and pirate boots were perfect for kicking villain butt. The black choker was used to class up the outfit. To help hide her identity, she wore a domino mask. Dinah is a brunette, so she had a blond wig as part of her disguise. The blond hair also added some much needed color to this black and blue costume.
Black Canary’s original costume would undergo a slight update when she proved popular enough to carry her own story. The mask was removed and the shorts became form fitting. It looked more like a one piece bathing suit, than a bustier and shorts combo. The overall costume remained untouched. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
For almost three decades, the Black Canary stuck with the same outfit. In 1985, it was time for a change. She attempted to get rid of her risque look, but unfortunately fell victim to some of the horrible fashion trends of the decade. The Black Canary now wore a full body jumpsuit. Despite the jumpsuit being skin tight from the legs all the way up to her chest, the arms and sides were baggy. It could have been a parachute top. In an attempt to be more colorful than her last costume, she had a pair of white cuffed boots and a matching belt. To keep her hair out of her face while fighting bad guys, she wore a long flowing headband for them to easily grab and wrap around her neck. The pièces de résistance to this ensemble is the large black bird silhouette running along the entire front. The wings spreading out past the shoulders made it look more like a Firebird hood ornament than a black canary symbol.
After the epic fail in trying to update her look, the Black Canary went through a variety of different outfits from the late 80s to 90s. For the most part, she would simply substitute out a piece or two from her original costume with something else. She might wear pants instead of fishnets, a necklace replaces the choker, or perhaps not wear a blond wig. However, nothing stuck and she inevitably goes back to her original costume.
The one addition that stands out from Black Canary's numerous wardrobe changes is the large black mask she wore for a short period of time. This large triangular mask was very simple in its design and similar to the masks worn by other superheroines. However, this basic accessory captured the bird moniker used by Dinah and helped her design pop off the page.
While working with the Birds of Prey, Black Canary would often add yellow to her costume design. The use of yellow stripes on her boots and gloves was incorporated into most of the designs. Although, this made her look more like a bumblebee than a canary. Sometimes she would even wear a suit that didn’t show any skin. I know, shocking! This design was also true for her Team 7 Uniform in the New 52 Universe.
It is this classic costume that has its origins from the 1940s that is continually revisited.
Always wanting to push the boundaries of decency, the Black Canary even dressed provocatively for her wedding. Her dress was closer to something a bride might wear on her wedding night, rather than the actual ceremony. Yes, she had the typical opera gloves, earrings, train and veil that one might expect from an elegant wedding dress, but the rest is questionable. The body looked like a onepiece swimsuit or corset and the knee high boots made it look like she was going out to her night job. Looking at this dress, it is easy to say she should not have been wearing white.
It should come as no surprise that one of the oldest superheroines has had several real life representations appear on screen.
Danuta Wesley was the first actress to portray the Black Canary. She appeared in the 1979 two part television special Legend Of The Superheroes. This live action movie was based on the Challenge Of The Superfriends cartoon that aired the previous year. The first part has of this series had our superheroes attempting to stop a group of supervillains from destroying the world. The second part of the series had the heroes and villains celebrating Batman and Robin with a roast.
Rachel Skarsten portrayed Dinah Lance/Redmond on the short lived television series Birds of Prey. The show is set after Batman has left Gotham. With her powers of telekinesis and precognition, she fights alongside Batgirl/Oracle and the Huntress to help clean up New Gotham. Dinah was going to take on the codename Black Canary, but loyal comic fans caused an uproar and they simply made her the daughter of the Black Canary. She was abandoned as a child and adopted by the Redmond family.
Lori Loughlin would make a guest appearance on the show as the Black Canary. (You may recognize her from Full House.) In the show, her name is Caroline Lance and she did possess the sonic scream. She gave Dinah up for adoption, after her career as the Black Canary put her daughter in mortal peril.
Alaina Huffman’s Black Canary was a recurring character on Smallville, a show about a young Clark Kent’s journey to becoming Superman. She first appeared working at the Daily Planet as Dinah Lance in episode 144 Siren. Lex Luthor had tricked her into believing the Green Arrow was a terrorist. She had managed to discover Green Arrow’s secret identity and almost succeeded in destroying him, but when the truth was revealed all was forgiven. Oliver even offered her a spot in his recently formed superhero league. She accepted and became a key member for the rest of the series. Although they never dated on the show, they did throw in a quick reference to a short fling.
Fans of the Black Canary are unable to find her outfit in your regular Halloween costume store, so they must create their own outfit.
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