Black Canary is noted for her martial-arts skills and her "Canary Cry" – a high powered, sonic scream with the ability to shatter objects and incapacitate villains. Among the first generation of superheroes, she was a member of the Justice Society of America, the first superhero team to appear in comic books.
In the 1980s, the character's history was rewritten to make her two entities: Dinah Drake Lance, who took part in Golden Age adventures and married Gotham City detective Larry Lance, and their daughter Dinah Laurel Lance, who has appeared in modern stories.
The combination of the Black Canary's courage, fighting prowess, and her sex appeal (accentuated by her costume's characteristic fishnet stockings) has resulted in her being referred to as "The Blonde Bombshell."
Black Canary first appeared in Flash Comics #86 in 1947, as a supporting character in the Johnny Thunder feature of the Flash Comics anthology. Initially, she seemed to be a villainess; Johnny Thunder was instantly infatuated with her and was reproached for this by his Thunderbolt. However, she was in fact infiltrating a criminal gang, a modus operandi she would follow throughout her career.
Black Canary proved to be popular enough that in Flash Comics #92, she was given her own anthology feature, Black Canary, replacing the Johnny Thunder feature. The new series fleshed out Black Canary's backstory; in her real identity, Dinah Drake was a black-haired florist whose romantic interest was Larry Lance, a detective on the Gotham City Police Department.
Her costume consisted of a blond wig, fishnet stockings, pirate boots, bustier, and an unbuttoned jacket. Initially, she also weared a domino mask, though this was soon jettisoned. Black Canary soon joined the Justice Society of America, but ceased being published along with the rest of the team by the early 1950s.
Black Canary was revived along with the other Golden Age characters during the 1960s, and was shown as existing on the parallel world of Earth-Two (home of DC's Golden Age versions of its characters).
In a 1969 JLA-JSA team-up against the rogue living star-creature Aquarius, Larry Lance is killed trying to save Dinah's life from an attack. Out of grief, Canary decides to move to Earth-One to create a fresh start, where she joins the Justice League. Sometime afterwards, she begins dating her JLA colleague Green Arrow, and discovers she has somehow (possibly due to exposure to radiation) gained the ultrasonic scream later dubbed the Canary Cry.
In Justice League of America #219 and #220, it is revealed this Black Canary is actually the daughter of the original Black Canary and her husband. Born in the 1950s, the infant is cursed by the Justice Society foe the Wizard with the "gift" of a devastating, yet uncontrollable, Canary Cry. Dinah asked her old friend Johnny Thunder to summon his Thunderbolt in hopes of a cure, but it was to no avail.
Instead, the Thunderbolt keeps the child in suspended animation (aging all the while) in his native Thunderbolt dimension, until, the Lances hope, a way to cure or control her power can be found. Seeing his friends in pain, the Thunderbolt decides to erase all memory of the child, letting everyone think she has died.
After the battle with Aquarius, Dinah realizes she is dying from the radiation she was exposed to. She discusses possible solutions with the Thunderbolt and Superman of Earth-1.
The three arrange to transfer Dinah's memories into the body of her now-adult daughter, still held in suspended animation, while not letting Dinah believe anything unusual has happened to her (this retcon was established to deal with the fact The Black Canary had been active since the late 1940s and would therefore have had to been nearly 60 years old by that time. Previous comic writers had apparently overlooked this fact, portraying her as still-youthful.).
In post-Crisis continuity, Secret Origins #50 revealed the first Dinah had been trained by her father, Detective Richard Drake, and intended to follow in his footsteps on the Gotham City police. She was turned down by the force, however, and her disillusioned father (unable to use his connections to change the decision) died of heart failure shortly thereafter. Dinah was determined to honor his memory and fight crime and corruption by whatever method possible. This led to her debut as a costumed vigilante; she would use her inheritance to open a florist shop as her day job.
The elder Dinah married her beau, private eye Larry Lance (still maintaining her florist business). In a Times Past-style story in Birds of Prey, Lance was an acquaintance of Jim Gordon, father to Barbara Gordon. A few years later, their daughter, named Dinah Laurel Lance, was born. In Birds of Prey #66, which is a flashback to a cold case investigated – but never solved – by the elder Dinah, Laurel was the name of a librarian that Dinah consulted during the case and later befriended.
Growing up, Dinah Laurel was surrounded by her mother's friends in the disbanded JSA and looked to them as uncles and aunts. Dinah wished to become a costumed heroine like her mother before her. However, instead of encouraging the younger Dinah, her mother forbade it, thinking the world had grown into a darker, more dangerous place than when she herself fought crime, too dangerous for the younger Dinah to succeed.
However, Dinah Laurel had her own "Canary Cry" – in this version, the result of a metagene not present in either parent – which (unlike the Silver Age Black Canary) she is fully able to control.
With this weapon, the younger Dinah next sought out numerous fighters to help her hone her skills, including former JSA member Wildcat. Years of training and intense dedication paid off, and Dinah took on her mother's mantle, even though it was against the elder Dinah's wishes at first. She took an active role in the 'Silver Age' of heroes, operating, like her mother before her, out of Gotham, while maintaining a day job in the family florist business.
In an early issue of Birds of Prey, writer Chuck Dixon established that Dinah had married at a very young age briefly before divorcing. Her ex-husband showed up in a storyline needing her help (Birds of Prey: Wolves), but actually wanted her to rejoin him after he had stolen funds from the mob. This early marriage and ex-husband were not referred to again until the 2007 Black Canary miniseries.
Shortly into the League's history, she met Green Arrow (Oliver Queen). While Dinah couldn't stand him at first, they later became romantically involved despite the difference in their ages (in the Modern Age Oliver is substantially older than Dinah, the reverse of the earlier depiction, although he was de-aged by an unspecified amount when he was resurrected). Dinah remained a member of the League for roughly six years, including a brief stint with Justice League International (JLI), of which she was a founding member. It was during that time her mother died due to radiation poisoning she experienced during a battle with the villain Aquarius. Her mother's death affected Dinah deeply, and led her to accept her time in the JLA was over.
She moved to Seattle with Green Arrow after the breakup of the Justice League, and would open her own florist shop, named "Sherwood Florist" (the name is a play on Sherwood Forest, the domain of Robin Hood, who Green Arrow (in costume) somewhat resembles).
For a brief period in the 1980s coinciding with her membership in the JLI, rather than her traditional skintight black outfit with fishnet stockings she wore a blue and black costume with a bird motif notably looser and less revealing than traditional superheroine garb. This change proved short-lived, and later artists restored her original look.
During this period, she took part in a failed operation to bust a drug ring. Kidnapped, Black Canary was tortured (despite popular belief, she was not raped according to series writer Mike Grell), before being rescued by Green Arrow. The physical and mental effects of this experience were severe: Dinah's vocal cords were mutilated, resulting in the loss of her Canary Cry; She required extensive counseling afterward, as did Oliver Queen.
Simultaneously, she and Green Arrow would have major conflicts in their relationship. Among other things, she would learn Green Arrow fathered a son, Robert, with Shado (albeit unwillingly), as well as taking money from the business (Black Canary #1). The relationship would end when Dinah walked in on Green Arrow kissing her florist shop assistant, Marianne.
Even more bad luck would hit when Sherwood Florist was destroyed, leaving Dinah with no means of paying the debt collectors now calling.
The worst blows of all would come when she learned from Connor Hawke that Oliver was killed (Green Arrow #101), and Connor was yet another of his offspring. Although Dinah and Connor later develop a close friendship, the knowledge that Oliver had kept his existence from her was painful.
Though Black Canary would continue to fight crime off and on (at some point Black Canary became a pen pal of the youthful hero known as The Ray, who had a crush on her, and she participated in some of his adventures, and even had a brief romance) , the effects of her misfortunes were taking their toll.
Black Canary took to this role with great satisfaction. Feeling a new chapter in her life required a few new changes, Dinah decided to abandon the blonde wig, choosing to bleach her hair blonde. Her relationship with Oracle proved somewhat rocky at first, as her impulsive nature clashed with Oracle's tactical planning. However as time passed they began to fully understand how to work together as a team and as friends. Later, when Oracle fled from the villain Blockbuster, Dinah came to her rescue and Dinah met Barbara Gordon face-to-face (Birds of Prey #29). This adventure led to them establishing an even stronger friendship.
In Birds of Prey #7, Oracle provides Dinah with an electronic version of the Canary Cry. In Birds of Prey #34, Black Canary, who is dating a mysterious European named "Raymond", (who Oracle guesses – correctly – is actually supervillain Ra's al Ghul), is seriously wounded and immersed in a Lazarus Pit. Birds of Prey #35 reveals the Pit restored Dinah's metahuman Canary Cry (as well as Dinah's ability to have children).
Working with Oracle, Black Canary cultivates a covert team of female operatives in the series Birds of Prey whose members include Huntress, Gypsy, and Zinda Blake (the original Lady Blackhawk). In #64, Oracle shows Black Canary the retail space that later houses a reopened Sherwood Florist.
Since they were both trained by the same sensei, Black Canary has fostered a kinship with Lady Shiva. Shiva, impressed by Black Canary's formidable martial arts prowess, offers to provide her with further training. Black Canary turns down the offer, thinking it would compromise her morality. The two communicate nonetheless, with Shiva conveying recommendations to assist Canary in honing her skills.
Black Canary has had her own four issue mini series titled New Wings, as well as a twelve issue ongoing series. Both were written by Sarah Byam.
However, the 2007 Black Canary mini-series established Black Canary and Green Arrow joined the Justice League at a time after it was founded, and they were tested by founding member Batman early on in their membership.
When Dinah realizes following Lady Shiva's path will require her to fundamentally change who she is as a person, she ends the training and returns to the United States. She brings with her a little girl, Sin, who also had begun the harsh grooming process to be Lady Shiva's successor (Birds of Prey #95; the now resurrected Oliver Queen uses his connections to allow Sin to immigrate into the country). Dinah hopes to balance her duties as a superhero with the responsibilities of being a surrogate mother/sister to the child.
Dinah informs Oracle she is quitting the team in Birds of Prey #99, having decided to devote herself to raising Sin. Issue #100 shows Dinah and Sin leaving Metropolis. It is hinted their final destination is Star City; Dinah jokingly tells Sin that she can rip out Ollie's beard if he isn't nice to her.
After leaving the Birds of Prey, Black Canary joins with Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and Red Arrow (Roy Harper) on a mission to locate the Red Tornado's body, (stolen by his creator and Solomon Grundy). The three heroes join forces with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, Black Lightning, and Vixen to defeat Amazo.
The assembled heroes reform the Justice League of America; Dinah is made the Chairwoman, due to her strong abilities and strategic mind. The team's first mission with Dinah as leader sees the JLA and JSA discover members of the Legion of Super-Heroes (a team that lives in the 31st Century) have been located in the 21st Century.
In Green Arrow, Dinah returns to Star City to aid Oliver, Connor, and Mia against Roadblock and Merlyn. During their mission, Dinah rekindles her relationship with Oliver, feeling he has truly changed and all the parts of him she hated are apparently gone. Oliver admits to Dinah many of the changes he made over the last year were for her. As the Green Arrow series ends, Oliver proposes to Dinah. He appears in a four part Black Canary miniseries (beginning in July 2007). Black Canary would see Green Arrow fake Sin's death to protect her from the League of Assassins, to Black Canary's conflicted reaction; Sin comes to live in a "safe" location with Connor, away from her mother.
The Wedding Special covers a number of events, including the reactions of the friends who receive wedding invitations, the wedding itself, the attack, and the honeymoon. While the attack on the wedding is a failure, Deathstroke remarks it worked a little, despite no one being hurt. During the honeymoon, a blank look suddenly comes over Green Arrow's face, and he goes berserk, trying to kill Dinah. She stabs him in the neck with an arrow, killing him.
In the first arc of the Green Arrow/Black Canary series, condolences are offered to Dinah, but she refuses to believe it was Oliver she has killed. Batman agrees with her. Following an extensive autopsy by Batman and Dr. Mid-Nite, the two discover the dead man is actually Everyman, the shape-shifter.
Ollie is alive and being held captive on Themyscira by the Amazons. While Dinah does not know his whereabouts, she is greatly relieved, and sheds tears of joy. She enlists the aid of Connor Hawke and Mia Dearden to save him, but, just when they seem to be home free, Connor is shot by an unknown assailant. Once they reach the hospital, the group learn the bullet contained a poison which has turned Connor into a mental vegetable. Soon after, Dinah marries Ollie again, as the first time around she married an impostor. On their return home, they find Connor kidnapped. Following the trail to Britain, Ollie and Dinah are attacked by an armored helicopter. When they it bring it down, they discover the military disguised as aliens within. This is revealed to be a ruse however, and the group later learn that the League of Assassins, under orders by Shado, were the ones who shot Connor.
Recently in Birds of Prey #119/120 Black Canary have fought against the Manhunter (Kate Spencer). During their short skirmish Manhunter states that she has Black Canary outgunned and outmatch. In response Dinah says that "she is trying real hard not to put Kate in the hospital". As later seen, Dinah drags beaten Manhunter to Oracles hideout. Kate comments her skills in words "your kung-fu's the best". Seemingly Black Canary have defeated Manhunter with relatively little effort and without usage of Canary Cry. The reason for Manhunter's fight with Dinah is revealed to be due to Oracle. Apparently Oracle was looking to get Speedy involved in a mission, while also wishing to check on Dinah's new family life after the loss of Sin, who Oracle realizes may not in fact be dead. Dinah, hurt and furious at her best friends actions, stalks out leaving the pair with a possibly damaged relationship.
Black Canary possesses a "Canary Cry" – a high-pitched, sonic scream which she can deploy to shatter objects and incapacitate her opponents. Analyzing her capabilities, Doctor Mid-Nite found that she can reach ultrasonic frequencies outside the audible spectrum which render human beings unconscious. However, the cry has been shown to be completely useless when Dinah's mouth is covered with a gag, piece of tape, or any other means of forcing her mouth closed.
Dinah states that her Canary Cry is able to inflict serious damage to beings even as durable as Wonder Woman (she has used this ability to overpower Giganta or to blow Amazo's head off). Moreover, in JLA/JSA: Vice and Virtue it is shown that Dinah is capable of not only creating sonic blasts, but also could generate ultrasonic attack, which renders everyone within an ear range unconscious, this specific use of Canary Cry requires using full capacity of Dinah's lungs. Black Canary rarely utilizes her metahuman abilities during fight, she prefers engaging in hand-to-hand combat. Lately Dinah uses Canary Cry only against considerably more powerful metahuman oponents. Selective usage of supernatural talents makes Black Canary one of very few characters who choose not to take advantage of their superpowers, placing skills over inborn abilities.
Black Canary lost the Cry during the Green Arrow series. Although she fought crime without it for several years, she regained it after being immersed in a Lazarus Pit during her time with the Birds of Prey.
Despite her often heated arguments with Oracle, Dinah served as a peacemaker between the team's sometimes argumentative members. She has worked to instill a sense of humanity within her colleagues, most notably Huntress, who is prone to the use of excessive force.
Dinah is a strong leader and strategic thinker — qualities recognized by the other superheroes, who have selected her as the Chairwoman of the JLA. Having fought crime for many years, she also possesses great detective skills, though not on a par with Batman or the Elongated Man.
A running gag in the Birds of Prey series is Black Canary's lack of proficiency with computers (and very little interest in them). She is the polar opposite of team leader Oracle (who is a computer genius). The first page of Birds of Prey #1 features Dinah's desire to have a distasteful item removed from her presence – the next page shows the object of her dislike to be a desktop computer.
In the DC Elseworlds comic Kingdom Come, Black Canary sides with Batman and acts as one of his generals together with her husband Green Arrow (Oliver Queen). In this future world, the longtime romantic partners have a daughter (Olivia Queen), who also operates under the name Black Canary.
In another DC Elseworld's comic; Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl, Black Canary is depicted as an African-American woman who makes a brief appearance in the story.
In Frank Miller's All-Star Batman and Robin #3, drawn by Jim Lee, the Black Canary's name is derived from the seedy bar she works in; the clothes she wears while tending the bar comprise her costume. The male patrons of the bar relentlessly harass her verbally. Deciding that she has finally had enough, Black Canary beats up all of the male patrons in the bar. When her boss asks her what got into her, she simply replies "Batman," and then leaves the scene on a motorcycle stolen from one of the men she has just battered. This version of Black Canary is from County Monaghan, Ireland. It is interesting to note that in this continuity, Black Canary wears a mask, unlike her various other portrayals. Also, in Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again a Black Canary is a member of the pop music trio "The Superchix". She is depicted as a dumb blonde of unspecified age. She is more likely to be a copycat of the original. These stories are both in Miller's Dark Knight Universe.
She is portrayed as a powerful goddess like figure in 'League of Justice', a fairy tale/Lord of the Rings type story. In this story, she seemed to have many names, most commonly called 'The Lady of the birds'. In a play on her famous hair color switches, the character has hair that is blonde on one side and black on the other.
In Justice, there has only been one Black Canary, who is mentioned as having been widowed, but not as being a member of the Justice Society (which may not exist in this continuity). She is involved with Green Arrow.
Black Canary has appeared in the Justice League Unlimited spin-off comic book.
In the new 52 Multiverse, there is another African-American Black Canary on Earth-3 who is a member of the Crime Society. On Earth-11, a world of reversed genders, a male version of Black Canary exists.
In 1979, the character appeared in two television specials Legends of the Superheroes, where she was portrayed by Danuta Wesley.
A character named Carolyn Lance appeared on the 2002 WB television series Birds of Prey, portrayed by Lori Loughlin. The character was a former member of the team and the biological mother of Dinah Redmond (played by Rachel Skarsten), a teenager with psychic abilities who has been taken in by Oracle/Barbara Gordon after running away from her adoptive parents. In her only appearance, her canary cry is activated by whistling, rather than screaming. Although the character appears to die at the end of the episode, the writers left her fate ambiguous. When Birds of Prey was first announced, the producers indicated that the teenaged Dinah Redmond would be a re-imagined Black Canary (with early publicity material referring to her directly by that name), but the character was later modified, with changes in name, history, and powers as writers struggled to define her during the short-lived series.
The CW (formerly WB) television series Smallville, featured Dinah Lance in a season seven episode entitled "Siren" where she was played by Alaina Huffman. As Dinah Lance, she wears a long black wig, while acting as a controversial conservative columnist and talk-show host for the Daily Planet in Metropolis. By night, uses her metahuman ultrasonic scream to become a vigilante/mercenary with a flawed sense of justice. In this incarnation, she has short blonde hair and a tiny faux domino mask created from black makeup with streaks of yellow. Hired by Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) to bring down the Green Arrow (Justin Hartley), Oliver and main character Clark (Tom Welling) convince her that Lex is the real villain. Chloe (Allison Mack) considers calling her the "Yellow Raven", but Clark thinks the name "Black Canary" sounds better. In the episode's dénouement, Dinah agrees to join Green Arrow's team of pro-active heroes, and flirts with Oliver through her critical comments about his ex-girlfriend Lois Lane (Erica Durance). In the season eight premiere, Black Canary attempts to rescue Clark from the Arctic alongside Green Arrow and Aquaman (Alan Ritchson), but after being captured by LuthorCorp is forced to temporarily cut ties with her League teammates.