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Black Canary (DC Comics) (Earliest version)

Black Canary

(Profile #1 - Earliest version)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Meet the most fascinating crook of all time ! The Black Canary ! Though an enraged underworld would have given a fortune for her identity, nobody knew who she was…


Context

This profile is very specifically about the Black Canary as she appears in Flash Comics Vol. 1 #86-91, in the Johnny Thunder strips. Once she gets her own strip in #92, the character is retconned  into something different.

At this stage she is a sort-of, kind-of villain. Mostly she’s a cool costume design – striking, sexy and tough. This sparked interest, allowing the Canary to be redeveloped as an actual character.

The Johnny Thunder stories were goofy comedies about an inept hero succeeding through ginormous amounts of luck (and occasionally the help of the Thunderbolt, a sort of genie). They thus didn’t make much sense or go anywhere.

This profile is followed by the , and we have an old gisted profile for post-Crisis Black Canary.


Background

  • Real Name: Unrevealed
  • Marital Status: Unrevealed
  • Known Relatives: None
  • Group Affiliation: None
  • Base of Operations: Presumably New York City
  • Height: 5’5″ Weight: 127 lbs
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Blonde


Powers & Abilities

The Black Canary is a skilled thief, and seems to specialize as a safecracker. She’s smart and worldly, and often behaves much like a 1940s comic book detective. The Canary is also strikingly attractive.

She doesn’t seem to be a fighter, though she packs a concealed pocket pistol (presumably in .25 ACP, as was the style of the day). She was once seen with a larger pistol, presumably a Colt M1911A1. Black Canary seems remarkably accurate when picking up random nearby objects and throwing them at people.

She is also very good at knowing when heists are planned in the city, through unrevealed means. Her amount of inside knowledge about mobs may mean some sort of infiltration skill, and since a newspaper states that “no two people agree on a description of her” I’d assume disguises.

The Black Canary could train an actual black canary to fly back to her no matter where she was. This was treated as being no big deal.


History

The Black Canary is a successful masked thief operating in Johnny Thunder’s city (implicitly New York City). However, she is known and hated through the underworld for only stealing from criminals.

When Thunder noted that the newspapers were full of stories about her daring crimes, she said that she had been framed. But then of course she would say that.

Capers

One day, she easily manipulated the goofy Johnny Thunder into stealing a party mask from a criminal’s safe. She used the mask to infiltrate an underworld party and steal a famed sapphire. She was caught in the act by mobsters, but the arrival of Johnny Thunder and the Thunderbolt allowed her to escape (albeit without the gemstone).

The Black Canary then stole the diary of a murderous mobster, but had to throw it into Johnny Thunder’s arms as she was being chased. Gangsters easily pried the diary away from Thunder, but he followed them and was shadowed by Black Canary in turn. They recovered the diary, and Black Canary said she would hand it over to the police.

Black Canary (DC Comics) (Earliest version) and Johnny Thunder

After stealing a map leading to hidden loot, the Black Canary was about to be caught by gangsters. At the last minute she entered a bakery. There she hid the map and a trained black canary into a pie that she had shipped to Johnny Thunder.

When the black canary flew out of the pie, it took Johnny to the hideout where the gangsters were holding Black Canary. He was promptly captured, but the Thunderbolt saved him and the Canary. Black Canary recovered the map.

Prelude to the Canary’s song

By this point the Canary starts being presented as Johnny’s “lovely crime-clouting companion”, without further explanation. However, in the context of a 1940s anthology comic book, this sort of sudden and unexplained formula change is commonplace.

The feature also becomes “Johnny Thunder and the Black Canary”. As you may suspect, this is a sign that the seductive sable songbird is about to overtake Johnny Thunder in popularity.

More capers

Cunning gangsters framed Johnny and the Canary for a bank robbery, using trick photography. The pair escaped, only to end up trapped in a gasoline tank. The Thunderbolt got them out, and they helped arrest the crook and reveal the photo-manipulation.

Learning about an upcoming airborne robbery, the Black Canary then warned the owner of the targetted estate. Adding electrified wires over the estate forced the gangsters to abort the plan. However, Black Canary was captured when the gangsters randomly ran into Johnny Thunder.

The gangsters forced her to have the electric wires removed, to parachute onto the estate and rob the place for them. They then tried to kill both her and Johnny, especially after they discovered that the “loot” she brought back were just bricks. The Thunderbolt, of course, saved everyone (twice).

The Canary’s song begins

By the next issue of Flash Comics, Johnny Thunder was nowhere to be seen. His feature had been replaced by a solo Black Canary feature. The Black Canary character was also reworked and developed, and was no longer a criminal.

Black Canary (DC Comics) (Earliest version) attacked by mobsters

Does that mean that her Johnny Thunder appearances were retconned out ? Honestly, these stories are probably too minor to bother.

All that counts is that the two met early during the Golden Age’s Black Canary career, and worked together at least once. The last case with the airborne robbery is probably the easiest one to retain if you want to reference such an early case in a story.

The 1985 Who’s Who addresses this with two retcons. The stories (whatever they were exactly) took place in Gotham, and Black Canary was temporarily posing as a criminal to learn about the mob. The latter doesn’t quite make sense since the mob reviled her but heh, retcon.


Description

The Black Canary seems quite young – probably in her late teens, as she could credibly pretend that she had a guardian.

She writes her messages in black ink, and her signature is a canary silhouette perched on a thin branch, also in black ink.


Personality

Black Canary is a pragmatic robber. However, she has ethics – she’s a tough gal, but she won’t commit crimes she finds morally repugnant. She’ll even work to “undo” crimes committed by other gangsters that she finds repugnant, such as stealing from a charity.

She is also loyal toward her allies, even if they’re just catspaws of convenience. In particular she seemed to like that childish goofball, Johnny Thunder, and seemed aware of his track record.


Quotes

“‘Socks’ Slade has had the Kooblin Sapphire long enough…”

“These nice boys stole some charity funds and cached the loot ! I’m pretty hard-boiled, but I don’t go for that !”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Black Canary (Earliest version)

Dex: 03 Str: 02 Bod: 02 Motivation: Greed
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 04 Occupation: Crook !
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 04 Wealth: 004
Init: 012 HP: 015

Skills:
Accuracy (Random thrown objects): 05, Animal handling: 06, Artist (Actress): 05, Charisma (Persuasion): 06, Thief (Pickpocket, Stealth): 04, Thief (Locks and Safes): 06, Weaponry (Firearms): 03

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Animal Handling is limited to training canaries to fly back to her, so it’s kinda specialized
  • Charisma (Persuasion) only effective vs. people who are comically susceptible to the charms of beautiful women.

Advantages:
Expertise (Disguises), Familiarity (Parachuting)

Connections:
Street (Low), Underworld (Low), Johnny Thunder (High)

Drawbacks:
Mistrust (wanted by both the police and the mob), Secret Identity

Genre:
Humour (she’s a Johnny Thunder character)

Equipment:

  • Vintage pocket pistol (arbitrarily a .25 ACP Astra Firecat) [BODY 02, Projectile weapons: 03, Ammo: 06, Miniaturisation: 01, R#03]
  • Sometimes replaced by a full-size semi-auto (arbitrarily a .45 ACP Colt M1911A1, since the Colt Commander didn’t exist yet) [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 04, Ammo: 07]
  • Paper, black ink, pen, some string and presumably other similar supplies (in a purse/pocket sewed inside the back of her jacket, I’d imagine).

Knocked out from behind !

As a Genre Rule that is almost universal in Golden Age comic books, the Black Canary has both an Attack Vulnerability (-1 CS OV/RV vs. Blindside attacks) and a Partial Attack Vulnerability (+2CS OV to detect Blindside attacks).

Sneaking behind people to knock them out is just that easy. However, it must be Bashing Combat for the penalties to apply – not much of a penalty though, since Bashing Combat is the default.


Design Notes

The Canary doesn’t really demonstrate Attractive – for instance she never charm any gangster threatening her (which is say, useful as a diversion… oops I said it). She leaves Johnny, errr, thunderstruck – but that’s trivial for any pretty girl to achieve.

Still, she could have had it in more developed stories since attractiveness was her main hook at this stage.

Likewise some Area Knowledge (New York City), some Acrobatics (Climbing), some Charisma (Interrogation), some Vehicles (Land) and other thief/criminal/adventurer/rogue skills are distinct possibilities. Even detective skills could credibly exist, such as Detective (Clue Analysis).

But as always, we stuck to what is actually demonstrated (or at least *heavily* implied).

Sébastien Andrivet

Source of Character: Flash Comics Vol. 1 (DC Comics)

Writeup completed on the 24th of April, 2016.

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