5703 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Black Canary (DC Comics) sitting and winking sketch by Chiang

Black Canary

(Dinah Laurel Lance) (Gisted)


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

Context

This is a gisted writeup done in the early 2000s, reflecting how Black Canary has generally appeared between the Crisis on Infinite Earth and back then. In 2011 the biography was aligned with the Simone/Bedard account of her life in Birds of Prey v1 #100.

Thus, this is before her training with Lady Shiva.

This profile will gradually be replaced with era-specific profiles. For now we have the earliest version of the Black Canary and the Golden Age version of the Black Canary.


Background

  • Real Name: Dinah Laurel Lance
  • Marital Status: Single
  • Known Relatives: Dinah Drake Lance (mother, aka Black Canary I, deceased), Larry Lance (father, deceased), Richard Drake (grandfather, deceased)
  • Group Affiliation: Former JLA and JLI member, former partner of Green Arrow, reserve member of the JSA, agent of Oracle
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile
  • Height: About 5’6” Weight: About 127 lbs
  • Eyes: Slightly greyish blue Hair: Black (dyed blonde)


Powers and Abilities

Dinah Lance is a gifted martial artist, highly trained in several schools. She is routinely able to knock out 4 or 5 armed men with her bare hands, and has proved she could dominate such deadly fighters as Lady Vic, Brutale or Vicious. When faced with Lady Shiva, however, she did the sensible thing and ran away.

Canary is extremely athletic and perceptive, and her reflexes and physical resilience are remarkable. She’s a redoubtable woman of action.

An experienced adventurer, she is also competent at investigative work. Furthermore Black Canary is a highly attractive woman, and is not afraid to use this to her advantage.

While she’s handy with all sorts of weapons from knives to machineguns, and has used them to wound and kill when forced to in the past, she much prefers using her empty hands so she can stick to Bashing Combat.


History

In the 1920s, Richard Drake was a noted officer among Gotham’s finest. He trained his daughter to become a highly competent policewoman. Young Dinah became a star athlete, and was probably the foremost female American judo practitioner of her generation.

She was, however, refused entrance in the GPD because of the ’female‘ part of that description.

Black Canary (DC Comics) investigating as Batman arrives

Deciding that she would nevertheless serve on the street, Dinah Lance crafted the costumed identity of the Black Canary, featuring a long blonde wig. She was so successful as a Gotham crime fighter that she became a member of the Justice Society of America after meeting Green Lantern (Alan Scott).

Despite her participation in the high-profile cases of the JSA, her solo career was close to that of a policewoman. She fought much of the same foes, and she eventually got her version of the policeman’s blues.

The final blow was dealt when McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee ordered the JSA to reveal their identities – which all refused.

Like most of her colleagues, she retired. She was but occasionally involved in cases connected to the JSA or her husband Larry, a former police detective who became a private detective. She eventually had a daughter, also called Dinah.

Canary’s daughter

From childhood onward, Dinah was fascinated by her mother’s past, the JSA lore that surrounded her and, most of all, the JSA alumni who often visited her mother. However Dinah Sr. did not wanted her daughter to get involved in the squalid, hard, violent world of vigilantism that had worn her down.

She thought the world was getting more violent and amoral every year, and didn’t want her daughter to walk what she saw as killing fields.

On her hand, the younger Dinah resented her mother for never being home and never being there for the special events in her life. Between these two sources of tension, mother and daughter regularly had verbal fights.

Nevertheless, her kid kept collecting memorabilia, training as an athlete and taking judo lessons when her mother’s back was turned. The judo lessons were discovered and she was grounded.

Yet during her teens she took far more advanced lessons in the martial arts, convincing hand-to-hand combat legend and trainer extraordinaire Ted Grant — formerly Wildcat of the JSA — to teach her boxing and a number of self-defence bodies of techniques.

While she had found a mentor, Lance lost her father, who died as a result of his detective work.

When reports about a bat-man in Gotham started, young Dinah grew certain that she would be a costumed vigilante too, to her mother’s chagrin. During her late teens, she discovered she had a metahuman power – a powerful sonic cry likely derived from a JSA case she was exposed to as a child.

Canary’s cry

Nothing could now deter Dinah from becoming a super-heroine. She and her mother remained estranged for years over that decision. Dinah Sr. felt that Dinah Jr. was being the Black Canary to get her attention and punish her for having spent more time working as the Black Canary than raising her daughter.

She also feared that her pigheaded daughter would repeat all of her mistakes. But Dinah Jr. was certainly not one to be forced into being something other than what she was.

Black Canary by Cliff Chiang

The JSA of her times was to be the JLA – and she became one of the founding members of that institution. A later member of the JLA was Oliver Queen, aka the dashing Green Arrow.

He and Dinah started a long through often rocky romance. Back then Queen was exactly the sort of man Lance melted over – cocky, preening, overbearing and thinking he was God’s gift to women.

Black Canary was a nearly constant member of the League, unlike her man. Even after it was disbanded by Aquaman, she returned when it re-formed. Only the presence of Guy Gardner would eventually result in her dropping out from the team for a while.

Queen and Lance moved to Seattle, and Dinah decided that like her mother she would open a florist’s shop. They named their joint venture Sherwood Florist.

Dinah was sometimes putting on her Canary costume and wig, and Oliver often helped with the shop and deliveries, but for the most part Black Canary was retired and the Green Arrow active – fighting local crime as a vigilante.

Green Arrow quickly made determined enemies in Seattle, mostly in the drugs trade. There were several attacks on Sherwood Florist to get back at him. The most successful one captured Dinah, who was tortured for days.

Green Arrow and the Japanese renegade archer Shado eventually freed her, but Dinah was in a terrible state physically and psychologically. Permanent medical damage included the loss of her sonic cry and her ability to bear children.

The healing game

Though she wasn’t broken and dealt with the trauma, Dinah felt badly diminished. She was mostly just going through the motions of life. In freeing her, Oliver had deliberately killed for the first time in his life ; he also had difficulties dealing with this, and eventually left for a long journey to rediscover himself.

In the meanwhile Dinah was but treading water. Though she was tempted to start a relationship with a young handsome cop, she remains faithful to Oliver. This wasn’t reciprocated, and even before discovering his infidelities Dinah had grown disenchanted over Oliver remaining incommunicado and leaving her alone as she needed help.

Queen betraying her with several other women deeply hurt Lance, and these wounds took way longer to heal than even the considerable damage done by the torturers.

After she broke up with him, Dinah tried to rebuild herself as Black Canary despite her wounds, with the support of her mother and her friend Wren Kole. She foiled the plots of corrupt businessman Jacob Whorssman, but remained generally aimless and was skirting the edge of poverty.

After about a year of fighting small-time criminals, she heard about Green Arrow’s death.

It was at this precarious point that Dinah was approached by Oracle (Barbara Gordon), who thought that she would be perfect as her field agent.

Having nothing else to do and desperately needing money, Lance agreed to act as Gordon’s muscle. As it turned out, it *was* the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and of an important era in Dinah’s life.


Description

Lance tends to attract comments about her Playboy model-type physique and firm yet voluptuous curves – unless she takes step to downplay her own attractiveness. She looks about 29.


Personality

Dinah was badly hit by the torture, the crippling of her womb and the lamentable demise of her life’s great love story. Her premature retirement further eroded her, and she seemed to be in a sort of light haze, starting in Seattle and not ending before she was several months into her Birds of Prey gig.

She’s smart, vivacious and perceptive. But she’s also aimless, and her trials have left her feeling hollow and with low-key self-destructive tendencies.

During the era between her life with Ollie and her friendship with Barbara, Dinah developed a few shallow hobbies to fill her aimlessness. These included Italian muscle cars, designer outfits, general luxury and tall, broad-shouldered hunks piggish enough to flatter her self-destructive urges.

She couldn’t actually afford any of those, accentuating the smell of self-destruction, and it seemed that she was more going through the motions than really enjoying these acquisitions.

Lance’s desire for attention — which had always been present with, say, choosing a costume with fishnets in an American context — also went sour during that time. She had a low-key problem with her own attractiveness, most men’s reaction toward her looks, and letting the gaze of the guys she dated define her and her life.

These were likely psychological gashes from the failure of her relationship with Queen, though she was definitely not the guiltiest of the two, and took years to fade.

While Canary is undeniably smart, she knows that Oracle is a genius. She does not mind letting her be the brains of the operation. The two can get at odds, however. The Canary cannot bear injustice and can be impulsive and violent, while Oracle is much more cold-blooded and rational.

It is not uncommon for Black Canary to take irrational, rash, impulsive actions to save innocents or apprehend villains — and land herself in a large amount of troubles — despite the fact that Oracle is yelling at her to abort and has a much more rational plan to do things slower and in a less boneheaded way.

More generally, Dinah is stubborn like a mule, doesn’t take crap from anybody, and is quite determined to do everything her way.

At this point Canary usually refers to Oracle as “Jiminy Cricket”. Although she won’t really admit it, she loves Barbara very much for giving a clear direction to her life – and making her a renowned adventurer again.

Dinah is at that point pulling herself from the pit of failure, permanent medical damage and a badly broken heart.

She is on her way to reforge herself as a major, respected adventurer and claim more prevalence in the DC Universe than even during her original JLA days, but she couldn’t have done it without her friend.


Quotes

Lois Lane : “Must be liberating, no ? Not having a secret identity.”
Black Canary : “Consequence of not having a real life to protect.”

Black Canary: “Too late. I want to personally look him in the eyes as I kick his ass.”
Oracle: “That’s not physically possible.”
Black Canary: “It will be when I’m done with him.”

“An arrogant, opinionated, swaggering macho pinhead. Phony as they come. Just the kind of guy I melt over.”


Sharing

The links to follow us and/or subscribe to our monthly newsletter are at the bottom of this page.



Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Black Canary (early 2000s, before recovering her cry)

Dex: 08 Str: 03 Bod: 05 Motivation: Seeking Responsibility
Int: 06 Wil: 06 Min: 05 Occupation: Agent
Inf: 06 Aur: 05 Spi: 06 Resources {or Wealth}: 002
Init: 024 HP: 075

Skills:
Acrobatics*: 08, Artist (Floral arrangement): 03, Detective (Legwork, police procedure): 06, Martial artist*: 08, Medicine (First aid): 05, Thief (Stealth): 04, Vehicles (Land): 06, Weaponry: 06

Advantages:
Attractive, Language (Cantonese Chinese), Lightning Reflexes, Sharp Eye

Connections:
Oracle (High), JLA (Low)

Note:
Her Connection with Oracle provides her with effective Resources of 008 – without any roll needed as would be the case with a Rich Friend

Drawbacks:
MIA toward impulsive “Seeking Justice” actions, MIA toward Troublesome men, Misc.: Blonde alibi

Equipment:

  • UPLINK [BODY 02, Radio communications: 12]. The UPLINK can hit satellite relays and thus have an effectively worldwide range under most circumstances. It is used as the focal point of Oracle’s Eye of the Cat equipment, allowing her to monitor Dinah in the field.
  • WIDE-SPECTRE GOGGLES [BODY 02, Shade: 04, Thermal vision: 05, Ultra-vision: 05]. This is typical of the specialised field equipment Oracle will routinely issue her.
  • CANARY CRY [BODY 02, Sonic beam (Explosive radius): 06, Grenade Drawback]. A non-lethal sonic grenade approximating Dinah’s lost super-power.
  • Mission-specific equipment provided by Oracle.
  • When it comes to wheels, Canary will almost always go for the flashiest, muscliest, reddest, fastest thing she can – Ferraris, Ducatis and the like.

Design notes

Some uses of Charisma and Detective therein for folks with Unskilled Character Interaction house rules.


The Blonde Alibi

During this era Dinah is definitely not a technophile – she very much dislikes computers and does not know how to operate them, is not well-versed in makes and technical aspects of guns (though she can shoot them just fine), etc. Her only technical-sounding skill set is some basic auto repair competency.

It may have been a phase – previously Canary didn’t have problems with, say, the Justice League’s computers.

In practice, Dinah needs a lot of time or assistance (such as Oracle’s) when dealing with even basic computer operation, most electronics, weapons identification and other complex tools. If she doesn’t have tech support she’s essentially hopeless and will do without the fancy gear.


Canary’s cry

During her classic JLA-JLI years, Dinah had the following stats :

Black Canary (JLA/JLI)
“Batman belted [Guy Gardner] – and I missed it ? Oh, God, I’m so depressed.”

Dex: 07 Str: 03 Bod: 05 Motivation: Seeking Justice
Int: 06 Wil: 05 Min: 05 Occupation: Crimefighter, florist
Inf: 06 Aur: 06 Spi: 05 Resources {or Wealth}: 005
Init: 021 HP: 075

Powers:
Sonic beam: 08

Skills:
Acrobatics: 06, Detective (all save Law): 06, Martial artist: 08, Medicine (First aid): 05, Thief (Stealth): 04, Vehicles (Land): 05

Advantages:
None

Connections:
Green Arrow (High), JLA (High), JLI (High)

Drawbacks:
Secret Identity

Equipment:
JLA SIGNAL DEVICE [BODY 04, Radio communications: 23, Limitation: Radio coms only to broadcast, only for a JLA distress call]

During the JLA era the Canary is 5’5” and 125lbs.

Black Canary with Green Arrow and Speed (Mia Dearden)


The Seattle years

After the events in The Longbow Hunters, Dinah was far less active. For reference’s sake, her stats were :

Black Canary (Seattle)

Dex: 06 Str: 03 Bod: 05 Motivation: Unwanted Power
Int: 05 Wil: 04 Min: 04 Occupation: Agent
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 03 Resources {or Wealth}: 002
Init: 017 HP: 035

Skills:
Acrobatics: 06, Artist (Floral arrangement): 04, Detective (Legwork, police procedure): 05, Martial artist: 06, Medicine (First aid): 05, Thief (Stealth): 04, Vehicles (Land): 05, Weaponry: 05

Advantages:
None

Connections:
Green Arrow (Low), JLA (Low)

Drawbacks:
Uncertainty


Canary rising from the ashes

During the last years in Seattle, she started to heal and retrieve her competence, which would correspond to the mini-series written by Sarah Byam. For the late Seattle period, treat her stats as an average between the Seattle and current (Bird of Prey) stats. During the Byam period Lance had several stilettos hidden in her costume :

Stilettos (x5) [BODY 04, EV 03 (04 w/STR, 08 w/Martial artist), Note : balanced for throwing]

During the Seattle years the Canary weights 115lbs due to lack of training (she’s lost the greater part of her musculature without gaining much fat).

By Sébastien Andrivet (v1 is the one in Mayfair’s JLA sourcebook)

Source of Character: JLoA, Green Arrow and Birds of Prey comics, mostly

Helper(s): John Colagioia, Azrael, Chris Cottingham

Subscribe to our MINI-NEWSLETTER !

One bare-bones e-mail per month. Plain text. Short. To the point. Learn more.