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Black Canary (DC Comics) (1970s)

Black Canary

(The 1970s, part 1)


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

“I’ll head for Thanagar ! Black Canary, you stay here and play nurse !”
– Superman.

Context

This profile is part of a chronological series. Check our Guide to Black Canary on Writeups.org to have the correct reading order !

As the 1970s start, Black Canary joins the Justice League. Here’s a capable character joining DC Comics’ flagship super-team, so you’d expect this era to be one of her high points.

Yeah, no.

Sequencing

This profile goes from 1970 to 1976. 1976 is when Black Canary starts regularly using her sonic cry power.

This profile can be too long for slower readers using smartphones. So it’s presented in two parts. .


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Background

  • Real Name: Dinah Drake-Lance.
  • Other Aliases: “The Blonde Bombshell”, “Pretty Bird”, Myra Kallen (cover ID), Shelley Ames (cover ID).
  • Marital Status: Widowed.
  • Known Relatives: Larry Lance (husband, deceased).
  • Group Affiliation: Justice League of America.
  • Base of Operations: The JLA’s satellite.
  • Height: 5’6″ Weight: 126 lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Black (wears a blonde wig as the Canary).


Powers & Abilities

Black Canary remains an excellent martial artist and athlete.

However, she’s the least powerful, most vulnerable Justice Leaguer. In most JLA stories her only role is to be pretty, passive and ineffective. And/or be rescued by the guys.

Occasionally, she serves snacks.


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Sonics, thank you for the facts from A to Z

As this era opens, Black Canary gains sonic powers from exposure to magical energies.

Canary’s powers are seldom used. They also tend to be different every time. Here’s what she does :

  • Psychically emit a silent shockwave blasting a person *behind* her. This is done but three times early on.
  • Shield herself from having her soul stolen by a magic box, though she passed out for a while.
  • Read the thoughts of a nearby woman. That only happens once in a Kanigher  story, so it doesn’t count.
  • In the late 1970, twice uses a sonic cry within a single story.
  • In 1974, emit ultrasonics that counter a poison gas device. What she’s doing is unclear, but it looks difficult.
  • Emit a “sonic whammy” via a loud whistle using her fingers. But though it occurs during a 1970 adventure, it is actually a flashback/retcon  published in 1976.
  • By 1975 there are much more frequent manifestations. See the game notes.

The serinus with the plus (part 1)

Dinah is a capable EMT or paramedic. She likely can do fracture reduction, staunching, ACLS , respiratory assistance and intubation, etc..

She also could function as a stopgap GP and paediatrician, though she presumably doesn’t have full qualifications as such.

She could help Speedy (Roy Harper) going cold turkey from heroin. This *may* means that she could monitor a medical treatment involving methadone (Subutex didn’t exist yet).

She has experience with metahuman medicine. Dinah once used a drinking straw to improvise “mouth”-to-mouth resuscitation on a wounded, shrunken Atom (Ray Palmer).

During this era, her medical skills are seldom showcased. It’s just something she happens to do. As if it were some menial skill she learned from the Girl Scouts. And in this genre of story some first aid and a bandage will always suffice.

The serinus with the plus (part 2)

Either Dinah speaks serviceable Spanish, or random guerrilleros in Latin America speak okay English. In a 1970s comics, both are equally plausible.

Black Canary (DC Comics) (1970s) early shockwave power

Ms. Lance could teach physical education classes. However, back then, the requirements were minimal. Demonstrating knowledge of sports and first aid likely sufficed.

She is capable of conducting undercover work. But not at an experienced, pro level.

In late 1975, it is suddenly revealed she’s skilled at picking locks. Perhaps Batman (Bruce Wayne) trained her ?

In 1976, we discover that she’s also a helicopter pilot. Since we also see her flying Wonder Woman’s invisible plane, it may be Diana who taught her piloting.

The serinus with the plus (part 3)

Black Canary is one of the most experienced operators for the JLA’s satellite systems, particularly the teleporter.

Earth-1’s Superman (Clark Kent) once speed-builds a motorcycle for Black Canary. The shape is reminiscent of a WWII BMW R71, so I suppose Supes built an Indian 841  or a Harley-Davidson WLA. She often operates with it.

(I’d err toward the Indian, given the way she once rams her bike through wooden beams. Because of the crash bars.)

We once see her use a mini-radio in her choker to communicate with the League’s satellite. It seems to require a signal amplifier built into her bike, which would also explain why she only uses it once.

In 1976, Black Canary could self-hypnotise within moments, thanks to her martial arts training. She did this to trick herself into perceiving Luthor as being Green Arrow (Oliver Queen).

(In DC Heroes RPG terms, she maxed her OV/RV against Luthor’s hypno-ray.&emsp.Then came up with a nonsensical rationale as to how she could resist his mental control.)


Soundtrack

Something to evoke 1970… Let’s have some PG&E doing a funky gospel. It’s a fitting song, it was cool, and it certainly *sounds* like 1970.

Available for download on Amazon .


History (part 1)

Superman (Clark Kent) wanted Black Canary to join the League. However, Hawkman opposed this, arguing that she lacked raw power.

At this point :

  • Dinah involuntarily emitted a sonic shockwave. This seemed to be a consequence of her close exposure to Aquarius’ killer magic sphere.
  • A manifestation of Green Arrow’s evil side barged in.

The latter created evil doubles of all present. This demoralised the Leaguers, but Superman remotivated them. They then defeated and reabsorbed their evil doubles.

From Society to League

Green Arrow had just lost his fortune. But he was also coming to grips with his identity and his mission as a hero. He and Black Canary hung out together.

Black Canary (DC Comics) (1970s) and Green Arrow early

Though Dinah hadn’t officially joined the JLA, she fruitlessly trained to control her newfound sonic powers. Nevertheless, her shockwave proved instrumental in defeating the Joker after he manipulated Snapper Carr into betraying the Justice League.

In 1970, Black Canary formally joined the Justice League. This took place shortly after the League moved to its brand new satellite headquarters.

(This was during Wonder Woman’s “mod karate” era, when she was on leave from the League. Thus, the Smurfette principle  could remain in effect.)

The big leagues (part 1)

As a league member, Black Canary participated in such adventures as :

  1. Stopping the Doomsters. These crafty space aliens were covertly smothering Earth with pollution to make it habitable to themselves. During this adventure, the Vigilante (Greg Sanders) also came out of retirement to help the JLA.
  2. Preventing the Dharlu from commandeering the League’s satellite to give birth.
  3. Foiling the assault of Norch Lor. Armed with a magic soul-stealing box, this Thanagarian was trying to “rescue” souls before the universe would end.
  4. Defeating the Jest-Master. He was the alien menace which Norch Lor thought would destroy everything. With his court and his cloaked spaceship, the Jest-Master seemed to be an entire area of space driving people to insanity.
  5. The 1970 Earth-1/Earth-2 alignment had the two planets overlap. This would soon result in their destruction. For a time, Black Canary thought she was causing this, and had to die to save everyone.
    But it was actually… a scheme by space aliens ! The Justice Society put an end to that. Though that destroyed the Spectre for a time.
  6. The JLA then stopped Dr. Willard. He was a Nobel Peace Prize winner intent on global genocide because Robert Kanigher.

Canary husbandry (part 1)

Inevitably, the Canary investigated Earth-1’s Larry Lance. He was a shady P.I. in Gotham.

Black Canary (DC Comics) (1970s) big fight brawl

Dinah approached him undercover, as a client. As Lance looked and sounded just like her late husband, she fell hard for him.

Batman warned her that something seemed amiss with Lance. But he was clumsy about it, and Drake-Lance wouldn’t listen due to love and grief.

Furthermore, Lance was a skilled seducer and manipulator, who rapidly realised he held sway over his “client”.

Canary husbandry (part 2)

Canary even agreed to daze Batman to prevent him from arresting elite mobster the Collector. This way Larry could arrest the Collector, earn the sizable bounty, and he and Dinah could live together.

But as Batman suspected, Larry Lance was the Collector. He tried to murder Batman after Dinah stunned him.

The furious Canary gave chase on her bike, allowing Batman to catch Lance. In the brawl, the Collector accidentally and fatally stabbed himself.

(This story — by Bob Haney  — is an oddity. Black Canary is treated seriously, she uses her canary cry in a form that won’t exist in other stories for years, part of the story is hers and she has a character arc, she’s as capable and dynamic as she was during the 1960s, etc..)

But I’m talkin’ ’bout shafts

During that span, Green Arrow wished to date Black Canary. Though she wasn’t opposed to this, she put it off for months as she struggled with her grief.

Black Canary (DC Comics) (1970s) hypnotised with handgun

She then took a vacation to join Green Arrow and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), who also were on a leave.

Near Mount Rainier, she beat back a bike gang. But one then rammed her from behind, knocking her out.

She was rescued by cult leader Joshua. He used his hypnotic gaze to force her to join his flock. He was training these mesmerised folks to wage a race war.

Queen and Jordan tried to rescue Dinah. When Joshua ordered Drake to kill Queen, she broke the hypnotic conditioning. Joshua accidentally shot himself dead.

Possibly maybe Chehalis

Green Arrow and Green Lantern had been staying with a Native community (perhaps the Nisqually ). They moved on, but Black Canary stayed to recover on her own.

During this span she provided medical services to the impoverished reservation.

She also helped in a brawl between the locals and thugs trying to steal reservation lumber.

The big leagues (part 2)

  • A spaceship carrying survivors from the lost continent of Mu returned to Earth. They intended to destroy modern humanity to reclaim “their” planet.
    Not that Black Canary saw much of this. She was caught between Batman (Bruce Wayne) developing feelings for her, and Green Arrow acting like a possessive and controlling jerk.
  • Veteran and musician Johnny Dune tried to use his mutant voice to create a commune. It got out of hand. Black Canary, Green Arrow, Batman and the Atom defused the situation and narrowly saved Dune.
  • The League and Sargon the Sorcerer stopped the planet-destroying cosmic vampire Starbreaker, using the three rubies of life. Enhanced by Sargon’s magic, Black Canary defeated one of Starbreaker’s forms using a sleeper hold.
  • Preventing the Keepers of the Balance from reforesting Earth.
  • Foiling the plot of the Iron Hand to destroy Earth-2. This was done in alliance with the Justice Society and the Seven Soldiers of Victory.
    During this crisis, Black Canary worked with Earth-1’s Green Arrow and Earth-2’s Johnny Thunder to rescue Earth-2’s time-lost Vigilante (Greg Sanders).
  • Fought the Shaggy Man, which Hector Hammond had sent to attack the League’s satellite. The team and their base were nearly destroyed by this attack.
  • Foiled strange “putty drones” from Queen Bee (Zazzala)’s hidden hive. This was part of a plan by T.O. Morrow to destroy the JLA.

Continued !

This article continues in  !


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By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: 1970s DC Comics, with the last issue for this span being JLoA #132.

Writeup completed on the 8th of November, 2019.

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