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Black Canary

DC Universe Classics
by yo go re

I scream, you scream, we all scream for confident, kick-ass women in sexy outfits.

Dinah Lance is the daughter of private investigator Larry Lance and the original Black Canary, a sultry judo expert and member of the Justice Society of America. Prior to her mother's death, Dinah took up the role of Black Canary and carried on in her stead. Dinah's crime fighting career is aided by her natural super powered "canary cry."

The fact that Black Canary is even moderately popular today (let alone being one of the stars of the DCU) can almost entirely be attributed to one man: Chuck Dixon. After leaving the JLI, she was relegated to being a supporting character/​professional hostage in Green Arrow's book, and pretty much forgotten after his death. She appeared in a few issues of The Ray, where she slept with the teen young superhero, but that was pretty much it. On the plus side, that meant she was free for use in 1996 when Dixon penned the Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey one-shot.

Black Canary wasn't in Kenner's 1980s Super Powers line, so the Four Horsemen had to turn to a different source for her design - the DCAU. Yes, like Parasite, Clayface, Harley Quinn, Batman Beyond and Hawkgirl, this is basically the animated Canary turned real. She's wearing her classic costume, the corset and fishnets, rather than the blue and yellow tactical gear she wore in the late '90s. The jacket is a separate piece, and the arms are sculpted to look like wrinkled sleeves. She even gets a new chest, to provide a real sculpted edge for her bustier.

The figure's fishnets are real - which is admittedly disappointing, for a variety of reasons. To begin with, real fishnets are made without any kind of seam: something a toy can't match; so if you turn Canary around, you'll see big, ugly wads of material pressed against the back of her legs. Then, in order to hold the stockings in place, her hips are just swivels - no added hinge for lateral movement. So here we have what is one of the preeminant martial artists in the DCU, and she's less articulated than a chubby nightclub owner? Thanks, Mattel! Of course, the only alternative would be painted fishnets, and knowing Mattel's track record in this department, it's not much of a choice.

Oh, and speaking of articulation? Dinah doesn't have a neck joint. Well, she has one, it's just that the way her hair lays against her shoulders renders the joint 100% immobile. It might as well be glued to her jacket. Her face is quite attractive (if a bit too flat when viewed in profile), and the hair itself is sculpted with lift, body, and all the other things shampoo commercials talk about. She's even wearing her small choker, and the earrings she got from Oracle.

The paint is good, overall. Black Canary's skintone is dark enough to look good with her clothes without looking like a spray tan. Her hair is a slightly unnatural yellow, but since that's either a wig or a dyejob (depending on the era), that's fine. Her black costume has some dark blue highlights, and there's no spillage anywhere. For some reason, her legs are painted blue: was that a choice made to ape the DCAU style (where she wore solid [sheer] tights, because fishnets would be too hard to animate), or was it a concession to retail concerns about displying a woman in lingerie in the toy aisle (which turned out to be a moot point anyway, since DCUC9 was nearly as hard to find as DCUC8)? The blue should really be pink, but don't plan on painting it yourself: unless you're willing to somehow work around the figure's fishnets, you're out of luck.

The past few series, Mattel has really fallen in love with adding sculptural embellishments to the plastic trays that hold the figures - speed lines trailing behind Kid Flash, bubbles rising around Shark, all that. Dinah gets one of these, too, and it's a great one: jagged concentric circles emanating from her head; it's a representation of her canary cry, and it's almost worth saving the packaging for. Hey, no one else has ever managed to create a representation of her powers before.

Black Canary doesn't have any accessories - just the crotch... sorry, "lower lorso" of the Series 9 BAF, Chemo. Is that supposed to be some sort of subtle commentary? The sole woman in the series - a woman known for being very sex-positive - comes with the villain's groin? The right mind could really draw some curious conclusions about that. [Remember, Black Canary once kicked Deathstroke right in the batch during a fight, so maybe it's a reference to that. --ed.]

DCU Classics Black Canary is a mildly disappointing figure, in that they had to potential to outshine all previous versions, but instead kept things at the same level - a level which is lower than Mattel's usual. But still, she's one of the most important women in the DC Universe, and since there are no major flaws - just a collection of minor ones - she's still worth getting. The only obstacle is finding her, since most stores are still tying to unload DCUC6 and 7.

-- 03/11/10

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