Sunday, April 21, 2013

The New Look Canary

There's a lot I like about DC's New 52, and a lot I don't like.

One of the things I really do not like are the costume re-designs.  For pretty much every character.  I can't think of a single character whose costume I like better now than I did before the September 2011, when DC rebooted the entire universe.  I mean, I guess I like Wonder Woman now better than when she had the leather pants and jacket of the J. Michael Straczynski era a couple years ago, but I liked her most long before that.

Sketch by Jim Lee
I'll keep mulling this over, but for now I cannot think of one hero or villain whose costume wasn't tweaked for the worse, in my not-at-all-humble opinion.

At best, they feel different for the sake of being different (Nightwing, Captain Cold).  At worst, they feel like DC is ashamed of the fantastic and flamboyant costumes that defined them for 75 years (Superman, all the Earth 2 characters).  It feels like DC decided that new readers would only take their comics seriously if they could envision the costumes in a movie.  Thus, the way Bryan Hitch defined the look of the Marvel movie universe with his designs for The Ultimates, DC made every superhero costume look utilitarian and militaristic.  Gone were the underwear outside the pants and the skirts.  Gone was the sense of individuality.

One of the costume re-designs I dislike the most is Jim Lee's retooling of my beloved Black Canary.  Lee's design (pictured right) was then tweaked and modified by Birds of Prey (vol. 3) artist Jesus Saiz, who altered the fishnet style leggings to be more of an armored polymer mesh (pictured below).

From Birds of Prey (vol. 3) #1, art by Jesus Saiz.
I don't mind the legs being blue--I actually approve of that, as it harkens back to Dina's Golden and Silver Age depictions, when her fishnet leggings were colored blue.
From Black Canary/Oracle:
Birds of Prey
, art by Gary Frank

No, what bothers me most about the New 52 Black Canary's look is everything above the waist.  It's too busy; Dinah always looked best when she had a very simple costume.  Her classic outfit, while it does evoke certain thoughts of prostitution and piracy, is also quite streamlined.  And that makes it as iconic as Aquaman and Green Lantern's costumes.  This new design calls back to the Black Canary of the late '90s and early '00s (right) when the first volume of Birds of Prey began and, later, when Dinah appeared in JSA.

I like those stories, respectively, and I love Gary Frank's work in the one-shot that birthed this new costume, but I hate this version of Black Canary.  This is my least favorite version of her costume, and I thought the Kevin Maguire-drawn Justice League International costume was really stupid, so that should tell you something!

I don't like the yellow accents.  I don't like the colors in general.  I don't like the intent to make Black Canary DC's version of Marvel's Black Widow.  Maybe that's too subjective, maybe that's not fair, but dude, it's my blog!

So what's the alternative?  How should Black Canary dress in the New 52?

Well, it's not perfect, but I would recommend this look based on a sketch by Paulo Sequeira.

Sketch by Paulo Sequeira, wardrobe by Hot Topic

Does this look like classic Black Canary?  Yeah, kind of.  She's traded the leather jacket and leotard for a black leather zip-up biker vest, which looks both sexy and tough as hell (sounds like Black Canary to me).  Her arms are exposed, but more importantly her muscles are exposed.  Black Canary is supposed to be one of the five greatest fighters in the DC Universe; she should look like she could kick anyone's ass.  The denim jeans replace the fishnet stockings (although you can see fishnets underneath in Paulo's drawing.  The jeans emphasize Dinah's status as a street-level character, which is where the Birds of Prey should live and breathe.

It might not be perfect.  It might not appeal to everyone, but this look at least gives Black Canary some personality, some individuality, some punch.

This month, the New 52 Power Girl finally got her "boob window" back.  If DC is willing to make some changes to the new character designs, maybe we can hope that Black Canary will soon end up in a costume worthy of her history and her fandom.

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