Sunday, February 23, 2014

Golden Oldie: Comic Cavalcade #25

1948 was a pretty good year for Black Canary, publishing wise anyway.  In twelve months, she appeared in nineteen different comics, which was pretty good for a female hero not named Wonder Woman.  February of that year, in particular, saw Black Canary popping up in three different books.  First, she stepped out from behind Johnny Thunder's shadow and launched her own solo feature in the pages of Flash Comics #92.  Then she joined the Justice Society of America in All-Star Comics #39.    And she appeared in Comic Cavalcade #25 in an original tale by creators Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino!

"Tune of Terror" by Kanigher and Infantino is the second solo adventure of the Black Canary!

As country boy Phil Martin scurries away from the lamppost that shot him, a nearby mailbox dispenses noxious gas, causing him to choke and cough.  He runs down the street until he comes across a police officer.

Naturally, the cop laughs at Phil's story of the deadly lamppost and mailbox.  After the cop walks away, Phil is attacked once more, this time by a fire hydrant spouting flames at him.

Phil goes to the train station determined to leave this crazy city before it kills him.  Given the circumstances, who could blame him?  But Black Canary shows up and implores him to stick around so she can help him.

We catch up with Black Canary at the lamppost a full two hours later, one hour more than she agreed to wait for Phil.  Then abruptly he arrives and they begin to walk over a music joint called the Juke Box.  But a car follows them and a goon gets out and clubs them both over the head.

Black Canary and Phil Martin wake up tied to the famous revolving floor of the Juke Box Club.  A man named Randal who the Canary is at least familiar with admits to being behind the attempts on Phil's life so he can take ownership of the Juke Box.  He seems a little annoyed that Phil manages to escape his three "clever" deathtraps.  Maybe he should have spent his time and money on something simpler, like a person, instead of a lamppost, mailbox and fire hydrant that all shoot stuff.


Yep, you saw that right.  At this early stage in Black Canary's crime fighting career, Kanigher and Infantino thought, What the hell, let's have her control birds!  They even gave her a little chant to go along with it, like the Green Lantern's oath.  I don't know if this little gimmick would have appealed to readers of Comic Cavalcade, but they probably wouldn't find that stunt repeated in her adventures over in Flash or All-Star Comics.

As a Black Canary tale, this piece is self-contained and absent any real connection to her life established earlier this month in Flash #92.  She's never referred to by her civilian identity, Dinah Drake, nor do we see her flower shop or private investigator Larry Lance.  On the other hand, Phil Martin knows who she is when he sees her, so the character Black Canary has enough of a reputation to be identified on sight by a stranger from another town.

Aside from the flabbergasting rescue by a flock of actual black canaries and the implications it bears for the heroine, this was a really fun little story.  And maybe the first retcon for Black Canary!

Come back next Sunday for another Golden Age adventure of the Black Canary in Flash Comics #93.


  1. Re: "actual black canaries"
    Since black isn't one of the colors of real canaries, wouldn't that imply that they are magical?

  2. I never considered that they might be magic because I was so stunned by the notion she could control birds at all! This would have been an interesting idea if they pursued it, though it would demand an explanation for them being black. Like you said, though: magic!

  3. There's just so much packed in just under 7 pages of content! First of all, this being BC's second ever "solo" story means that after Johnny Thunder, and Larry Lance, the next gumshoe imbecile sidekick our Canary Noir had her eyes on (possible case-guy) like most femme fatales, was this one heir-apparent to the speakeasy/Jukebox nightclub, Phil Martin. Now, it's easy to write off Evil Twin tropes as commonplace, but I like to think this is taken straight out of the very popular Man in the Iron Mask (1939) film. Like a film-noir modernization of Alexandre Dumas' classic, both heir-apparents are Phils (the former being called Phillip). But I digress!

    With booby-trapped streets, and a revolving floor (essentially that Dick Sprang-like blown-up disco vinyl) it felt like Kanigher was jump-starting his Silver Age Wonder Woman imagination, but was still steeped in the shadows of the post-war 1940s.

    I'd imagine this attorney Randall guy, pyrotechnician that he is, has a somewhat unique position in the time-sphere. Sure, having a speakeasy like the jukebox nightclub being the setting is a pretty Prohibition-era trope (the revolving floor also reminds me of the final fight sequence from Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of ... well you get it). Perhaps there's more to it -- perhaps Randall and the Evil Martin brother are both reeling from their war-time experiences, thereby turning the old monster-haunts into booby-trapped minefields? Like, this entire issue reads like a bizarre combination of The Hurt Locker and the film Burlesque.

    Actually, I think the birds are accounted for in an earlier appearance where Johnny Thunder gets that cake -- there's that "trained black canary" that is able to find BC wherever she is. The implication that Dinah probably had more going for her.

    I wouldn't be surprised if this did take place (or was written) before her first solo outing, since there is absolutely no mention of her florist identity. Oh well!