Friday, June 20, 2014

Pretty Bird: DETECTIVE COMICS #553

For the last week I've been thoroughly scrutinizing every Black Canary appearance I could find from early 1985.  If you're familiar with this era in DC Comics history, you know this was around the time of Crisis on Infinite Earths, a maxi-series that left a few subtle changes to some of DC's characters.

Why would that pique my interest?  Well, among the retcons to come out of the Crisis was a change to Black Canary.  The last time her origin was experimented with, Roy Thomas made the Black Canary of Earth-1 (the JLA Dinah) a daughter/clone of the Black Canary of Earth-2 (the JSA Dinah)  from suspended animation but with the memories and experiences of her mother overwriting her own so that the younger, hotter Dinah could continue her adventuring in place of her mother/self.

Crisis allowed new writers to say, "Screw you, Roy Thomas!" and make the Justice League Black Canary a normal, non magic-cursed/non-memory-affected daughter to the original who fought crime with the Justice Society.  But when would that change be crystalized?  It's a little vague, but I think this issue of Detective Comics is the first story to treat Dinah Laurel Lance as a really, truly different person.

Detective Comics #553 starred Batman in the lead story by Doug Moench and Klaus Janson.  The Green Arrow backup strip "Crazy From the Heat" is written by Joey Cavalieri and drawn by Jerome Moore with Bruce Patterson.

When Black Canary rushes into the burning building, she discovers a mother and child trapped in the blaze.  The mother's foot slipped through rotted floorboards.  Black Canary quickly and awesomely punches through the rotted wood to free the woman.  She ushers the lady and her infant daughter out to the street, telling them Green Arrow will help them relocate.

Then Black Canary meets the cause of the building fire...

The woman named Bonfire makes a snarky remark and walks away, leaving Black Canary to either burn to death or suffocate.  Dinah rolls over, losing her wig, but she cannot move from under the burning wreckage.  She feels death approaching... but it's actually Green Arrow with a trick arrow that puts out the fire around her.

Green Arrow carries Black Canary out of the inferno just as the fire department arrives.  The fire chief thanks Green Arrow, but Ollie isn't interested in his gratitude.  He has some choice words for the fire chief, including his ranting theory about greedy real estate companies setting fire to the buildings so they can redevelop the neighborhood without dealing with squatters in the buildings.  Ollie as much as accuses the fire department of corruption and collusion with the real estate firms and allowing the buildings to burn.

Later, back at Dinah's home, Ollie checks to see how she's recovering from the incident.  He tries to dance around the issue, but neither of them can avoid the fact that she "choked" in the room when Bonfire showed up.

Black Canary can't explain why she reacted that way any more than I can explain why artist Jerome Moore decided to give her the curliest damn hair this side of a Soul Glo commercial.  Seriously, her hair didn't look like that a few pages ago when the wig fell off!  Maybe in the post-Crisis continuity, Larry Lance ain't the real daddy.

Ollie accuses her of melodrama and making too big a deal over nothing.  He suggests she get over her momentary lapse in action by staking out the neighborhood and waiting for the arsonist to return.

Dinah doesn't get much sleep that night as she tosses and turns.  Among the thoughts keeping her up is the question of whether or not her mother ever found herself in the same position: sleepless and obsessive about a criminal she couldn't catch.

Okay, clearly Dinah makes a shocking discovery about her mom that will be revealed next issue, but I'm not going to focus on the cliffhanger.  That will be addressed next week when I review 'Tec #554.

What concerns me is everything else Dinah says about her mother.  First, that she clearly states her mother was the first Black Canary.  That gels with the new history Thomas established two years earlier, but when Dinah says she has tried to live up to her mother's legacy... That doesn't sound like a Black Canary who had all the memories and experiences of her mother imprinted on her own consciousness.

Second, the way she refers to her mother's history doesn't sound like it's from first hand experience, but that she knows of her mother's exploits from oral histories and a scrapbook of Black Canary's early adventures.

It's not definitive, but to me Joey Cavalieri is treating this Dinah as a separate woman who grew up hearing about the original Black Canary's adventures and has tried to follow in her footsteps.  That's a distinctly different status quo than a time-lost daughter awoken after decades of sleep with the past glory of her mother info-dumped on her brain when she comes to a new world.

The name "Laurel" never comes up, but I believe Cavalieri is the first writer to establish a Black Canary I and Black Canary II as mother and daughter without shared brainwaves or whatever Roy Thomas thought would explain de-aging the character.

Come back next Friday for the answer to Dinah's questions and the first appearance of Black Canary's "new" costume in Detective Comics #554!


  1. I think Moore was going for a frizzy 'wet look' in those curly-hair panels. Her hair is back to straight when in bed. It doesn't work though ... it does look like Gheri-curl!

    I don't know these stories at all, so I am intrigued to find out what the secret is!

  2. Next Friday, all will be revealed.

  3. Also, yeah, the hair could be explained by post-shower frizziness... Sorta.