Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Trauma Tuesday #9

From Flash Comics #96, art by Carmine Infantino.

Disclaimer:  While reading my copy of The Black Canary Archives Volume 1, I discovered the ridiculous trend that Dinah got knocked unconscious every single issue.  Now, I've been knocked cold before, and that $#@% is really dangerous.  Kanigher and Infantino either didn't realize how unhealthy it was, or they didn't care, because Black Canary would have been reduced to a drooling vegetable by her third solo adventure.

I dedicate a regular blog update to the panels showing these injuries to spotlight the ridiculousness and repetitiveness--and laziness--of the kind of storytelling common during this era of comic book publishing.  In no conceivable way do I endorse any sort of violence against women (or men).

Monday, April 29, 2013

Canary Comics for Wednesday, May 1, 2013

No issues of Birds of Prey or Team 7 this week, but Black Canary will be featured in Back Issue #64 from Twomorrow Publishing!

Cover art by Mike Grell... and everyone who drew the background covers...
The solicit from Previews reads:
Back Issue looks back at "Backup Series" of the Bronze Age! Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Metamorpho, Archie Goodwin and Walter Simonson's Manhunter, Martin Pasko and Keith Giffen's Dr. Fate, "Whatever Happened To…?", Nemesis, Rose and the Thorn, and the Seven Soldiers of Victory! Featuring the work of Cary Burkett, John Calnan, Dick Giordano, Mike Grell, Elliot S. Maggin, Dan Spiegle, and more!
On sale this Wednesday for $8.95 US.

I've never picked up one of these Back Issues… I mean, I've picked up lots of back issues--I do all the time--but I've never bought an issue of Back Issue.  This issue looks like it's worth me tracking down, though, not just for the obligatory Black Canary appearance.  Stories of Dr. Fate and Metamorpho, stories by Archie Goodwin, Marty Pasko, Walt Simonson… Sounds awesome to me!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Meltzer-era Justice League by Mauro Cascioli

From Trials of Shazam! #12, art by Mauro Cascioli.
Ah, that wonderful time when Black Canary was chairwoman of the Justice League of America only to be hamstrung by the Trinity at every important beat.  See how separated she seems from the rest of the team?  She's the freaking leader at this point!  See the distain in her face for Batman and Superman?

Apropos, I really like Cascioli's depiction of Superman in this shot.  He's got the Christopher Reeves facial resemblance, but the body type and gravity of the George Reeves/Kingdom Come Superman.  Very cool.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey (June 1996)

Like every important thing ever, the Birds of Prey came out of the 1990s.  Long before the New 52, before the relaunch during the Brightest Day event, even before the critically acclaimed ongoing series, and definitely before the not-so-acclaimed TV series, the perfect pairing of Black Canary and the once-and-future Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, began in the one-shot Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey.

The book came out in June of 1996 with a list price of $3.95 US dollars.  That's four cents less than a current issue of Batman, except Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey came in at 54 story pages, nearly double the amount of a Caped Crusader comic today.  The story inside is officially titled "One Man's Hell", which seems like an interesting choice for a book starring two women.  It was written by Chuck Dixon with pencil art by Gary Frank and inks by John Dell.

The Story

"One Man's Hell" begins in the Republic of Rheelasia, which is not a real Asian country.  The president is announcing the opening of a factory over one of the nation's natural gas reserves.  With the flip of a switch, the poor, nonexistent country will power the homes of thousands of Rheelasians, thereby bringing them swiftly into the Twentieth century, and not a moment too soon in 1996.  When the president/generalissimo flips the switch, however, he triggers an explosion that levels the plant and kills five thousand people and injures twice that number.  Did he flip the wrong switch?  Perhaps not; most authorities are suspecting sabotage.

Meanwhile, in Seattle, Dinah Laurel Lance is out for a pleasure drive when some ruffians attempt to steal her car.  It goes well for them.

Right off the bat, artist Gary Frank takes a more realistic and visually intriguing approach to Black Canary's wardrobe.  Her leather jacket has fringe tassels running down the back and the sleeves, and her boots have molded bird feathers.  The look could be silly, but Frank and Dell pull it off very well.  This type of costume works fantastically for a street-level bruiser version of Black Canary, a perfect compliment to Mike Grell's urban hunter Green Arrow.

After beating the crap out of the three carjackers, Black Canary confiscates their weapons and drives off.  At her nest, we discover that Dinah's life isn't in the best of shape.  Her floor is littered with unopened bills and her answering machine is crowded with angry notices from banks and creditors.  What's more, a page after fending off the carjackers, Dinah's ride is repossessed and towed away anyway.

But one of the messages on Dinah's machine is from the enigmatic information merchant of the costumed community: Oracle!

A world away, philanthropist Nick Devine is speaking at a technology symposium, promising to help develop third world countries.  From the sound of things, he raises funds from investors, then uses local resources to help bolster the industry and infrastructure of these poor nations.  Very saintly of him; no sign of anything duplicitous.  Then some people in the crowd start shouting that Devine is exploiting the third world countries for his own profit.  That's probably way off base.  There's no way this Nick Devine is up to anything untoward, and it's not suspicious at all that he defends himself against two armed assailants.

Well, for some reason, Oracle isn't too sure.  She's watching Devine's news conference while monitoring Dinah's travel from Seattle to Gotham City.  She provides Dinah with a new sports car and a plush hotel room.

Oracle provides Dinah--and us--with necessary exposition on Nick Devine's operation.  She's suspicious because every project he works on is targeted and sabotaged by a terrorist group called the Green Brotherhood, who nobody knows anything about.  Dinah asks why Oracle tapped her for this kind of assignment and Oracle gives the strategic reasons, and then the personal reasons.  Black Canary needs direction and a higher profile.  This means losing the fishnet tights and the blonde wig, which just breaks my little heart.

So Dinah dyes her hair blonde and slips into a little black dress designed to draw Nick Devine's attention by emphasizing her breasts and legs so he'll take her seriously as a bodyguard.  Inside a private room, Dinah learns that Nick Devine has a security presence on site.  He's hired Lynx, the female boss of the Ghost Dragons, a group of Chinese Mafia assassins.  That sounds like the type of thing a legitimate developer would do.

Of course, before long, they're attacked by the Green Brotherhood, and Dinah must take some of her clothes off to protect her client.

Nick Devine hires Dinah as a second bodyguard despite the obvious fact that she and Lynx are going to kill each other the minute they get a chance.

Afterwards, Dinah reports back to Oracle.  There are three suspicious circumstances surrounding the night's events.  One: Lynx has taken over the Asian Underworld in Gotham, making her the first woman ever to hold such a position of power.  Two: Dinah saw a tattoo on one of the Green Brotherhood attackers at the suite, a tattoo they can't identify.  Three: No bodies were recovered and no attack was reported.  Oracle and Dinah suspect that Lynx may be behind the attacks on Devine's operations for some reason.

Dinah joins Devine and Lynx to the also fictitious country of Bwunda, where Dinah puts on her new working outfit.

I've said before that this is my least favorite Black Canary costume, but Gary Frank's art is so pleasing to look at that I forgive it for this story.

Nick Devine, along with the president of Bwunda, Lynx and Dinah take a helicopter ride over the country to see Devine's newest project, a dam.  From the helicopter, they witness the Green Brotherhood attacking a village below and killing Bwundan people.  That night, Dinah briefs Oracle on the latest mission updates.  Oracle is still suspicious of the Green Brotherhood; claiming they are too too good to leave a trail or too small, neither of which seems to fit their profile.

Dinah goes to the dam that night, anticipating the Green Brotherhood's attack.  There, the new Black Canary strikes!

She easily takes down the Green Brotherhood terrorists, but is then ambushed by Lynx in a not-at-all surprising twist.

Lynx has the upper hand.  She appears to be the superior fighter and during their battle, explosives detonate part of the dam, releasing water on the villages nearby.  Black Canary is beaten down, spent, and ready to give up, but Oracle won't let her.

It's not the greatest motivational speech ever delivered, but it's not Al Pacino's halftime speech in Any Given Sunday, either.  In any event, it inspires Black Canary to come back at Lynx with a chest kick, the best kind of kick!

Unfortunately, the dam continues to deteriorate.  Black Canary and Lynx are separated by the rushing water.  The villages of Bwunda are flooded and Lynx escapes after confirming the Green Brotherhood and the whole terror angle was part of a shadowplay.

Dinah wakes Barbara from a dream about the Joker paralyzing her.  Dinah wants Oracle to track down Nick Devine, that he's the key to this whole fake-terror plot.

Devine is meeting with a group of Arabs from what's likely another fake Middle eastern nation, like maybe Kahndaq or Bialya or something.  During his pitch to save their country and their pitiful population, Black Canary busts in reveals Devine's real plan.  His operation boils down to raising tons of cash for these development projects, using cheap labor and materials, then hiring fake terrorists to destroy the factory or plant or dam, leaving no evidence of Devine's shoddy workmanship.  Didn't see that coming!

Devine sicks his Chinese mob queen on Black Canary for Round 2.

This is actually my favorite action beat in the whole story… and Black Canary is barely on the page.  Lynx charges her.  Devine reacts to the unseen battle punctuated by SFX.  Then Lynx broken body is slid across the table to crumble at Devine's feet.

Devine lashes out at Dinah.  She brings him to his knees, literally.  She's ready to kill him for the pain, the misery, and the thousands of deaths on his hands.  Oracle talks her down from execution to face-kick, then Black Canary leaves him for Scotland Yard.

She drives off in a newer sports car.  In lieu of a vacation, Oracle offers her a gig breaking up a slave trafficking ring, and Dinah drives off into the sunset.

The Verdict

Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey: "One Man's Hell" is a fun, action-packed espionage adventure.  Spies, geopolitical intrigue, assassins and sexy female warriors--these are all in Dixon's wheelhouse.  Meanwhile, the art team of Gary Frank and John Dell bring a stylish realism to the characters, the environment, the cars.  The fight scenes are thrilling and appropriately gritty.

This Black Canary is still reeling from the effects of her kidnapping and torture in Mike Grell's Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters.  Her personal life is a mess, so much so that she looks forward to distractions like dangerous carjackers and ninja assassins.  She's a warrior without a cause, without a king; she's ronin, essentially.  Oracle offers her a mission, a sense of direction and focus, something important and worthwhile to punch.  I love this direction for Black Canary and where it will eventually lead during the Birds of Prey ongoing series.

What I don't love Black Canary's new uniform.  I miss the fishnets, the jacket, the sense of Golden Age femme fatale fashion.  This new '90s costume is more functional for a super spy, but nothing about it feels personal or unique to Dinah.  I don't mind that she dyed her hair in favor of a whig, but whatever. I would have preferred 50-something pages of this type of Black Canary instead.

I have no idea why this story is titled "One Man's Hell".  I assume the man in question is Nick Devine, since he's like the only guy in the story (Commissioner Gordon shows up for a panel, I think).  I'm going to assume the title was the editor's suggestion/mandate instead of the writer's.  Something like "Shadowplay" would make a lot more sense, or even just "Birds of Prey" since that's the book's name.

Overall, this was a awesome kickoff to the Birds of Prey series, and the start of a beautiful friendship  of beautiful women!


Two fun facts I forgot to mention for continuity buffs:

1. Oracle never identifies herself as Barbara Gordon to Black Canary.  At this stage in their partnership, Dinah does not know who is on the other end of the phone.

2. The term "birds of prey" is never mentioned except in the title.  Neither Oracle nor Black Canary refer to their operation or partnership as Birds of Prey.  I don't remember when that term comes into use in-story, so I'm looking forward to getting back to that place in the timeline.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

World Penguin Day 2013

Today, as ridiculous as it sounds, is World Penguin Day, and what better way for Flowers & Fishnets to honor those majestic accidents of nature than to share my favorite moment between Black Canary and the Penguin?

From Birds of Prey (vol. 2) #2, art by Adriana Melo.

The notorious Batman villain was a major part of Black Canary's first story arc during the Brightest Day era.  Here, too, are the covers to Birds of Prey (vol. 2) issues #2 and #3, featuring Oswald Cobblepot, the Penguin.

Birds of Prey (vol. 2) #2, art by Ed Benes.
Birds of Prey (vol. 2) #3, art by Cliff Chiang.

Out of Context #12: "I'll Bet It Is!"

From Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey, art by Gary Frank.

Every Thursday, Flowers & Fishnets provide a panel that--when taken out of context from the rest of the page--may be funny, suggestive, or just dumb.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cleavage and Crabs

I imagine Gail Simone channeling her own feelings for international travel and international cuisine in this nice little scene between Dinah Laurel Lance and her mentor Ted Grant.  However, I can't imagine what artist Joe Bennett was trying to channel with the overhead shot of Dinah's… uh, dish.

From Birds of Prey (vol. 1) #81, art by Joe Bennett.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Trauma Tuesday #8

From Flash Comics #95, art by Carmine Infantino.

Disclaimer:  While reading my copy of The Black Canary Archives Volume 1, I discovered the ridiculous trend that Dinah got knocked unconscious every single issue.  Now, I've been knocked cold before, and that $#@% is really dangerous.  Kanigher and Infantino either didn't realize how unhealthy it was, or they didn't care, because Black Canary would have been reduced to a drooling vegetable by her third solo adventure.

I dedicate a regular blog update to the panels showing these injuries to spotlight the ridiculousness and repetitiveness--and laziness--of the kind of storytelling common during this era of comic book publishing.  In no conceivable way do I endorse any sort of violence against women (or men).

Monday, April 22, 2013

Who's Who Podcast featuring Black Canary

My two best friends in the whole world, Rob Kelly and Shag Johansson, run a couple of DC hero fan blogs, The Aquaman Shrine and Firestorm Fan, respectively.  They also collaborate on a joint Aquaman/Firestorm podcast called The Fire and Water Podcast, where they discuss Firestorm and  the various super heroines that Shag finds attractive.

I support the Fire and Water Podcast through encouraging letters, iTunes reviews, custom action figure Playdates, and donations of money that Rob promises he's splitting evenly with his co-host.  In return, the fellas promise to encourage their listeners to check out Flowers & Fishnets, but so far I've seen no evidence of that.

One of the regular features of their podcast is a page-by-page breakdown of the classic series Who's Who in the DC Universe.

Cover by George Perez.

Rob and Shag call this edition Who's Who: The Definitive Podcast of the DC Universe.  I have no idea why.  The second installment of WW:TDPotDCU includes the the entry on both the pre- and post-Crisis Black Canary.

Hot mother/daughter action… or maybe mother/self action... by Terry Austin.

You can listen to the Who's Who Podcast Volume II right here.  If you want to spare yourselves the discussions of Bat-Mite and Big Barda, skip forward to the 1:13:30 mark to hear the fellas talk about Black Canary.  But I recommend listening to the whole episode, and every other episode before and after, forever.

Rob and Shag don't even try to make sense of the convoluted history of the two Black Canaries at this point and time; that continuity was seriously screwed up.

Give it a listen! It's worth a laugh!

Smallville's Black Canary: Alaina Huffman

I've only seen one episode of Smallville, the Geoff Johns written installment featuring members of the Justice Society of America.  That means I haven't seen any of the handful of episodes featuring Black Canary, but I hope to… someday.

Before fighting crime, Dinah toured with Twisted Sister.
Until Smallville is added to Netflix streaming or Amazon Instant Video for free, however, I'll have to settle for Google images of Alaina Huffman as Dinah Lance.

Is that the same knife she used to cut her hair off?

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.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Black Canary by Gene Gonzales

I just discovered the art of Gene Gonzales, and was already quite enthusiastic about his work when I found this great Black Canary sketch.

You can see more of Gonzales' material at his webpage.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Out of Context #11: "Scaredy Bird"

From Birds of Prey (vol. 1) #1, art by Greg Land.
Every Thursday, Flowers & Fishnets provide a panel that--when taken out of context from the rest of the page--may be funny, suggestive, or just dumb.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Out This Week: BIRDS OF PREY #19 and TPB 2

Coming this Wednesday, April 17, 2013:


There is a traitor on the team--so who is the member that threatens to tear the Birds of Prey apart?

Written by Christy Marx
Art by Romano Molenaar, Vicente Cifuentes
Cover by Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes
32 Pages
U.S. Price: 2.99


BIRDS OF PREY Vol. 2: Your Kiss Might Kill

In this second collection new villains threaten to expose Black Canary's dark secret, and the Court of Owls sets its sight on the team!

Plus, the girls bring an injured Poison Ivy to the Amazon to help her recover.

Collects Birds of Prey #8-13.

Written by Duane Swierczynski
Art by Javier Pina, Jesus Saiz, Travel Foreman, Jeff Huet
Cover by Travel Foreman
144 Pages
U.S. Price: 14.99

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Carmine Infantino Dies at 87

Black Canary co-creator Carmine Infantino died today at the age of 87.

Infantino was a legend in the comics industry, co-credited with reviving the superhero genre and the Silver Age of Comics with his creation of the Barry Allen version of The Flash.

The major comic book news sources are covering this story.  For more information on Infantino's passing, head over to Newsarama, Bleeding Cool, and CBR.