Who's the Golden Age Black Canary?

Who's This? Johnny Thunder's special guest star.

The facts: Black Canary (with mask!) did indeed first appear in a Johnny Thunder story (Flash Comics #86, August 1947), oh the shame (I would have worn a mask too), which gives her one of the latest appearances of any big legacy character from the Golden Age. She was created by Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino (which may have contributed to her eventual return, but see you next week for how that was a different character all along, honest), backdoor-piloted into Johnny strip, and then promptly replaced him, holding a spot in Flash Comics until its death knell (#104, Feb 1949). A few months after her debut, she joined the Justice Society of America (All-Star Comics #38), and that's how you get her to the Silver Age, via JLA/JSA crossovers. At some point they decided she was the mother of the contemporary Black Canary rather than an Earth-2 refugee, and this Dinah Drake was relegated to the role of long-lost mother and memory. She eventually died of cancer, her estranged daughter at her bedside.
How you could have heard of her: My guess is you would have heard of the modern Canary, although there used to be no difference. Maybe you noticed the older Black Canary in some Crisis or other.
Example story: Flash Comics #93 (March 1948, reprinted in World's Finest Comics #225, Sep-Oct 1974) "The Mystery of the Crimson Crystal" by Robert Kanigher, Carmine Infantino and Frank Giacoia

Dinah running a flower shop is right out of the '40s, but you'd be surprised at how much can happen in a place like that. Especially when a private eye is known to make a "daily flower call".

In what seems like a sloppy mistake, the apparently cultists take Larry Lance prisoner, but don't search the woman for the Crimson Crystal. It was in her closed fist all along and is about the size of a grapefruit! Before Black Canary can process all this, the cops see her through the store window and think shedunit. She has to escape and solve the murder to clear herself. Oh, and save Larry, though she seems to think he's a bit of a pain (no "gorsh I love him but he only notices my alter ego" secret identity shenanigans for Dinah!). Finding the cult is pretty easy. Put an ad in the paper and let them come to you.

The Golden Age hero's favorite activity: Punching people out! Unfortunately, there are too many of them and one gets behind her and knocks her out. Dinah is also taken prisoner and brought to woodland ruins outside the city, to be sacrificed, along with Larry, by the Sacred Order of the Crimson Crystal, as ordered by their "Swami". He must be charismatic because he's the only dude in this chick farm. Time for some choking action!

I didn't know her choker - on TV, they have it be a sonic scream device - had a smokescreen! Neat! Bit of escapology, and Canary is ready to throw the Swami into his audience and reveal his treachery!

The religion was all BOGUS?! Who would have thunk it? And the Swami isn't even Indian, but "Bullet Benn" wearing a mask. This is his idea for hiding from the police and I guess getting "serviced" by gullible maidens who were convinced to join a cult because "oooh shiny". Well, it's not much of a story, but it's full of pulp tropes and that's what the Black Canary strips were really about. The heroic Private Dick story is turned on its head by the Gal Friday who is the actual hero, but also looks like the femme fatale. People crashing in on their last breath, Maltese Falcons, and odd threats from the Orient are just par for the course.

Who's Next? A bird of a feather.


LiamKav said...

Not an expert at BC history, but I'm sure I've read modern stories of her where her hair is blonde all the time. So I guess she just stopped wearing a wig at some point.

Dunno why the wig thing tickles me. Clarke gets his hair to hide his secret identity, after all.


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