Black Canary is the name of two fictional characters, DC Comics superheroines created by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Carmine Infantino. The first Black Canary debuted in Flash Comics #86 (August 1947). The first Black Canary was the alter-ego of Dinah Drake, who took part in Golden Age adventures and married Gotham City detective Larry Lance. Among the first generation of superheroes, she was a member of the Justice Society of America, the first superhero team to appear in comic books.
Her daughter Dinah Laurel Lance, is the second Black Canary, who has appeared in modern stories and joined the Justice League. She first appeared in Justice League of America #219 (October 1983). This Black Canary is noted for her martial arts skills and her "Canary Cry" – a high powered, sonic scream with the ability to shatter objects and incapacitate villains.
Black Canary is ranked as the 71st greatest comic book character of all time by Wizard. IGN also placed Black Canary as the 81st greatest comic book hero of all time. She was ranked 26th in Comics Buyer's Guide's "100 Sexiest Women in Comics" list.
Black Canary first appeared in Flash Comics #86 (August 1947), as a supporting character in the Johnny Thunder feature written by Robert Kanigher and drawn by Carmine Infantino. Initially, she seemed to be a villain. Johnny Thunder was instantly infatuated with her and was reproached for this by his Thunderbolt. However, she was in fact infiltrating a criminal gang, a modus operandi she would follow throughout her career.
Black Canary proved to be popular enough that in Flash Comics #92, she was given her own anthology feature, Black Canary, replacing the Johnny Thunder feature. The new series fleshed out Black Canary's backstory; in her real identity, Dinah Drake was a black-haired florist whose romantic interest was Larry Lance, a detective on the Gotham City Police Department.
Dinah just prior to leaving Earth-2 to begin a new life with the Justice League on Earth-1. Art by Dick Dillin.
Black Canary was revived along with the other Golden Age characters during the 1960s, and was shown as existing on the parallel world of Earth-Two (home of DC's Golden Age versions of its characters).
It is also revealed Dinah has married Larry Lance during the 1950s. Dinah also takes part in various annual team-ups between the Justice Society and Earth-One's Justice League of America.
In a 1969 JLA-JSA team-up against the rogue living star-creature Aquarius, Larry Lance is killed while saving Dinah's life from an attack. Out of grief, Canary decides to move to Earth-One to make a fresh start, where she joins the Justice League. Sometime afterwards, she begins dating her JLA colleague Green Arrow, and discovers she has somehow (possibly due to exposure to radiation) gained the ultrasonic scream later dubbed the Canary Cry.
In Justice League of America #219 and #220 (October and November 1983), it is revealed this Black Canary is actually the daughter of the original Black Canary and her husband. Born in the 1950s, the infant is cursed by the Justice Society foe the Wizard with the "gift" of a devastating, yet uncontrollable, Canary Cry. Dinah asked her old friend Johnny Thunder to summon his Thunderbolt in hopes of a cure, but it was to no avail.
Instead, the Thunderbolt keeps the child in suspended animation (ageing all the while) in his native Thunderbolt dimension, until, the Lances hope, a way to cure or control her power can be found. Seeing his friends in pain, the Thunderbolt decides to erase all memory of the child, letting everyone think she has died.
After the battle with Aquarius, Dinah realizes she is dying from the radiation she was exposed to. She discusses possible solutions with the Thunderbolt and Superman of Earth-1. The three arrange to transfer Dinah's memories into the body of her now-adult daughter, still held in suspended animation, while not letting Dinah believe anything unusual has happened to her (this retcon was established in 1983 to deal with the fact Black Canary had been active since the late 1940s and would therefore have had to been nearly 60 years old by that time).
In 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths limited series, which attempted to combine the histories of various multiversal Earths into a cohesive whole, removed the divide between Earth-One and Earth-Two. It altered the history of the Justice League of America and Black Canary was now a founding member, in place of Wonder Woman. To further expand this revised history, Secret Origins #50 (August 1990) revealed the first Dinah had been trained by her father, Detective Richard Drake, and intended to follow in his footsteps on the Gotham City police. She was turned down by the force, however, and her disillusioned father (unable to use his connections to change the decision) died of heart failure shortly thereafter. Dinah was determined to honor his memory and fight crime and corruption by whatever method possible. This led to her debut as a costumed vigilante; she would use her inheritance to open a florist shop as her day job.
Eventually Dinah married her beau, private eye Larry Lance (still maintaining her florist business). In a Times Past-style story in Birds of Prey, Lance was an acquaintance of Jim Gordon, father to Barbara Gordon. A few years later, their daughter, named Dinah Laurel Lance was born. In Birds of Prey #66 (June 2004), which is a flashback to a cold case investigated – but never solved – by the elder Dinah, Laurel was the name of a librarian that Dinah consulted during the case and later befriended.