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Top Five Most Iconic Black Canary Covers

Here are the top five most iconic covers featuring Black Canary (with iconic being determined partially subjectively by what covers are called to mind when one thinks of Black Canary, but first being determined with a prominent objective standard of whether a cover is homaged a lot or featured a lot in histories of the character). The notable exception is no covers from a character’s first appearance (which isn’t applicable to all characters, of course, just those who appeared on the cover of the comic they debuted in)! Here‘s a list of all characters featured so far.

Enjoy!

Reader Eric wrote in and wanted me to feature Black Canary, so, well, okay. He gave his choices for the list, and I’ll see what I can do with his suggestions (I think he did a very nice job with his choices, so I have no real quibbles, except for one place switch).

5.

Artist: Marcos Martin

I’d never expect a cover like this make it (although it’s a beautiful cover), because usually a character will have a long history of notable covers before this point in their history, but Canary really never got a lot of attention until the late 1990s with Birds of Prey. For too many years she was “Green Arrow’s girlfriend,” except for a few attempts to give her her own series in the late 1980s/early 1990s.

So I don’t have a big problem including Martin’s cover here (which, as Eric notes, WAS collected by DC in a book about covers of their various female heroes)

4.

Artist: Carmine Infantino

Canary’s introduction to the Justice League (forget the continuity, people!) is well-handled in this well remembred Infantino cover.

3.

Artist: Greg Land and Brian Stelfreeze

Birds of Prey really made Canary the force she is nowadays, so naturally they took her out of the book and canceled it, que sera, sera.

Here’s the first issue of the ongoing series, and as Eric notes, it does, indeed, aptly capture the relationship between Canary and Oracle.

2.

Artist: Adam Hughes

Eric makes a strong argument that this cover HAS been turned into a poster and a statue, which makes it a pretty darn iconic take on Canary, no? I’d agree (it’s too bad that it was a variant cover), but I think his original #2 just has this beat, iconic-wise…

1.

Artist: Carmine Infantinio

This cover has been homaged MULTIPLE times AND its her first cover appearance, so I’m going with it #1.

Good stuff, Eric!

All but the Martin covers would have been my picks, so it’s always nice to see someone on the same wavelength as yourself (I would have gone with either the Action Comics Weekly Bolland Canary cover – a cover Eric mentioned to me as an honorable mention, or one of the Grell Green Arrow covers featuring Canary, as she was a fairly major part of that notable series).

70 Comments

“Martian Black Canary” … That would be interesting.

nice choices another character who seems to not get the love she deserves cover wise.

I’m really surprised there are so many new(ish) covers with such an old character.

And I’ve always thought that the uniform she wore in the early BoP stories was her best. I wish they still used that instead of going back to the fishnets and matador jacket.

(And Brian: Any chances of a super-villain list, like Luthor, the Joker or Green Goblin?)

I’m really surprised there are so many new(ish) covers with such an old character.

Yeah, it really is weird how few covers she got until the late 80s/early 90s, and even then, they weren’t exactly high profile ones, either.

(And Brian: Any chances of a super-villain list, like Luthor, the Joker or Green Goblin?)

Joker’s already been featured! Check out the master list linked above.

What about All-Star Batman & Robin #3?

Either the nice Jim Lee “flying-kick” version:
http://www.coverbrowser.com/image/all-star-batman-robin-the-boy-wonder/3-8.jpg

Or the sleazy Frank Miller “smoking old hooker” version:
http://images.marketplaceadvisor.channeladvisor.com/hi/46/45564/all_star_b_r_3_var.jpg

I remember the Miller version getting a lot of commentary when that came out…

There’s a Bolland cover (from the weekly Action Comics, I think), in wich she burns her blue and black costume and takes back the fishnets one. To my tastes it should have to pass the cut before a couple you’ve selected.
And the Greg Land cover reminds me a lot the Gary Frank one from the first Birds of Prey one-shot, where it all begins, so that should be very much iconic than this.

And the Greg Land cover reminds me a lot the Gary Frank one from the first Birds of Prey one-shot, where it all begins, so that should be very much iconic than this.

The Frank cover doesn’t nearly spotlight Canary as much as the one featured here.

There’s a Bolland cover (from the weekly Action Comics, I think), in wich she burns her blue and black costume and takes back the fishnets one. To my tastes it should have to pass the cut before a couple you’ve selected.

Yeah, that would be the “I would have gone with either the Action Comics Weekly Bolland Canary cover – a cover Eric mentioned to me as an honorable mention,” mentioned in the above piece.

Mmmm. Black Canary. She used to be so amazing.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

September 15, 2009 at 7:44 am

Uhm…isn’t the #1 choice itself something of an homage to Detective Comics #38? I don’t think it’s been homaged so much as Robin’s debut cover has been homaged.

Uhm…isn’t the #1 choice itself something of an homage to Detective Comics #38? I don’t think it’s been homaged so much as Robin’s debut cover has been homaged.

Sure it has, two covers were specifically homages of the Flash cover.

Was the Infantino Justice League cover inked by Murphy Anderson?

Yeah, Dale.

I thought so, I see Anderson more than I see Infantino. I always liked his inking on Curt Swan.

I thought first appearance covers weren’t allowed?

It’s not a cover, but at the 78 or 79 San Diego ComicCon, Neal Adams sold a photocopied ink drawing of the Canary with the words “Pow, Super Hero Fan” but she wasn’t wearing her fishnet costume. Or any costume. Or, well, anything. I was young. I bought several. I have no idea where they are today, though. Sob.

I thought first appearance covers weren’t allowed?

It wasn’t her first appearance, just her first cover appearance.

Hooray! Just last night I was thinking about requesting Black Canary*. You’re a mind-reader too, huh, Brian?

The first two I thought of were your #1 and #4 picks. I LOVE that Infantino cover. (It says a lot about gender politics of the day, doesn’t it? Hilarious that she supposedly mopped the floor with the male JLAers, including Superman and the Atom!) I also thought of the BC & Starman cover that Dan Larkin cited — they had a number of adventures together back in the day, I believe. (Which James Robinson tapped into for an interesting retcon in his “Starman.”)

comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=19350&zoom=4

But I hate that Adam Hughes cover (which was, as you point out, just a variant). It’s just ugly. Surely if you’re going to go with something that recent, there are a number of BOP covers under Simone’s tenure you could pick. (Hmm, maybe not — poor Simone was stuck with Benes for quite a while on that title.) One of Amanda Connor’s GA/BC wedding covers, obviously also very recent, convey a lot about the characters’ history and their current status quo (and it would balance the very fine Marcos Martin cover, which deserves its place).

But hmm, you really do need BOP to represent. So here are two that came to mind. Actually I’m ruling out this first one —

comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=92812&zoom=4

— because, while it did (finally) restore her powers after years of fans asking for that, this particular illustration is pretty odd. Makes her look like she’s suddenly got X-ray vision too!

But this one —

comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=167424&zoom=4

— which is Dan Brereton channeling Alex Toth, deserves a notch, don’t you think? It gets Babs in there, and also a nod to Canary’s mother. (Oh, continuity!)

Too bad this cover doesn’t feature her a bit more — which is generally a theme with Canary, isn’t it? (She played a great supporting role in “Batgirl: Year One,” which of course was also very smart foreshadowing by Beatty & Dixon):

comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=209799&zoom=4

You obviously know she never got many good JLA covers after that first one, but speaking of continuity (and retcons and mothers), there is one significant one by Perez. Dunno if I’d call it an iconic drawing, but it surely signifies a huge turning point in the character’s history — it’s the one with the evil Johnny Thunder and the Thunderbolt, showing Canary her dead parents in a glass coffin, with much of the League and the Society in the background. (Meaning: It’s typically busy, like lots of Perez covers. Sorry I can’t find a link — sometimes comics.org works, and then sometimes the search function just craps out. Which just happened as I was writing this post.)

* I’d also love to see Barbara Gordon and Sinestro! Both would be great in this feature — a lot more fun to pick the top five covers, I imagine, than with MM or BC, because you have so much more to choose from. I also agree about Green Goblin.

Never having been a DC fan, I always wondered about her name Black Canary. It just doesn’t exactly inspire respect when you had a elderly aunt that kept a one in a cage or recall a 3 Stooges short where Billy Gilbert played a mental patient who imagined seeing a giant green canary. Then again “Robin” is joked about by those outside of c omic book fandom. What is the story behind her name? .

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

September 15, 2009 at 9:50 am

It helps a lot to remember that the Golden Age Canary was a nightclub singer turned hero, and that “canary” was a common slang term for a singer.

Thanks Omar. I forgot about the 1940′s slang connotation .

Even without the knowledge of 40s slang, canaries are well known as singing birds with incredible vocal range. And domesticated ones are most often bright yellow. Given her vocal sonic powers (even though they came decades after her creation) and bright blonde hair, the name makes a lot of sense even if you don’t know 40s slang. Many people know of canaries and their vocal prowess. Meanwhile the 3 Stooges canary joke you mentioned is kind of obscure (I for one never heard of it), much more obscure than the singing reputation of canaries at least.

I think the spike in popularity after the mid-’80s is sort of a “WATCHMEN Effect”. A lot of folks were looking for “more Watchmen” after Moore and Gibbons finished things up. The obvious first place to look were the titles featuring the Charlton characters, but neither the Wein-Cullins BLUE BEETLE, nor the O’Neil-Cowyan QUESTION, nor the Bates-Broderick CAPTAIN ATOM bore any resemblance to what Moore and Gibbons had done. John Ostrander and Kim Yale took Nightshade in a totally different direction in SUICIDE SQUAD.

Really, the closest thing to a WATCHMEN character in the DCU was Black Canary. Her status as a second generation hero evoked Laurie Juspeczyk as did her fetish-y costume and her romantic relationship with a fellow member of the Satellite-era JLA. Then, Giffen and DeMatties brought her into the JLI where the post-modern take on superheroes was played for laughs.

In other words, Black Canary became the nexus of an awful lot of the Awesome that was going at DC during on of its most exciting, creative periods.

On the specific covers, I like all these selections. The Marcos Martin cover is great. His Steve Rude inspired retro style was always a better fit with DC than Marvel to me. Having both he and Mark Waid working together on SPIDER-MAN is pretty much the emblem of everything that has gone wrong with the DiDio era. When Marvel is putting out better DC books than DC Comics, it might be time to change a few things.

Anyway ….

Part of what made Dinah’s relationship with Ollie interesting was that they were unmarried. It was possible for them to just break-up. It was a pretty modern, interesting relationship. Note the use of the past tense.

On cover #4, I love that you can identify Dinah just from her legs. How many characters is that true for? Not many, I would think. The other aspect that is iconic would be how the JLA is overcome by her femininity. I sometimes think that comics have gone backwards on this stuff. The only characters that we see demonstrating sexual power these days are men, like Batman and Hal Jordan.

On cover #3, the relationship between Oracle and Black Canary is pretty much the definition of iconic. It really was an interesting premise for a series.

On cover #2, I am usually a fan of Adam Hughes, but this cover does not do much for me. However, it is iconic in that it does a nice job combining the sexy side of the character with the tough side.

On cover #1, it is interesting that it is the only time the pre-COIE costume appears on the list. Not much to say beyond that and the fact that it connects Black Canary to her Golden Age roots.

Kind of glad to see there were no iconic covers from the Legends/Justice League of Comedy era.

Any list of BC covers that omits that classic Brian Bolland Action Comics (anthology version) cover of Canary burning that horrific 80s bird-wing epaulets costume is just wrong.

Brian, why was this cover omitted?

http://luchins.com/dickery/tec_554_new_black_canary.jpg

It’s an homage to the cover listed at #1.

Any list of BC covers that omits that classic Brian Bolland Action Comics (anthology version) cover of Canary burning that horrific 80s bird-wing epaulets costume is just wrong.

Thank you for sharing.

It’s an homage to the cover listed at #1.

It’s also ass-ugly. Man, Jansen couldn’t even put a convincing smile on her, and he probably designed the outfit.

It’s also ass-ugly. Man, Jansen couldn’t even put a convincing smile on her, and he probably designed the outfit.

That, too.

I was just joking. Just wanted an excuse to bash the ugly costume :p

With good reason!

It’s a shame that that’s the costume that was part of JLI.

Janson didn’t design that Eighties outfit, it was Stephen DeStefano, and if memory serves he produced the equally short-lived new Elongated Man costume. Still, the guy’s a great!

What was the Adam Hughes cover a variant of?

Thanks for posting this for me, Brian!

I had the Action Comics cover as an honorable mention. While it’s a great cover by Bolland, it doesn’t really showcase anything about Canary.

I do really like the Green Lantern/Green Arrow cover suggested by Dan Larkin. That is an important period from her career, but I felt the Martin cover better represents her and Green Arrow’s relationship (can you tell that I’m not a fan of their marriage?).

I would have liked to use a different Birds of Prey cover, but there were no real covers showcasing Bab’s and Dinah’s friendship that were also exciting. The issue where they meet in person doesn’t feature Dinah, and the next issue they are again separated, with Dinah kidnapped by Deathstroke to hunt talking gorillas.

After I sent this to Brian, I too actually thought of making the Flash Comics cover the number 1 and the Justice League cover number 2, so we were on the same page with that edit.

Speak of the devil, I found this funny:

http://stephendestefano.blogspot.com/2007/11/i-confess.html

He is indeed a great though. Sometimes one can be a great artist but horrible costume designer. For example George Perez..

The Black Canary costume was a mistake, but DeStephano’s cartoon inspired art was way ahead of its time.

Actually I take it back, the more I look at the Elongated Man costume it isn’t all that bad.

Cheers T, I’ve never seen his site!

While looking for Stephano’s site I accidentally just found this one, a totally unironic blog dedicated to all things Justice League Detroit.

http://justiceleaguedetroit.blogspot.com/

JLDetroit is underrated. They’re not bad stories or characters (except Vibe). The idea of a team that didn’t have everything immediately at its disposal was pretty cool, and Gerry Conway (I think it was him–can’t remember now) increased Aquaman’s power so he had the ability to “push” others, like Max Lord could do. Or jedis. And the characterization of J’onn J’onzz we know today of stoic fatherly figure really starts here with his relationship with the younger members.

Thank you for sharing.

No problem. Thanks for the uncalled-for snotty response.

Physician, heal thyself.

This is a pretty good list. I do have one alternative cover that I would have put in the top 5, though, which is Green Lantern / Green Arrow #78:

http://comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=23564&zoom=4

A couple other covers that might merit inclusion would be her team-up with Starman in Brave and the Bold #61:

http://comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=19350&zoom=4

or with Batman in Brave and the Bold #91:

http://comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=23624&zoom=4

@ Wesley Smith:

I’d agree that the JLDetroit was under-rated. The idea of adding diversity by creating new characters is one that I endorse. Vibe was a little silly, but he didn’t have the Scrappy Doo quality that I deplore. Vixen, Gypsy, Steel and Dale Gunn were all interesting. So, that is not a bad batting average for the new characters.

Aquaman was interesting in the role of “flawed mentor”. Conway did a great job with Zatanna. And Lord knows that Ralph and Sue Dibney have been handled worse in other places. It certainly wasn’t a masterpiece it is not THAT far down the list of Justice League runs.

I have no problem with JLA Detroit, I’m just so used to it being used as an easy target on blogs for snark and derision that I find it refreshing to see someone go against the grain and be unironically a fan of it. It has its flaws to me but its nowhere near as bad as some make it out to be.

I third or fourth or whatever Green Goblin.

Also, Aquaman!

Holy flerking shmidt, that Birds of Prey #1 cover was actually Greg Land? But it’s a drawing that looks original and dignified! What the hell happened between then and now?

Land was a good artist for a number of years, basically when he was inked by Drew Geraci.

But in any event, this particular cover is mostly attributable to Stelfreeze, who is awesome.

The funny thing with Land is that he started as a 90s Image ripoff hack, rose out of hackdom for a few years, than descended into a totally brand new form of hackdom, the photoshop lightbox hack.

For examples of his early Image hackdom, see the Nightwing miniseries he did with Denny O’Neil in the 90s, the one that debuted Nightwing’s current costume.

It might just be a coincidence (as he could just have been naturally growing as an artist), but it’s interesting to note just how totally Geraci’s good years coincided with his work with Geraci.

The Nightwing mini-series was pre-Geraci, and it was not until their penciler/inker partnership broke up that Land began doing the photoshop thing.

I don’t know if I saw this anywhere…but for what issue was #2 the cover? I don’t see that info anywhere. Also…why is it cool to be surrounded by blood? I thought we got over that in the ’90s.

A semi-related food for thought (related to recent tangent but marginally related to original post):

What is more common, great artists descending into hackdom or hacks ascending into great artistry? Both are pretty rare, most recent example I can think of being Brian’s Dan Panosian thread. Land seems to be the only artist I can think of two pull off both. Although Brian may be right, perhaps Geraci was to credit for those years of great art from him.

I can’t speak for the level of “iconic” but the Adam Hughes cover is definitely my favorite.

JL Detroit was a good team and a good book, but they weren’t the Justice League. I think the book would have been far more successful if the team were given an original name. Kinda like the tv series “Star Trek Enterprise.” A great sci-fi that failed dismally because it tried to pass itself off as a Star Trek dispite being so far off the mold. That was JL Detroit.

I think Black Canary was pretty involved with JLI, and clearly one of the teams focal points early on.

Janson didn’t design that Eighties outfit, it was Stephen DeStefano, and if memory serves he produced the equally short-lived new Elongated Man costume.

Actually didn’t the Elongated man costume he designed last a decent amount of time? I’m thinking at least 5 years if not more…

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

September 15, 2009 at 8:51 pm

The problem with JLA Detroit was mostly its aggressive mediocrity; it was a technically competent comic, Vibe’s overdone accent aside, but it seemed to come off the shop floor of generic 1980s team book tropes.

Really, so did much of the Post-COIE Infinity, Inc., but I suspect its status as one of the two post-COIE JSA-linked titles gives it a protective haze of nostalgia that the deliberately anti-nostalgic JLDetroit roster eschewed entirely.

It was, one must admit, a pretty gutsy move for DC to jettison the big-name characters from JLofA and run with a no-name roster. J.M. DeMatteis, who finished the run up, clearly learned somethign from it and made the idea of a largely C-list roster work wonderfully in the JL/JLI/JLE years by avoiding the standard superhero melodramatics Conway applied.

P. Boz-
#2 is the variant cover for Justice League #6, by Metzler and Benes.

Why is the DeStefano Black Canary costume (the one she used in Crisis) so ill-liked?

I would love to see Brain add a poll to these lists, just to see how (if at all) the difference would be.

The problem with JLA Detroit was mostly its aggressive mediocrity; it was a technically competent comic, Vibe’s overdone accent aside, but it seemed to come off the shop floor of generic 1980s team book tropes.

I’ll admit that the book wasn’t the greatest title ever, and I may have a bit of nostalgia, because the first issue I ever bought was the last JLA/JSA teamup, right before the roster change, but I would say that even then I don’t think there was another title like it. Honestly, the JL Detroit years are more like the JSA of today, in concept if not in writing.

Citizen Scribbler

September 16, 2009 at 7:53 am

Well, let me be the only person to say that they actually PREFER Black Canary’s 80s costume with the headband and everything. It’s a lot less “hooker” than the stockings. Stockings are appropriate for Zatanna though, cause she’s a magician.

Also- Justice League Detroit? When I was around seven, and got my first subscription to DC, it was right in the wake of COIE, and the Justice League that I had known from Super Friends/Super Powers and the one or two issues I’d seen before were not the same as the book I was getting- But I loved it anyway! And Vibe was my favorite because he was a little wise-ass just like me. I was so shocked when he got killed and then Steel got pulverized beyond recovery. I was so sad… And then I see the advertisement for the new Justice League, with guys I’d never heard of like Dr. Light and the Blue Beetle. I wasn’t looking forward to this “new thing”, but I figured I’d give it a chance anyhow- turned out to be my favorite comic run of all time, and made me forget all about those other broken toys of my imagination. And they even brought out Vibe’s brother!

-Citizen Scribbler

I don’t like Canary’s 80s costume, but I don’t have much of a problem with JLDetroit.

I don’t think it was particularly great comics, but it was far far FAR from the worst run JLA had.

Scott Harris wrote:
“I do have one alternative cover that I would have put in the top 5, though, which is Green Lantern / Green Arrow #78″

That’s the one where the Manson-ish guy hypnotized Black Canary, right? You knew that character was crazy when he had Dinah under his control, willing to do anything he wanted, and the obvious never occurred to him…

Don’t worry, I’m sure someone at DC will come across that story, and decide to bring the character back, but make him more hardcore, and in order to so, will retcon it so that not only did he do the obvious, he invited all his friends to gang bang her also.

I really enjoyed the Detroit League, things felt fresh, and those last few issues when things got incredibly intense, whew!

The biggest problem with JL Detroit was that the writer didn’t know the geography. The artist, a Detroit native, would draw beautiful city-scapes and skylines, and Conway would narrate about the city looking over Lake Michigan! This is actually the reason why that team moved back to the original cave headquarters, because the writers couldn’t keep the geagraphy straight.

I second the support for JLDetroit (after the Crisis tie-in issue, at least) and for the headband Black Canary costume. It was great, and far less exploitative than any other costume she ever had.

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