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The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – The Earth-2 Black Canary

All throughout December, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today we look at a fairly odd change in the Pre-Crisis history of Black Canary, based on a suggestion from commenter ink-stained dude..

Enjoy!

In Justice League of America #74, Denny O’Neil has Dinah “Black Canary” Lance lose her husband while the members of the Justice Society are brainwashed into fighting the Justice League…

At the end of the issue, Canary makes a decision…

The next issue she develops her sonic scream power.

Years later, Black Canary became a bit of a problem, continuity-wise. It had been determined that the JSA would be built around World War II (when Justice League #74 came out, the JSA were definitely older than the members of the Justice League, but it was unclear just HOW much older), so now the various members were a good deal older than their Justice League counterparts. But why, then, isn’t Black Canary older?

In Justice League of America #220, Roy Thomas (inspired by a Marv Wolfman idea) explains it all…

The whole “Black Canary is her daughter” thing was dropped after Crisis. Now Canary’s mother was in the JSA while her daughter is the one in the Justice League. That’s been Canary’s origin ever since.

56 Comments

talk about a convulted mess, I read it twice and I’m still confused!

Ah, this story has probably the first example of Fridge Squick I ever encountered. “Wait, she has ALL of her mother’s memories? Even… having sex with her father? Ewwwwwwwww!!!”

You know, if I were Dinah senior I might have at least asked Dr. Fate to try something before just agreeing to letting Thunderbolt take the little girl away forever. Just sayin’.

(I always liked the transition from this story to the post-Crisis one– takes one of the very goofiest bits of the multiverse and turns it into a very natural link between the JSA and JLA of the integrated world.)

That’s a horribly messy way to have things make sense.

randypan the goatboy

December 27, 2011 at 6:17 am

It made perfect sense in 1983…I had the books and it made sense to a 13 year old. Of course DC had been doing weird quasi macical stuff for the entire time I had been reading comics so I was more intune with the silver and bronze era DC shenanigans…shenanigans i say

randypan the goatboy

December 27, 2011 at 6:18 am

That word in the second sentence is supposed to be magical…DOH!!!

This change makes some of the stories from the early 70’s read very, very weirdly, as Dinah spends some time lamenting the loss of her beloved husband and true love — who, thanks to this retcon, is actually her own father. It makes some stories positively creepy to read after the fact.

The choice of JLoA #75 as the “first appearance” of the Silver Age Black Canary, however, is spot on, as Denny O’Neill pretty much totally overhauls the character in that issue. It really is a different Black Canary for all intents and purposes and the first appearance of the Dinah we all know now, as she arrives on Earth-1, joins the Justice League, gains her iconic Canary Cry superpower and begins (or sets up, anyway) her relationship with Green Arrow all in the course of one story. A must have, must read for all Black Canary fans and a very overlooked key Silver Age comic.

Oh yes, the whole I Remember My Father As My Husband thing. I can’t help thinking there was a better way to pull this one off, even given the basic premise.
Wolfman seemed to be really keen on evening out age differences during this period. He did a story pointing out Duella Dent was the wrong age to be Two-Face’s daughter, that Alfred’s daughter Julia was too young to be the daughter of Mam’selle Marie and overrode the Brave and Bold that showed Hawk and Dove in their thirties (an awesome story too).

But now, with no JSA having ever existed during WWII and the current crop of super-folk being the only ones in history and having recently just appeared in the New 52-verse, Canary’s origin is now re-convoluted. Also, the excellent Shade miniseries featured the New 52 version of Deathstroke, but if there was never any Golden Age Starman in the New 52-verse, then Jack Knight Starman also could not have ever existed. GAH!

Does that mean in this universe Canary’s mom Dinah senior is in a magical suspended animation trance?

always thought the black canary wound up being the daughter of the original one then turns out she was suppose to be the mother switching places was a mess made the character so confusing till dc decided to fix it after crisis. ,

And this is why, even as a kid, I couldn’t “get into” DC comics until after 1986.

Hey Superman, aren’t you supposed to be all about “Truth, Justice and the American Way”? Unless they define “Truth” differently on Krypton and/or Kansas, I don’t think letting your colleagues believe a lie is a good way to represent :P.

Even as a kid, this explanation seemed really weak. I do not think that in the entire course of human history has a woman looked identical to her daughter to the point where people are fooled into thinking they are the same person. Besides the fact that they only share 50% of the same DNA, this explanation was supposed to deal with the age problem. I guess the retconned battle with Ian Karkull that extended their lifespan offsets the difference in age but, still, the other people there looked to be in their 40s-50s when they should have been in their 60s. The Earth-2 Black Canary should also have looked 40ish when she died. Unlikely that all the JLA’ers that fought beside the original Black Canary would mistake that 20-something girl for the battle hardened JSA’er Then again, these heroes are fooled by Clark Kent glasses. Makes you wonder how they solve ANY kind of case and maybe Batman being the World’s greatest detective in the various DC Universe’s Earths ain’t all that impressive. But I digress.

And another thing! Somehow this body that hasn’t moved since infancy was somehow fit enough to pick up the martial prowess of the original without missing a beat? Sure her mind knew the moves but it is a new body. Perhaps Thunderbolt somehow helped make the body fit? For some reason, out of all the wacky DCU explanations, this one never quite set well with me Pre-Crisis.

Glad that Post-Crisis/Pre-New 52, they were two separate characters: they seemed pretty different to me.

Damn, that whole thing is just painfully bad, absolutely awful shit. It’s beyond ridiculous that actual adults wrote that pile of gibberish, and in order to accomplish what? To add Earth-2 Black Canary to the JLA? Wouldn’t it have been much simpler to create a new Earth-1 heroine called “Black Canary”, with the same look and same secret ID? Hell, they had already established that some Earth-1 heroes were practically the same as their Earth-2 counterparts but born decades later – such as Batman and Superman – so WHY go through that crap at all? It’s just demented. Writing a whole convoluted mess like that just to “correct” the oh-so-important continuity is about the most mediocre thing that can conceivably be done by a supposedly professional writer.

This is the JLA that I read when I was a kid, and it sucks just as hard as I remember it sucking. The funny thing is that some people treat this period of DC comics as if it were somehow much better than the current stuff. It’s really not, it’s just as bad as anything that’s published today, the main difference being that modern comics have more gore and fewer insults to the readers’ intelligences. But as a whole, it’s just pap. I don’t think it can even be defended as “it was written for kids back then” because the first time I read it I was a child, and I already thought it sucked. It’s just unbelievably poor.

Maybe it is just me, but while the end treats Dinah as the kid being the kid, the explanation makes it sound like they sacrificed the kid to keep the mother.

Why else say that the minds and memories were exchanged? Wouldn’t that mean that mother Dinah’s mind was put in kid Dinah’s body, while kid Dinah’s mind was put in mother Dinah’s dying body? All in all, it is a really terrible explanation, because it really doesn’t make sense at all. Why implant mother Dinah on child Dinah at all? And if they could selectively erase memories ( like erasing the memory of a child), and they wanted new Dinah to be her own person, then why not selectively erase some of the other bits so that she wouldn’t think that she was her mother?

And why in the first place stick baby Dinah in some shoddy half-complete suspended animation where she grows but doesn’t wake? They were pretty much throwing away her life with that much. They just ditch her and forget about her. They don’t try to do anything to help her. They don’t try to put her in a place where she can live. If mother Dinah hadn’t been dying, it seems like baby Dinah would simply have grown old and died without ever having lived.

Matty, I’m inclined to give them a pass on the looks–genetics aside, I’ve seen enough stories play that card that I count it as an acceptable genre convention when it happens.
Hammerheart, Denny O’Neill’s JLA run was indeed really dreadful. But bringing her across doesn’t seem inherently worse than creating a new one (and it’s certainly not O’Neill’s fault what they did with it later).

That’s awful. The best thing Roy Thomas did for DC was convoluting their history so much that they had no choice but to just reboot it.

The craziest thing about it is that the explaining the age difference away seems really easy. JSA is based around WW2, so Earth-2 is a bit behind us in time. That’s why the superheroes aren’t that far apart in age. Done. Instead they had Superman admit to lying to his teammate for years in a serious of convoluted word-baloons, only to have her be like, “Oh, okay, cool. Thanks, Super-Bro!”

*… in a SERIES of word-balloons. Oy.

Fraser – I don’t know, I don’t see how simply creating an Earth-1 heroine called Black Canary would have been as bad as this convoluted mess. Just present the Earth-1 Black Canary and explain that she’s that world’s version of the Earth-2 heroine, which is exactly how they dealt with Green Lantern, Flash and all the other Earth-1 variants of previously-existing Earth-2 heroes. It definitely would have been better than the unfathomable insanity that they went with.

And if anyone deserves blame for this mess, then surely the infamous continuity-massagist Roy Thomas should shoulder his fair share too. O’Neill had a unnecessarily complicated idea, yes, but it was Thomas who took that initial bad idea and turned it into indefensible nonsense for the sake of “fixing” it.

It’s never a good idea to write a story for the express purpose of fixing continuity inconsistencies, because that’s nothing more than literary masturbation. There’s no theme or purpose there beyond continuity navel-gazing for its own sake (seriously, even porn is better than this stuff, because at least porn doesn’t waste the audience’s time explaining its own “continuity”).

I don’t think the original idea was complicated. Black Canary moves to Earth-One. Simple enough. They may have figured as an established heroine, she’d be more appealing at that point than creating a brand-new Canary and easier–to follow the Flash/GL mold they’d have to come up with someone reasonably distinctive from the original, so why bother?
The complications all came in that “fix,” more than a decade later.

If they didn’t want to create a distinctive new character like Flash and GL they could’ve just done it the Batman/Superman/Green Arrow way and create a character with the exact same codename and secret identity, only several decades younger. It would have been better in every possible way. Thomas’ “fix” only made it much worse, but the original idea was already more trouble than it was worth. There was no benefit at all in bringing the Black Canary from Earth-2, especially when so many other heroes simply existed on both worlds and no further explanation was required.

I have to agree with Hammerheart. O’Neil’s original idea, while nowhere near as bad as the fix Thomas did, is still more complicated than it needs to be.

I read this when I was a kid. I loved the Earth-2 stories and especially the JLA/JSA team ups. Didn’t like this one. It took me multiple reads to get it and it didn’t feel right. I understood why they were doing it, but I thought it was too much. My first thought about her being younger than her former counterparts was “Why didn’t they just say the energies she absorbed from the battle slowed down her aging.” No convoluted story was needed.
I didn’t like my childhood heroes standing around admitting to past lies that make me uncomfortable..

Yeah, it’s like a miniature version of Identity Crisis. “The woman we all knew has been dead for years, but I thought it best to mislead you into thinking she was alive.” Not quite up there with Super Hypnosis making everyone think Clark looks different than Superman, but still a bit creepy.

It would have been easier to just make an Earth 1 Black Canary. They could have had a running subplot where the JLA annoys the heck out her by constantly comparing her to the other Canary on Earth 2.

“Original Dinah would have knocked out that villain faster.”

“I AM the original!”

I never saw this story first time round, and it is of course mind-bogglingly confusing and incredibly stupid, but, unless I’m missing something (which, given the total lack of logic on display here, is entirely possible). what about this? The first Black Canary dies at a point where her daughter looks about 20, so presumably she has to be about 40. As middle-aged women go, she is incredibly well-preserved – so much so that all her close friends can see no difference between her body and that of a woman half her age. Therefore her superpowers obviously include the ability to not get old. So why bother with any of this in the first place?

Fantomas: I like your take on it. People wouldnt really notice at first that she isn’t aging. The Earth 2 characters were aging slowly already. You could even say her powers only started manifesting on Earth-1. SImple stuff really.

I got this two-parter off the racks back in ’83 and was eager to read it since it was the annual JLA/JSA reunion. Part one featured the JLA members getting zapped into another Conway Coma (loved that plot device) leaving Canary, Reddy, and the JSA to pick up the pieces.

Then, part two focused on Canary and this mess of a retcon, with Superman and a kinder, gentler, oh-so-out-of-character Spectre showing up at the very end to deliver the above claptrap. Even as an 11 year-old, I called utter BS. It read creepy and unsettling for all the reasons listed here. Chuck Patton’s art was the only saving grace to be found.

Cue forward to the post-Crisis Canary: They’re mom and daughter. Dinah Lance is now a Legacy heroine. All cool. Denny really should have thought of this idea back in the 70’s.

Don’t even get me started on the Shade’s world being affected by all the New 52 nonsense. I hope Robinson is writing a way around THAT for his new JSA project so that Dinah and the Knights’ relationship can go back to making sense again.

God knows what will happen now since earth 2 has been restored? We know that the current Black Canary leading the Birds of Prey is currently on Earth 1 and so far there is no trace of her mother being the previous Black Canary.

So, not only did Earth-2 Dinah Sr. effectively kill her own body and the soul of her daughter (who was cursed with loudness by a magician and thus raised in a space amoeba by a magic genie, naturally) to save herself from dying while fleeing her dimension out of grief for her dead husband Larry Lance, of whom I’ve never even heard before (which makes me wonder what Dinah Sr.’s maiden name might have been), but somewhere wandering around on Earth-1 there may be the Earth-1 equivalents of both E2 Dinah Lances (and possibly Larry for all we know) who are living quiet lives of obscurity and non-superherodom and have never been featured in a DC comics story anywhere. Unless maybe Dinah Jr., Superman and Batman hunted them all down and killed them to make room on Earth-1 for the new Black Canary. Or maybe they just dropped a house on them.

Man, that’s just some messed-up shit.

Lol Ganky it puts Soap operas to shame, I haven’t seen a mom being portrayed in such a horrible selfish light. but whats really bothering me is what happened to her Rupenzel like hair, did superman give her a hair cut or was Magic used to make it match Mom’s length.

Whats even worse is they made the daughter have incest feelings for her Father. They give “grave diggers” a new meaning, talk about digging and digging.

Ganky, Larry Lance was a “real” character so to speak–he was Dinah’s boyfriend in the 1940s Black Canary series and like most of the JSA, she turned out to have married him when she showed up in the Silver Age.

On the subject of an earth 1 Larry Lance, I actually did come across a story in one of the earlier Brave and the Bolds where after Earth 2 Dinah moves to Earth one she comes across an Earth One Larry Lance excpet he’s evil and he uses her to take Batman out.

JLA #75, the issue where Black Canary joins the team, is a mark of sorts. Even the cover text is enlightening (“Now do you admit I can take Wonder Woman’s place?”, said by Black Canary while surrounded by the beaten and battered JLA members Superman, Batman, Green Arrow and Atom. Curiously enough, she is only seen from the waist down, with her fishnets emphasized).

See, the JLA was formed with Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Flash and Green Lantern. All of them had their own series at the time. Much like the original JSA concept, the idea of having them all together in a single story was a Big Deal.

Later on, Green Arrow joined, then Atom, then Hawkman.

Wonder Woman took an official leave of absence in #69 (due to having been deprived of her powers). Manhunter left just two issues later, feeling duty-bound to seek after what would eventually become Mars II.

So JLA was left with an all-male roster, and at the same time there was a shortage of characters with their own series that hadn’t joined already. So it makes sense that they would draw from the pool of Golden Age characters, pick and choose a female character that they felt most interesting, and give her a reason to both move to Earth-1 and to become a slightly different character (and improved powers to boot). She even readily admits on the cover that she is meant to sub for Wonder Woman specifically.

Yet, it is also the first time ever that a new member had never sustained a regular series all of its own. In a sense it was a change from the JLA being honored by a new member towards it being the one to lend prestige to the new member. It seemed to have been a somewhat difficult transition.

Fantomas, unfortunately your explanation probably wouldn’t have worked, as the original (Earth-2) Black Canary didn’t have any super powers at all. She was just a lounge singer who liked to punch people.

This is why we need reboots

She was a florist, not a lounge singer. At least in every story I’ve ever seen.

Wait, so Mama Canary had her memories transported into her daughter’s body. What did that do to the daughter’s memories? I mean, up until then I assume the daughter’s mind was that of a toddler, seeing as how she was in suspended animation since before she could talk. Did this eradicate the daughter’s preexisting mind and memories (what little of them there were given how young she was before she was placed in suspended animation)?

Also, what was the Thunderbolt’s rationale in erasing all memories of the baby? He puts the baby into suspended animation so that it can be cured, but then wipes away all memory of the baby’s predicament, meaning there is no one actively searching for a cure for the baby! So what’s the point of keeping her in suspended animation awaiting a cure if you make it so that no one is actually looking for a cure because no one remembers her predicament?

(Fucked-up) Comics, Everybody!

More stuff that makes no sense: so the Justice Leaguers fought alongside the old Dinah Lance that fought in World War II in Justice League #74, then before Superman brought the old Dinah Lance over, he switched her out for her daughter, who is at least 20 years younger, and he didn’t tell any of the Justice Leaguers about his switcheroo.

So that means none of the Justice Leaguers noticed the sudden age difference? That the woman they just fought alongside deaged over 20 years during the journey? When they had their annual JLA/JSA teamups, no one realized their Black Canary was decades younger than her former teammates who were supposed to be her age? And what did Green Arrow think, that he was just courting an older woman who looked remarkably young? And if the Justice League Black Canary all this time believed she was the original Black Canary who fought in WW2 alongside the Justice Society, and had all of her mother’s memories about doing so, and had no idea she was actually in her daughter’s body, wasn’t she curious as to why she looked so young when she should have been a senior citizen? I mean if I noticed I looked 30+ years younger than I remember, I’d be a little curious.

Even for comics, that’s a lot of bad logic. Roy Thomas and Marv Wolfman, to answer one question, created at least a dozen more questions and an even more illogical scenario.

One final Question did they leave Dinah Senior in suspended animation at the end or is that a space coffin?

I wonder why the just didn’t use the Lazarus Pits as way to explain Dinah’s agelessness? The pits ended up shaving a few years of her in Birds of Prey (as well as restoring her Canary Cry).

@canarycry Dinah Senior died on page in the Black Canary story “Unfinished Business” Business” By Alan Brennert, Joe Staton and Dick Giordano from 1990’s Secret Origins #50. It is a tear jerker.

@canarycry Dinah Senior died on page in the Black Canary story “Unfinished Business” Business” By Alan Brennert, Joe Staton and Dick Giordano from 1990?s Secret Origins #50. It is a tear jerker.

Wasn’t that post-Crisis? I think canarycry is asking what happened to Dinah Sr in the pre-Crisis story above.

At least the Post -Crisis JSA’s slow-aging was easily explained – they were infused with Ian Karkull’s shadow magic after defeating him in the 1940s. No convoluted BS necessary.

Wait, Larry Lance was killed by Katamari?

“…then before Superman brought the old Dinah Lance over, he switched her out for her daughter, who is at least 20 years younger, and he didn’t tell any of the Justice Leaguers about his switcheroo.”

They didn’t need to know!

*wink*

“…wasn’t she curious as to why she looked so young when she should have been a senior citizen? I mean if I noticed I looked 30+ years younger than I remember, I’d be a little curious.”

Good point. But with the lives they led, the JSA probably had no idea how real people were supposed to age. She could have just chalked it up to residual balonium radiation from crossing the dimensional barrier and left it at that. Best not to think about these things too hard, when the face looking back at you in the mirror is so attractive!

I miss the old multiverse. So silly and awesome at the same time.

“…wasn’t she curious as to why she looked so young when she should have been a senior citizen? I mean if I noticed I looked 30+ years younger than I remember, I’d be a little curious.”

Originally there was this explaination that time moved slower on Earth-2 so people aged slower. But it seemed to only apply to the JSA and their supporting cast, since the rest of history seemed to move more or less the same as it did on Earth-2. Then in All-Star Squadron, Roy Thomas wrote a story that said said the Golden Age heroes, sidekicks and even some of their significant others absorbed time energy from villain Ian Karkull. This energy slowed their aging so JSAers had bodies of someone in their late 30s or early 40s when they were actually much older. However, Black Canary wasn’t one of those characters. But maybe she thought she absorbed it from those who had been bathed in the energy.

Hey, there is another Abandoned An’ Forsaked storyline. The slow time Earth-2 explaination.

Man with No Face

January 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I’ve never quite figured out the logic in removing Wonder Woman from the JLA because she lost her powers and is now just an athlete, then replacing her with a woman with no powers who is just an athlete.

Yeah, I know, “canary cry”; but if you go back and look at the JLA issues after Canary joins, that power is very poorly defined, and she very seldom uses it. Basically, Canary was the same as the “Emma Peel” Wonder Woman at that point — so why the switch? (Answer: because Denny O’Neil wanted to give his fantasy mouthpiece Ollie a hot blonde to mack on.)

A good point, Faceless–I figure, though, it was more the desire to make a clean break with Diana’s past and establish she’s completely separate from Wonder Woman–though of course, the Amazons soon started popping up again in WW.
Come to think of it, that seems to be one of the standard solutions to changing WW–look, the Amazons are gone! She’s all alone! I think we’ve had at least two or three more Amazons Gone stories over the years.

Faceless has a point, of course. However, even today there isn’t much of a repertoire of good female superhero characters to use in place of Wonder Woman. In all fairness, even having WW herself in the JLA has been a stretch often enough.

No wonder Chuck Patton left comics.

I agree with HammerHeart. It would not have taken much to create an Earth 1 Black Canary, complete with Canary Cry, if need be. Maybe laziness? Who knows? Denny O’Neil had come over from Marvel, which had always disparaged DC’s female counterparts, so he not only refused to consider any to replace WW, but he dissed Hawkgirl in her appearance during the time a fill-in was being looked for, and may have considered Zatanna a ‘counterpart’ to her father, or just too powerful for a female member at the time. So he tapped an Earth 2 character. As the only character to ever actually MOVE between the Earths, I’ve always believed that she was in fact the cause of the Crisis.

FuryOfFirestorm

April 1, 2012 at 11:27 am

@Kenn: Actually, Dinah’s not the only Earth-2 hero to migrate to Earth-1. Commander Steel somehow got shunted from E-2 to E-1 during the mid 1940’s. Then his grandson later took over the name and joined Detroit based iteration of the Justice League.

I think that chronologically Denny’s moving of Dinah was the first. Prior to that, even the meet-ups between the Earths had to take place only once a year and required magical or super-powered assistance.

Why did the Spectre call her “Dinah Drake”? If she’s the child of Dinah and Larry Lance, her name would be Dinah Lance.

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