In the course of talking to comic creators this year, I started to think about their unique talents and what I think they would be best suited to. Inspired by all kinds of wonderful ideas I’ve seen online and heard from creators, I’ve put together my New 52. These are the 52 books I would publish if DC’s offerings were up to me and, as my friends and I have had a good time discussing them, I thought I would share them with you.

I tried to consider the actual feasibility of these titles, not only in the sense of immediate sales but in their ability to expand DC’s brand long-term. I also recognize that this is a dramatically simplified version of what DC actually has to do. As such, I made a couple of rules for myself.

First, as I don’t have the same knowledge of the creators’ availability and timeliness as an actual editor, I decided that I would allow myself access to any writer currently working in comics, but that I could only assign a creator to one book. Second, I tried not to put a writer on the same book that they’ve already worked on, though some were moved to similar concepts or allowed to expand short work they’ve already done. Finally, while an actual relaunch might do well to include some new books, I limited myself to preexisting titles and IPs for this project.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, on why I’m right, why I clearly screwed up, who should be illustrating the series, etc. But, regardless, I hope you enjoy.

One of DC’s Golden Age Heroines, the Black Canary is another character who has always been on the verge of being a major name. Though her only ongoing series lasted only twelve issues, Black Canary has featured in countless backups and mini-series, served as the core of the Birds of Prey, and even served as the chairwoman of the Justice League, ranking as a founding member for a number of years after Crisis on Infinite Earths. It seems odd that this classic character has never been trusted to stand on her own, but perhaps she’s been waiting for the right creator. Luckily I know just the one.

 

BLACK CANARY BY GREG WEISMAN

The Black Canary was originally Dinah Drake, a young raven-haired owner of a flower shop who donned fish nets and a blonde wig to infiltrate and take down gangs. Eventually she would encounter Johnny Thunder and join the Justice Society of America. A standby of the JSA, Black Canary was uniquely selected as the Earth-Two character to cross over to the Bronze Age Earth-One continuity. This required a complicated and uncomfortable device wherein Dinah Drake’s mind was transplanted into the body of her brain dead and magically aged daughter, Dinah Lance, gaining a super powered ‘Canary Cry’ in the process. Admittedly, it wasn’t her best moment, but it did set the stage for Black Canary’s next phase, as one of DC’s first and most notable legacy heroes.

Reinvented as the second generation Black Canary, Dinah Lance took the reinvented Wonder Woman’s role in the founding of the Justice League and became a staunch, if occasionally straw, feminist to match the changing times. She also gained an odd family of sorts when her mother was placed into the WWII-Era Justice Society continuity, establishing that Dinah had grown up around the world’s greatest heroes. Unfortunately, this pressure to live up to her mother’s example would create tension between the two Canaries and be a big part of the character for many years.

Even as a teenager, Dinah was kind of a bamf. Even if she needs to outgrow the teen angst and stop being mean to li’l Zatanna.

When Green Arrow was moved into DC’s mature readers line, Black Canary followed him and, in a controversial decision designed to separate Ollie from the Superhero genre, was ambiguously tortured in such a way that removed both her canary cry and her ability to bear children…yeah…

While it was a blow to the character, when Dinah returned to the DCU proper, she was forced to focus on her skills as a martial artist and it was in this phase that she found her great calling as a member of the Birds of Prey. Established as a clever, if luddite, covert operative and one of DC’s best hand to hand fighters, Black Canary finally saw some time in the limelight. In a somewhat uncomfortable turn of events, BoP wouldn’t truly take off until after the death of Oliver Queen.

Dinah has served with the Birds ever since, taking some time off to rejoin the Justice League as chairwoman.

I really like Black Canary. Though she’s endured a number of different, though not necessarily contradictory interpretations over the years, Dinah Lance remains one of DC’s most interesting heroines. One of the elements at the core of her appeal, to me at least, is her skill. While the Canary Cry is an innate ability, Dinah has traditionally relied on her skill as a martial artist. This shy, shrinking girl built herself up, step by step into one of the most formidable fighters in the world, outclassing heavyweights like Batman and stepping into the rarefied tier of Richard Dragon and Lady Shiva. Even better, there’s less of the odd almost Randian pride than a lot of other (usually male) superheroes attach to learned ability. Dinah is absolutely willing to acknowledge her debt to teachers like Ted Grant or Shiva and it makes her a stronger person to do so, not only in regards to her character but in the supporting cast it allows her.

I strongly believe this is not an example of her Canary Cry, she’s just really pumped about something. Maybe cat calling Ollie or something…

Dinah’s also a lot more relatable than Batman. Where Bruce Wayne or Sandra Wu-San dove completely into training themselves, Dinah has retained a level of humanity that marks her as a special character. She’s still willing to just hang out with her friends or resolve a conflict with words rather than fists. I also particularly appreciate when her Canary Cry is portrayed as extremely strong, less because it lets Dinah stand shoulder to shoulder with two generations of A-listers (which it does) but more because it limits its usage. In identifying the Canary Cry as a potentially fatal weapon, Dinah’s writers made every usage of it, and every choice not to use it, a demonstration of character. Unlike Batman or Superman, Black Canary is morally capable of employing lethal force. The idea of Dinah flat-out murdering her villains makes me uneasy, but this distinction makes it all the more principled that she doesn’t chose to do so, especially when it’s so much easier for her than for Batman.

I also love Dinah’s romance with fellow hero, Green Arrow, at least in the abstract. The Dinah/Ollie romance is a divisive point for fans of Black Canary because too often it’s used to degrade Dinah or force her into a subservient role in a Green Arrow story. Did you know that one of GA’s only classic rogues, Count Vertigo, was originally a Black Canary villain? If not, I’m not surprised. There a many examples of the relationship being portrayed badly, from consistent view of Dinah as a Green Arrow character rather than the other way around to the uncomfortable rape subplot in Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters to the even more uncomfortable ‘cheating’ subplot when Dinah discovered that he too had been raped. In fact, for many writers, it seems like the relationship can’t be written without throwing Dinah under the bus and Dinah can’t be written without throwing her relationship with Oliver under the bus. Nonetheless, I hold out a fool’s hope that these two elements can be wedded, because when Ollie and Dinah are done right, they’re freakin’ adorable.

I think staying with someone as passionate and sometimes difficult as Ollie also has the ability to really say something positive about Dinah (and no, not that she’s patient). While Smallville decided to play her as an arch-conservative to contrast with Ollie, one of the things I love about Dinah is her empathy and stereotypically liberal concern for others. I mentioned Green Lantern/Green Arrow as the classic Green Arrow run in Ollie’s article, but in the most famous story, “Snowbirds Don’t Fly”, Dinah is the real hero. Admittedly she goes unsung, but while Ollie fails as a hero for the first time, Dinah commits one of the most heroic actions of her career between the gutters (as I said, there often seems to be some weird Ladyhawke curse on this couple). Eventually it would be made official but fans knew from the beginning that when Roy Harper hit bottom, it wasn’t either of the titular heroes who saved his life, but Dinah’s understanding and compassion.

I love the idea that part of why Ollie and Dinah work as a couple is that they share a passion for the struggle of the unheard and the downtrodden. Like a yin-yang of social justice awesomeness, Canary tempers her partner’s fiery passion with calm understanding and a steely resolve. While it’s hardly canonical, Stanley Lau’s Justice Magazine series articulated a lot of thoughts I hadn’t consciously recognized, tying in Dinah’s iconography and powers in a wonderfully clever fashion.

A great rendition of the costume and a clever vision make this one of my favorite Black Canary images.

Badass, caring, determined, funny, real; Black Canary is a wonderfully complex character and I think, with the right writer, she could be an A-list character for DC. Luckily one of my single favorite writers counts her as his favorite DC hero.

At the very least he understands Nightwing…

The man behind, or at least the common denominator between, such programs as Gargoyles, The Spectacular Spider-Man, and Young Justice, Greg Weisman is the quiet juggernaut of the animated world. Though his name hasn’t necessarily reached out into the comics mainstream yet, the fans of his television work are many and fervent and he has plenty of experience in funny books as well. As the writer of the Gargoyles and Young Justice comics, as well a co-writer on the underrated Captain Atom, Weisman brings much of the same intelligence and naturalism to his comics as he does his animated projects.

Weisman is incredible at synthesizing information and creating life-like characters that can be understood simply. Characters like David Xanatos and Kaldur’ahm are frankly brilliant and still feel incredibly familiar to anyone who watched their series. And, as I’m sure he’d point out that he’s hardly the sole author of any of those programs, it’s also worth noting that his guidance as a story editor is immense. This is a man with a terrifyingly intricate timeline of Gargoyles chronology that he’s guarded for two decades and the mysteries of the Light alone are enough to make fans beg (the wrong people) for another season of Young Justice. Put simply there’s no one in the industry better than Weisman at crafting complex, believable plots and characters that are accessible to fans of all ages. The Spectacular Spider-Man remains one of the best incarnations of the character (one of comics’ most beloved, mind you) to this day.

Round 01! Fight!

With all that behind him, Weisman’s appreciation for Black Canary is just another reason to love him. Weisman notably worked with the character as part of his Green Arrow short feature included on the Superman/Batman: Apocalypse DVD. Though his English geek cred is showing in the barrage of wonderful, terrible puns scattered throughout the the short, Black Canary’s brief but triumphant appearance was a strong mark in favor of Weisman’s handle on the character, not to mention his understanding of her relationship with Oliver Queen. Shortly thereafter, Weisman would work with the character again when she turned up as a recurring character on Young Justice.

Round 02! Fight!

As the Team’s combat trainer, Black Canary had numerous opportunities to show off her considerable skills, repeatedly wiping the floor with Superboy in her first major appearance. As if that weren’t enough, Canary’s importance to the show would be reinforced when the team suffered a serious psychic trauma and she was placed in the role of team psychologist. Channeling “Snowbirds”, Dinah proved to be a capable councilor and a consistent ally and advocate for the teens thereafter.

You Win! Perfect.

Weisman’s take on Black Canary captures the best parts of the character, quickly, confidently, and excellently. On some level it’s not surprising, Weisman recently revealed that elements of his DC Showcase short were recycled from a four issue miniseries he wrote for the character back in the mid 80s. Unfortunately, after the scripts were completed and the first issue penciled, editorial informed Weisman that Lance was to be used in Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters. While Longbow Hunters was somewhat essential in the evolution of the Green Arrow character, I can’t help but think that many Black Canary fans would rather have had Weisman’s miniseries and its fallout instead.

I think this key to success for this series is to give Black Canary an identity of her own without denying her a place within the greater DC universe. Weisman seems like a writer who you can really just wind up and let go but he also appears to be quite good at playing along with demands from above and even turning them to his advantage when possible. These are actually both reasons not to nail down too much of the series now, but if I were to discuss it with him, I’d probably pitch moving Dinah across country, possibly to Nightwing’s old stomping ground of Bludhaven (and for similar reasons). Not only would it allow Dinah to have some much needed space from Green Arrow and the Birds of Prey, but it would also make it easier for her to cross over with Justice Society of America and open up the possibility of sharing or borrowing unused characters from that title, such as Wildcat. I also think it would be really interesting to see a superhero in a long distance relationship and, while that could be a terrible idea, I think if anyone could pull it off, it would be Weisman.

Greg Weisman loves the character and has stated a willingness to write her if offered the opportunity. Put me in charge of DC’s output and you’ll see why this was the second item on my list of titles for the New Years 52 and, once that ridiculous notion has passed, get Weisman on the phone with DC, cause this series would be amazing and that’s all that’s standing between it and reality.

Weisman has a much larger following than he did back when he wrote his miniseries in 1985 and Black Canary has never bigger thanks to appearances in Weisman’s work, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Arrow. It seems like Greg Weisman’s Black Canary is an idea whose time to fly has finally come.

Tomorrow… The A-Team.

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