Canary in a Coal Mine

I like Black Canary. There, I said it. Despite the fishnet hose, trampy collar, and trailer-park blonde wig, I dig the character quite a bit, having formed my opinion of her during the 1970's "Green Lantern / Green Arrow" stories where she was a strong, butt-kicking woman. She seems to me to be one of the most well-rounded of the DC stable of female characters.

What I never understood was why she didn't track Zatanna down and slug her for stealing her costume:

Seriously, chick's magic, she can have whatever she wants for a costume, and the best she can do is "eviG eM kcalB s'yranaC emutsoc"? Sistah please.

At various times, the powers that be at DC have agreed, and tried to "update" her look, sometimes to good effect, and sometimes to bad. Like this one:

I imagine the creative meeting going something like this:

Editor: You know what's hot right now?
Artist: My pits? Seriously, it's so hot in New York right now fat guys are makin' their own gravy.
Editor: No, you idiot, I'm talking about workout videos!
Artist: You mean taut, lithe, sweaty women working out in tight clothing? I have no idea what you're talking about.
Editor: Just go away and redesign Black Canary as if Olivia Newton-John were starting in the movie version and quit stinking up my office.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but this just seems like a mom who rolled out of bed one morning and decided to fight crime without changing out of her sweats.

The headband is the literal and figurative capper, of course. You couldn't walk around in the super-hero universe of the 80s without one of those things, which a decade later would morph into living snake-gods at the loving hands of Rob Liefeld and company. But I also hate the thick, puffy sleeves, the obligatory mid-80s colored stripe down the center of the uniform, the white pirate boots, and the useless white cuffs. She's gone from looking like a hot, sexy, slightly dated yet still classic temptress totally in keeping with her general theme of "night singer" to this uncomfortable, every-square-inch-covered fitness video reject look.

But mostly, it's the headband. I wish someone had choked this bad canary of an idea before it ever got out of the mines. Thankfully they'd ditch this look in fairly short order and get her back to something more bad-ass and less baggy-ass.

(Images and characters © DC Comics.)

11 Responses to Canary in a Coal Mine

  1. Rosco says:

    So… they both wear fishnet stockings? Captain Marvel and flash both wear red tights; MM and Batman both wear blue briefs. Z’s jacket is a tuxedo-with-tails number, while BC’s is biker leather. There’re enough costume elements to go around.

    Anyway, Zatanna’a also had some pretty terrible outfits:

  2. William A. Peterson says:

    Shouldn’t that be [I]because[/I] of the fishnets, the collar and the wig, Jeff? 😉
    Anywise, Dinah didn’t just ditch that ‘polyester nightmare’, she [I]burned[/I] it, so you’re not the onloy one who didn’t like it!

  3. William A. Peterson says:

    {Hmmm, guess Italics don’t work the same way here, as on the UGO forums… Sorry about that!}

  4. Myro says:

    @ Willie Pete: Try using html tags with the pointy bracket things. I wish I could show you, but every time I use them, they disappear, because the forum thinks I’m trying to format my entry with them.

    I kinda like Zatanna’s outfit. She’s dressed up like a female stage magician. Honestly, I never got the idea that she stole the costume from Dinah anyway. At least not until you tried to point it out, Jeff!

  5. frankie says:

    I actually prefer that alternate costume of Zatanna’s that Rosco put up. The magician style one is pretty boring looking, but the super hero style costume has more pizazz. There’s white, blue, black, a little red and a tiny bit yellow. Sure, she has a lobster tail on her head, but maybe she likes shellfish. The Z earrings could go too.

  6. Ha! I’m listening to Zenyatta Mondatta right now!

  7. Reader Kate says:

    I remember liking the wing-things on her outfit, but the new look is just too wholesome for the film noir-ish Black Canary. Didn’t they also derail her personality into a victim of domestic abuse around that time, as well?

  8. spidercow2010 says:

    Does anybody else think the Zatanna figurine above looks like that Flo chick from the Progressive Insurance commercials?

  9. spidercow2010 says:

    <i>test Ah, there we go.
    @WAPeterson(#3): This: <i> is what Myro (#4) is talking about.

  10. Marzipan23 says:

    Their outfits don’t look alike! So they both wear fishnets that doesn’t mean they have the same costume.

    Oh, and Black Canary lost the trap collar:

  11. Jeff Hebert says:

    Black fishnet, black shoes, black half-jacket, throat choker type device, rolled-top gloves … seriously, they’re very, very similar, particularly in Zatanna versions where the tuxedo shirt is left out for just the bustier.