OK, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the new Batgirl, and it got me thinking a lot about what’s been happening with the Birds of Prey. The Birds of Prey is the comic that got me into comics. I’d tried several before (Batman, Superman,Teen Titans) and none of them drew me in, and some of them even pushed me farther away. But Birds of Prey hit all the right notes, and here I am several years later, officially a comic book fan. And I’m not alone, Birds of Prey was one of the comics credited with bringing in a large number of audiences who wouldn’t have been reading superhero comics otherwise.
But then the New 52 happened, and all of that was wiped away. Literally, all four of the main Birds of Prey team members are gone (Zinda Blake Blackhawk is MIA; Batgirl was never Oracle; Helena Wayne was Huntress and at the time they said Bertinelli was dead and had never been Huntress; and the Black Canary of the New 52 was revealed to be Dinah Drake, the first generation Canary, not Dinah Lance, the second generation Canary, and pretty much resembled neither of them in any recognizable way). My favorite team, pretty much decimated.
I held out hope that if the Barbara as Batgirl experiment failed they might bring her back to Oracle eventually, but with the new Batgirl of Burnside it looks like Oracle won’t be on the table for a good long while, if ever. The new Batgirl does however give me the first hope since the reboot that DC can produce good, fun, enjoyable comics still, so I figured now is the time to see how the Birds can be salvaged from the not great rebooted version of themselves.
So first off, Black Canary.
The issues I have with New 52 Black Canary essentially amount to how much her personality has been erased. In the Post Crisis Birds of Prey, she was the fun, free spirited, cheery crime fighter to Barbara Gordon’s mature, wisened, logical Oracle. Even though they were peers who both brought out the best in each other, Oracle was clearly the mentor, and Black Canary the mentee. But in changing Oracle back to a youthful, inexperienced Batgirl, it left a role of ‘mature, competent leader’ open in the Birds, which they decided to have Black Canary fill, and it changes her personality dramatically.
The trouble with trying to fix her back up is that she’s a character defined by her relationships to other characters, and every last one of those relationships is gone. The most important relationship, and the one that’s not coming back in this universe, is her mother. Post Crisis Dinah being the second generation Black Canary affected the way the character operates on a fundamental level; it’s the first relationship that defines her and the one that changes all the others. So to fix Black Canary, the first thing to figure out is how to reinstate something akin to that mother/daughter relationship while keeping the the New 52’s single generation of superheroes.
The answer is the Blackhawks. Dinah’s mother can’t be a superhero, but she can still be a hero, and a volunteer pilot is a perfect way of doing it.
Natalie Lance (née Reed) was a member of the freelance fighter pilot group known as the Blackhawks. They were sent on missions by various governments for several years, but eventually the team disbanded. The still young and active Natalie Reed would continue to volunteer her services, eventually performing wartime rescue missions throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Eventually retiring, settling down, and caring for her growing daughter, Natalie is an extremely confident woman who takes on any task she sets her mind to.
Her daughter, Dinah Lance, grew up adoring, but feeling entirely inadequate compared to, her extraordinary mother. Upon reaching young adulthood, she feels the need to make her own way in the world, and moves out. Out of her mother’s shadow (and military inspired way of doing things), the young Dinah Lance begins riding motorcycles and learning martial arts, forming an all female vigilante team called the Birds of Prey, which very quickly fell apart and disbanded.
She remains close to her mother, and one day is helping Natalie (now in a wheelchair) in her unsuccessful attempts to secure a military gravesite for herself (despite her wartime rescue missions, her requests are being rejected for being a volunteer), she meets another young woman, dissatisfied with her own treatment by the military she’s trying to join, and the two hit it off. With this new friend, one Zinda Blake, Dinah begins thinking about the possibility of starting the Birds of Prey again.
So there’s my origin, going through the New 52 versions so far but establishing a version with more personality, and reaching the point where a new version of the Birds of Prey could form. I tried to retain as much as possible of the current versions, but seriously the modern version being Dinah Drake? Being married to this Kurt guy and having him die? I’m not dealing with that, sorry. There’s no good reason to go back to Dinah Drake; Dinah Drake is a representative of a different time period, and a modernized version of that character is Dinah Lance the daughter. Not using the daughter character does nothing but piss off the people who love the character so much. Plus, that was all stuff from Team Seven, and I don’t think anybody actually read it.
My design hews close to the post crisis version, the body suit, fishnets, no blue tights, no cleavage, and the sensible ponytail. I turned the swimsuit cut into shorts, and made the whole ensemble more informed by motorcycle gear. I took particular inspiration from Ryan Gosling in Drive (didn’t see the movie, but I’ve seen pictures of his costume in it) and Ryu from Kamen Rider W. I emphasised the black and yellow color scheme. She now has a motorcycle jacket with a logo (and that is a line from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.)
Here’s a larger version of the picture, for those interested.
I’ll post more soon, I’ve got a whole lineup going here.