Celebrating the Unpopular Arts
Wonder Woman, Power Girl and Black Canary

Wonder Woman, Power Girl and Black Canary

I picked up Wonder Woman #1 by Tom King and Daniel Sampere (cover by Sampere, I believe) because King’s Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow was amazing. I hate King’s Batman and most of his other work but his Supergirl was so good I hoped lightning would strike twice.

As it turns out, no.

The story has an Amazon killing some guys harassing her, after which the government creates Project Wide-Awake — er the Amazon Extraction Entity to round up and deport all Amazons on American soil or shoot them if they fight back. It comes off as a mix of mutie-hunting tropes (and lord, how tired I am of those) with current political commentary.

I did like the muttering from some supporting characters about how WW’s feminism makes her not-a-real-American. I did not like the reveal that the villain is the Secret King of America, ruling us from the shadows with the Lasso of Lies. Given DC’s fondness for multiplying unique things (the Parliament of Trees now exists alongside the Parliaments of Waves, Flames and Stones; the Speed Force shares cosmic space with the Still, Strength and Sage Forces) it’s only a matter of time before we get the Lasso of Ambiguity and the Lasso of Urban Legends A Friend of a Friend Swore Were True.

As for the Amazing Amazon herself, she plays less of a role in the first issue than Sarge Steel and there’s nothing terribly memorable about the way King writes her. Certainly nothing to match Woman of Tomorrow. Though as it’s on the DC app, I’ll read the next issues when they become available.

I had more fun with Power Girl #1 by Leah Williams and Eduardo Pansica but it was very generic fun. While Power Girl is still from the old Earth-2 Krypton, she’s also absorbed a lot of the CW Supergirl: she came to Earth to watch over her baby cousin Kal but arrived years later, and she’s now working as a reporter, tech columnist Paige Stetler. Coupled with that we have what looks like a very Birds of Prey set up with Omen, AKA Lilith of the Teen Titans, as Paige’s buddy and (I’m guessing) Psychic Woman in the Chair.

The story, involving the Krypton-hating space pirate Amalak, was more fun that Wonder Woman but it bugs me there’s no sign of PG’s temper. Back in the Bronze Age that was something that made Power Girl, like Marvel’s Valkyrie stand out. Women didn’t get to be angry the way Ben Grimm got angry unless they were evil psychos or having a hissy fit over their boyfriend standing them up. Power Girl having a short temper was refreshing; without it, she feels like just one more superheroine.

The Black Canary part of this post involves scratching an itch of many years standing. In 1972 I read a reprint of Black Canary’s debut in one of DC’s 100-page Super Spectaculars. In a story from Flash Comics #86, Black Canary vamps Johnny Thunder into stealing a small domino mask for her, then using it to crash mobster Socks Slade’s swanky party (the masks are supposedly only available to invited guests). Her mission: relieve Socks of a stolen sapphire.At the time I assumed Dinah, whom I’d known as a superhero for almost a decade, was stealing back the loot because the law couldn’t get the goods on Slade. There’s no sign of that in the text though, just an ambiguous comment about Slade having the sapphire long enough. And the Thunderbolt clearly thinks she’s a crook, telling Johnny he won’t put up with any Batman/Catwoman sexual tension in their strip (my phrasing, not his). I had to wonder whether I was reading it right or if she later reformed. Or what.

On a recent trip to Florida, I scoured the used-book bins at my old comics shop and found a half-price copy of The Black Canary Archives. Having read the first few stories (mostly by Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino) it looks like the answer is … well, I’m not sure.

In her second appearance, Black Canary’s been implicated in a crime wave but assures Johnny she’s been framed; her onscreen actions are heroic — helping catch a killer — but there’s no proof the crime wave was a frame-up. In her third appearance she tells Johnny she’s “pretty hard-boiled” but draws the line at robbing from charity. In #91, she’s again unambiguously a hero, trying to protect a wealthy old man from thieves.

In #92’s “Huntress of the Highway,” (Kanigher and Infantino) Canary pushes Johnny out of the book and takes his slot. Without any prior set-up we now meet her as Dinah Drake, brunette florist, switching to blonde-wigged Black Canary when PI Larry Lance (the most obnoxious, annoying man she’s ever met — need I say more?) needs her to save his life. No explanation or origin, which of course wasn’t that unusual for the Golden Age.

Did Kanigher conceive of the Canary as a bad girl and then switch in response to reader reaction? Or was she, as I first thought, a crimefighter all along? Then again, maybe he never gave it any thought and wrote down whatever came into his head; Dinah’s story in Comics Cavalcade #25 has her save the day by using her famous magical power to summon black canaries.

Kanigher doesn’t explain that either.

#SFWApro. Covers by Sampere (I think), Pansica, Robert Oksner and Infantino.


  1. Does the Sage Force involve a character called Herb? I’ll get my coat!
    That Adventure Comics DC 100-page Super Spectacular which retells Black Canary’s debut also reprints a Golden Age Wonder Woman story which contributed to the origin of Devo, the angsty new wave/electronic band (‘Whip It’ and all that…).
    The WW tale includes a devolution ray which the young comics-reading band used to partly inspire their name. I relayed this to Brian Cronin who used it in his Comic Legends Revealed column which you guys will be well familiar with!

  2. jccalhoun

    I’m not a huge fan of Power Girl but I was curious to see what they were doing with the character and I don’t understand why they are trying to do with Power Girl by renaming her. I don’t know what was wrong with Karen Starr for a name. I get that they wanted to get away from having two Super characters named Kara but they then distinguish her from Supergirl but they do that by making her a reporter? How original. Didn’t she used to run a company?

    Maybe it is just the Legion of Super-Heroes fan in me speaking but I think they should send her and Connor to the Legion. But Bendis’ reboot seems to have taken the Legion off the table for a few years until they reboot it once again…

    1. One of the Supergirl reboots a few years ago had her and Mon-el working with an interplanetary superhero team, like a present-day Legion. But then the CW show took off so we got a reboot again to make it look more like that …
      I would be happy to see PG and Connor in the Legion. But then again the Legion, much as I used to love it, has suffered the death of a thousand reboots.

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