Saturday, June 16, 2012


I checked out DC's "Black Canary Archives" from the library.  This book primarily reprints her earliest appearances from the late 1940s, when she started out in "Flash Comics", teaming up with Johnny Thunder before transitioning to her own feature.  Someone had described the art by Carmine Infantino as "Caniff-esque", so I had to see for myself.  I did see many overt Caniff influences, which was not uncommon for artists of this era, but nothing outstanding.  Infantino's own style, which would in turn influence others, was a few years off.  These Black Canary stories were his first work for DC.

One of these stories that made me do a quizzical double-take.  It's a reprinting of "Tune of Terror" from Comic Cavalcade #25, dated February 1948.  Black Canary and private detective Larry Lance are falling from a deathly height.  Demonstrating a power not seen before (and I don't think since), she summons a flock of black canaries to come to her aid.  This ability is a wild Golden Age oddity courtesy of writer Robert Kanigher.

As you can see, the black canaries come quickly, "interlocking" their wings to form a flying carpet.  Never mind this would make it very difficult for a bird to fly, let alone with two humans lying on top of you.  Never mind that black canaries don't, um, well...exist.

But, you can't apply too much modern sensibility to these stories.  They were meant to be entertaining and fun.  Defying reality was kind of the point, even if it meant sacrificing the internal logic.  What really interests me is the oath she recites to summon the birds:

Champions small with midnight wing,
foe of every evil thing,
heed my call and arise to flight,
prove the Black Canary's might!

It instantly reminded me of this famous little ditty -

The indispensable "Dial B for Blog" has the lowdown on the Green Lantern oath.  The oath was first used by the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, in 1943, and is credited to sci-fi author Alfred Bester.  I was hoping for some revelation, like maybe the Canary oath predating the GL oath, but no such luck.  I think it's clear that Kanigher borrowed the idea, even including the words "evil" and "might."  Though why black canaries, should they exist, would be foes of evil is unclear.

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