HEAT VISION

How 'Birds of Prey' Could Build to 'Green Arrow'

Though the film faltered at the box office, Jurnee Smollett-Bell's Black Canary has the potential to continue on and introduce a key DC character.
'Birds of Prey'   |   Claudette Barius
Though the film faltered at the box office, Jurnee Smollett-Bell's Black Canary has the potential to continue on and introduce a key DC character.

[This story contains spoilers for Birds of Prey.]

One of the most popular characters featured in Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is Black Canary, portrayed by Jurnee Smollett-Bell. Of all the characters introduced in the film who could have a franchise outside of Birds of Prey, it’s the martial arts-inclined metahuman. While Dinah Lance, daughter of the Golden Age Black Canary, Dinah Drake, has had plenty of her own solo adventures, some of her most memorable moments in DC Comics have been alongside Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow. With Arrow on The CW concluding a couple weeks ago, the time feels perfect to start considering Green Arrow’s potential place in the DC film universe and how the character could play into Black Canary’s already established narrative.

Black Canary’s romantic relationship with Green Arrow began in Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams’ character-defining run on the emerald archer. That run not only saw Oliver grow his now iconic goatee but also lose his fortune and become an outspoken liberal and activist. Green Arrow took a more mature turn in Mike Grell’s Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters (1987) when a gang of drug runners kidnapped and tortured Black Canary, which Green Arrow responded to by murdering them all. During Grell’s run, Black Canary was a frequent supporting player, and her superpowers were downplayed in favor of the more grounded martial-arts world that the series explored. Eventually, Oliver cheated on Dinah, leading her to search for a new purpose, one that saw her join Oracle to form the original Birds of Prey.

But Dinah and Oliver’s stories never stayed separate for long, and the two eventually found their way back to each other and even married before DC’s New 52 relaunch in 2011. It was the Birds of Prey series that really helped define the character on her own terms, and as someone with a life outside of Green Arrow. And while DC’s various timeline changes from Flashpoint and Rebirth have often drawn the two back together, Black Canary is now never anything less than a partner, who is just as capable, if not more so, than Green Arrow.

In Birds of Prey, there’s nothing to suggest Dinah has a history with Oliver Queen, or that Green Arrow even exists in this world yet. But that doesn’t mean that their paths can’t cross in the future. One aspect of this Black Canary that could be interesting to explore is her career as a musician. We’re used to superheroes leading double lives as CEOs, cops and reporters, but a musician is something new. And since Smollett-Bell can actually sing, as she does in the film and on the Birds of Prey soundtrack, the musical side of the character would not only be interesting to explore but further distinguish the character amidst the current crop of superheroes. Brendan Fletcher and Annie Wu focused on Dinah’s musical career in their 2015 Black Canary series, which in turn inspired Dinah’s role in Cathy Yan’s film. In that comic, Black Canary’s music style is very grunge-inspired. Music fans know that grunge music was born in Seattle, which just so happens to have served as the base of operations for Green Arrow. Perhaps there’s a scenario that sees Dinah traveling to Seattle, either on tour or for a record deal and she encounters Oliver Queen there.

Even though Arrow ran eight seasons, its depictions of Green Arrow and Black Canary were very different from the comics, leaving room for a new interpretation, one less-influenced by Batman and more driven by present-day sociopolitical concerns. It’s important that in introducing Green Arrow that Black Canary doesn’t become a secondary character. If anything, a potential film should be Black Canary and Green Arrow, rather than Green Arrow and Black Canary. There’s more room to explore something novel within the superhero film with Dinah, and given that the character we see in Birds of Prey is initially reluctant to join the fight, a result of her mother’s death, it’d be interesting to see her pulled further into that world by a character who would give everything he has in the name of the fight for social justice and equality.

There isn’t a single performance in Birds of Prey that isn’t anything less than great, but in terms of new heroes introduced, it seems as though a lot of people are walking away talking about Smollett-Bell’s Black Canary and the wry humor and sense of history she brought to the role. The woman we see in Birds of Prey is one that feels lived in, and whose story we want to follow and see interact with the larger DC Universe. While there are any number of heroes who Black Canary could interact with and introduce, Green Arrow may hold the most potential. This potential is not because of what Green Arrow could do for her, but what she could do for Green Arrow in order to challenge the conventions of a white savior operating within a class system he wasn’t born into. Birds of Prey proved that it’s possible to utilize these characters to tackle serious issues and characterizations while still having a blast within this world, and that blast — make that sonic scream — is one that uses more Black Canary.

  • Richard Newby
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