NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for Arrow Season 5 Episode 11
They may have begun as standalone, vigilante superheroes, but when two characters give off sparks like Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance, the best decision is to count your blessings, and never look back. Since the first signs of romance between Green Arrow and Black Canary, the two have established themselves as one of the most dependable power couples in the DC Comics Universe. Which is why it only made sense for The CW's Arrow to include Dinah Laurel Lance as a main love interest and eventual vigilante.
But as Laurel's superhero career hit narrative speed bumps, the fan base got vocal about their desire to see the Queen/Lance duo that DC had pursued in nearly all other media (in which both were badass). That hope took a serious blow when Laurel was killed off, and yet another when her recent, heavily-advertised return was revealed to simply be a doppelganger fake out. But there's no going back, because whether Laurel lives or dies, Green Arrow needs a Canary - and now, he's got a brand new version.
While the introduction of Dinah Drake (Juliana Harkavy) may seem premature, or even an insult for reasons beyond her control, she's evidently here to stay. And as we're about to explain, her version of Black Canary is based on a DC Comics heroine. Well, her version of Black Canary is... THE Black Canary, according to today's DC Universe.
Dinah Drake, Metahuman Cop
Fans were distracted by the possible return of Katie Cassidy's version of Black Canary - that of Dinah Laurel Lance - and ultimately disappointed when her return was revealed to be a ploy by Black Siren, the villainous version of Laurel from Earth 2 (previously seen on The Flash). And while Oliver inched that evil Laurel closer to becoming some kind of hero-in-the-making, she just wasn't up to the task. But before the sting of of it all had worn off, the episode ended with a small glimpse of a new potential heroine. Giving off a rough, tough vibe and revealing some Canary skills of her own, the mystery woman seemed to be a new leading candidate for The CW's new version of the DC superheroine - this time, without the need for a fake "Canary Cry."
That mystery woman soon popped onto Oliver's radar when she seemed to be losing herself on a path of vengeance (one Oliver saw as familiar to his own). When the homicidal howler was finally cornered, Oliver learned some important information: The woman was named 'Tina Boland,' and received her metahuman scream thanks to the same S.T.A.R. Labs incident that granted The Flash's heroes and villains their own. Tina had been working undercover as a cop among criminals - giving her all the skills necessary to be an effective, street-level vigilante... assuming she could stop killing people.
By episode's end, Tina seems to have come around, hearing Ollie's claims that a brighter life, a better future, and a more heroic calling might be for her after all. And with the pieces all coming together to build a new Black Canary on Team Arrow, Tina dropped her final bombshell: 'Tina Boland' was just her cover name while working underground. Her real name was Dinah Drake. And as much as a shared name with Laurel may be salt in the wound for miffed fans, it's not a coincidence, either. The simplest explanation? The shared name and superhero future are due to the fact that 'Dinah Laurel Lance' and 'Dinah Drake' are both DC's Black Canary. The Lady Drake is simply DC's newest version.
Dinah Drake is DC's Black Canary
When the producers were first teasing a return or re-imagining of Black Canary in this season, executive producer Wendy Mericle promised that the story would "be true to origins in the DC Universe." And the results so far back up the claim, with Tina/Dinah's characterization so far being an accurate adaptation of the comics (with bits and pieces taken from other version through DC history). But first things first: there's more than one 'Dinah Drake' in DC history, and it's clear which one the Arrow writers are taking their cues from (we hope).
While 'Dinah Drake' was the name of the very first Black Canary to debut as a future member of the Justice Society of America, the changes in continuity brought about with "Crisis on Infinite Earths" played havoc on the ages of Drake and Oliver Queen. In the end, the DC editorial rewrote the story to make Dinah Drake an aspiring police officer who was turned away from Gotham PD, and developed a fishnet stocking, corseted, blonde-wigged identity to do her part on the city's streets. Eventually, the new history stated, she would marry 'Larry Lance' and give birth to a daughter, Dinah Laurel Lance, who would one day grow up to become a new Black Canary.
It was this Dinah Laurel Lance who would fall in love with Oliver Queen, join the Justice League, and stick around in the DCU throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s. It was also this version that Katie Cassidy's original 'Laurel Lance' on Arrow was based upon. Although her mother wasn't a superhero (that we know of), Laurel's father was a police officer, she trained under 'Wildcat' Ted Grant, and eventually took to fighting crime beside Ollie and Roy. Until DC's New 52 reboot came along, and set all the heroes back to a younger age, with new or re-imagined origin stories and personalities - including Black Canary.
The new Canary reverted to the name of 'Dinah Drake,' sure to lead to some confusion, with Arrow fans thinking that this new Canary is an homage to the original heroine. While this Dinah Drake eventually married a man named Lance as well, her attitude and preference for a leather jacket and a fistfight over a police uniform or fancy dinner set her apart as something new. Starring in her own Black Canary series embracing a grunge aesthetic and style, Dinah remains DC's active Black Canary, appearing in the current runs of both Green Arrow and Batgirl and the Birds of Prey.
What Arrow seems to have concocted is a clever, if temporary, combination of the two versions. Dinah Drake has an attraction to the police service, like the original version, but nearly all other discernible features (so far) are taking their lead from DC's current incarnation - a smart move, if you ask us. It's unclear how Dinah Drake will be shifting into a heroic role on The CW, perhaps donning a blonde wig like her original instance, or sticking with function over foolishness like the current form. In fact, since there was plenty of Dinah Lance's character and talent for leadership that was never explored on Arrow, fans could get a combination of all three, in separate ways.
But at least now we know that the new Black Canary isn't technically meant to replace the old one, at least not anymore than comic writers have been doing for decades now. To be fair, DC Comics didn't choose to murder the original, beloved Dinah Lance before the New 52 reboot created a new version, so fans can still take exception to that detail, if they choose.
Arrow continues next Wednesday with ‘Bratva’ @8pm on The CW.