Friday, August 03, 2007

Credit Where It's Due

Spent an enjoyable commute listening to the Big Monkey Comics Podcast the other day. It's a fun time, sounding as much like a bunch of friends sitting around, jawing about comics as possible. But one thing bugged me about their discussion of Black Canary, and since the same misconception comes up nearly every time her history is brought up, I thought I'd take a moment to make the point. (I didn't realize that moment would be 1:30 in the morning, but so be it.)

(To my family: Yes, he's geeking out again. Scroll down, nuthin' to see here...)

As much as she's done with the character, Gail Simone isn't the one who changed her from a supporting character to Green Arrow into a successful headliner; Chuck Dixon did that. (Yes, she also had a solo series in 1993 written by Sarah Byam. I haven't read it, so I don't know how good it was, but I doubt it was successful, or else it would have lasted longer than 12 issues.) Dixon originated the Birds of Prey concept and nursed it from a series of miniseries into the series that's still around today (rare for a concept launched in the 90s). His work shouldn't be ignored, and it seems like people who say that she went from being a damsel in distress in Green Arrow (a description that sells her earlier appearances short) to the capable solo operative she works as in Birds of Prey are giving Simone all the credit for the change. In numerous interviews about the title (like this one), Simone gives Dixon (and original editor Jordan Gorfinkle) props for the book's strong foundation, and Canary's strength is an essential ingredient in that. But perhaps because of Simone's deserved popularity, Dixon often gets sold short.

The early years of Birds of Prey had some fantastic stories, always exciting and action-packed, and featuring some gorgeous art by Greg Land (yes, Greg Land), Butch Guice and Gary Frank (who drew this image). I missed a lot of Simone's run (Ed Benes' art drove me away), and plan to pick it up in trades. But if you've missed Dixon's run, you should definitely check it out. It's a really nice blend of superheroics and espionage, and well worth reading.



Greg! said...

And I think we have to concede some credit to Mike Grell in his run on Green Arrow back in the [mumble mumble]s.

Rob S. said...

It's been a long while since I've read the Grell run -- and I may never have read much of it. I think I only bought through issue 9 or so. So I can't remember much of his treatment of Dinah, beyond what sticks out in everybody's mind, her capture and torture in The Longbow Hunters.

But as it is, I was mostly talking about establishing her as a separate entity from GA -- which is pretty much outside the realm of possibility in a book he's starring in. But their breakup (which I think Grell scripted) certainly got the ball rolling.

And mumblemumble is right. I grow old, I grow old, I shall shoot my boxing-glove arrow rolled (whatever that means).

Rob S. said...

I should probably have noted that, despite how much fun Dixon's run is, he also had Dinah dating Ra's Al Ghul briefly. Not her finest moment -- and certainly not Dixon's either. (But that story *did* bring her powers back. Ya take the good, ya take the bad.)

Greg! said...

True. And I did love that moment when she rose up out of the Lazarus pit.

Man, did that sound dirty...

(wearing white flannel trousers and walking along the beach...)